How to fix a sink stopper

A sink stopper is a faucet component with a pull-and-push rod control that offers modern convenience. But like other sink fixtures, it can also fail, which makes it unsightly and inconvenient to use. Luckily, you will be able to repair it yourself with just some basic plumbing skills and the right steps to take.

1. Identify the problem.

You might think that something is just separated from another component in the sink stopper, and you can simply put it back. Also, you might think that you can restore the stopper’s function by just twisting or manipulating the operating rod while holding the stopper in place. But actually, a malfunctioning sink stopper most probably has parts that are either badly worn or broken, which means that they should be replaced.

2. Secure the necessary tools and materials.

In this task, you need to get the tools and supplies that you will need, especially a replacement stopper, that can come as a pop-up assembly with a linkage and a lift rod. As for the tools and materials, they include a pair of slip joint pliers, an adjustable wrench, a screwdriver, a silicone sealant that is specifically used for the sink.

3. Remove the P-trap.

Before you remove anything, make sure you have completely shut off the water supply to the sink. And to catch any spill and keep everything dry, it is recommended place a pan under the pipe connections and some towels near you. To start removing the P-trap, loosen and remove first its top retainer nut, which is located in the low-bend of the trap and always contains water, which is another reason to use a pan. You might smell some sewer vapor when removing this nut, especially when a house is unoccupied for a while, as the nut functions as a seal to keep this gas coming into your house. If a house is left unoccupied for a long while, you may smell sewer gas. To avoid this gas, you can run water down drain for 1 to 2 minutes. Take note that the choice of tools to loosen and tighten your P-trap would depend on what it is made of—plastic, chrome-plated brass, etc.—so check this out first. Remove the trap and set it aside.

4. Remove the finished flange.

Disconnect the lifting rod by pinching the ends of the retainer clip and slide off the end of the linkage rod. Using a pair of pliers, loosen the pop-up assembly retainer nut with a few turns and then rock the pop-up assembly back and forth to be able to loosen the old sealant that is located below the finished flange. Push up on the assembly to gain access to the finished flange and then grasp it with a pair of pliers. Turn the pop-up assembly body to unscrew it from the finished flange. Take note that the old sealant breaks away or cracks easily, so remove and discard all of it, as well as the old finished flange, which is also no longer useful.

We’ve never met a bathroom sink pop-up drain that hasn’t stopped working at some time or another. Eventually, they all get out of whack. And they won’t stay open or closed.

Here are the most common situations — and easy solutions — that require adjustment of the traditional pop-up mechanism that most homes still have.

What is a Pop-up Drain Stopper?

A pop-up drain stopper is an assembly of parts in your bathroom sink that allows you to open or close the stopper on your sink drain.

By lifting the rod located behind a bathroom sink faucet, the mechanism closes the stopper (the piece that goes into your drain and seals it). By pushing down on the rod, the assembly opens or pops up the stopper. This allows water to drain.

How to fix a sink stopper

This is a typical bathroom sink pop-up drain stopper. The assembly (of parts) work together to allow water to flow down your sink drain and to prevent water from flowing down your sink drain.

The Parts of a Pop-Up Drain Stopper

To fix a pop-up stopper, it’s important to first understand its parts. While the repair or adjustment is relatively easy, the names of the parts can be confusing. Here are the primary parts of a pop-up drain assembly commonly found with the bathroom sink.

  • Clevis (also called a clevis strap or strap) – connects the sink’s pop-up drain to the lift rod that operates the drain
  • Clevis Screw – the screw (at the top of the clevis) that keeps the clevis tightened to the lift rod
  • Lift Rod – the part that opens and closes the pop-up drain (it’s usually located right behind the faucet)
  • Pivot Rod (also called a ball or horizontal rod) – transfers vertical motion to the drain stopper when the lift rod goes up or down
  • Spring Clip – attaches the pivot rod to the clevis

How to fix a sink stopper

These are the basic parts of a bathroom sink pop-up drain stopper assembly. For a more detailed diagram, see the illustration below.

Adjusting a Bathroom Sink Pop-up Drain

To get started, you’ll want to have handy a can of WD-40 lubricating spray, a pair of slip-joint pliers, a pair of groove-joint pliers, and a flashlight.

