Unblock a Kitchen Sink With a Snake

A Do-It-Yourself Guide

Hand auger held up in front of kitchen sink drains and bucket

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $20 to $40

Unblocking a kitchen sink drain is one of the most common service calls plumbers make. Unlike tubs or showers, sinks cannot be snaked from above. Sink openings are designed to prevent objects from getting into the pipes. Even if the cable fits, the drain traps will make it difficult to get the snake though.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Small bucket
  • Channel locks or pipe wrench
  • Hand auger or motor-driven snake
  • Flashlight


  • Towel or disposable rags


Materials and tools to unblock a kitchen sink with a snake or auger

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  1. Disconnect the P-Trap

    The first step to snaking will be to disconnect the p-trap from under the kitchen sink. The trap is held together by friction washers and slip nuts. Before loosening any of the nuts, place a small bucket or pan under the trap to catch the water that will be in it. If the trap is made of plastic then nuts will only be hand tighten and should come off easily. If the trap is chrome-plated then channel locks or a pipe wrench will be needed to loosen the nuts.

    P-trap removed from drain pipe under kitchen sink

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  2. Look Into Pipe

    With the trap disconnected, look into the pipe and see if you can see any obstructions. If it looks clean then the clog is further down the line.

    P-trap and drain inspected for clogs

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  3. Push Cable Into Drain Line

    Pull 12 to 15 inches of cable out of the snake. Push the cable into the drain line.

    Snake cable pushed into drain pipe

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  4. Make Sure Cable Goes Down T-Fitting

    If you can not see into the T-fitting, have someone listen in the wall while you crank the handle. They will be able to hear it if it is going up the vent. If it is going up (into the vent), pull a little out and reinsert the cable so it is going down at the T-fitting.

    Snake cable cranked into T-fitting down drain pipe

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  5. Continue Feeding Cable

    If you feel no resistance, keep pulling out more cable and feeding it in until you do. When you hit the clog, tighten the set screw at the front of the snake.

    Set screw tightened on snake after hitting drain clog

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  6. Push Cable Forward

    Next, push the cable forward while cranking the handle clockwise.

    Snake handle being cranked to push cable forward in drain

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  7. Pull More Cable

    When you run out of cable loosen the set screw and pull another 12 to 15 inches out. Reset the screw and continue steadily cranking clockwise.

    Set screw loosened on top of snake to pull more cable

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  8. Break up Clog

    Continue this process until you have broken up the clog or reached a larger diameter pipe, like the main stack. You will know that the clog is cleared when you no longer feel any resistance on the cable. In cases where you push the clog into a larger pipe, you will be able to feel the cable moving freely around.

    Snake cable pushed into drain pipe with bucket underneath

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  9. Use Push-and-Pull Method on Tough Clogs

    If you hit a really rough spot, a push-and-pull method should be used. It is done by feeding the cable in about three feet and then pulling it back two feet. Then, feed the cable back in four feet and pulling out two. Continue this process until you feel the blockage break.

    Snake cable pulled back to break up drain clog

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  10. Remove Cable From Pipe

    After the clog is broken, you will begin retrieving the cable. Do so by pulling one to two feet of line out at a time. As you pull it back, continue using a clockwise motion. Reversing the direction may unwind the blockage and leave it behind to re-clog the pipe.

    Snake cable pulled back and removed from drain pipe

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  11. Return Cable to Spool

    Be sure to feed the cable back into the spool to keep any black grease on the snake from splattering onto surrounding walls.

    Snake cable wiped clean with white towel

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  12. Reassemble the P-Trap

    After the snake is all wrapped up, you can reassemble the p-trap. If you have an older home, this is a good time to check inside the trap tubing for any signs of corrosion. If you notice any, replace the trap. A plastic trap is a suitable replacement. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to cut. If the trap is exposed a chrome-plated trap can be used for aesthetic purposes.

    P-trap reassembled on to drain pipe under kitchen sink

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

  13. Turn on Water

    With the trap back in place, run a fair amount of hot water. This will keep any debris you may have freed from forming a new clog. If a new clog does form a simple plunging should clear it. If not, snake it out again making sure to feed the snake further into the pipe.

    Kitchen sink faucet running water down drain to test for clogs

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Tips for Unclogging a Kitchen Sink

  • A motor-powered snake can be used as well. They can be expensive to buy, but most rental places and larger home improvement stores rent them. Prices vary depending on location but expect the rental cost to be between $15 to $30 per day.
  • There are two different types of motor-powered snakes, self-feeding and manual. The manual kind works in a similar fashion as a hand snake. Pulling down on the lever acts like the set screw and turns the cable. Always wear gloves when using models of this type as the cable can bind around the hand. A self-feeding snake is a preferable option. It is much easier to use and keeps the mess to a minimum. However, self-feeding models lack the strength of their manual counterpart.
  • If you do decide to use a motor-powered snake, proceed slowly when you hit any blockage. Often the torque of the motor is stronger than the cable. Driving the cable too hard can cause it to break off in the pipe. If the cable binds up, pull it back a bit and use the push and pull method.