Removing A Bathroom Sink Stopper: 5 Easy Steps

Clogged plumbing is never a fun experience, and usually requires a lot of work to unscrew and remove all the necessary components – and that is before the plunging and extraction even begins!

Removing A Bathroom Sink Stopper: 5 Easy Steps

One seemingly simple task that can become laborious is the removal of bathroom sink stoppers.

If your sink is clogged or backed up, you will need to remove the stopper in order to use the plunger, or to properly see down the drain to ascertain the source of the blockage. 

However, by following these easy steps, you will have removed it in no time, allowing you to face the problem head on!

How Many Types Of Stoppers Are There? 

Of course, there is more than one kind of bathroom sink stopper.

Depending on the designer, the brand, and the way it was attached by the plumber, there could be any number of variations that you are facing when trying to detach it. 

Lift & Turn

One of the most common stoppers is the lift and turn variety.

You will recognize these by the small knob located on the stoppers cap – which serves as a way to lift the stopper from the plug hole, and to close it again when you want to fill the sink. 

These stoppers have a set screw beneath the plug hole, meaning that they can be especially tricky to remove, especially if you are unsure about what you are doing. 

These can regularly be overtightened by unaware plumbers, and the natural corrosion faced by bathroom plumbing can cause some resistance when it comes to removal. 

Push & Pull

Similar in design to the lift and turn mechanism, the push and pull stoppers are closed by pushing them down, and opened by pulling them up.

Just like the lift and turn stopper, these ones also have a screw underneath the cap that must be loosened in order to remove the stopper entirely. 

Pop Up

These stoppers have a lever on top of the overflow plate, as well as a spring that allows the stopper to open and close. 

These are perhaps some of the most high quality stoppers on the market, but despite this, they are remarkably complicated to remove without the proper know how.

They also tend to collect hair and other detritus, and as such can become sources for clogging in their own right. 

Toe Touch

This too relies on similar mechanisms used by the above stoppers, with the only difference being that it relies on a spring, lever, and a foot activation mechanism on the ground, as opposed to a hand operated one within the sink. 

Flip It

These are often relatively easy to remove, and usually don’t require any tools to do so.

These are a commonly found design, and have a lever on top of the stopper that causes it to move side to side in a swivel motion. 

Trip Lever

These have a lever at the front of the tub, and doesn’t have any visible stopper, instead having only a strainer with holes in it that allow the water and other debris to mostly pass through.

Trip levers do however have a stopper inside of the overflow pipe, and as a result these can be some of the most difficult and time consuming stoppers to remove. 

What Tools Will I need? 

When undergoing any kind of DIY or home improvement, it is important to have the right tools for the job. 

Wrench Or Pliers

Wherever water is concerned, there is nearly always corrosion and limescale.

These factors can make it difficult to unscrew bolts, separate components, or otherwise take apart your indoor plumbing, and as a result you will need a wrench and some pliers in order to do what you need to do.


Due to the fact that the pipes are dark and often stained with grime, you will need a flashlight to enable you to properly see what you are doing. 

This will make the whole process simpler, especially if your bathroom doesn’t get a lot of constant natural light, or indeed if you are doing the job at night in your spare time. 


Wherever plumbing is involved, there is always the risk of unforeseen leaks and flooding.

This is why a bucket is a simple and handy implement to have at your disposal. 

While you might not need it, depending on the extent of the job, having one at hand is definitely better than not having one – especially when the water starts flowing and you have nothing to contain it with. 

Are There Any Preparatory Steps?

Ultimately, the first thing you will need to do is make sure the area you are working on is clean and free from debris.

As such, there are various cleaning tools you might need to make this job easier. 

These can include: 


to break down grime and debris. 

A Toothbrush

to scrub at particularly dirty areas. 

Bathroom Sink


a good, natural cleaning tool that can erode grime and kill bacteria. 

Something Pronged

this could be as simple as an old household fork, and will be useful for removing clogs of hair in the drain

Drain Cleaner

to cleanse the pipes and the drain during the cleaning process. This will bubble up inside the drain and remove any of the looser layers of grime. 

How To Remove Your Sink Stopper

Now that the area is cleaned and you have all of the necessary tools you need to do the job, it is time to begin the process.

Here are five steps that will help you to remove your bathroom sink stopper in no time at all!

Step One

The first thing you need to do is to see whether you can remove the bathroom sink stopper by hand.

If this is the case, then you will have saved yourself a lot of unnecessary work and stress.

