The Home Staple That Will Help You Unclog Your Sink

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We've all been there: Glaring at the abyss of a stubborn, stagnant pool of water that was once a functioning sink. Several culprits could be behind a clogged sink, from debris to hair. But before you start panicking with images of your hard-earned cash swirling down the drain with a professional plumbing job, consider a household ally that might help warp things back into normality. Enter the vacuum — or even better, a shop vac. Yes, you heard right, that little whirring monster you associate with pursuits of pet hair rather than plumbing woes. Using a vacuum to combat the mighty sink clog isn't much different from hoovering up spilled crumbs. But of course, you might squirm at the idea of vacuuming a wet space. The good news is that shop vacs are designed to venture into dry and wet environments. 

The task involves securing the vacuum's hose in your kitchen (or bathroom) drain, establishing a foolproof seal (because loose motions, pardon the pun, won't help), and switching on the little monster. Occasionally, a playful tussle with the "exhaust" and "suction" controls is inevitable. So why bother? The answer lies in the sheer joy of your sink drain gurgling back to life without engaging corrosive chemicals, paired with the economy it can afford. According to Forbes, the average cost of unclogging a drain professionally often hovers between a hefty $100 to $150 for straightforward cases. However, it could escalate to $500 when things morph into subterranean-level complexities. 

Using a shop vac to unclog a sink

The crusade against sink obstruction begins with prepping the battlefield. Fetch your shop vacuum, roll up your sleeves, and prepare some rags — and potentially grab a screwdriver. The screwdriver's role? To aid in the safe removal of any drain covers or strainers. Turn your faucet on, allowing enough water to moisten the rag but not enough to recreate Noah's flood. This damp rag is poised to play a crucial role in our saga, sealing the drain opening snugly. If your sink has an overflow hole, seal it as well — despite its many superhero powers, the vacuum weakens when its suction faces competition.

With the drain and overflow hole prepared accordingly, gently ease the shop vacuum's hose against the drain, forming a tight seal that encourages the flow of unwanted substances. Turn the vacuum on and let the magic unfold. The vacuum takes center stage, hungrily devouring the blockage wreaking havoc on your once peaceful sink. Once the performance is over, switch off the vacuum, remove the hose, and check the sink to see if harmony has been restored. For those tenacious clogs that stand their ground, feel free to give your vacuum pal another chance. However, if the drain is as unyielding as the twists and turns of a complex thriller, it's time to usher in a pricier guest star — a professional plumber.

Alternatives and precautions to consider

Harness your enthusiasm and ascertain that your vacuum is a "wet/dry" type and not some weird "dry only" pretender. Because if you attempt a wet pickup with the latter, you could be electrocuted. You also risk damaging the equipment. Fortunately, a shop vac flashes the dual (wet/dry) badge that gives you the leeway to engage in bathroom warfare confidently. If your pre-vacuum efforts included a chemical attack on your drain, it's wise to let that scene cool off first. Why? Picture using the vacuum immediately and accidentally creating an unexpected chemical spray. This isn't your Ordinary Joe's water gun fight.

You could play around with the exhaust and the suction modes to bolster your vac's drain unclogging force. Start with the exhaust, switch the machine on, and stand by. You're on the right track if you catch a slight shift in its hum. If not, dart back to the suction mode and again to exhaust. This jig effectively mimics the force of a professional-grade plunger but with added fun. If you're going to create impromptu suction cups, don't use Aunt Maggie's antique tablecloth. Instead, choose a plastic soda bottle's top section shaped perfectly to seal the drain opening. Fasten the vacuum hose to the narrower end, and you're good to go. But should you fancy more elegance, a shop vac drain attachment like the VaccUFlex vacuum attachment kit on Amazon will suffice.