How to Unclog a Dishwasher & Sink Drain

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How to Unclog a Dishwasher & Sink Drain
A clogged kitchen drain can be a real headache. (sewer image by blacklight from Fotolia.com)

Most dishwashers share a drain with the kitchen sink and garbage disposal. When this drain becomes clogged, it can lead to a big, annoying mess. Sometimes you can get the drain moving again by simply running the garbage disposal for 30 to 60 seconds while running hot tap water, but some clogs require a little more work. Chemical drain cleaners are not always effective and may not be environmentally friendly. Plumbers can be very expensive. You can save money and clear most clogs on your own by using a plunger, a drain auger or a blow bag.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Bucket
  • Plunger (standard type without a flange on the bottom)
  • Drain auger
  • Blow bag and garden hose

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Add enough water to the sink to completely cover the rubber part of the plunger.

  2. 2

    Put the rubber part of the plunger over the drain so that it completely covers the hole.

  3. 3

    Pump the plunger up and down rapidly for 15 to 20 seconds.

  4. 4

    Add more water to the sink if the water level goes down, and repeat plunging.

  5. 5

    Look to see if the water seems to be draining properly. If so, run water into the sink to test the drain.

  1. 1

    Remove any items under the sink.

  2. 2

    Place a bucket under the P-trap (the U-shaped curve in the pipe).

  3. 3

    Locate the nuts at each end of the P-trap. Turn one of the nuts counterclockwise to loosen it until it is barely connected.

  4. 4

    Turn the nut at the other end of the P-trap counterclockwise to loosen it completely. Loosen the first nut the rest of the way, remove the P trap, pour the water from the P-trap into the bucket and set the P-trap aside.

  5. 5

    Insert the "snake" part of the drain auger as far as it will go into the drain line.

  6. 6

    Tighten the set screw to hold the auger cable.

  7. 7

    Crank the handle. You will need to use a power drill to crank some models.

  8. 8

    Keep inserting the snake as far as it will go as you continue to crank the handle. If the snake gets stuck, crank in the opposite direction and gently pull the snake back out a little. Resume inserting the snake and turning the handle.

  9. 9

    Replace the P-trap, and run water into the sink to test the drain.

  1. 1

    Buy a blow bag with a bladder that is the proper size for your drain. The bladders come in different sizes for different pipe diameters.

  2. 2

    Attach a garden hose to a water source. If you want to use hot water to flush the drain, attach the hose to the drain valve on your water heater.

  3. 3

    Attach the blow bag bladder to the other end of the garden hose.

  4. 4

    Remove any items from under the sink.

  5. 5

    Place a bucket under the P-trap (the U-shaped curve in the pipe).

  6. 6

    Locate the nuts at each end of the P-trap. Turn one of the nuts counterclockwise to loosen it until it is barely connected.

  7. 7

    Turn the nut at the other end of the P-trap counterclockwise to loosen it all the way. Loosen the first nut the rest of the way, remove the P-trap, pour the water from the P-trap into the bucket and set the P-trap aside.

  8. 8

    Insert the bladder into the drain pipe as far as it will go. Push the bladder in gently; do not force it in farther than it easily will go. If the bladder gets stuck, gently turn the hose clockwise while slowly pulling the bladder out.

  9. 9

    Hold the bag in place, and turn on the water. While the water is running, check toilets, other drains and outside your house to make sure the water is not backing up anywhere. If the water is backing up, remove the blow bag and insert it into a waste pipe.

  10. 10

    Let the water run for at least half an hour. During this time, keep checking for water backing up.

  11. 11

    Turn off the water, wait 10 seconds for the bladder to deflate, and gently pull the bladder out of the pipe. If the bladder gets stuck, gently turn the hose clockwise and slowly pull it out.

  12. 12

    Reconnect the P-trap and run water into the sink to test the drain.

Tips and warnings

  • Drain augurs clear clogs by drilling through them and breaking them up, but they can pass right through gooey or greasy clogs without clearing the pipe. A blow bag works better for this type of clog.
  • Be very careful working on a drain after you have used chemical drain cleaners. Drain cleaner can remain in the pipes and splash on you as you work on the drain, and the caustic chemical can injure your skin or eyes. If you need to work on the drain after using drain cleaner, wear long sleeves, protective gloves and eye gear.
  • If you use water from your water heater to inflate a blow bag, make sure that the water heater is not set high enough for the water to scald you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends setting your water heater's thermostat to 48.9 degrees Celsius or lower.
  • If you use a drain auger or a blow bag, there is always a small risk that a weak pipe could burst. If this happens, you will have to replace the pipe.

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