What makes a good sink?
May 18, 2015 9:44 PM   Subscribe

I have lived with lots of sinks. And I've treated them all basically the same. And sometimes the sink slowly clogs until it barely drains at all, and sometimes it doesn't. Even two sinks with the same, uhhh, drain hole (?) will act differently. Why could this be?

For example in my last place (not new), the sink never slowed down at all, while at my current place (brand new), the sink is slowing down after 8 months. The only difference (that I can see superficially) is that the water comes out of the faucet much more slowly in my current sink, so maybe that has something to do with it?

posted by middlethird to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
I suppose poor venting could slow the water drainage enough that hair is less efficiently swept away.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:49 PM on May 18, 2015

This will have less to do with the sink and more to do with the pipes. If you look under your sink, you will notice that the sink connects to your home's pipes almost immediately. You may have bigger/smaller pipes (although they should be standard), or your pipes may have different levels of build up. There may also be certain areas of your pipes that are more prone to congestion due to bends.
posted by Nightman at 9:50 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Check if your trap has clogged. A basic homeowner skill is to take this apart, clear any stoppage, and put it together again.
posted by Harald74 at 3:15 AM on May 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, this has next to nothing to do with the sink or faucet. Most likely there's a partial clog in the drain pipes.

In a bathroom sink with a built-in drain stopper, it's common for hair dropped from hair brushes to tangle around the mechanism and gradually plug up the works.

Short of taking things apart, which is the quickest way to deal with clogs in the trap or around the drain stopper mechanism, it sometimes helps to pour a teakettle of boiling water and/or a significant quantity of bleach down the drain. Let either work on the clog for a while before running the tap again. Safety first, of course.
posted by jon1270 at 4:29 AM on May 19, 2015

Yeah it has nothing to do with the sink and everything to do with the plumbing.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:32 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yup. It's not the sink. It's the drain. We just did this for our bathtub when water was draining slowly, and it was really easy:

1. Unscrewed the bathroom plug.
2. Took out the truly epic and disgusting hairball that had formed in there above the trap, and disposed of it in the trashcan and covered it up with lots of other bathroom detritus so that the squeamish Mr. Machine wouldn't have to look at it.
3. Put baking soda and a lot of white vinegar down the drain.
4. Put the stopper back on and let it marinate for 30 minutes.
5. Poured a potful of hot water down the drain.

It now drains like a dream, although repeats of baking soda plus vinegar may be needed if you have a lot of buildup. We have to do this from time to time in the sinks, too.

As a side note, some people don't like to put bleach into the sewer system, and when I lived in an older building, the landlord told me not to use bleach because it would damage the pipes. Also, for really tough stuff, I hear great things about this.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:57 AM on May 19, 2015

In addition to the above clogs and hair, I have had drainage problems related to these two issues:

- If you can close the stopper in the sink (to fill it up), sometimes the stopper doesn't open enough to handle the volume of water the faucet will put out. So pull the whole stopper out, and run water full blast, and see if the sink backs up. If it does not fill up/backup with the stopper removed, the you can fiddle with the stopper's connective bits under the sink to raise the open height.

- "biofilm" (aka the black gunk that forms in the pipes) that accumulates enough to constrict flow. It can happen in/around the stopper's edges, on the body of the stopper (the part that goes down into the pipe), or in and along the pipes/rim themselves. A nylon brush will clear pipes/rims, and the stopper+body you can pull out and clean by hand. (It's pretty nasty)
posted by k5.user at 7:12 AM on May 19, 2015

This depends on the drain plumbing.

About once a year I need to take the stopper out of my bathroom sink and use the Draino that comes with the red plastic snake to clean the accumulation of "biofilm." It's nasty, but it's a basic homeowner task.

In my last house, after I'd lived there about six months I had to take out the "P" trap* on the bathroom sink (which was so old and brittle that it broke upon getting it off and I had to call a plumber anyway), and I snaked out a bunch of long hairs that were a different color than my hair, several rocks, and three Barbie doll heads. The previous owner of the house had three teenage daughters and presumably they grew up in the house; not sure why this kind of child's mischief did not present a problem for him in years of owning the house but presented a problem for me.

* Although a "P" trap sounds like it might belong on a toilet, it's named as such because with the attached pipe it almost forms the shape of the letter "P."
posted by tckma at 11:09 AM on May 19, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers everybody.

My stopper's not stopping the water (since it was draining fine six months ago with the same stopper), so I think the consensus is that it must be the pipes? Some are twisty and small and some are straight and wide?

There was lots of info on how to make a sink drain quicker that was hard for me to sift though, but that pipe answer is the only concrete difference between good sinks (sinks that keep draining) and bad sinks (sinks that plug up) that I could see.
posted by middlethird at 3:46 PM on May 19, 2015

it was draining fine six months ago

That was then, this is now. Drains can get clogged with hair & other detritus.

A plunger [and the knowledge of how to use one], and the advice above about how to clear the trap will save you $bignum in plumber's bills.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:48 PM on May 19, 2015

Response by poster: This might be too late to clarify, but I'm really not looking for answers about how to unclog my drain, how to keep my drain working, what clogs a sink, or anything like that. I'm just asking about the differences in sinks themselves: why some get clogged and some don't.
posted by middlethird at 12:55 PM on May 21, 2015

Well, you've got that answer: the sink itself makes no difference. The plumbing connected to it does.
posted by jon1270 at 2:19 PM on May 21, 2015

Response by poster: Fair enough :)

I guess I should ask a new question "what aspects of the plumbing help prevent or cause slow draining?" but I think I already met my poorly-worded plumbing-related question quota.
posted by middlethird at 1:36 PM on May 23, 2015

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