Using a Handheld Auger to Unclog Your Sink

sink auger
General Pipe Cleaners
  • Total Time: 15 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $25

Once in a while, you get a sink clog that just won't quit. You've tried a coat hanger, a plunger, perhaps a prayer or two—all to no avail. Before you lose your wits and pour in a (usually ineffective) liquid drain cleaner, turn to the best drain-cleaning tool of all: the sink auger. It's inexpensive, easy to use, and requires no chemicals. It's just the thing for clearing clogs in sinks and bathtub drains.

The sink auger is also called a "drum auger" or "canister auger" because of its configuration. It consists of a flexible cable with a corkscrew end (the business end). The cable is coiled within a drum canister. The collar where the cable comes out has a thumbscrew or other device for locking the cable when you've reached the clog, and it's time to turn the corkscrew end into the clog to snag it and pull it out of the drain. Gross, yes, but it works! 


Do not use a standard drain snake on toilets because it can get stuck and can damage the porcelain. Use a toilet auger instead.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 25-foot drum auger
  • Rag
  • Bucket (as needed)
  • Tongue-and-groove pliers (as needed)


  • Hot water


  1. Remove the Sink Stopper

    Remove the stopper from the sink, as applicable. Loosen the setscrew on the collar of the auger, pull out the cable, and insert it into the drain opening. 

    sink auger
  2. Push the Cable Into the Drain

    Push the cable into the drain until you feel it hit the clog. Pull out about 12 inches more of the cable, and tighten the setscrew. 

    sink auger cable extended into sink drain
  3. Turn the Auger Handle

    Slowly turn the crank handle of the auger. This twists the corkscrew end of the cable into the clog. 

    You might meet resistance when pushing the cable through the P-trap, the U-shaped section of pipe under the sink, or at any other bend in the pipe. If so, tighten the setscrew and crank the auger slowly while pushing on the cable. A couple of turns should help the auger end get through the bends in the drain.

    sink auger


  4. Remove the Cable

    Pull the cable back out of the drain, feeding it into the auger drum as you go. It's also a good idea to wipe off the cable with a rag as you slide it into the drum. When the cable end emerges, clean off all debris from the corkscrew tip and throw it in the trash (not back down the drain!). Run hot water from the sink faucet to flush the drain, and make sure the water is flowing. If the drain runs slowly, auger the drain again. 

    sink auger being cleaned
  5. Remove the P-Trap (as Needed)

    Remove the P-trap to access the drain for stubborn clogs. Place a bucket under the P-trap to catch any water spilling from the trap. Loosen the slip-nuts at each end of the trap with a pipe wrench or tongue-and-groove pliers. Remove the slip-nuts and the trap. Auger the drain through the pipe leading to the wall (called the trap arm). Reassemble the P-trap and flush the drain with hot water from the faucet.

    sink auger used directly into waste line

Tips for Keeping Your Auger Clean

Wipe off the cable as needed while pushing it back into the auger drum. Rinse the corkscrew end thoroughly. Sink auger cables are stainless steel, which technically doesn't rust, but you can get a rust-like coating on the cable, due to material and water left on the cable. If desired, you can rinse the entire used portion of the cable (while running the water while you retract the cable), then let the cable air-dry before feeding it back into the drum. 

Sink auger