Bathroom Sink Stopper Stuck – 9 Easy Steps To Fix It

Bathroom Sink Stopper Stuck – 9 Easy Steps To Fix it

Anthony Barnes

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What’s worse than a stuck sink stopper? Especially when it is stuck closed!

Dirty, murky water fills your sink with nowhere to drain – it is impossible to even brush your teeth or wash your hands without the sink filling!

At least when it gets stuck open there is somewhere for the water to drain to!

If this is an issue that you know all too well, then you need to know how to unstick your sink stopper.

Luckily for you, it is a relatively straightforward process that we are here to guide you through!

So, if you need to repair your stuck sink stopper then you have certainly come to the right place!

How Do Bathroom Sink Stoppers Work?

Sink stoppers help you to control when the water drains from your sink.

They are made up of a few components, and if your sink stopper has stopped working it is likely due to a broken part.

Usually, you won’t need to call a plumber or professional to fix a broken sink stopper as most homeowners will be able to perform the fixes themselves.

Most sink stopper problems are easy to identify and repair provided that you have the correct tools available.

In order to repair your stuck sink stopper, you will need to have access behind the sink’s drain pipes to the mechanics of the problem.

This can often be the trickiest part.

You will need to remove anything from underneath the sink to create a clear space so that you can access everything you need to.

To locate the issue of your bathroom sink stopper, you will need a basic understanding of how they work.

Pop-Up Sink Plug Mechanism

Most bathroom sink stoppers have just three components, meaning they are usually very simple to fix.

Although they are made up of just three pieces, if one is broken it can cause the whole stopper to fail.

When everything is working well, it is an efficient and fantastic system, however, it only takes one part to break for the whole thing to stop working and become stuck.

We will talk you through each of these components and the roles that they play in how your stopper works. This way you will be able to locate the issue area much quicker.

1. The Pushrod

The pushrod is essentially the operator of the draining process. It is often positioned on top of the faucet.

When the button on the pushrod is pressed, the activity begins.

Pressing it down will usually lift the stopper and allow water from the sink to drain, whereas the opposite operation will close the drain and prevent any water from leaving the sink and entering the drainpipe.

2. The Lever

Connected to the pushrod is the action level, which is positioned beneath the sink.

This is usually a small metal rod or strip connected to the pushrod with thumbscrews. The other end of the level is located within the drain pipe. 

There are different ways that the active lever works, but the most common is the ball and cap method.

This method involves the cap tightening against the drainpipe and pulling the ball close which allows the water to leak beneath the sink.

3. The Pop-Up Drain Plug

The last part of the sink stopper is the drain plug.

This is a rubber gasket that is hidden underneath the lip of the plug, which fights tightly in the drain opening. Anything that is below the rubber gasket is known as a tailpiece.

A hook or ring is usually attached to the bottom of the tailpiece which is what then interacts with the lever.

When you press the pushrod, the lever lifts. Essentially that is how the entire system works, so it is easy to see how it can only take one part to break the entire system.

Stuck Bathroom Sink Stopper

The parts of a sink stopper are usually made from metal and when metal interacts with water they are at risk of corrosion.

Corrosion is one of the reasons why your stopper may stick. In fact, so much so that many manufacturers are in the process of swapping any metal pieces for plastic ones to avoid this problem.

Using plastic will solve the issue of corrosion, but the plastic components are not as durable as metal ones and are more likely to break physically.

Corroded Pushrods

Pushrods made from metal are exposed to water due to the position that they are in. Because of this, it is quite susceptible to rusting – especially when the sink is not used regularly. 

Bad Connections

For the sink stopper to move up and down and allow the whole system to work, the plug assembly has two essential connections.

If one of the said connections fails then the plug will become stuck either open or closed. This connection can have various faults including:

  • A slipped connection due to a loose thumbscrew
  • The lever rusting and snapping
  • The pushrod breaking

The connections of the system must be working properly and securely in order for the system to function.

Inside The Drain

In order for the system to function correctly, the plug needs to engage with the lever within the drain.

The most common connections between the sink stopper and the lever are as follows:

  • The lever slides into the bottom of the stopper’s tailpiece.
  • A ring on the lever and a hook on the tailpiece engage together.
  • A ball and capture joint between the lever and the tailpiece.

When looking to remove the drain stopper you need to determine which type of joint is in the drainpipe.

If the joint is broken or rusted then the drain plug system may only work one way – hence a broken or stuck plug. 

Broken Spring

In most instances, every problem with a bathroom sink drain plug is caused by something obstructing or interfering with the spring.

This could be hair, rust, or anything else that has gone down the drain that may have caused the sink stopper to become stuck.

How To Fix A Stuck Bathroom Sink Stopper

Bathroom Sink Stopper Stuck – 9 Easy Steps To Fix it (1)

The first thing you need to do is get up close and personal with all of the mechanisms involving the stopper, positioned behind the drainpipe.

To do this you will need to clear away anything you may have beneath your sink or in your cupboard so that you have the room to work.

This isn’t essential but it will be much more comfortable for you if you don’t have to worry about working around stuff!

Examine The Clip

A possible cause for your stuck sink stopper is the spring clip. Locate the mechanism and check that all the components are attached and working.

If the spring clip has become loose then you should tighten it. If it seems that the piece is broken or damaged you should replace it.

Pivot Rod Problems

Steel is the most popular metal when it comes to pivot rods. Steel is a type of metal that is prone to rust, especially when exposed to any water.