Next, you need to inspect the mechanism to make sure it’s not broken. The metal pieces can bend, which is perfectly fine. But if broken, you’ll need to replace the entire assembly. To make this easier, remove everything under your sink cabinet and keep in mind that you’ll be working in a tight space.

If you determine that the stopper is not broken, you can make some adjustments, so it fits better on the drain. Here are the four scenarios you might need to deal with.

How to fix a sink stopper

Here is another view of the pop-up stopper assembly which shows the pivot ball located at the retaining nut.

1. The Stopper Doesn’t Pop Up

If the stopper doesn’t pop up when the lift rod is depressed, try these two options in order.

  • Pinch the spring clip and move the pivot rod down one hole in the clevis.
  • If that didn’t work, then loosen the clevis screw with slip-joint pliers, pull the clevis down until the stopper pops up, and tighten the clevis screw again.

2. The Stopper Doesn’t Hold Water

If the stopper won’t hold water even when closed, follow these steps:

  • Remove the stopper by lifting it straight up or by turning and lifting it.
  • If it won’t release, remove the retaining nut with groove-joint pliers, pull out the pivot rod, and pull up the stopper.
  • Clean the stopper seal or, if worn, buy and install a replacement.

3. The Stopper Won’t Stay Open or Closed

  • Use the groove-joint pliers to tighten the retaining nut until the stopper remains open or closed.

4. Water Leaks from the Pivot Ball

Follow these steps if you see that water is leaking from the pivot ball located behind the retaining nut.

  • Remove the retaining nut with your groove-joint pliers. Pull out the pivot rod, gasket, and washer if there is one.
  • Buy a replacement gasket and washer at your local hardware store or plumbing supply center. Reassemble the pivot assembly.

Final Thoughts

The good news is that fixing any number of problems with your pop-up drain is easily adjusted. The bad news is that you’ll be working in a tight space. But we know you’re up to the task. Even if not, we’re always here to help.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need help adjusting, repairing, or replacing a bathroom sink pop-up drain assembly.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

Watch this video from This Old House to learn how to fix a bath sink stopper.

1 Pull out the old pop-up sink stopper.

2 Use an adjustable wrench to remove the pop-up lever from beneath sink.

3 Loosen the compression nut connecting the trap to the vertical drain pipe.

4 Use pliers to loosen the tailpiece.

5 Unscrew the pop-up drain assembly from the sink strainer.

6 Use two screwdrivers from above to prevent strainer from spinning; loosen strainer nut from below.

7 Pull out old sink strainer.

8 Place plumber’s putty under new strainer; set strainer in sink.

9 Tighten nut from below to secure new strainer; clean away excess putty.

10 Thread new pop-up assembly onto strainer.

11 Cut tailpiece to length using tubing cutter; coat threads on tailpiece with pipe dope.

12 Fit tailpiece between trap and pop-up assembly; thread tailpiece into assembly.

13 Tighten compression nut on trap to lock tailpiece in place.

14 Insert new drain lever between pop-up assembly and perforated linkage.

15 Place stopper into sink drain hole.

16 Test stopper to ensure it glides up and down smoothly.

Fix a bath sink stopper with This Old House

Click through to watch this video on

Want to master Microsoft Excel and take your work-from-home job prospects to the next level? Jump-start your career with our Premium A-to-Z Microsoft Excel Training Bundle from the new Gadget Hacks Shop and get lifetime access to more than 40 hours of Basic to Advanced instruction on functions, formula, tools, and more.

How to fix a sink stopper

If your sink is not draining water, it’s because of one of two reasons: Your sink’s pop-up drain stopper is damaged, or the pivot rod is rusted or broken.

If that is so, your first instinct must be to call a plumber. But let’s not be rash about it! Fixing or cleaning a sink’s pop-up mechanism is quite easy. Why would you spend money on a plumber fee when you can do it yourself?

Let’s understand the mechanism a bit first.

How Does a Pop-Up Drain Stopper Work?

When you lift the rod on the back of your sink, the drain stopper closes, and the sink fills with water. And when you push down the rod, the stopper opens up, and the water-filled sink drains. If this mechanism is not working well, it’s because there is a problem with the drain stopper or the pivot rod.

A pivot rod is connected to the drain stopper beneath the sink. Before removing the pivot rod, a few parts need to be dismantled first. These include the clevis, spring clip, retaining nut, and gasket. A pivot rod is attached through a retaining nut and gasket to the sink. The clevis is a many-holed vertical strap attached to the horizontal pivot rod with a small spring clip to keep it firmly in place.

