Is Your RV Sink Clogged? Here’s How To Fix It
Having access to clean running water is one of the biggest perks of traveling in an RV. Unfortunately, this water system means that it’s possible (and even common) to experience issues in the drains and plumbing. However, even if your RV sink clogged up, there are ways to fix this!
It’s likely that every camper will experience clogged drains at some point, so you’re not alone if your water is draining slowly or you notice a funky smell coming from the pipes. There are several different ways to deal with this, so let’s explore some effective options below.
Why is my RV sink clogged?
Before we get to some de-clogging methods, let’s take a second to talk about preventative measures. Sometimes the best offense is a good defense! In many cases, there are steps you and your passengers can take that will minimize clogs and help the whole plumbing system function better.
Wipe dishes off before washing
Food and grease are major causes of poorly-draining sinks. In many cases, you can minimize the damage by wiping off food residue into the garbage can before washing dishes in the sink or dishwasher.
Use drain covers
Drain covers in the kitchen or bathroom sink (as well as the shower) can catch hair, food particles, and other debris that could clog the plumbing. It’s always a good idea to use these, especially because many RVs don’t have built-in food disposals.
Avoid solid soap
Obviously, everyone should wash their hands regularly with soap and water. However, using solid bar soap can sometimes create blockages in drains. If the soap breaks off in chunks, these can become stuck to the interior of the pipe and trap other particles.
Clean sinks regularly
Every RV needs to be cleaned and maintained on a regular schedule to keep it clean and livable. Sink maintenance is part of the job! By keeping the exterior of your sinks clean, you will be able to avoid crusty buildup and bacteria that could cause problems down the road.
Believe it or not, vents can actually make drainage problems worse in an RV! If your RV sink clogged, blocked vents could make the smells worse and make it harder to clean the debris out. Make sure you check your inline vents above the P-trap, as well as your roof vents. Both of these can trap buildup and create a nasty smell.
How to fix a clogged RV sink
Baking soda, vinegar, and hot water
Is your RV sink clogged? Well before you get into the more complicated solutions, why not try the classic cleaning go-to? There are few cleaning projects that can’t be solved with some vinegar, baking soda, and hot water. This is good at breaking through grease and buildup, and is easy to wash away afterward.
Begin by pouring 1/3 cup of baking soda down the drain. Next, pour in 1/3 cup of white vinegar. Allow the mixture to fizz and sit for about 1 hour, then pour 8 cups of boiling water down the drain. This combination should help flush out most buildups.
Apply eco-friendly cleaners
Another chemical solution you can try is an eco-friendly drain cleaner. RV pipes are often made of plastic, so they can’t handle some of the more corrosive cleaners out there. In addition, if you’ll be dumping your wastewater tanks along the way, it’s best to use natural cleaners that won’t affect the environment.
A couple of good drain cleaners include Drainbo and Green Gobbler. These are both natural drain cleaners that won’t disrupt the function of your grey and black water tanks. Just pour them down your drains and give them time to work their magic! Make sure you read the specific directions carefully because some types of drain cleaner must be mixed with warm water prior to use.
Use a sink/shower plunger
Next up, we have the good old-fashioned plunger solution. Some blockages are too solid to be affected by chemical solutions and they need to be physically removed. In these cases, a simple sink/shower plunger will usually do the trick. You might be able to get the job done with a standard toilet plunger, but it’s not guaranteed (plus you might not want to put one of those in your kitchen sink).
If you opt to use a sink/shower plunger to clean your drains, begin by opening up your grey water tank. Next, fill the sink partway with water and insert the plunger over the drain opening. Begin pumping the plunger up and down. Within a few minutes, you should be able to extract the majority of the clog. You may want to finish off this method by pouring in some drain cleaner as well (just in case).
It’s possible that you already have a sink/shower plunger on hand, but if not, check out this great option.
Use a drain snake
The next potential solution is a drain snake (aka a drain auger). This piece of equipment was specifically designed to thread through plumbing systems and break up stubborn clogs. If you think you’re dealing with a physical blockage that won’t be solved with chemicals, a drain snake might be the best way to go.
Drain snakes can wind through the pipes and push blockages out the far end. In the case of RVs, this usually means the blockage will get pushed into the black tank, which can then be emptied out. It’s best to use a hand-operated drain snake in an RV, since automatic or motorized ones can puncture pipes or otherwise damage the plumbing system.
Begin by inserting the drain snake into the drain opening. Carefully crank it and maneuver it through the pipes. Keep turning the handle clockwise until the end of the snake (or the hook) hits a block. Continue turning the handle so you can break up the buildup and push it out the other side. Once you reach the far end, reel the snake back in and clean off any debris it brings along with it. Flush water down the drain at high pressure for about 10 seconds to clear out any leftover gunk.
Detach and clean drain pipe
If your RV sink clogged up and you feel like the problem lies in the drain itself, you could always try disassembling parts of the drain and cleaning them manually. One common problem area is the drain pipe.
Begin by turning off the water supply of your RV. Turn on faucets and let them empty their remaining contents. Place a bucket beneath the drain pipe and disconnect it by unscrewing the connective joint. Carefully detach the drain pipe and empty the contents into the bucket below. Examine the pipe for any blockages and clean them out with a stiff brush or a cleaning rag. Check out the surrounding pipes as well to see if you can spot any signs of buildup.
Once everything is clean, replace the pieces, screw everything together firmly, and restart the water supply. It’s also a good idea to use a chemical drain cleaner at this stage, just in case.
Don’t attempt this unless you’re confident in your ability to reassemble the system once you’re done!
Contact professional help
Is your RV sink clogged even after trying all the options above? Well, there’s no shame in that. Some blockages are just too severe to deal with by using at-home remedies. If your sinks are still draining slowly, or there is a persistent smell you just can’t get rid of, consider contacting professional help. In some cases, your RV might be hosting bacteria, fungus, or mold that will be hard to treat by yourself.
Track your RV maintenance
Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.