The steel will rust, weaken and stop performing as it should. If you notice that your pivot rod has become rusted and worn then you will need to replace it.

These rods can be bought separately but it is important to note that steel never lasts long in plumbing systems due to its corrosive nature.

You should look to replace the mechanism with brass metal instead as it is much more durable.

You should also check and ensure that all the components are connected and working as they should be, as that is another cause for stuck sink stoppers.

How To Fix A Pop-Up Sink Plug

If everything under the sink seems to be working correctly, then the issue may be with the pop-up plug itself.

If any part of the plug is damaged and does not connect to the mechanism, then it will cause issues.

If the tailpiece of the pop-up plug is broken it must be replaced. To find this, look beneath the sink and at the base of the stopper. 

Fixing The Problem

Once you know exactly what is wrong with the mechanism that has been causing your sink stopper to stick, you will be able to proceed with correcting the issue.

It is important that each piece is in good condition so that it is easier to fix the issue.

When you have reattached all the components to their designated locations, test the mechanism to see if it is functioning as it should be.

If you want to replace the pop-up body then you will need to remove the old assembly and insert the new stopper into the drain. Then place the pivot rod into the drainpipe.

Tighten all the nuts and rods so that all the elements that move are in place.

Once you have done all this try filling the sink with water to test the seal. If your sink is not holding any water then keep adjusting the nuts and clevis until it does.

How To Remove A Stuck Bathroom Sink Drain

Now that we have discussed the issues and causes and some solutions to the stuck sink stopper it is time to talk to you about how you can remove a stuck bathroom sink drain.

What You Will Need

  • A wrench or pliers.
  • Detergent.
  • A brush.
  • A flashlight.
  • A bucket.
  • Drain Cleaner Liquid
  • Hair clog removal tool
  • Vinegar

Once you have the above list of items, simply follow the steps below!

1. Try To Remove The Stopper Using Your Hands

Sometimes stoppers can simply be removed by hand. To try this, all you need to do to remove the stopper is to raise it and turn it. Sometimes this is all that is required to get your sink stopper out.

2. Remove Everything From Under The Sink

If you are unable to remove the stopper using just your hands then you will need to get beneath your sink. This means removing anything that is already underneath your sink so that you have room to work.

3. Locate The Horizontal Plunger Rod

Using a flashlight, go beneath the sink and locate the horizontal rod that links the stopper to the strap. It should look like a piece of metal with holes in it, so it should be fairly easy to find. 

4. Locate The Clip Connecting The Rod With The Strap

The rod and the metal strap are held together by a metal clip. You will need to locate this to solve your problem.

You will then need to detach the hook from the rod and the strap. Keep it somewhere you won’t lose it as you will need it later on.

5. Unscrew The Pivot Nut And Remove It

At the opposite end of the rod should be the pivot nut. You should unscrew it.

When doing this, place your bucket underneath the sink because it is likely that water is going to leave when you remove this nut.

You may be able to loosen the nut with just your hands, however, if you cannot then you will need to use the pliers or wrench to get the nut loose.

6. Remove The Stopper

Removing the stopper should be accessible once it is no longer stuck.

While you already have it out, it is recommended that you soak it well before putting it back inside. Use a solution of detergent and vinegar to clean it.

7. Remove Hair With Hair Remover

Before you put the stopper back in place you need to remove any gunge or hair that blocks the opening.

Use your hair removal tool and be sure to remove everything that you can that has been trapped in the sink.

8. Clean Pipe With Drain-Cleaning Product

Before reinstalling all the parts you should thoroughly clean the drain pipes. This is especially important if your sink has been blocked.

Use a drain cleaning product and follow the instructions. Usually, you will need to simply pour the product down the drain.

Leave it for at least 10 minutes then run hot water to flush it all away.

If the water drains away with no clogging, then you have successfully unclog your drain!

9. Replace Everything Back Where You Found It

Reverse the process and replace everything that you removed. Replace the sink stopper and then reinstall the nut beneath the sink and tighten.

Then, reattach the strap to the rod with the clip that was removed earlier. Test the stopper once you have done this.

If it moves up and down when you push and pull the lever then you have been successful. Return everything to the sink and you are finished! It is as easy as that!

How To Keep Your Bathroom Sink Stopper Working 

Though repairing your stuck sink stopper is usually straightforward and simple, maintaining the functionality of your bathroom sink (see also ‘Bathroom Sink Smells: How To Get Rid Of Unpleasant Odors’) is very easy too!

And this will save you a lot of time and trouble in the long run. Most bathroom sink (see also ‘Low Water Pressure In Your Bathroom Sink?‘) repairs will take less than an hour and don’t require many tools – as mentioned in the above method!

Final Thoughts

So, that is how you can fix your stuck sink stopper. Repairing your sink drain does not have to be a hassle.

In fact, you need only a few basic tools and some skills to fix it yourself. It shouldn’t take you too long to do either! Simply follow the steps before and allow us to guide you through repairing it yourself. 

If your sink stopper has been stuck and you are looking for a way to fix it, then hopefully this article has helped you out and you now have a fully functional and working sink and drainage system! 

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By Anthony Barnes

Anthony Barnes is the founder of Water Heater Hub and a second-generation plumber by profession. Before developing Water Heater Hub, Anthony Barnes was a full-time plumber, and he has undertaken a wide variety of projects over the decades. As a second-generation plumber, it was easy for Anthony to get used to the technicalities of all from a tender age