Every so often removing a sink drain is necessary. However, this isn’t the kind of task you can do without understanding how the sink components work. Don’t worry, it is still manageable and can be done if you follow a guide. It’s also quite common for the drain to be stuck or hard to remove so we’ve included some tips on how to fix this too.
When you remove the drain flange of the bathroom sink you will need to undo the nuts connecting it to the drainpipe underneath the sink. You will need the correct tools to do this and once loose, you will be able to push it up and out of the sink.
Things You Will Need For Sink Drain Removal
There are a few important tools you will need for a sink drain removal. These tools will help you detach the flange of the drain from underneath allowing you to completely remove it.
- Utility Knife
- Small Wooden Board
- Putty Knife
How to Remove a Bathroom Sink Drain
A bathroom sink drain can be quite fiddly to remove so you may need another pair of hands to help you out with a few of the jobs. In total, this job could take up to an hour depending on your experience level. The steps below talk you through the removal process:
Step 1. Prepare the Area
To help you remove the drain quickly and safely, dry the area you are working in. This is going to make the area more comfortable to work around and will also make it easier to grip items for removal.
Once dry, remove any items from underneath the sink so you can access the drainage system more easily. It’s best to fully empty the cupboard under the sink where the pipes are. Before you touch any of the pipes, position a bucket underneath the P trap ready to catch any water that comes out.
Step 2. Loosen the P Trap
Firstly, locate the nuts that are holding the P trap in place. The P trap is the curved pipe that goes down from the sink and then up to another pipe. This creates a curve that holds a small amount of water to stop gas from coming back up the drainage system into your bathroom. As you loosen the nuts the P trap will likely leak with water, this is normal. Continue to remove both nuts until you can slowly detach the P trap. If there is still water inside the P-trap you can dispose of it either into the bucket or into the toilet bowl.
You don’t have to take the P-trap out completely but doing so will give you more space to work comfortably underneath the sink. You can remove the side of the P-trap connected closest to the drain and leave the rest of it in position if you prefer.
Step 3. Locate the Stopper Rod
If your bathroom sink has a lift rod behind the spout then it should be easy to see where the rod connects underneath the sink. The rod connects to a pivot rod with a clip, remove this clip to disconnect the stopper rod while you remove the drain. This will be put back together later so take a picture if you feel it will help with reassembly later. After the clip, remove the pivot nut on the end of the rod.
Once you have removed this system the drain stopper will no longer move up and down with the rod. This means there won’t be anything in the way to stop you from removing the stopper. Remove this and put it to one side.
Step 4. Loosen the Locking Nut
With the P-trap and lift rod now out of the way you can find the retaining/ locking nut that holds the basket in position. This is high up near where the drain goes into the underside of the sink. Use the pliers to loosen this so you can take the basket out.
If there is a problem separating the nut and the basket, ask someone to secure the position of the basket with pliers. You can also apply oil to the thread and give it anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to work before trying again. If you’re finding the sink removal process frustrating, this is a good opportunity to take a break.
Step 5. Remove the Sink Flange
After removal of the retaining nut it is time to take the sink flange out. Depending on the design of your sink there are two ways of doing this. You may be able to push the sink flange up through the drain. If this isn’t the case, you may need to pull the large top ring from above the sink and then remove the rest of the flange from underneath. The size of the drainage hole will help you determine which method of removal is necessary.
If it seems to be stuck, it is most likely because of the bond created with the plumber’s putty. Use the knife to loosen the plumber’s putty between the sink and the flange. You can also use a hammer and wooden board to help get the sink flange loose if needed. If you plan to use the hammer and wooden board, do so carefully. Position the board underneath the sink basket and then hit the hammer against it to help dislodge the basket. Once loose, wiggle and remove the sink flange.
Step 6. Clear Remaining Putty With a Putty Knife
After removal of the drain you can use the putty knife as a way to gently clear any remaining plumber’s putty. It’s a good idea to give the sink and underside of the sink a good clean ready for installing your new drain. All of the old putty needs to be removed before you install a new drain otherwise the new drain won’t be able to form a good seal with the sink.
Once the old sink drain has been removed, it’s essential to fit a new one before using the sink again. It’s best to fit a new drain rather than reusing an old one. This is simply because there are many components that can become worn and damaged over time. Sink drains are inexpensive and easy to find, just make sure you buy one that matches the size of the existing sink drain hole.
How to Install a Bathroom Drain
Installing a new bathroom sink drain is essentially carrying the removal process out backwards but instead of removing putty, you are applying it. That may be simplifying the process slightly so let’s go through it in stages. Below are the installation steps to help you get your new sink flange fitted and ready for use.
Step 1. Get the Flange Ready
Depending on the sink flange you have bought, you may need to prepare it before you can install it. These are simple jobs such as putting the washer into position and removing the nut so you can secure it in place. Take a look at the components in the box and the installation instructions so you can get all the parts ready for installation.