Follow these simple steps for dismantling and reassembling the pop-up stopper mechanics correctly.

Dismantling the Pop-Up Stopper System

Step 1: Preparatory Measures

Before you start with the actual process, you need to consider some precautions. For instance:

  • Buy a new pivot rod and drain stopper before you get to work. You may need new ones in case they are rusted or defective.
  • Have a clean cloth and detergent to hand, as the parts we disassemble may need cleaning as well.
  • The water to your sink must be turned off if you don’t want to get drenched during the process.
  • If there is already some water in the basin, putting a bucket underneath the sink might be a good way to stop it from flooding beneath your sink.

Step 2: Detach the Spring Clip

Now the real work starts. Read the following instructions carefully, and you will be able to dismantle the pivot rod quite easily.

When you bend behind the sink, you will see a horizontal rod that faces the wall. This is the pivot rod that you need to remove. Attached to this rod will be a vertical strap with several holes. This is the clevis strap.

Observe the area where the clevis strap is bound to the horizontal pivot rod. You will see that a spring clip is securing the clevis strap, binding it to the pivot rod. Put some pressure onto that clip to break its grip on the clevis strap. Then slowly take off the spring clip.

Step 3: Detach the Clevis Strap

The clevis strap has many holes in it. And to one of its holes is attached the horizontal pivot rod. Observe and mark the hole the pivot rod is inserted in. Now, take off the clevis strap by gently sliding it out of the hole. Then leave the clevis strap hanging from the upper body from where it is attached.

Step 4: Unfasten the Retaining Nut and Gasket

The pivot rod is now only attached to the tailpiece with a retaining nut and gasket. Unscrew the nut from the base and slide it out. Then, pull and slide the gasket ring out of the pivot rod as well.

Step 5: Detach the Pivot Rod

After detaching the retaining nut and gasket, a tiny, compact white ball on the pivot rod will present itself. This ball seals the tailpiece under the sink and stops the water from dripping down. Dismantle the pivot rod and ball from the inner tailpiece.

The inner part of the pivot rod attached to the tailpiece is the root of the problem in most cases. You may see that the inner pivot rod may be broken or rusted off, making it impossible for the pop-up mechanism to work properly.

Step 6: Clean or Change the Pivot Rod

If you see that the pivot rod is fine, just clean it thoroughly with water and detergent. This indicates that the problem is with the drain stopper itself. But if the pivot rod is defected or rusted, then you need to change it with a new one. Make sure the new pivot rod is of the same length, and you select the same ball size, or you may encounter a problem fitting it back.

Now, attach the right sized ball with the pivot rod and set it aside for now.

Step 7: Clean or Change the Drain Stopper

You can now simply unscrew the drain stopper from the basin. If it needs cleaning, give it a good wash in another sink. However, if you are installing a new one, make sure you get the same size drain stopper.

Reassembling the Pop-Up Stopper System

Here’s how to reassemble your pop-up stopper assembly again.

Step 1: Restore the Drain Stopper

When you replace the drain stopper, screw it in the same way it was before. Just make sure the hole in the lower part of the stopper is facing towards you. It will help the pivot rod fit in the hole easily when you insert it back.

Step 2: Restore and Test the Pivot Rod

Take the cleaned or new pivot rod with the ball attached, and insert it back inside the tailpiece where it was before. When you move the pivot in an up-down motion after inserting it, the drain stopper should also move along with it. If that is not the case, it means you need to readjust the drain stopper till the rod goes into the stopper hole, and it moves accordingly.

Step 3: Restore the Gasket and Retaining Nut

Restore the gasket into place, and then screw in the retaining nut tightly, so it doesn’t leak.

Step 4: Restore the Clevis Strap

Reattach the clevis strap to the pivot rod through the same hole you marked when you slid it out. Changing the hole will give you different results than before for the top rod by the sink, making it a bit shorter or longer.

Step 5: Squeeze Back the Spring Clip

Squeeze the spring clip back into place, joining the pivot rod with the clevis strap tightly.

And voila! You have successfully repaired your pop-up sink without any extra expenses.

Share This Article

Know someone who would love this article? Share it using the buttons below!

Besides, how do you unclog a bathroom sink with a non removable stopper?

