Why My Bathroom Sink Won’t Drain

411 plumb Why a bathroom sink won’t drain could have many causes ranging from stuff dropped into the drain if there is no popup stopper in place, to a clogged line deep in the wall. A very common stoppage that is found is hair packed around the bathroom sink popup stopper and ball rod that activates the stopper. This is a simple problem that you should check before calling a plumber and it could save you hundreds of dollars that a plumber would charge unstopping a bathroom sink.

Some simple devices are sold that may be able to clean hair out of the bathroom sink popup area without taking anything apart like the Turbo Snake and Zip It which can be pushed down through the pop up area to catch the hair and pull it out. These will actually work in this application quite well.

What I would do is a little more complex but I feel it does a better job. I remove the popup and look down into the drain to see what is there and grab the hair out with a mechanics parts retriever tool sold in many places like Auto Zone or Advance Auto Parts for around $5. This tool is about 24” long and has a button that you push on one end that causes small metal fingers to open at the other end and when you release the button it will grab things with the metal fingers.

To get the popup stopper out on many bathroom sinks requires you to partially remove the ball rod to allow the popup stopper to unhook from the ball rod. The ball rod has a linkage attached to it that comes down from the faucet above and goes horizontally into the popup assembly below the sink. When you push and pull the button for the popup stopper on the faucet you will see this ball rod moving up and down at the rear, and pivoting at the end where it is connected to the pop up assembly. In most cases there is a nut that tightens this ball lever in place to the pop up assembly. You need to hold the popup, then unscrew this nut then pull the ball lever out about ½” to release the popup so it can be removed. Do not take the ball rod all the way out because on some there may be seals that you could lose, and once the popup is removed put the nut back on. Once the drain is cleaned you will want to run water to check the flow in the drain and if the ball rod is not in place and tight water will leak out under the sink.

With the bathroom sink popup stopper removed you have a clear view all the way down to the trap in most cases and the mechanics parts retriever can be used to remove anything that is clogging the drain all the way down to the trap. Lay a couple of paper towels on the sink to put the clumps of hair and stuff that you remove from the drain on and once you have it all removed wrap it up in the paper towel and throw it in the garbage. You are now ready to run water and see if you have fixed the problem. In many cases you will find that you have succeeded and saved a couple of hundred dollars for a plumber to clean your drain and will not have used any harsh or dangerous chemicals.

If you have succeeded in unclogging the bathroom sink, loosen the ball rod nut, and hold the popup stopper with the hole aligned properly to catch the ball rod. Slowly lower the popup straight down into the drain until it hits the ball rod, then pull the ball rod out slightly to allow the pop up to drop into place on the ball rod and reinsert the ball rod making sure the pop up is locked in on the ball rod and tighten the nut. Check the pop up stopper for operation and the ball rod for any signs of leakage.

Hopefully this has prevented needing a plumber to unclog your bathroom sink and saved you money. Any questions or, comments are welcome below.

Posted in How To Plumbing Tips, Sewer & Drain
11 comments on “Why My Bathroom Sink Won’t Drain
  1. Stan says:

    I purchased new granite countertop and new Delta faucets (dual sinks). Problem is the water drains very slowly. I also see that the pop-up stopper does not open up very far.

    Pop-Up Stopper Barely Open

    The Ball Rod can still move more but the rod coming down from above is too short.

    Pop-Up Stopper Ball Rod Not Opening Fully

    I looked under the sink and adjusted the lever as much as I could.

    Pop-Up Stopper Adjustment At Maximum

    Pop-Up Stopper Adjustment At Maximum

    Is there some sort of kit required to allow the pop-up stopper to open up more on thick, granite vanities? I was also wondering, the thickness of sinks is standard?

    Thank You.

    • Redwood says:

      Hi Stan,

      Your problem is not uncommon at all especially with the popularity of thick granite countertops and undermount sinks. These two things will add a considerable amount of depth to the sink. I don’t know believe there is a standard for depth other than what customers would be willing to buy, us plumbers just have to adapt to what ever is popular.

      Rod Coupling

      What I would do when I encounter a situation such as yours is use a “Rod Coupling” and add a piece of rod lengthening the rod coming down from above so the ball rod can achieve full travel and open the pop-up fully allowing the sink to drain. You should be able to get a “Rod Coupling” and rod and any decent hardware store.


