What to Do When Your Sink Stopper Is Stuck

Sink Drain Stopper

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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 5 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $20

A sink stopper that gets stuck in the closed position can be a challenge. Jiggling the lift rod doesn't work. Prying the stopper loose with your fingernails is tough to do; plus, it's bad for your nails.

As it turns out, unsticking a sink's pop-up stopper is incredibly easy. There are a couple of above-sink methods you might want to first try, but it's usually best to progress directly to raising the stopper from below the sink, then fixing the problem so it doesn't happen again.

Unstick a Sink Stopper From Above

Pull With Suction Cup

Sink stoppers are about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. So, any suction cup smaller than that size may be able to pull up the stopper. Sometimes, the suction cup even has enough grip to work when the sink basin is full of water.

Look for small suction cups on bathroom shaving mirrors, shower wall hooks, window glass hooks, or children's toys.

Pull With Magnet

A strong rare earth (neodymium) magnet may be strong enough to latch onto a sink stopper and pull it up.

Look for strong magnets holding kitchen utensils or spice jars to walls, on refrigerators, in fishing gear, or in workshops.

Tip

If the sink stopper is made of plastic or stainless steel, a magnet will not be attracted to the stopper.

Pop-Up Stopper Parts

  • Pop-Up Stopper: The sink stopper is the part that has a round section in the sink basin, with a long plastic piece that extends below the sink basin.
  • Lift Rod: The lift rod, a thin metal rod with about an inch or two above the sink basin, is used to open and close the pop-up stopper.
  • Lift Rod Strap: Located entirely below the sink, the lift rod strap is a flat metal piece with five to eight holes. One end of the horizontal rod extends into one of the holes. The top of the lift rod strap connects to the bottom of the lift rod.
  • Horizontal Rod: An important part for unsticking a pop-up stopper, the horizontal rod is a thin metal rod that extends from the sink's drainpipe to the lift rod strap.
  • Clip: The clip is a small, flat piece of metal formed into a U-shape. The clip attaches the horizontal rod to the lift rod strap.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Flashlight
  • Pliers

Materials

  • Horizontal rod
  • Lift rod strap
  • Clip

Instructions

Unstick Sink Stopper From Below

The best way to release a sink stopper is by reaching below the sink and lifting the horizontal rod. You can do this visually, or you can even do this by feel.

  1. Clear Below Sink

    Move items such as toilet paper and cleaning products from below the sink to make it easier to work.

  2. Move Water Supply Lines

    Water supply lines, made of braided metal, can get tangled with the stopper mechanism. Either visually or by feel, make sure that the two lines on the left and right sides are freely draping and aren't caught up with the pop-up mechanism in the center.

  3. Locate Horizontal Rod

    When the pop-up stopper is in closed position, the horizontal rod might be horizontal or angled slightly above horizontal.

    Tip

    If you are doing this by feel, first locate the section of the sink's drainpipe just below the sink basin. The horizontal rod is a smooth metal rod attached to the drainpipe. It extends outward toward the back of the sink.

  4. Lower Horizontal Rod

    With your fingers, grasp the horizontal rod and firmly pull it downward. The stopper in the basin should release and water should drain out.

Fix Stuck Sink Stopper

Once you've released the sink stopper, you'll need to fix it. Otherwise, this will happen the next time. First, try working with your existing sink parts since it might be a case of poorly attached parts or parts that came apart over time. Replacement pop-up stopper parts are specific to the manufacturer and model, so be sure to purchase the correct set of parts.

  1. Bend or Replace Horizontal Rod

    If the horizontal rod is in good shape but bent, bend it by hand until it is straight. Or you can replace the rod with a new one.

  2. Attach Horizontal Rod to Lift Rod Strap

    Push the horizontal rod into one of the holes of the lift rod strap. Observe from above while moving the parts below to find the proper hole for the horizontal rod.

  3. Attach Clip Correctly

    While inserting the horizontal rod, attach the clip that secures the horizontal rod to the lift strap. The clip needs to straddle the lift rod strap. The clip should not be on one side or the other of the lift rod strap.

  4. Attach Lift Rod to Lift Strap

    In some cases, the lift rod may have detached from the lift rod strap. With some faucets, the two pieces snap together. With other models, a small bolt runs through a clip holding the two pieces together. Attach the pieces and tighten the bolt with pliers.