  1. Use a small cup plunger to try removing the clog.
  2. If the plunger does not do the job, use a chemical drain opener.
  3. If the chemical and plunging do not work, remove the trap from under the sink.
  4. Push a straightened coat hanger through the trap.

Furthermore, how do you fix a bathroom sink stopper? Disassemble and Clean the Pop-Up Stopper Assembly

  1. Move everything from under the sink so you have room to work. Check to see that the horizontal pivot rod is connected to the clevis.
  2. Lift the stopper out of the drain. Inspect the rubber seal on the bottom of the stopper head.
  3. Dip the stopper in mild cleaner or vinegar.

Similarly one may ask, how do you remove a pop up sink plug?

How to Remove a Sink Pop Up Stopper

  1. Lift up and turn lightly on the pop-up stopper to see if you can simply just lift the pop-up stopper right out of the sink.
  2. Find the stopper’s tail pipe sticking down underneath the sink cabinet.
  3. Reach your hand in and find the sink stopper nut fastened on the back of the tail pipe.

How do you remove hair from a sink drain?

Unclogging a hair-clogged drain using baking soda will require baking soda, white vinegar, and hot water.

  1. Measure one cup of baking soda and pour it down the drain.
  2. Watch for a fizzing in the drain and five minutes after the fizzing stops, flush the drain with two quarts of hot water.

How do I put the drain stopper back in my sink?

How do you fix a slow drain?

How do you fix a slow draining bathroom sink?

  1. Set a full tea kettle on the stove to boil.
  2. Dry your sink out with a rag.
  3. Now, measure a 1/2 cup baking soda and dump it down your drain.
  4. After the baking soda, measure a 1/2 cup white vinegar and dump that down the drain.
  5. Now, the full tea kettle should be boiling.

How do you remove a stuck sink stopper?

How does a pop up sink plug work?

What is the sink stopper called?

How much does it cost to replace a sink stopper?

Installation costs for a new sink or faucet are $75 – $210, plus the cost of the new sink or faucet.

What affects the cost of sink and faucet repairs?

Sink Repair Job Average Cost
Stopping a dripping faucet $65 – $150
Fixing sink surface problems $100 – $200

How do I remove the drain stopper from my Kohler sink?

  1. The ball rod holds the stopper in the drain. To reach the stopper, the ball rod needs to be removed first.
  2. The ball rod is inserted into the side of the drain and attached with a nut.
  3. To remove, unthread the rod nut, pull the ball rod out, and remove the stopper from the drain.

What is a sink plug?

How do you plug a drain without a stopper?

How much is a drain stopper?

Just plug into the sink and remove once a week for easy cleaning. It is not a plug for filling the sink with water. I’m so happy with this easy cleaning product and it’s five second installation. In Stock.

How to fix a sink stopper

Pop-up sink stoppers are common to find in many bathroom sinks and their larger counterparts can also be found in many bathtubs. These stoppers are convenient since they don’t require complete removal to open and won’t get lost as easily as conventional fully detached stoppers. However, pop-up stoppers can become disconnected, jammed, or clogged with hair or debris. While these stoppers can appear intimidating to disassemble, the mechanisms that operate these devices are fairly simple.

Pop-up stoppers work by attaching a pop-up plug to a pivot and lift rod. As the lift rod is pulled up at the sink, this pulls on the pivot rod which pulls down on the plug. When the lift rod is pushed down, the pivot rod pushes the plug up and open.

To start working on correcting an inoperable or jammed pop-up stopper, first remove items from underneath your sink to give you room to work. Check the pivot rod (horizontal rod) that is connected to the clevis (attachment to the lift rod). Remove the retaining nut from the pivot rod and remove the rod from the drainpipe. Mark where the clevis is connected to the to the stopper rod and loosen the clevis screw. This will disconnect the assembly and allow you to check for damage, debris, or disconnected parts.

If the assembly is beyond repair, replacing the pop-up stopper may be necessary. Start by loosening the pop-up assembly retainer nut (the retainer nut is the brass nut under the sink). Hold the finish flange from the interior of the sink with a pair of pliers and unscrew the body of the pop-up assembly. Scrape off the old sealant around the sink flange and install fresh sealant to the flange. Re-tighten the body nut and load the linkage from the new pop-up assembly into the retainer nut.