Step 2. Create a Seal
Use a joining compound that is suitable for use in the bathroom to form a seal with the new flange and the sink. You will only need to use a small amount but this compound is essential to prevent leaks.
Step 3. Apply Putty
Now, apply plumber’s putty on the underside of the new flange. A little goes a long way and this will also help to form a complete seal. Press the new drain securely against the drain hole. Once the flange is firmly in place, remove any excess plumber’s putty with a clean cloth.
Step 4. Start Installing the Components Under the Sink
There will be various parts to connect to the flange from underneath the sink. Now position the flange by passing it through the hole as far as it will go. You now need to slip the rubber washer over the waste pipe so it can seal the connection. Then, slide the securing nut into place and use pliers to tighten it.
Step 5. Reattach the Pipes
Now you can put the pipe (P Trap) back into position and tighten both slip nuts. It’s best to tighten these by hand as over tightening them can put strain on the system.
Step 6. Position the Stopper
You can now put the stopper into the drain opening. If it is a regular stopper there is nothing more to do. If you are using a stopper that works with a lever, this should be installed too so continue to step 7.
Step 7. Attach the Lever
If your sink uses a lever to open and close the sink plug, install this now. Once in position, you can secure it with the clip underneath the sink. This clip should have come with the installation kit for the new unit. Test the lever system and that’s it. Your new bathroom sink drain is fully installed and ready for use.
Step 8. Test
Check the compound and plumber’s putty to see if you have to wait for a certain amount of time before using the sink. Usually, plumbing putty doesn’t need any time to cure but it’s always worth checking. You can then turn the tap on and make sure there are no leaks in your new drain system. You can also test your stopper so you know that works as it should too.
4 Tips To Remove Stuck Bathroom Sink Drain Flange
The bathroom sink flange is notorious for being difficult to remove. If you are having trouble removing it, use the tips below.
Get Someone to Help You
An extra pair of hands is a huge help when it comes to the sink drain. Although the sink drain flange is small, an extra person can help by holding the sink basket in place while you remove the nut. This simply stops the basket from moving around and disrupting your progress.
Use Oil on Stiff Items
Penetrating oil can help loosen the nut if it is stiff. Apply a small spray and give it a bit of time to work. This should help you loosen the basket ready for removal. If the problem is a stiff lock nut you can also spray some bathroom cleaner onto it and give it a wipe it clean.
Use the Right Tools
Although this may sound obvious, switching the pliers you are using for a bigger/smaller size could help you get a better grip of the drain flange. A screwdriver can also be helpful in removing the sink drain if you’re struggling to get a grip of it.
Use a Small Wooden Board
If you have removed the nuts that hold the sink drain flange in place but it still won’t budge you may be struggling to find a solution. In this case, you can place a wooden board and use a hammer to help remove the remaining plumber’s putty. Place the board at the base of the drain basket. Strike the board once or twice to break the seal of the plumber’s putty but take care not to cause damage to other parts. This is a great way to apply some force to the area without breaking anything.
Can You Reuse Old Sink Drains?
An old sink drain can be reused as long as it is still in good condition. However, as sink drains work hard and don’t receive much maintenance it often makes more sense to replace it. The removal process can also cause damage to the old sink drain, particularly if it was difficult to remove.
In addition to this, there are a number of components of a sink drain so check each of them are still in working order before reusing it. The washers are key components that become worn and may tear over time. Older sink drains may also become rusty so should not be reused.
If you are considering reusing the old sink drain, give it a good clean and inspect it closely before reinstalling it. The drain shouldn’t have any old putty on it as this can stop a good seal from forming resulting in leaks.
If you have questions about your sink drain, take a look at our answers below.
How to remove a stuck sink drain nut?
Try to loosen the stuck component by spraying it with penetrating oil and tapping each side with a hammer. If this doesn’t work you can clamp locking pliers around the nut and hit this with a hammer to move the nut counterclockwise. Stuck sink drain nuts are quite common but there’s a number of loosening techniques that are worth a try.
How to unscrew bathroom sink drain?
Look under the sink and unscrew the lock nuts that hold the sink drain in place. Then, use pliers to help you remove the bathroom sink drain. The process is relatively straightforward but you must remove the drain from the pipes underneath and then pull it up and out.
Are all bathroom sink drains the same size?
The standard bathroom drain hole size is 1.25 inches. However, sizes of 1.5 inches and 1.625 inches are also seen fairly often. Therefore, it is worth checking the size of your sink drain before purchasing new drain components for it.
Can you replace a pop up plug with a normal plug?
Yes, fully remove the pop up plug and buy a normal plug set to install in its place. However, this may not be possible if the pipe for the pop up plug is part of the actual sink design meaning it cannot be removed.
Bathroom sinks are more complicated than they look. When you remove the bathroom drain make sure you have the necessary tools on hand and take your time when working through the steps. If you find something is stuck, don’t force it as this can cause damage to the sink and the drain parts. Removing and replacing your sink drain is a DIY job that will only take 30 – 60 minutes.