Remove Kitchen Sink Drain: A Detailed Plumbing Guide

The kitchen sink is one of the most frequently used plumbing fixtures. Even with infinite care and impeccable maintenance, wear and tear will eventually damage the sink or plumbing parts, such as the sink drain. When this happens, all you can do is remove and replace the drain. But how?

To remove the kitchen sink drain, you must first figure out what type of basket it uses. Remove the leaky basket and the strainer using the appropriate tools, then replace them with a new basket strainer. At this stage, you should also replace the flange or drain pipes if needed.

6 Common Types Of Basket Strainers

Kitchen sinks use basket strainers to prevent large food scraps from clogging the drain pipes. Not all types are installed in the same way, and each may require its own removal technique. Thus, you should figure out what type of basket strainer your sink has. Here are the six most common types.

Simple Drain Strainer 

Simple drain strainers are the simplest kitchen sink device ever invented. They don’t need any special installation and are ridiculously easy to remove and replace.

This strainer type simply sits over the drain and blocks larger debris as you wash food or dishes. The tiny holes can stop most solid waste, but they also clog easily – starchy foods and grease are the main culprits. 

Most drain strainers in this category are made of chromed plastic and are better described as flimsy. However, they are inexpensive. Higher-end models may be made of stainless steel or more solid materials. They don’t come with a stopper and must be removed each time you want to use a stopper to fill the sink with water.

Another disadvantage is that they don’t use any type of seal and could move as you’re using the sink. Thus, debris could bypass a simple drain strainer.

Level Strainer 

Similar to the simple drain strainer, the level strainer is a bit deeper and more durable. It is also more expensive but still affordable compared to other strainer types.

The main advantage is its simplicity – place it over the drain to prevent washing food scraps and larger debris down the drain. A rubber rim seals the strainer to the sink flange, making it harder to move accidentally. 

On the downside, this strainer has a larger net that allows some food bits to pass through. Like the simple strainer, this one must be removed if you want to use the stopper.

Stopper Strainer 

A stopper strainer generally replaces the flange and becomes a fixed solution inside the sink. Generally, this strainer screws into the drain and consists of a basket with a nut in the middle. You can turn the nut clockwise or counterclockwise to close or open the stopper. 

While its construction is simple, the basket can have larger strain holes that could let some debris pass through. However, you won’t have to remove the basket each time you want to use the stopper, which is a plus.

Removing and replacing this strainer type is similar to removing and replacing a sink flange, so you’ll have to use some tools and plumbing skills.

Back Nut Strainer 

The back nut strainer has a similar design to the stopper strainer and is also installed in the same way. The main difference is precisely the back nut that you can use to remove debris stuck inside the strainer.

Thanks to this convenient feature, the back nut strainer is easier to maintain. It is also affordable and relatively easy to replace. The main downside is that most back nut strainers have rather large holes that let larger chunks of food pass through. Thus, it may not prevent drain pipe clogs as effectively as other strainer types.

Double Strainer 

Double strainers are the most commonly used by those who don’t want too much trouble with their kitchen sink. The design is similar to the back nut strainer – the double strainer even features a back nut filter – but it also has a variety of gaskets and seals that stop food chunks efficiently.

The installation is a cinch, the strainers are generally made of stainless steel, polycarbonate, or other durable materials, and the price is affordable. If you were looking for the perfect kitchen sink strainer, this one might be it.

Flange Strainer

Flange strainer takes the whole kitchen sink basket concept to a new level, but it has a steep price. Replacing the flange, this strainer works as a double strainer, back nut strainer, and stopper strainer in one. The basket generally has generous dimensions and is very easy to clean. If you don’t mind dropping some cash, you should get one of these.

Things You Will Need For Sink Drain Removal

Removing a sink drain and replacing it doesn’t require advanced plumbing skills. The job suits everyone, even beginners. So, if you want to save some money by repairing the kitchen sink yourself, here’s a list of things you’ll need.

  • Adjustable wrench
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Locking pliers 
  • Rotary tool
  • Slip joint pliers 
  • Hammer 
  • New sink drain
  • Penetrating oil
  • Plumber’s putty
  • bucket
  • Protective equipment

How To Remove Drain From Sink

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary tools and materials, it’s time to get down to work. Worry not; all steps are straightforward and easy.

Disconnecting Drain Pipe From Kitchen Sink

Step 1 – Prepare the area

The only way to remove the drain from the sink is by removing the drain pipe completely first. For this reason, you should turn off the water by turning the shut-off valve under the sink clockwise. 

While turning off the water isn’t necessary, it prevents you from getting drenched if someone turns on the faucet accidentally.

After you’ve turned off the water, place a bucket under the drain pipe and prepare to remove it.

Step 2 – Loosen the coupling nut 

The coupling nut connects the kitchen sink strainer basket to the drain pipe and is generally only fastened. However, some plumbers may seal with a plumber’s putty or silicone.

Inspect the part and use a putty knife to remove any hardened putty or silicone (if present). Then, place a pair of slip-joint pliers around the nut and turn it counterclockwise to loosen it.

Step 3 – Unfasten the locknut and remove the drain pipe 

If the basket spins, hold it still with a pair of pliers and continue turning the coupling nut counterclockwise until the pipe comes off. Place the pipe section in a bucket, paying attention not to damage the coupling with the P-trap or wall drain.

Loosening The Sink Strainer

Some sink strainer models replace the flange completely and are installed in a similar way. Thus, you should loosen the strainer before removing it.

