Harbinger Banner

How to - the Handywoman's Diary.

Kimberley King (No job too easy - quick, effective maintenance and repairs)

2 January

You can do it - Unblocking a sink.

Getting Ready

People are so scared of simple tasks. But there's nothing magic to them and - though I'm always grateful for the job - 'course I am - sometimes it really gets me that they won't just get their hands dirty; or in this case, their trousers and the floor.

That's the thing about plumbing you see - you are going to get some damp on the floor. 'Course you are - it's plumbing. That means its wet. So loads of towels and pots - don't even think about anything 'plumbing' unless you've got those first. First rule. Towels and pots: remember that.

messy tap

Then be brave. Bit of force sometimes can't be helped. I think that's the real reason we ladies don't normally get down to this particular type of house-repair. Not that we can't but so many ladies I know is so worried they might be embarrassed by getting stuck and have to call in a man that they won't even start. Which, sisters, is weak. You know it. So get out your bravery card, take your watch and bling off, find yourself some old jeans and join me under the sink.

The blocked sink and its origins

Because you've got a blocked plug-hole. Like this client of mine the other day, won't say who it was. But she's a lovely woman - known to all in the village. Handsome lady if she won't mind my saying so. She called me in because her sink wasn't draining. One of those ones in the cloak-room with a pop-up plug. She'd tipped about three bottles of the unblocker you get in Mel's corner-store down there and it was making a blind bit of difference if you know what I mean.

Toothpaste I said and she said I was welcome to use what was in the cupboard. No. I mean its toothpaste's gone down there and then stuff grows on it - I call it pipe-mushroom me. I told her about pipe-mushroom and how it smells so distinctual like nothing else and you have to get it out by hand because it's more obstinate than one of Miss Epona's Virgo priestesses (but that's another story).

And she was really interested - goes to show we girls do want to know if someone takes the time to show us - and got changed right there in front of me into some more suitable work-kit so she could help out.

Well, doesn't take a minute when you know what you're doing. So here it is:


old taphead

  1. Get those towels and pots - remember?! Pack them around everything valuable and cover everywhere where liquids and pipe-mushrooms might drip or drop.
  2. Find the white plastic pipe under the plughole. Sometimes they're a bit hard to get at and you might have to unscrew the fastenings for one of those half-pedestals if you've got one.
  3. Now - either you'll have a U-bend in the pipe or you'll have a trap. A trap looks like a moulded white plastic pot at the bottom of the white pipe below where the side pipe comes out to the drain.
  4. Hold a pot under the trap or U-bend. Take a deep breath and turn the white plastic nut (that's the thing with the raised ridged things on it - it screws on) clockwise (if you were looking down the plug from above). This is the only bit which might need a bit of force. The trick it to arrange yourself and your body at an angle that works. Try using left or right hand and sitting or lying in different positions if you have a problem. If you have serious problems - get some penetrating lubricating spray. Anywhere should sell it - DIY stores and places. Works miracles. Don't give up and call a man. He'll probably only go buy some lubricating spray and then you'll feel like a ninny.
  5. When the trap or U-bend comes off there'll be a shower of gunk including pipe-mushroom and some cold water. The water is always cold - its a law of nature. It also always splashes somewhere you wish it hadn't, like your face. This happened to me this time, but my kind client was on hand to wipe it off with a make-up pad thingy. She was really gentle and made me feel really cared for.
  6. sink trap

  7. You might be lucky and be able to clear out all the mush at this point. Probably have a lot of hair in it which the pipe-mushroom will be clinging to. But probably you'll have to take the plug out as well.
  8. Taking the plug out depends on the sink design. But assuming you're looking at a pop-up design with a lever, you'll have seen a couple of metal rods jointed at right angles under the sink. Unscrew where the lever rod goes into the plug casing (usually metal - the bit directly under the plug-hole). Draw out the rod and then just reach into the sink and lift the plug away.
  9. Now you will be looking at a lot of mushroom. Clean it off at another sink. Using a screwdriver or your weapon of choice clear out the remaining mushroom from above - it'll drop through where the trap or U-bend was so have a pot and towels below!
  10. Wash through with a little water from the tap (catching it in a pot under the trap of course). Then reassemble the plug, levers (screw them back into the sink unit) and trap or U-bend. Done to perfection like a crispy roast.

Easy A? Lovely - do it yourself girls.

Thanks for the crumpets.

I'd also like to say thanks to my kind client who not only paid me but gave me some excellent tea and a crumpet with treacle. I'd recommend that to anyone.

Articles from other months are linked from the side bar.

Please address all communications for the attention of The Editor, The Mews Office, Market street.

We have a box at the post office for ideas and notes.