  2. Ernest says:

    Thanks I was wondering about that. Also, a friend just told me that he has seen someone try to snake his drain and he observed the top of the snake twisting about out of the air stack on the roof. I guess I did everything I could. Life is a mystery at times, or all the time. I wish I was charged $100 instead of $150, but I could not do anything about that either. The drain really works well now, really fast. Peace be with you.

  3. Ernest says:

    The plumber fixed it with his electric auger/snake. He said that when I snaked it the snake must have went up into the air stack. He said that was a very very common occurrence. He said that the snag was probably near where the drain meets the stack and the hand snake did not have enough power to go through it so it veered up into the stack. We speculated that with no water going through the drain for two weeks, while I remodeled, that it must have dried up and been kind of very dirty to start with. It cost $150 but it was worth it. I feel much better. He was very nice. These plumbers should be called Dr. Plumber. Thanks for your concern. Sometimes we learn things.

    • Redwood says:

      Hi Ernest,
      Glad to hear that the plumber got your drain open, it is not uncommon for deposits in drains to harden when they dry out and cause tough to remove clogs. I’ve had some where they were very hard and I had to cut the pipe to get a straight shot at the clog because the cable kept bouncing of the clog and going up the vent. The worst I ever saw was at a photo processor where a lot of iron was going down the drain, had to work hard at that one.

  4. Ernest says:

    I thought of that too especially since the old trap outlet had a groove cut in it. However, when I poured water right down the drain pipe it would not go down. I still tried it with a groove cut into the trap outlet and I tried to push it in part way. The last thing I tried was to poor gel liquid draino down the pipe, because like you say, maybe it was blocked below the snake. However, the draino would not go down. It just stayed on top and started to foam after 35 minutes. So I called a plumber and he is coming tomorrow. Maybe I crushed a pipe somehow but I dont see how. Thanks for your concern. I will tell you what he says. My friend said that I should rig a garden hose and squirt it down the hole but I am tired of the whole thing. I am exhausted and dont want to wait another day. Thanks

    • Redwood says:

      Hi Ernest,
      It certainly sounds like the clog was further than you could reach with your snake.
      The plumber certainly should be able to get you going tomorrow.

  5. Ernest says:

    I put in a new bathroom sink and now it wont drain. It was working fine. I snaked it, I vented it and it still wont drain. I took all the new stuff off and poured water down the pipe and it wont drain. The only thing I can think of is that its blocked below where I snaked it but I went down 25′, but it was working fine before I put in the new sink. Draino? Liquid Plumber? Pray?

    • Redwood says:

      Hi Ernest,
      Is the trap outlet being inserted too far into the wall where the tubing is blocking the pipe in the wall?
      The problem is either that or, the drain is plugged further down the line than your snake was able to reach.

  6. Nic says:

    Our bathroom sink has drained really slowly for a long time. My husband has cleaned the trap several times but that only helps slighlty and for a short period of time. After the handle on the faucet broke, we replaced our faucet and drain pipe. There was a lot of hair inside the drain around the overflow area. After removing that, we hoped that the problem would be solved. It was not. Is there a clog farther on in the wall or is there a problem with our overflow? Also the pipe going into the wall is 3 inches from the bottom of the sink. Is that enough room or could that be causing the problem?

    • Redwood says:

      Hi Nic,

      Many times the stuff underneath the drain in the pop-up area is the cause along with hair and stuff hanging down into the trap. If this has been cleaned then it sounds like you have a clog further down the line inside the wall. If this is the case then the line will require snaking to clean it there is little else that you can do. The chemicals are useless and I wouldn’t even recommend trying them. Your husband may be a be to get it himself with a hand snake but often those can be tougher to use than anyone imagines. Calling in a drain cleaner to do the job will give you fast results with a guarantee most of the time. They know all the tricks of the trade and have the equipment needed to do the job.

      As for the trap outlet, By what you say it is hard to tell by what you are saying if it is correct or not. Is the 3″ from the actual bottom of the sink, or from the bottom of the pop up drain assembly coming out of the bottom of the sink?


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