How to Remove Sink Stopper

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You've probably come across a clogged sink drain at least once or twice, where water won't drain, and everything in your kitchen or bathroom becomes flooded and messy. If this isn't disastrous enough, the worst thing is realizing that you don't have an idea on how to remove the bathroom sink drain stopper, which is the only way to unblock the drainage hole.

While this can easily be solved by hiring a professional plumber, homeowners greatly benefit from learning some plumbing basics, which include removing a sink drain stopper in the bathroom and cleaning or unblocking the drainage of a sink basin. That said, read on to understand how you can solve this common drainage problem.

Before that, we have discussed how to remove tub stopper as well as how to remove kitchen sink?

Types of Bathroom Drain Sink Stoppers

Before learning how to remove the bathroom sink stopper, it is important to know the various types of plugs, as it affects the removal process. While they serve a common purpose, which is to keep water in the bathroom sink or bathtub and facilitate emptying, stoppers are available in six main types. Identifying precisely what type of drain stoppers in your sink's drainpipe will ease the removal and replacement process.

They include;

1.      Lift and Turn Drain Stopper

Lift and turn models can easily be identified by a small knob protruding from the stopper's cap. The small knob can turn in different directions, which open and close the sink drain opening. They also have an installation screw below the cap. Removing this type is quite challenging as unscrewing the setscrew may prove difficult, especially if it is corroded or was over-tightened.

2.      Push and Pull Drain Stopper

Push and pull drain stoppers highly resemble the lift and turn type in their design. However, as the name suggests, this type of drain stopper is opened by pulling up and closed by pushing down. Like the lift and turn bathroom sink stopper, press and pull models have a screw under the cap used for installation.

3.      Toe-Touch Drain Stopper

A toe-touch drain stopper also mimics the push and pull drain stopper. Even though it has a spring clip, the installation process is quite similar to press and pull and lift and turn models. Using this bathroom sink drain stopper model is easy, just like a walk-in bathtub. You only need to press down the stopper with a toe to open or close it. While this drain stopper is easy to maintain, the spring clip should be replaced after some time.

4.      Flip-It Drain Stopper

Unlike push and pull models, the flip-it bathroom sink stopper has a toggle lever that moves from one side to another, which either opens or closes the sink. This model can easily be installed in a regular or corner bathtub, as it requires no tools. Simply fix the bathroom sink stopper into the sinkhole, and the rings will create a strong seal that keeps it steady.

5.      Trip Lever Drain Stopper

The trip lever model is probably the only bathroom sink stopper model with levers on its overflow plate. As such, the usual pop-up drain stopper is replaced by a strainer in the sink opening. Unlike other press and pull, and any other types of bathroom sink stopper on this list, removing this stopper for scrubbing is quite challenging, as you will have to remove the overflow plate and tube.

6.      Pop-Up Bathroom Sink Drain Stopper

Most people, including a professional plumber, often confuse this drain end with traditional bathroom pop-up sinks due to their similar design and functionality. A pop-up stopper has a lever on top of its overflow plate and a spring that opens and closes it.

The excellent design of these stoppers makes it easy for the drain stoppers to trap dirt. However, despite its high-quality design, removing this type of drain stopper for cleaning or replacing them in the drain opening is quite complicated.

Causes of Bathroom Sink Stopper Clogging

Clogging or blocked drainage is probably the main reason why you should remove your bathroom sink drain stopper. However, what blocks this drainage hole? Below are some common causes of bathroom sink stopper blockage;

  • Hair– this is probably the main reason why a bathroom sink stopper blocks. When wet, hair clumps together and collects any other material being washed down the drain.
  • Soap scum – soap scum often forms when soap chemicals react with magnesium and calcium ions in water. It forms a chalky substance that builds up on pipe walls over time. Just like hair, it traps any other material flowing in the drainage tube which is why you may think that your drain stopper is not working correctly.
  • Cooking oil – most kitchen sinks clog due to cooking oil or grease that mostly flows through the sinkhole.

Essential Tools for Removing a Drain Stopper Mechanism

Like any other home improvement project, you should assemble some tools before you start removing the sink stopper. Below are some essential basic tools you will need;

Pliers or wrench – you will need pliers or a wrench to loosen the nut. Use either of these tools to loosen the nut depending on how tight the nut was fastened.

  • Flashlight – you need a light source to brighten up the area beneath the sink
  • An old toothbrush – you need a small brush, which can be your old toothbrush, for cleaning the sinkhole
  • Detergents – a cleaning detergent is also helpful when washing the sink stopper.
  • Vinegar – though not necessary, you will need vinegar to clean the plug
  • Bucket – The bucket comes in handy if there are any leaks from the sink as you loosen the nut
  • Tool for removing hair clogs – once you remove the bathroom sink stopper, you will need this tool to remove any hair or gunk blocking the sink. They are cheap tools made of plastic with hooks that pull hair from the sink.
  • Drain cleaner – though not important during this process, these scrubbing agents are required once the stopper and its contents have been removed. This is an excellent opportunity to clean the drainage pipe before assembling everything back together.

Note that the required tools vary depending on the plug design. Therefore, begin by identifying the type from the descriptions above before ordering the required tools and materials from a hardware store.