How to fix a sink stopper

Sink stopper working properly.

Put the new drain plug into the hole of the finished flange and insert the linkage rod into its hole. Link the loop of the bottom of the drain plug with the rod and screw the retainer nut onto the body of the pop-up assembly. Test the assembly by pulling on the lift rod at the top of the sink to see if the assembly works properly and the plug slides up and down smoothly without catching. Lastly, run water at the sink to check for leaks and to ensure that the sealant at the finished flange is adequately sealing the gap.

How to fix a sink stopper

The moveable portion of a sink’s pop-up drain assembly is called a stopper or plug. The rubber o-ring around the stopper’s circumference seals against the drain body’s flange when the stopper is in the lowered position, preventing water from draining out of the sink. If the o-ring dries and hardens over time, the stopper will no longer be able provide a watertight seal. Instead of replacing the entire pop-up drain assembly, you can simply install a new stopper.

Raise the stopper to its upper position to allow all water to drain out of the sink. Be sure the hot and cold water handles are turned off.

Reach under the sink and loosen the upper lifter rod’s set screw with a pair of pliers or an adjustable wrench, depending on the style. Remove the upper lift rod out from the top of the faucet.

Slide one end of the ball rod spring clip off of the ball rod. Remove the lower lift strap off of the ball rod. Remove the other end of the spring clip off of the ball rod.

Unscrew the ball rod nut. Use pliers if necessary. Remove the ball rod from the drain tube. Be careful to not lose the rod seal o-ring, as it may fall out.

Lift the old stopper out of the sink.

Insert the new stopper into the sink drain with the slotted flanged portion facing toward the back of the sink.

Insert the short end of the ball rod into the drain tube. Be sure the tip of the rod enters the slotted section of the stopper flange. Install the ball rod nut and hand-tighten. Do not overtighten this nut. The ball rod should move up and down freely, without having to applying too much pressure.

Lift the rear of the ball rod to its highest position. Slide one end of the ball rod clip over the ball rod and install the lower lift strap over the ball rod. Use the highest hole that allows the top of the strap to have just enough clearance to not hit the underside of the sink. Install the other end of the clip over the ball rod. The lower lift strap should now be sandwiched between the arms of the clip.

Lower the ball rod to its lowest position and insert the upper lift strap into its hole through the top of the faucet. Be sure the end of the upper lift strap goes through the hole at the top of the lower lift strap. Tighten the set screw.

Move the upper lift rod up and down to check for proper function. The stopper should move up when the lift rod is pushed down, and the stopper should go down when the lift rod is lifted. The rod should move smoothly and without binding. Reposition the lower lift strap to a different hole if necessary. The sink should hold water when the stopper is in its lowest position.

How to fix a sink stopper

“For the past year, we’ve resorted to holding up the sink stopper with a green plastic clothespin.” –Emily Johnson.

The Fix

The fault lies not in your gleaming faucet set, but in the workings out of sight. Since you have access to the back and underside of the sink, use a flashlight and look for a vertical metal rod projecting below the back of the basin—the working part of the stop- per handle. It should be attached to a horizontal pivot rod with a spring clip. The pivot rod runs through the sink’s drainpipe, where it’s connected by a retaining nut that keeps the joint watertight. The pivot rod connects to the bottom of the stopper inside the drain- pipe. Together, the handle and pivot rod move up and down like a seesaw whenever you push on the stopper.

If the stopper won’t stay in place, the solution could be as simple as ad- justing the stopper level. (The plumber may not have checked the adjustment.) Underneath the sink, locate the point at which the rear end of the horizontal pivot rod attaches to the vertical stopper handle. There should be a flat metal bar with several holes in it. This is called a clevis.

To make the stopper rise higher when open, squeeze the bendable clip holding the pivot rod to the clevis, then slip out the pivot rod and move it down a hole or two on the clevis. To make the stopper close more tightly, move the pivot rod up a hole or two. If there’s no clevis, simply loosen the fitting or clamp joining the rods and move the pivot rod up or down on the handle rod as needed.

Or maybe the stopper is the problem. To replace damaged parts, remove the retaining nut at the back of the drain. Then pull the pivot rod out to release the stopper. If the rub- ber gasket around the bottom of the plug is worn or cracked, replace it or the entire stopper. Take it to a good hardware store and buy a comparable product.