February 23, 2024
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February 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink That Keeps Backing Up, Based on Recent Experience

If you’re a homeowner, chances are that at some point your sink will back up, and your spouse will ask you to look at it. Because you’re not calling a plumber every time there’s a backup, or he’ll be living in your house.

Wait until one evening when you have a couple of minutes. Do this at a time nobody will need to use the sink, like at night. The last thing you need is to be lying under your sink with a pipe in your hand and have your kid come by and turn it on.

Before you begin, look at your pipes. You’ll notice that they don’t just go straight into the wall. Some of them go straight down at first, but then immediately change direction and come back up for seemingly no reason. That curve is called a P-trap, which looks nothing like the letter P. It’s more of a J, and it’s designed so that when you remove it, both joints that you remove it from are facing downward to better spill on your towel. (It should be called J-trap, but that sounds antisemitic.)

It’s designed to be easily removable, as the J-trap has these things on either side called O-rings, which is a ridiculous name, because all rings are O-rings. All you have to do is turn one of the O-rings counterclockwise, and… it won’t turn. Okay, I guess it’s supposed to go clockwise. So just turn it clockwise, and it will… not turn either. Wait, which way is counterclockwise? The pipes are up and down.

If the ring doesn’t turn either way, take a wild guess. It should turn in the same direction as the other one, right? Try that.

Great, now you cracked the ring. Great job! I guess it goes the other way. Why were you listening to me?

Okay, so now remove the trap.It’ll be full of water. We should have mentioned that.

Pour out the water.

Not down the sink, genius!

Take note of anything that falls out of the trap that might have been causing your backup, so you know who to blame.

Put the entire trap back. Maybe if you ignore the issue, it won’t have any negative effect on the operation of the sink as a whole.

Okay, so now the sink leaks. This is a lot worse than when it was just backed up.

At this point, you don’t want to panic. You can just replace the ring. It’s a $4 piece.

The only issue is that all the stores are closed. Why did you do this at night, again?

In the morning, after you drive your carpool, go to Home Depot. Remember to take the piece with you, so you can say, “I need something like this,” if anyone asks.

No one will ask. At 9:00 in the morning, the store is full of contractors shopping for huge truckloads of supplies. No one’s wandering around to help you find your $4 piece.

After a good half hour, note that not a single item in the store matches what you’re holding. They don’t even carry the brand.

Select something from a different brand that’s close. Close enough counts, right? Your sink will be pretty understanding about this, I think.

Get home all excited, climb under the sink, and realize that although the top part of the J fits perfectly, the lower part does not. The elbow joint it has to screw onto is WAY too fat. Maybe you should’ve taken the elbow joint to the stores.

Try to remove the elbow joint. With a little bit of effort, it doesn’t come off. Which way does it screw? Not this way. Not that way. “Should I try the wrench again?”

No. Not after what happened the last time.

Your spouse, who hasn’t really been involved, will be clear-headed enough to suggest you go to the local dedicated plumbing-supply store.You didn’t even know there was a dedicated plumbing-supply store.

As soon as you get to the plumbing store, a salesman will pounce, because smaller stores have a different sales model, which is what keeps them small. His model is to talk a mile a minute about what you have to do. You will understand about half.

“First of all,” he’ll tell you, “no one sells just the rings.” Which you’ve figured out. You have to buy the whole J.

You also have to buy another elbow piece, though it’s not clear why. Though when you get home, you’ll see it’s because the treads on the J he’s selling you don’t fit the treads of the elbow you have at home. It’s a scam.

Then he tells you that the old elbow won’t come off your house. It’s cemented on. You have to saw through the pipe it’s connected to. Then you have to replace the piece of pipe that you cut off, and cement it to the end of the pipe you just cut. Using a sleeve, which he sells you.

He also wants to sell you a pipe, obviously, which you can cut a small piece off of to replace the piece that you’re sawing. The thing is, he says, he only sells five-foot lengths. Most people fixing their sinks need five whole feet.

Go home with your huge box of pieces. You’re doing great! Only several more steps.

Get out the electric saw and cut the pipe loose from the house without cutting anything else down there, such as the water intake or the towel.

Take the piece you cut off and compare its length to the new elbow you just bought with the new pipe shoved in it. Note that you have no idea where to draw your approximate cutting line on the new pipe because the elbows are different shapes

It turns out that you do need five feet, because of trial and error.

As recommended on the cement can, shove all the pieces of pipe into each other and see if you can dry-fit it without the cement.

It fits! Basically.

Remove all the dry-fitted pipes from their sockets.

There will be one piece you can’t get out—that tiny piece you had to cut twice. Spend some time fighting it before you wonder why you’re trying so hard to get a stubborn pipe apart so you can cement it back together.

And there you have it! You’ve fixed the clog! (Which was your original problem, if you recall.) Who needs a plumber? Also, who needs cement? I’m asking seriously. I have two cans.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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