How To Clean Sink Overflow: 6 Simple Steps

Plumbing For Beginners: Unclogging The Bathroom Sink Overflow Hole

If you had ever lived on your own – even if just for a short period of time, like a weekend when you were left alone to look after the house – chances are you are familiar with the nasty problem of sink overflow. It is too easy to achieve, too smelly to ignore, and often way too uncomfortable to wait for the others to handle it. Also, you may encounter sink blockages and you need to know how to unclog a double kitchen sink.

Take a minute to look closely at a sink in your house, and you must have noticed already a small hole leading to the back of the sink. It is an overflow hole of the sink that exists for a sole yet fundamental purpose – to prevent your sink from overflooding, and all the overflow drain goes right into it.

Try to fill your sink to the brim, and you will notice the water escaping through this tiny hole. In preventing flooding or accidentally leaving the faucet, this hole is the indispensable helper.

Clogged sink

People tend to overlook the overflow hole due to its emergency case only application, yet it is rather helpful to understand the mechanisms at work. When clogging or another unfortunate event happens, this knowledge may save the day.

To help you learn and make your life easier and better, we created a plumbing guide that will walk you through the reasons why the overflow hole may get smelly, give some tips on how to clean sink overflow, and what you can do to prevent this accident from happening again. We will also look into some frequently raised questions to let you get to the bottom of the topic.

Why does my sink overflow hole stink?

Although it is uncommon for the overflow hole to get clogged, it has its own perks for dysfunctions. The nasty smell is the most popular one. It could happen thanks to the accumulation of bacteria and gunk on the walls, in rare cases joined by mold.

The common reason is the rare frequency of the cleaning sessions of the overflow hole, lack of knowledge of how to clean sink overflow, and the complex accessibility of the area.

This accumulation can be related to the extremely high humidity rate and the enclosed character of the area with little airflow. Even though the sink surface material is created with the humidity problem in mind, the classic design of a sink does not keep up with it in the battle against flaws.

How to clean sink overflow with baking soda and vinegar?

If you are reading this article, chances are you already have a problem and are looking for ways to figure it out. Luckily for you, we put together a simple guide that will teach you how to clean sink overflow and help you solve both problems of mildew and smells.

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The preparation phase for unclogging sink overflow hole requires gathering the instruments and substances that we will use:

  • one cup of baking soda
  • one cup of distilled white vinegar
  • two quarts of boiling water
  • a funnel or tube of non-conductive material, for example, silicon, that can withstand the heat of boiling water without transferring it
  • a pinch of patience

You are likely to have these materials at hands already, spread through the kitchen and bathroom, but if not – they are easy to find in the closest Home Depot and a grocery store. After preparing everything needed, we are all set to clean!

Baking soda and Vinegar

Step 1: Insert the silicone funnel in the sink overflow hole

The funnel you chose should be small enough to fit in there, but since silicone does not have a great friction force, you need to take a deep breath and gently twist the tube back and forth as it passes deeper. Please do not put the tube into the sinkhole in the bottom and try to make your way up to the overflow section, and it would very likely turn to be quite a disappointing experience.

Step 2: Pour a cup of baking soda down the funnel

Not a difficult action either. However, if as a kid you have tried to pour something powdery on a designated limited area or were ever tempted to make a pretty picture with chocolate powder on the top of the latte milk foam, you know it can actually be more difficult than it sounds. A pinch of patience and a little shaking will do some magic.

Step 3: Pour the vinegar down the silicone funnel

Pour slowly and gently. Vinegar and soda, reacting, will create a small fizz, and this is the reaction we need to get the mildew off the sink surface. A flow too strong will waste your vinegar and destroy all the fizz created, and will not help you solve the problem of how to clean sink overflow.

Step 4: Now we wait

This is time to let the substance sit for a while in the sink overflow hole to give the chemical reaction enough time to process fully. It does not take long; 15 minutes will be enough for these two to work while you can enjoy a couple of funny videos on YouTube and warm up some water for the next step.

Step 5: Polish up with boiling water

Only after the vinegar and baking soda had their time together is it time to flush them. Take the boiling water you prepared and carefully pour it down the pipe. Remember that your hands are the gentlest part of the process, so be careful not to splash yourself with the boiling water or get a steam burn. If the situation looks unmanageable solo, feel free to ask for help.

Step 6: Evaluate and repeat

Depending on how bad the things used to be before the procedure, you may be good with just one cycle. Or the opposite, the odor may weaken but remain, and that will be your clue to repeat all the steps from one to six all over again.

The process does not take much time and is not too demanding in an effort either, which is why you may want to consider making it a routine checkup of the sink overflow hole. It will help you to avoid crises and ensure the consistent functionality of your sink. Plus, preventing is always easier than handling.

How do I keep the overflow hole from getting clogged?

We hope we motivated you to dig deeper in the subject of how to clean sink overflow and consider cleaning the overflow hole in your bathroom sink once in a while and to keep it clean from now on; not only will it spare you the not-so-pleasant experience of unclogging it, but it also solves the smell issue.

After all, it’s rather easy and fairly important to keep your bathroom sink and other stuff clean; it is the place you visit quire frequently throughout the day and the one most sensible for bacteria.

