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How to unclog your kitchen sink with things you already have around the house

These three methods require no harsh chemicals and make it easy to get your pipes flowing again.

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If you have a sink that is draining slowly, you can use vinegar and baking soda to clear it.

JPC-PROD/iStock

Your sink has been clogged for days and now your kitchen is starting to smell bad from the stagnant water. And while you could reach for the bottle of Drano, you may prefer a method that won't involve pouring chemicals down the drain (or you just don't have time to run to the store).

Fortunately, there are many ways to unclog your sink with things you already have in your house. For example, you can use vinegar and baking soda to break down the food and gunk that's causing the clog. You can also use a plunger to work up enough suctioning power to push the food through the pipes.

Depending on how bad the clog is, you may need to follow all of these techniques and repeat as necessary. And if your kitchen sink has a garbage disposal, try running that before you begin to grind any food that could be sitting in there. Here are the best ways to get the clog out of your sink.

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If your kitchen sink isn't draining, use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to clear it, or plunge it.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Use a plunger

If you've got standing water in your sink, the best way to get it to go down the drain is to plunge it. You'll need a plunger -- but preferably not the one from your bathroom (yuck), so use a clean one. It's a good idea to store a small plunger beneath your sink for this very purpose. 

If you have a double sink, make sure you plug the other side before you begin, to keep the seal intact and to prevent any water from burbling out the other end.

Place the plunger over the drain in your sink to create a suctioning effect and firmly pump up and down until the water begins to clear out. After all the stagnant water is out of the sink, run clean water down the drain to make sure it's clear. If it isn't, you'll need to plunge again.

Dissolve it with baking soda and vinegar

If you don't have a clean plunger on hand, you can use a tried-and-true cleaning technique with baking soda and vinegar. This creates a bubbling reaction that breaks up larger pieces of muck so that they'll go down the drain easily. 

First, start off by boiling water in a kettle and then pour it down the drain (electric kettles can heat water anywhere, but it doesn't matter how you get the boiling water -- just be careful not to spill). 

It needs to be boiling and not just hot tap water so that it can dissolve and loosen up food particles and smaller blockages. This will help flush out the drain, but it won't completely clear out the clog. However, if you've got PVC pipes, it's best to skip this step because it could loosen the pipe seals. You can still flush with hot tap water after you've done the vinegar and baking soda treatment.

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Next, pour about a cup of baking soda down the drain and let it sit for a few minutes. You may need to use a wooden spoon, rubber spatula or plastic utensil to help push the baking soda down the drain. I'd avoid using metal or anything sharp that you don't want scraping up your sink. 

After the baking soda sits, pour in a cup of white distilled vinegar. The combination will create a fizzy reaction to help loosen the clog. Use a stopper and plug the sink for about 15 minutes. During this time, boil another pot of water. After the time is up, pour the boiling water down the sink to flush it once more. 

Repeat this regularly to prevent buildup in the future.

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Keep your sink drain clear.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Clean the P-trap

If you've tried every option but your sink still won't drain, you may need to clean the P-trap. This is the part of your sink that keeps debris and sewer gases from rising up through the drain

First, carefully insert a straightened coat hanger through the opening in your sink to dislodge any foods that could be stuck in the drain. Unfortunately, if that doesn't work, you'll have to take the P-trap apart. 

The P-trap is located underneath the sink and is shaped like a U. To remove it, put on a pair of gloves (like plastic dishwashing gloves or leather gloves that you don't mind getting dirty) and place a bucket, trash can or a garbage bag under the pipes to catch any food or water that is stuck. If it's on too tight, use pliers to help loosen the fittings. 

Now that it's removed, use something firm like a knife or coat hanger to push the food through and scrape the sides for any grease. Now you can reattach the P-trap and watch your water drain like it's supposed to.

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The P-trap is shaped like a U and is located underneath your sink.

Home Depot

Garbage disposal no-nos

In order to prevent your sink from becoming clogged again, you'll want to follow these tips.

  • Never pour grease down your drain. Instead, pour it into an old glass jar (like one from pasta sauce) and dispose of it in the trash when it cools down.
  • If you have a garbage disposal, always run cold water instead of hot when using it. Cold water helps keep grease in its solid form so that it doesn't stick to the pipe walls. Hot water could melt it, causing slick residue to cling to the pipes.
  • Don't run certain foods through the garbage disposal -- like potato peels, bones, coffee grounds, pasta and more. They could damage or dull the blades (bones, coffee grounds), or cause it to become sticky and clogged (potato peels, pasta).

What's a creative way you've unclogged your kitchen sink? Let us know in the comments.

Ready to unclog the plumbing throughout the rest of your house? Check out how to clean your shower head the stupid-easy way and how to unclog a toilet without a plunger.

Originally published last month.