Step 4 – Apply penetrating oil

While all sink strainers should be easy to remove, corrosion and mineral deposits could prevent them from spinning.

To loosen the strainer and make it easier to remove, spray some penetrating oil and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The oil will lubricate the threads, so you won’t have to use too much torque to remove it.

Step 5 – Remove the old plumber’s putty

Like sink flanges, strain baskets are sealed with plumber’s putty. Use a putty knife to remove as much of the old seal as possible, then a pair of pliers to pull off the remaining bits.

Removing Sink Strainer

Step 6 – Unscrew the locknut

Like the drain, the sink strainer is held in place by a locknut located under the sink. Turning it can be difficult because the whole basket might spin with it.

For this reason, you should insert the handles of a pair of pliers into the hole. Ask a helper to keep it still with a heavy-duty screwdriver placed between the handles. 

Use a 16-inch spud wrench or slip-joint pliers to grab the nut and turn it counterclockwise. Apply torque until the nut comes loose, then unscrew it.

Step 7 – Cut the locknut 

If the locknut is stuck and doesn’t budge, you’re left with no choice but to cut it loose. Use a metal cutoff wheel on a rotary tool to slice through it. Stop when you reach the cardboard ring above the nut to prevent cutting through the sink.

Fit a chisel into the cut area and use a hammer to crack it open. Then, pull it off with a pair of pliers. Don’t forget to wear protective equipment during this job, including goggles.

Installing New Sink Strainer in 5 Easy Steps

Once you’ve removed the old drain, it’s time to replace it with a new sink strainer. Just like removing it, installing a new one is easy. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1 – Choosing a new sink drain

The first thing to do before getting your hands dirty is to choose the right sink drain for you. As explained above, there are different kinds of basket strainers you could use.

We recommend steering clear of simple and level strainers. While these models do their job and are truly inexpensive, they aren’t fool-proof and could let chunks of food from ending into the drain.

Flange strainers are the most performing you can get, but also the most expensive. However, you should expect to spend at least $50 for a quality basket strainer with a stopper anyway.

Another thing to consider is the type of stopper the basket has: 

  • Push-in style: This stopper is a non-replaceable plastic or neoprene part that can break easily and lose its sealing ability when exposed to hot water. These stoppers equip lower-cost strainers and aren’t recommended. 
  • Spin lock: This stopper type is the most durable. It doesn’t have any parts that can wear or break, but spinning it in and out can become annoying. 
  • Twist and drop: Providing the best compromise between the push-in and spin lock, twist and drop stoppers may require the occasional O-ring replacement but is otherwise durable and very easy to use.

Step 2 – Seal the drain hole 

Like sink flanges, basket strainers are sealed and held in place with plumber’s putty. Take a dollop of material and model it into a string, then work out a putty ring around the sink’s drain.

Step 3 – Install the new basket 

Place the new basket into the drain hole and press it against the plumber’s putty. Use a putty knife to remove the excess material, then assemble the rubber gasket, cardboard gasket, pressure cup and nut under the sink. 

Step 4 – Install the drain

Connect the drain pipe to the basket strainer by tightening the coupling nut. Fasten it by hand first, then use a pair of pliers to lock it in place. Don’t over tighten it because the plastic material could break.

Coupling nuts don’t have to be sealed with rubber gaskets or plumber’s putty, but you could apply some putty if you really want to.

Step 5 Test the new drain for any leaks

Turn on the shut-off valve under the sink and let the faucet run for a few minutes. Use a paper tissue to check all joints for leaks – the tissue will absorb even the slightest leaks that you can’t notice. If anything leaks, take apart the whole thing and install it again.

New Kitchen Sink Drain Doesn’t Line Up – Here’s What To Do

The easiest way to fix a drain that doesn’t line up is by increasing or reducing the tailpipe length. 

To reduce the length, mark the cutting point with a pencil or marker and use a saw to cut the section of pipe. Use an appropriate saw blade designed for plastic materials to prevent damaging the rest of the pipe. Once cut, install the coupling nut and fasten it to the strainer.

To lengthen the tailpiece, remove the old pipe section from the P-trap and replace it with an appropriately sized one.

Frequently Asked Questions

You may now know how to remove and replace a kitchen sink drain, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of questions. If you still have doubts, check out the answers below.

Why can’t plumbers putty be used on plastic?

Plumber’s putty can be used on plastic, but plastic fittings rarely leak, making it pointless to apply. Problems arise when you use putty on chromed plastic, as the putty can stick to the coating, causing it to peel off. This won’t damage your fittings, but the finish will be compromised.

Do basket strainers come with sinks?

Not necessarily. Most sinks come without any type of flange or basket strainer, allowing you to use your preferred fitting. This is a positive trait, as you won’t be stuck with a basket strainer type that you don’t want. It also gives you the possibility to install a standard flange and use a simple strainer if you’re on a low budget.

However, some kitchen sinks do come with strainers. If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution, it may help to know they exist.

How high should a kitchen sink drain be from the floor?

The standard distance between the kitchen sink drain and the floor is 28 inches, calculated for a standard kitchen sink that is eight inches deep. Deeper sinks require a shorter distance, but it shouldn’t go under 22-24 inches.

At 28 inches, you’ll be left with lots of storage space under the kitchen sink and won’t risk damaging the pipes as you’re rummaging through supplies and other items.


Removing a kitchen sink drain and installing a new one is the perfect DIY project for beginners. If you don’t feel confident enough, though, you can always call in a plumber.

What do you say? Would you fix the sink drain yourself or hire someone to help? Tell us in a comment.

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