It’s inevitable: a slow-draining bathroom sink will eventually become one that doesn’t drain at all. But if you have the skills and about 10 minutes, you can unclog your bathroom sink effectively. Here’s how to do it:

1. Gather your tools. A pair of channel locks is essential. These pliers that will expand to about 4 inches are great, but a pipe wrench may also work. You may also need other tools most homeowners have around. If you don’t have a well-stocked toolkit, it will probably be cheaper and quicker to call a plumber.

2. Prepare your workspace. That means getting everything from under the sink, getting a bucket ready to catch the caught water in the drain trap and having some paper towels ready to clean up whatever gunk is involved in the repair process.

3. Take off the bathroom sink drain line. The U-shaped trap will have a large plastic or metal nut connecting it to the sink and to the drain. Use the channel locks or wrench to loosen the nuts and remove the trap. Some water will run out. Then, clean and inspect the trap. If you can’t get it loose, it’s time to call a plumbing services company.

4. Deal with the stem pipe. This straight piece of pipe coming down from the sink needs to be cleaned too. If there’s a stopper, you will have to deal with it before removing the stem pipe. The pipe should not be tight, and you may be able to loosen it by hand. The pipe will need to be thoroughly cleaned.

5. Put it all together again. Once these pipes are clean, put things together correctly. If the sink still runs slow, the problem is further down in the pipe work and needs the attention of a professional plumber. If it works, congratulations. You’ve successfully handled this plumbing task yourself.

In many cases, a slow-draining bathroom sink is simply the result of a partially clogged trap, and the debris and gunk from the trap may extend into the stem pipe. A thorough cleaning can solve the problem for months or even years if you’re careful how you use the sink.

But some drain problems are more stubborn and require professional diagnosis and repair. That’s where plumbing service companies come in — and we can also handle the project for you from start to finish if you don’t have the time, tools or patience to do it yourself.