Various components that make a sink set
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 A Guide to How to Remove Sink Stopper

With all the tools assembled, follow the steps below to remove your bathroom sink drain stopper;

1)      Getting Started Before Working On the Drain Stopper Mechanism

Before embarking on the process, it is important that you begin by clearing the area under your sink. Therefore, remove everything under the sink to get enough space to maneuver. Next you should know all the working parts of drain to do your task more smoothly, without messing anything up. Depending on the size of the sink, you may find it better to lie on the back with your head under the sink. However, you can access most parts by kneeling close to the sink cabinet. With enough space, you can then position the flashlight where it can provide maximum visibility.

2)      Attempt Removing the Sink Stopper using Your Hands

Not all stoppers require special tools and techniques to be removed. Some are removable by hand by simply lifting up and turning the drain stopper. Surprisingly, this might be all you require to remove your stopper.

3)      Identify the Horizontal Plunger Rod

The plunger rod attached to the metal strap and pivot nut

If the stopper doesn’t come off by hand, you will have to put these tools into use. Therefore, the next step is identifying the horizontal plunger rod, which connects the drain stopper to the sink strap. This should be easy to locate, as it is the only rod connecting to the vertical strap, a piece of metal with some holes.

4)      Identify the Small Metal Clip that Attaches the Rod to Strap

After identifying the horizontal rod, you will notice that it is linked to the metal strap by a metal clasp. Remove the small metal clip to detach the lift rod from the metal strap. Keep the clip safely to ease the assembly process. Also, remember to note the hole from several holes that the rod was fitted to in the vertical strap before you remove the clip. This also makes it easy to put it back together.

5)      Unscrew the Pivot Rod

In your inspection, you will realize that one end of the plunger rod is connected to the metal strap while the other end is connected to a pivot nut. Having freed the clip attaching one end to the metal strap, you should then free the other end attached to the pivot rod.

During this stage, consider placing a bucket below the sink to catch the water that may leak once you unscrew to loosen the nut and is no longer connected to the pipe. Unscrew the nut by hand if possible, which should be as it is no longer connected to the rod. If it doesn’t work, use pliers or a wrench to loosen it.

unscrewed pivot nut

6)      Remove the Sink Stopper

With the nut loose, the stopper should be free and can easily come out by hand. If the sink is blocked, the stopper will come covered with gunk and other disgusting contaminants. Therefore, ensure that you clean it properly using a detergent, vinegar, and soak in warm water and remove all the gunk in the drainage pipe using a small brush.


7)      Remove Hair Using a Hair Removal Tool

Before returning the stopper, use this opportunity to remove hair out of the sinkhole. With a hair removal tool, you shouldn’t have any trouble pulling out clogged hair and other filth from the sink.

8)      Wash Down with a Drain-Cleaning Agent

This process also presents a good opportunity to clean the drainpipe thoroughly, especially if it had previously been blocked. Simply follow the instructions on the drain cleaning product to complete this. Most drain cleaning detergents require that you pour the product and leave it for ten minutes to soak before flushing it down with hot water.

9)      Put Everything Back to the Sink Drain

With everything cleaned, the last step is replacing everything back. This is overly simple, as you will be repeating the above steps in reverse order. Begin by replacing the stopper back into the hole and tighten it with a wrench or pliers from beneath. You should then reattach the plunger rod to the pivot nut and to the metal strap using the spring clip.

With everything in place, test the bathroom sink to check if it works as expected. If it worked perfectly, congratulations, as you have successfully unclogged the kitchen/bathroom drain. However, in some cases, especially if the stopper doesn’t return to its place properly, you might notice some leaks. This can also happen due to remaining hair or debris on the stopper.

Pro Tips and Tricks

Below are some pro tips to ease removal and replacement of bathroom sink stopper;

Find matching parts for replacement

If you have to replace some parts and not the entire sink mechanism, ensure that you find and use exactly matching parts. As such, it is best if you first remove the old parts and take them to your local hardware store. Having your old parts is the best way to ensure that the parts fit each other perfectly.

Have a tray to keep your fittings safe

Having a tray is important when undertaking any procedure that has removable parts. Otherwise, you might end up misplacing small but crucial parts of the sink. Have a tray, bucket, or bowl to keep these parts safe.

Always wear rubber gloves

Sinks get blocked by tangled hair and all types of gunk which are fairly spiteful. Besides being unsightly, these are items that you don’t want to handle with bare hands. Therefore, it is prudent to wear some protective rubber gloves and not use your bare hands when working on your drain pipe.

Make early interventions

Even if your drain pipe has worked perfectly, it is important to clean your bathroom sink as soon as possible. Most homeowners ignore their slowly draining sinks hoping that it will clear up by itself, which rarely happens. Once the bathroom sink stopper starts draining slowly, chances are the problem will continue escalating unless you make some early interventions. Therefore, clean your sink immediately it starts draining slowly before it becomes harder and unpleasant.

Bottom Line

Knowing ways of removing a bathroom sink stopper is important for homeowners looking to save money in handling such mundane tasks. This easy operation saves not only money but also an impressive addition to your DIY skills. Sink clogging may cause several serious issues in your kitchen or bathroom like lower water pressure in kitchen faucet.

However, if the sink clogging remains clogged after cleaning the bathroom sink stopper, and returning everything in reverse order or if the blockage appears after you had successfully unclogged the stopper, you might be in for more trouble than you thought of. In such situations, consider contacting a professional plumber for assistance.

Dino Paccino

Dino Paccino

Dino is a lifelong writer and home improvement specialist. He enjoys bringing cutting-edge information on home renovation and remodeling to Kitchen Infinity.

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