To do this, take hold of the stopper with your fingers, and try and turn it.

If you do not feel any give, or if there are no signs of movement (other than spinning on its axis), then your stopper will require more work. 

Tip: be sure not to pull on the stopper too hard, as this could cause more damage. 

Step Two

If the first step worked for you, then congratulations, you have achieved your goal, and you no longer need to follow this guide. 

However, if your bathroom sink stopper is still wedged tight, then it’s time to progress to the next step. 

This will involve going underneath the sink, and this is where the cleaning will come in handy.

Remove anything from underneath the sink, and ensure you have enough room to work and maneuver. 

Step Three

The third step requires your flashlight. Use this to locate the horizontal plunger rod that connects the strap to the stopper itself. 

Once you have located this, then look for the rod that connects the vertical strap.

This shouldn’t be difficult to locate, as it is full of holes and fairly distinctive amongst the other components. 

You will then see a small metal clip that holds everything together.

Remove this and keep it somewhere safe for later on, and make sure you take notice of which hole the rod was fitted on.

This will make reassembling the whole thing much easier when you have finished, and will avoid any stress and hassle when the time comes. 

Step Four

The other end of the rod will be connected to a pivot nut.

This will require unscrewing, and you can use the wrench to assist with this if it has become stuck or too tight. 

Before you do this though, place the bucket underneath the pipe, just in case there is a back up of water.

You don’t want to have a water damaged bathroom floor, and this is something that can stop a minor task becoming a much more time consuming, stressful, and expensive job. 

Then begin to loosen the nut, either with your hands or the wrench (whichever it requires). 

Step Five

If you have followed these steps correctly, then you should be able to release and remove the bathroom sink stopper from beneath the sink, and you should be able pull it out without any issues or resistance. 

Bear in mind that the stopper underside will probably be dirty and covered in hair, grime, and various pieces of debris.

While everything is detached and accessible, this is a perfect time to give the whole thing a clean, remove any detritus, and repair any potential damages that might be present. 

How Do I Clean My Sink Stopper? 

Once you have removed the stopper, you can then proceed to the secondary cleaning stage.

Due to the fiddly nature of plumbing, and the fact that most components are not usually accessible for general cleaning, you should take this opportunity to conduct any cleans or maintenance you would like to do. 

Remove Hair

Now comes the time to use your pronged implement.

As suggested, this could be an old fork that you no longer use, or some equally long, thin, and jagged tool that is suited to removing hair from the stopper.

Bathroom Sink

Hair is the main source of clogs and blockages, and despite being a naturally occurring process in human homes, the removal of hair when you get the chance is an essential piece of maintenance. 


Once you have removed the hair, you can then apply the detergent to the drain. 

This will kill any initial, surface layer bacteria, and will help to loosen any superficial layers of grime that are not compacted.

Once you have left this to soak, rinse it away with water, or by using a damp washcloth. 


Whilst the detergent is still present, take your old toothbrush (or other scrubbing tool), and set to work scrubbing away at the grime that has built up inside the drain and on the stopper. 

This is a pretty dexterous and handy tool, and should give you plenty of maneuverability, both inside of the drain, and in the other small, tight places you might need to clean. 


Once you have done this, you can then use the vinegar to eat away at any grime that has become compacted – or which wouldn’t budge when using the detergent. 

Vinegar is naturally acidic, and is a great method for killing bacteria and breaking down dirt without using viscous, potentially harmful chemicals that are both bad for you and the environment. 

What Repairs Might Need Doing? 

With many sink stoppers, a common repair that needs taking care of is the replacement of the spring.

These are fragile and take a battering over time, so this isn’t uncommon. 

This is a simple job, and is just a case of removing the rod, locking it into a different hole out of the way, and then replacing the spring. 

How Do I Put It All Back Together? 

Once everything is pristine and clean, it is now the time to reassemble all of the components to give you back the use of your sink. 

Put the stopper back in the sink, and then place the pivot nut back where it was and tighten accordingly.

Do not put it too tight, as this could make it hard for future repairs. 

Then reattach the rod and the strap, using the metal clip you kept safe from earlier.

This should help keep everything in place, but you can test the effectiveness using the specific stopper mechanism you have. 

Final Thoughts

And there we have it, everything you need to know to disassemble, clean, and repair your bathroom sink stopper. 

For further help with this, consult a plumber, or, if you want to tackle the job yourself, there are plenty of easy to follow videos online that can show you the process frame by frame.

Adrienne Carrie Hubbard