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How to Remove Sink Stopper: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Remove Sink Stopper: A Step-by-Step Guide

A malfunctioning sink stopper is almost always the result of a clogged sink.

Luckily, there’s an easy fix, so we’ll teach you how to remove sink stoppers faster than it takes to fill your sink with water.

How to Remove Sink Stopper in 7 Easy Steps

Some sink stoppers allow you to remove them by simply pulling up and twisting.

In other cases, you’ll need to head beneath your sink, unclip the plunger rod, and remove the pivot nut before you can wiggle out your sink stopper.

Ready to get your sick stopper removed? Roll up your sleeves and follow these easy steps.

Step 1: Attempt to Manually Remove It

No matter how much you love your tools, there’s nothing better than a quick fix when your sink is in SOS mode. So, depending on the style of your sink, you might be able to remove the stopper by hand.

Simply take hold of the stopper, lift it up, and gently twist it; the stopper should pull away without a problem. But if it doesn’t easily rotate in either direction, don’t push it—it’s time to pull out that toolbox.

Step 2: Prepare Your Tools

Wrench on sink removal


To help you do this job as quickly as possible, set the following items beside your sink:

The pliers or wrench will help you loosen a tight pivot nut, while the flashlight will help you see what you’re doing.

A bucket isn’t technically necessary for removing a sink stopper, but you’ll be glad to have it should a leak happen.

You should also clean everything out of your sink. That’ll both make life easier if there’s a leak and give you better access since you’ll need to work under there.

Step 3: Unclip the Plunger Rod

Unclip the plunger rod


Now it’s time for you to crawl beneath your sink and look for a horizontal metal rod called a plunger rod. If you’re having trouble identifying it, look for a thin piece of metal with small holes punched into it.

The plunger rod sits at the bottom of that strap. Keep your attention at the intersection where the plunger rod and strap meet because a metal clip holds the two together. Squeeze the clip and remove it, noting the hole the clip was attached to.

If needed, mark the spot with a piece of tape so that you don’t forget. You’ll need to put that clip back on later, so make sure to stick it in a safe spot until we circle back to it.

Step 4: Get Your Bucket Ready and Remove the Pivot Nut

At this point, your bucket may, unfortunately, come in handy. So, we recommend placing it under your sink and working around it for this step. Follow the plunger rod to the other end (the opposite side from where the strap was).

You’ll encounter a pivot nut attaching the rod to your sink. Unscrew it with your hands. If it’s too tight to remove manually, pull out that wrench or pair of pliers for help.

Step 5: Return to the Sink

Faceless person showing us how to remove sink stopper by pulling out the plunger and pulling up the stopper that's full of hair and gunk

Jason Patrick Ross/Shutterstock

Your neck is likely sore at this point from cranking it around to fuss with the plunger rod, so we’ve got good news for you—you can stand back up and return to the faucet portion of your sink.

If you followed these steps correctly, you should be able to pull the sink stopper right out, giving it a gentle wiggle if needed to come loose. That’s especially the case if you have a clogged sink.

Step 6: Get Cleaning

We’re not going to lie—removing a sink stopper can get pretty gross, but it’s satisfying once you get it (and your sink) cleaned up. Below are some cleaning items that you can use to help:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper towels
  • A small brush (a toothbrush will do—throw it out afterward!)
  • Hair clog tool
  • Vinegar
  • Sink cleaning detergent
  • Drain cleaner

Let’s start with cleaning the sink stopper itself. You can expect to encounter hair and other debris wrapped around the stopper.

So, repurpose your bucket as a trash can and pull the big items loose. Then, use paper towels and a small brush to clean up the smaller grime.

Setting the sink stopper in some vinegar at this point is an excellent option to help remove any greasy residue. Then, use a hair clog tool to pull out—yes, you guessed it—hair from your sink’s drain.

You can also use a regular sink cleaner to clean what you can reach around the entrance of the drain hole.

Alternatively, for a deeper cleaning process, use some drain cleaner. Just be careful, because drain cleaners contain harmful chemicals for human health.

Step 7: Put It All Back Together

Image of a drain from which dish soap bubbles up in a stainless steel sink


You’ve likely got a hunch about how to put your sink stopper back together, but we’ll walk you through it here just in case. To start, wiggle your squeaky-clean stopper back into its hole in your sink.

Then, head underneath your sink and use your hand, pliers, or a wrench to secure the pivot nut. From there, use the clip to attach the plunger rod to the strap. Voila!

Your sink stopper should be ready to use again. But just to be sure, move the stopper up and down using the lever by the faucet. If it moves like it used to before any clogging, you’re good to go.

Things to Consider

Now that you know how to remove sink stoppers, below are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Be aware that water might come spraying out when you use the pivot nut, so using a face shield is helpful to prevent the possibility of pathogens accessing your skin.
  • Wearing rubber gloves the whole time will help prevent you from coming into contact with icky sink water throughout the sink stopper removal process.
  • Stay organized by using a tray for the small parts you’ll be working with.
  • If you need to purchase new parts, consider bringing the old pieces to your local hardware store to ensure that you get the same kind.
  • Stay on top of drain cleaning. It’s easier to remove a sink stopper when a wad of hair and debris isn’t holding it down from a lack of routine cleanings.

Frequently Asked Questions

For a piece on how to remove a sink stopper, a chrome and plastic stopper sits on top of a sink drain


If you still have questions about removing sink stoppers, we’ve got answers.

How often should you unblock your drains?

Cleaning your sink drains monthly is one of the best ways to prevent a situation where you need to do an emergency removal of your sink stopper. Blocked drains are one of the most common causes of needing to remove sink stoppers.

Luckily, removing sink stoppers is a fast process. So, once you get the hang of it, you won’t have to dedicate much time to this new monthly cleaning routine.

What are the different types of sink stoppers?

The different types of sink stoppers are drain stoppers, level stoppers, and a strainer and stopper combination.

Of these three, drain stoppers are the ones that involve more work to remove since you’ll need to go under your sink to unclip the plunger rod and remove the pivot nut. Bathroom sinks most commonly have drain stoppers.

What is the use of a bathroom sink stopper?

Rubber and pop-up sink stoppers allow you to fill your sink with water. Pop-up bathroom sink stoppers also reduce the amount of hair and debris that get deep into your pipe drains.

The advantage of this is that you’ll likely have less of a major plumbing issue. However, it’s crucial that you routinely remove your pop-up bathroom sink stopper to clean it. Otherwise, you’ll experience a localized blockage.

Is baking soda and vinegar good for pipes?

Baking soda and vinegar are excellent aids for helping you clean your pipes when you remove your sink stopper. However, you shouldn’t use these ingredients to replace routine sink stopper removal.

The reason baking soda and vinegar are helpful for drain cleaning is that they assist in loosening debris, mainly because they bubble. Furthermore, rinsing these products with boiling water after 20 minutes helps them become even more effective. They’re also an all-natural drain cleaning solution compared to chemical-based products like Drano.

Are all sink plugs the same size?

No, not all sink plugs are the same size. For this reason, if you need to remove your sink stopper and replace any of its parts, you should bring the part into a hardware store to match its exact shape and size.

As a general rule, modern-day bathroom sinks have a 1.5-inch plug size. But back in the day, plug sizes varied greatly, ranging from 1-2.5 inches. The good news for homeowners is that many manufacturers still make these other sizes to accommodate older sinks.

So, How Do You Remove Sink Stoppers?

Removing sink stoppers is easy since you can technically do it without any tools, provided that the pivot nut isn’t too tight.

From there, you should arm yourself with rubber gloves and cleaning supplies to scrub both the stopper and drain before putting everything back together.