This One Household Appliance Makes It Easy To Unclog A Drain

clogged drain

How To Unclog A Bathroom Sink

You may have used drain cleaner, a plunger, or even a snake to clear out a backed up or slow-moving drain, but you may not have even considered using the method I want to share with you today! This little clog-clearing trick is one of the best ways to unclog a drain and all you need is a wet dry vacuum (such as a Shop-Vac).

It might sound a little crazy, and I thought so too at first! But if you think about the mechanics of it, the suction of the wet dry vacuum essentially acts as a super-powered plunger, so the logic is actually pretty sound.

Apparently plumbers have been known to use this method when tackling certain kinds of clogs, and it’s a great alternative for those who want to unclog a drain naturally (ie. avoid harsh chemicals.) The next time you have a clogged or blocked drain, follow these four simple steps and you’ll have your drain flowing freely again in no time without having to resort to muscle power, or costly professional services.

How To Unclog A Drain With A Wet Dry Vacuum

clogged drain

What you’ll need to unclog a drain:


sink stopper removed from drain
Most sink stoppers are simple to remove.

Step 1 – Remove Any Covers And Stoppers From The Drain

The first thing you’ll need to do is clear the opening of your drain, and a screwdriver might come in handy depending on what type of drain you’re working with. You might just have to remove a screw or two, or the process could be a little more complicated.

If the drain in question is in your bathroom sink, I found this video helpful for figuring out how to remove and replace the sink stopper in our studio’s bathroom.

YouTube video

If the drain is in your bathtub, make sure to remove the overflow cover as well as the drain cover.

blocking the overflow drain with a rag
Seal drain and overflow tightly with a rag for the best suction!

Step 2 – Add Water To The Sink or Tub & Plug The Drain and Overflow Holes

After you’ve removed any covers or obstructions, turn the water on and allow a few inches of water to accumulate over the blocked drain. Put a rag into the water and cover the drain opening with it.

If you’re working with a sink or tub that has an overflow hole, seal that up with another wet rag.

If you don’t block up the overflow hole, it will make the suction of your vacuum much less effective against the clog.

wetdry vacuum hose inserted into sink drain
The power of suction!

Step 3 – Vacuum Out The Sink Clog

With the sink overflow hole blocked and a rag placed over the drain, press the end of your wet dry vacuum’s hose against the drain to form a tight seal. Then turn the vacuum on and let it do all the hard work for you!

The powerful suction will help pull the blockage out of the drain. If it’s a more stubborn clog, you may have to adjust the seal and repeat this step a few times to get it out of the drain.

Note: This will NOT be a splash-free process, so don’t wear your Sunday best to perform this task. Also, avoid this process if you’ve recently used chemicals in the drain, because you don’t want to get splashed by them!

Sink cleared from clog
Sparkling clean and clog-free sink!

Step 4 – Remove The Vacuum Hose And Rinse

When you’re done, turn off the vacuum and remove the hose from the drain. Turn on the water and let it run for a bit to ensure that the drain has been cleared out properly.

If it’s still taking a while to drain after you’ve removed grime from the drain, there may be more than one clump of grime obstructing the drain. If that’s the case, you may need to repeat the process to get the rest of it out.

If you keep adjusting the seal and vacuuming to no avail, you may have a more substantial clog than a wet/dry vacuum can handle. In that case, you’re probably better off calling in a professional to handle it (but hey, at least you tried!)

Things To Do After You Unclog A Drain

  • Consider adding a drain protector to prevent future clogs! The SinkShroom is a great solution for a bathroom sink, while this dome-shaped cover fits perfectly over pop-up drain blockers in bathtubs.
  • For kitchen sinks, a 2-in-1 strainer/stopper is great for collecting food scraps while still allowing water to escape down the drain.

Looking for more useful remedies to help unclog a drain (or keep it clear)? Check out this list!

Do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with clogged drains?

Read This Next

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Bright Ideas

  • After finding my shop vac at a yard sale for $5, and bringing it home only to discover the motor was not working. I wrote Shop Vac and told them and could I please buy a new motor. I enclosed my address and a request for a bill. Silence. Ok About a week later I received a new motor! No charge!! I love my shop vac! So, I have always put a large plastic leaf bag in the canister to make keeping it clean easy. Wet water, yucky stuff, no problem to get rid of!
    I’ve been telling my Shop Vac story nearly 30 years now. That’sa long time!!

  • Great idea to clear clogged drains. Last night my kitchen sink was clogged and we are very worried about it because the water is coming out from the sink and the kitchen is filled with water then I called an emergency plumber. They arrived and clear the drain within a minute. But, If I knew this strategy then I didn’t need to call them.

  • What a great idea…unfortunately I used chemicals on the kitchen sink last night. However it’s bound to happen again, so I thank you for this excellent suggestion!

    • About 6 weeks ago, I had an issue with my mainline downstairs! Not good… a real mess! I have never done this but I poured in a gallon of a drain cleaner I had purchased long ago. After reading all the cautions on it, I was terrified to use it! This time, I finally noticed water coming into my TUB so I decided to go for the scary cleaner. Poured it in…sat all night and in the morning, still NO change. Had to call a plumber. I told him I had used this and showed him the bottle. He was really nice and was just more careful about his procedure. My point being, if you are really careful, use better ventilation while working, you CAN still try other options. ALSO, believe it or not, ONE time when we were again having an issue, I did the vinegar, soda, and boiling water and a good ol’ plunger on my MAIN drain downstairs. IT WORKED!!! Just took lots of elbow grease, determination, and “…I ain’t given’ up on this *^#%* drain!!!” I sincerely wish you the best of luck!! You are NOT having fun! God bless…

  • >