Our bathroom sink was clogged.
After moving house, I’d refused to buy any kind of chemical cleaners, choosing to clean the whole house with only soap, vinegar, bicarb soda (depending on what I was cleaning). It had worked like a charm so far, but hadn’t entirely won my flatmate over. Especially that the bathroom sink had progressively become more clogged over the past three months.
I’d tried putting bicarb soda down the sink. I’d tried putting a cup of salt and hot water down the sink. But after weeks of trying, the sink now took hours to drain.
“I’m buying drano.” my flatmate declared. “This stupid vinegar thing isn’t working! We just need stronger chemicals to unblock it!”
“No!” I cried, “We don’t need to! Just give me one more day to try!”.
I knew there were different combinations of vinegar, salt and hot water that I hadn’t tried. I was determined to unclog that sink by natural means only.
I went to the shops and I stocked up on everything. Vinegar. Bicarb soda. Salt.
Every hour I went to the bathroom and added more bicarb down that drain.
And things were getting worse, not better.
…The sink now didn’t drain at all.
Frustrated, I pushed down the little pop-in plug into the sink, thinking it could … rebalance something. Shove some oxygen down there or something.
But then the plug didn’t pop back up.
We now had a bathroom sink that was completely blocked – and the popup plug was stuck in the sink and wouldn’t pop back up.
I opened up under the sink so see if there was a lever or something under the plug to see if I would get the plug to spring up again. No such luck.
But I did see the pipes under the sink. And I got an idea.
I wondered if I could pull apart the drain pipes and drain the water that way.
….I mean, I couldn’t break it any more than I had already, right?
And a drain is just a bunch of pipes held together with plastic screws. It didn’t look that complicated. And, honestly, it was already so broken that if I couldn’t fix it, I would need to call a plumber anyway.
So I started unscrewing the plastic drain pipes. The big u-bend separated from the pipe below it and black water poured out of the pipe, covering my arms and knees in black sludge. And I saw a long string of matted hair hang out.
That was was was clogging the drain. So I braced myself. And I started tugging at the hairy mass.
And I pulled. And pulled. I felt like a magician pulling a silk scarf out from their sleeve. I pulled out this thick, sodden mass of hair that was the thickness of my fist. Bits of soap and something sticky was matted in there. It was repulsive.
It must have been decades of hair and soap all caught up in there, into a thick rat’s nest that blocked the drain.
But I had unclogged the drain. I did it.
After seeing that mess, I really don’t think even drano could have broken through that mess, so I’m glad that I did open up the pipes.
I was really proud that I had unblocked the sink – using no harsh chemicals – even if the method I used wasn’t the approach I started with.
I screwed the pipes back together – quickly checking on youtube what to do with the little rubbery thing I found in there – grinning ear to ear.
I was hoping that this meant that the sink plug would now pop back up – but alas, it was still stuck.
I turned to youtube: “How to fix pop up sink plug that is stuck?”
It turns out that it’s really common for grit to get caught in these types of plugs and cause them to block. I thought off all the bicarb soda I’d shoved down there and thought that that was exactly what happened. My bicarb soda built up and stopped the plug from popping up.
I didn’t want to tell my flatmate that. I had new determination to fix it myself. I didn’t want him to have another reason to think bicarb wasn’t a cleaning solution.
With thanks to youtube again, I learned that all you needed to do to pull the sink plug out was attach a little plunger to it (like the kind that you see leg shavers that stick to the shower wall) and now you’ve got a handle to pull up the plug. Then you can unscrew the top and have full access to the drain to clear out the grit.
Yep, the bicarb soda was the culprit. It had built up over the drain and had caked into a hard mass, because when the sink was blocked earlier, it had nowhere to do down.
But now, I smiled, thinking of my little monstery mass of hair now removed from the drain, it did have somewhere to go.
So I grabbed a pen and started shoving the bicarb soda down into the drain, and poured vinegar down there so it would dissolve and clear the plug.
And with that – the bathroom sink was completely unclogged.
And now the sink drains the smoothest I’ve ever seen it.
I had done it. I had unclogged the sink pipe and fixed the stuck pop-up sink plug.
I’ve asked my flatmate three times if he’s tried the sink yet. Each time he said ‘no’.
Which either means he doesn’t want to admit that he was wrong in thinking that drano was the only way to unblock the sink… or that he doesn’t wash his hands anywhere near as often as he should.
I am so proud of myself.
I’m proud that I stuck to my values to do my best to solve the blocked sink without chemicals.
I am so proud that I saw a problem, and wasn’t to afraid to try to solve it myself. I didn’t fall into a negative headspace thinking that I wasn’t capable.
I am proud that each time I had a setback, I didn’t give up, I kept going, one step at a time. I broke each problem into small steps.
I’m proud that even though I didn’t know how to unclog a sink, or connect pipes, I didn’t give up. I googled it and learned how.
I could have been really frustrated by the experience, but I was really excited to try to learn a new skill.
Nope, it wasn’t what I thought I would be have been doing on a sunny Saturday afternoon – but it was so rewarding. I learnt a heckload about plumbing that I didn’t know about before. And I learned that I am capable of doing brand new, challenging things.
Going into things with an open mind, curiosity, and a learning mindset made such a difference. I didn’t say “I can’t do this” I said “I haven’t learned how to do this yet.”
So the next time you’ve got a clogged sink, you don’t need to call a plumber first. Look it up on youtube. You might very well surprise yourself. Maybe it is something you do need a plumber for or need specialty tools. But what if it’s not? What if you can fix it yourself? You don’t know until you ask the question and try.
You got this.
The next time you come across a challenge, reframe it from “I can’t do this”, to “I haven’t learned how to do this yet”.
Don’t forget to practise self-kindness, because some things take practise to get better at, too.