For your cleaning routine, gather the following supplies:

  • A brush or pipe cleaner for sink cleaning
  • A funnel or pipe, exactly the type you used for unclogging the hole previously
  • Two or three quarts of boiling water
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Clogged sink

Step 1: Stick the brush or pipe cleaner into the overflow hole

We cannot promise it will be easier than to push the tube down the hole, but you gotta do it. Then again, your brush should be suitable in size for such an operation. And again, please use the overflow hole to reach the area; the pipe in the bottom of the sink will not allow you to access it.

Step 2: Scrape the area by pushing the brush back and forth

At this stage, we need to get rid of as much buildup using force as possible. Be gentle with your hands; watch, so they don’t bump into the faucet of the bathroom sink or other stuff around, but make sure that the brush bristles are actually scrubbing the needed surface. While you are at it, ask someone to boil some water for you or take a short break and do it yourself.

Step 3: Brush out, funnel in

Once you feel like the frictions are removing no more gunk, get the cleaning brush out and stick the funnel you prepared in instead. If you need a reminder on the procedure details, please get back to the unclogging section, step 1.

Step 4: Pour the boiling water

Slowly and gently pour the water prepared down the pipe. Once again, watch your hands. You do not want to get a steam burn, at least not this way. This process will loosen and/or flush the remaining buildup, depending on how bad things were in the beginning.

Step 4: Review and repeat

By moving gently, the pipe (or replacing it by cleaning brush and using it for the inspection) try to identify if there’s any residue left that can be scrubbed off. If the answer is yes, get back to step 1 and repeat the process all over again. If no, your job is done here. Congratulations!

Useful Information: How to Clean Sink Overflow With Enzyme Cleaner

In this video you will learn how to remove and clean smelly odor from sink overflow hole with enzyme cleaner.

What other things should I know about how to clean sink overflow?

There is never too much learning, and it is smart to get to know things before they happen to you.

Are you interested in the plumbing profession? There is just a guide on how to become a plumber and what it takes.

This is why we gathered for you the most frequently asked questions about the overflow sinkhole and its maintenance.

Question 1: Can Coke unclog drains?

Neither designed for this purpose nor perfect for such procedure, Coke actually can be your emergency remedy if other means are not available. Coke contains phosphoric acid, which fizzes and breaks down the clog in the pipe as you pour it down. What you need to do is the following:

Get two liters of Coke and let it sit still in the room to get its temperature down. Pour it carefully into the overflow hole and let it sit for one hour. If right after pouring, you can hear a slightly distinguishable fizzing – you did it right, if not – the flow was too strong and washed all the fizz away.

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We suggest you try again with this thought in mind. In one hour, run hot water down the drain to wash the substance and the buildup away. It is best done with the help of the silicone tube you used previously for unclogging and maintenance.

Question 2: Can I unclog the drain with toothpaste?

Neither the drain nor the overflow hole cannot be cleaned or unclogged with toothpaste, shaving cream, after-shave, hair gel, makeup supplies, and other things alike. What is worse, these substances, once used this way, will line up the sides of the pipe and build up there, eventually clogging it for good.

Despite the chemicals in these products, it is a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and feed off, producing odor as the side-product of their routine. If you really feel like using a chemical to clear either sinkhole, use an enzyme cleaner and do not experiment too much with procedures of how to clean sink overflow.

Question 3: What is the best type of drain cleaner for me to use?

Take a look at any online or on-sight store, and you will see numerous drain cleaners available. Some replenish the good bacteria in the septic tank, are gentle with pipes, and do a good job removing the clogging; these are the best type you can get. A popular example of them – an enzyme cleaner. Pour it down the drain, and it will remove the mildew and flush it into the tank.

Although be careful with choosing the chemical drain cleaner; most of them are effective for cleaning but can significantly harm both your pipes and your septic tank.

This is the main reason why many people prefer using baking soda and vinegar rather than a chemical pipe cleaner.

Question 4: Can I leave the drain cleaner overnight?

Technically you can, but we would suggest following the instruction written by the manufacturer – this is why those are created. Although in case you have a solid clog and are sure it will take time for the chemicals to destroy the buildup, you can use an enzyme cleaner and leave it overnight. This way, the procedure will be safe.

Question 5: Can a bleach unclog the drain?

Bleach is not designed to clean the clogging, and it lacks active ingredients to function this way. Thus it is not a good fit to clean a blocked sink.

However, it can do a great job with deodorizing the drain and killing the bacteria. Just take three-quarters of a cup of bleach, pour them down the drain and follow up with some hot water. However, to unclog the drain, you would need to use baking soda and vinegar or an enzyme pipe cleaner.

Sink overflow hole

All in all

Cleaning a bathroom sink, dealing with a clog, learning how to clean sink overflow, getting rid of the smells, maintaining the household in order, and generally being an adult is quite a handful.

It can be confusing and unpleasant, but it is something we all should be familiar with to make our lives easier and cozier. This little guide gave you some ideas about where to start and how to clean sink overflow when facing a problem. Now it is time for you to take action.

Do not forget that there are always plumbing professionals who are there to help you with things you do not feel capable of solving yourself, so do not hesitate to contact them when needed.

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