How to Clean Sink Overflow in Your Home: 6 Tips

Have you ever seen that hole at the back of your sink and wondered what its purpose was? Was it just there for decoration? It didn’t seem likely, but you just didn’t know what it was for. And then one day, for whatever reason, your sink’s drain got blocked and the water started rising…and rising…and rising. And you didn’t know what to do! Maybe the handle broke off and you weren’t able to turn the water off.

Whatever the case, you watched the water rise–and then stop rising. What happened? Well, that little hole we just talked about did its duty and saved your bathroom from being flooded. Instead of the water spilling all over the sink, it went down the hole and into your sink’s overflow.

Now, you need to make sure that this overflow doesn’t become clogged. Why? Well…do you want water to actually flood your bathroom next time? We didn’t think so! We get that cleaning out your sink’s overflow is probably super low down on the list of things you want to do with your life–but it is necessary. So the next time you have a spare minute, roll up your sleeves, pull on some gloves, and prepare to get down and dirty in order to spare yourself from flooding later on. Unsure just how to go about cleaning the overflow?

Here are the six tips on how to clean sink overflow and how to prevent it:

Tip #1: Gather your tools

We’ve already mentioned gloves, so make sure you have some on! You also may want to consider wearing a mask to help block any bad smells or fumes that may come out of the overflow (this isn’t as important as gloves though, since you’re not cleaning a toilet). You’ll also want to have a brush on hand–not a hairbrush, but the sink-cleaning kind!

If you don’t have one readily available and you don’t feel like going to the store, a pipe cleaner will do in a pinch. You may want to wrap it around a pencil or a zip-tie in order to have more firmness when digging gunk out (just be gentle, especially with the pencil, as you don’t want to damage anything).

Tip #2: Dig the gunk out

A good tip on how to clean the sink overflow is to dig the gunk out. Okay, this part will probably seriously gross you out–but just grit your teeth and keep going. Insert the brush (or pipe cleaner) into the overflow hole and pull it in and out several times in order to loosen up the gunk and keep the whole thing from clogging. You may have to rinse off the tool you’re using between each use, depending on how much you end up digging out of the overflow.

Tip #3: Add boiling water

While it’s not recommended to pour boiling water into the sink itself (as that can cause the porcelain to crack), it can be a good way to clean out the overflow drain. A good way to ensure that the water goes into the overflow and not the sink is to invest in a rubber or silicone funnel that will direct the water into the overflow. Boiling water is nothing to mess around with, so you may want or need to enlist the help of someone else when pouring the water into the overflow. You don’t want to get splashed with boiling water, jump, lose your grip on the kettle, and have a big mess to clean up!

Tip #4: Use baking soda and vinegar to get rid of smells

Baking soda and vinegar are the wonder combination when it comes to household cleaning solutions. Say goodbye to toxic cleaners full of chemicals! Baking soda and vinegar are champions of cutting through the gunk and grime to leave your house with a clean, fresh shine. Sink overflows can get pretty smelly, which is where this dynamic duo comes in.

Using the funnel you had for the above tip, pour a good amount of baking soda into the overflow (up to a cup) and then follow that up with about the same amount of vinegar. The reaction between those two agents should loosen up gunk and cut down on the smell as well. Once you’ve let the baking soda and vinegar sit for several minutes, send some boiling water down the overflow as well.

Tip #5: Use enzyme cleaners to cut through the foul odors

Do you know what causes most (if not all) of the smells in your sink’s overflow? Bacteria. And with a good enzyme cleaner, you’ll be able to get that bacteria cleaned out in an efficient manner! Simply pour the recommended ‘dose’ of enzyme cleaner into your overflow, let it soak in overnight, and then run some warm water through as well. Goodbye filth, goodbye smell!

Tip #6: Contact a plumber if needed

If you’ve tried all of the above tips and your overflow is still blocked and foul-smelling, you need to contact a good plumber. You could also call one if you just don’t want to bother with the overflow yourself. Chances are that the above tips will work, but if they don’t it could be the sign of a more serious problem. That could have serious repercussions for other areas of your home’s plumbing. Better to be safe than sorry, so call a plumber!