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How To Clean A Plughole

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stainless steel plughole

Does the water seem to take forever to empty out of your sink? Maybe you get a whiff of drainage every now and again – these are both indications that your plughole may be blocked and needs a good clean.

But where do you start? How often can you clean the plughole? Do you need to clean your sink first? These are just some of the questions that will run through your head before you’ve even considered whether you need to purchase certain cleaning products.

Luckily, we’re here to take the worry out of this mundane task, that let’s face it, nobody really enjoys doing.

Cleaning your sink

Thankfully, cleaning your sink isn’t a huge task and if you keep on top of it you won’t need to put too much effort in. Whether it is stainless steel or ceramic, you may already have some products in the back of your cupboard that can help with cleaning.

sink with cup in and utensils on side

Firstly, clear out any loose debris, food, or hair from your sink (remember this method can be used for kitchen and bathroom sinks). This will avoid anything further going down the plughole.

You can simply use a cloth and washing up liquid to clean around the sink, though there may be times when it needs a bit of a deeper clean, especially if there is food stuck onto the surface.

Secondly, boil the kettle so you have some hot water ready. Sprinkle some bicarbonate of soda around the sink and leave for 5 minutes – this will help loosen any stubborn stains. When the time has elapsed, pour the water into the sink in order to break up any food particles, helping to wash them down the plughole a little easier and avoid any more unwanted blockages.

Use a cloth to wipe around the sink. If you are using a sponge, take care if there is a scouring pad on one side as this may scratch the sink if used too hard.

sponge, scourer and cleaning pad

You can buy products that are specifically designed for different sink materials, but these can be a bit costly. You do also have the option to use anti-bacterial wipes, again if you don’t have these in your cupboard already, it will be an additional cost. But I admit that every now and again I will do a quick wipe around with one of these or the dishcloth when a full clean is not needed.

What can I put down my plughole?

  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • White vinegar
  • Boiling water
  • Lemon juice
  • Soda crystals

Bicarbonate of soda is a staple that most people have lurking in their cupboard for one reason or another and is a brilliant cleaning agent for a whole host of appliances. It can either be sprinkled onto the dirty area or mixed with water to create a paste for extremely difficult stains.

As you read earlier, it can be used to clean your sink in the lead up to this process. The same method will be used now – sprinkle half a cup of bicarbonate of soda directly into the plughole and leave it for 10 minutes to work its magic.

Lemons next to spray bottle

You have a few options now that you can add along with the soda.

Lemon juice poured into the plughole will make a chemical reaction when mixed with the bicarbonate of soda. It will further help with lifting the grime from inside. These are the places where the dirt does build up because you cannot see it and it isn’t that easy to get too.

White vinegar is another useful cleaning agent, and mixed with bicarbonate of soda it can give your plughole the much needed freshen up it needs.

If you don’t have these to hand, then you can simply use boiling water to wash away the residual soda and loosened dirt.

After 10 minutes, you can wash the solution down using hot or boiling water. This will help to flush out any residue, grime, and grease that had been clinging to the sides. If using the lemon, this will also give it a fresher smell.

It can be difficult to see how much gunk is lurking and if you want more of a thorough clean it might be worth removing the plate to get right underneath and into the plughole. You could use a bottle cleaner or toothbrush to reach these areas.

If you don’t have the option of removing the plate, you can use a pair of tweezers or cotton buds to reach down through the gaps and clean as much as you can. Even if you only pull a few bits out, combined with the cleaning agents this will make a huge difference to the freshness of your sink.

Soda crystals are another option to clean a dirty plughole, working in the same way as bicarbonate of soda. Simply pour a mug of crystals down the plughole followed by some hot water. Leave it to dissolve as it loosens any grease and dirt.

3 pans with dirt and grease in

What is blocking my plughole and drain?

It’s all too easy to not think about what we are dropping into the sink off our plates. Even tiny bits that can fit might get stuck a little further down and this can cause a build-up, and eventually a blockage. This results in foul smells and the slow release of water from your sink.

Grease is another factor – swilling pans or trays that have leftover oils in can mean they stick to the sides of the plughole and further down the pipes. It is always a good idea to discard of fats or oils in the correct way before running anything under the tap. Do this by pouring the used oil into an empty bottle or mopping up any leftover fat with kitchen towel.

Hair – this is one of the biggest culprits, especially in showers and baths. Instead of scooping up any loose hairs after you’ve finished, it is so easy to just wash it away. Out of sight, out of mind – we’re all guilty of it.

metal cover over plughole

Now, I have a teenage daughter with extremely long hair, who loves nothing more than to take a shower, use shampoo and conditioner, and detangle her hair (all whilst the water is running may I add!) and while the result is healthy and shiny hair, it does nothing for the plughole and drainage system.

Thankfully you can buy covers that sit on top of your plughole and stop anything getting through apart from the water. This means when you have finished your shower or bath, you can easily pop all of the stray hairs into a bin and avoid clogging your drains. You can also use these covers for your kitchen sink.

You can unblock the sink yourself using a plunger. It is not the nicest job to do and we’d recommend following our suggestions before it gets to that point.


It is all too easy to forget about the plughole – the important part of your sink, shower, or bath that drains the water and washes away the dirt.

If you like a clean and tidy home, then there are simple steps to take to ensure it is kept that way which won’t take hours to do or break the bank.

We’d recommend using the suggested methods of a deeper clean once a week and to maintain the freshness of your sinks and plugholes, it is worth pouring boiling water down once a day. There are also disinfectants that you can pour down the plughole which will give it a pleasant smell in between cleans too. This is usually a capful at a time so if you have to buy this, it will last you a while.

Along with all these methods, do make the effort to think about what you are putting down your drains as well because this will prolong the cleanliness of your sink and plugholes, avoiding any unwanted calls to a plumber if the problem becomes worse.

michelle author bio pic

Meet our reviewer – Michelle Vernon

Michelle is one of the lead writers at Washing Check and also holds an editor role. She is a busy parent who understands the needs of daily domestic life and the challenges it can bring.

She genuinely loves cleaning products and equipment, which although is quite strange to many, is a blessing to us here at Washing Check.