Clogged drains are never any fun . . . but when there are tiny drain openings? Really frustrating. Here's how to clear the gunk.

Galley Drain Gunk

Not a pretty cruising picture, I know.

Ever since we got Barefoot Gal in the water and I began putting water down the galley drain, I’ve had problems with it being a very slow drain.

I make sure to keep the strainer clean. I’ve put lots of boiling water down (every few days, in fact). Baking soda and vinegar. Super Digest-It. All helped to some extent, then things would be back to slow in a couple of days. Should I just chalk it up to being a small drain?

This morning, I made one more stab at it, getting out a really bright light and looking down. Lo and behold, I could see a few hairs wound around the crosspiece. I got a fork and pulled up . . . and got some gunk as well as hair.

More importantly, I pulled up the top end of a clump of nasty stuff. But I couldn’t get it through the drain opening to really clear it.

The fork was just shredding it. I tried an ice pick and the gunk just slid off.

I kept thinking that I needed a crochet hook . . .

Clogged drains are never any fun . . . but when there are tiny drain openings? Really frustrating. Here's how to clear the gunk.Finally I remembered the piece of wire that we had — not sure what it had originally been, but it was in a tool locker when we bought the boat and Dave kept it, thinking it might be useful . . . someday.

The end was even bent into a hook and I was able to easily pull the accumulated crud out of the drain. There was a lot more than in the picture at the top of this post, but I threw a bunch away before I thought to take a picture.

Amazing how well the drain works now!

And I’ll bet that you could do the same with the end of a roll of seizing wire . . . just unroll a bit, bend the end into a hook for the clean out (needlenose pliers work well for bending the hook), then clean it off and roll it back up.

NOTE: If you have a drain with larger openings, a Zip-It works wonders for stuff like this. Get them in home improvement stores or from Amazon (less than $5 and free shipping when I wrote this). Love this for our home drains, but we have tiny drain openings on Barefoot Gal and the Zip-It won’t fit.

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  • Jan Bogart
    Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

    Hair in the galley?

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

      The sink has been slow since we began using the boat. I usually wear my hair in a pony tail, as does Dave, and we certainly don’t comb our hair there (I comb mine in the other hull and Dave does his in the cockpit), I don’t notice hair when I’m vacuuming the floor except in the head . . . so I’m not sure where it came from. But I’ll sure be on the lookout!

    • Andrew Mcp
      Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

      Boat goblins. They are on boats. They steal tools and put them in the bilge or in other strange places in the boat.

    • Marilyn
      Posted at 03 February 2015 Reply

      The draining galley sink seemed to get slower as the cruising season went on and by late spring I had to use the plunger(plumbers friend) to loosen up the gunk in the hose.

      I finally got smart and when the boat is in the work yard each October, and the gunk has dried out in the hose after the boat has been on the hard all summer…I carefully bring down the hose Rick is using to clean the topsides and shoot water under pressure down the it out in preparation for another cruising season. This has worked well for me the past several years.

      but make sure you dont clean out the gunk on the new bottom paint..that didnt make hubby very happy.

  • Jan Bogart
    Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

    Previous owners!!!

  • Frank Collins
    Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

    You might try one of the flexible plastic drain opener. I first discovered it while at home after washing the dogs in the bath tub. Its approximately 18 inches long, very flexible and has barb type hooks. The tool is very flexible and you would be amazed on how easy it goes down your drain and all the nasty hair and other junk it grabs with just a few pulls. Rolls up small and stores in a small space. No chemicals needed.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

      Yes, that’s the Zip-It (probably has other names as well) I mentioned in the article — they’re wonderful but too big to go down the small openings in this drain.

  • Mike O'Quin
    Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

    Now you need to go back and use your hot water with baking soda and vinegar to clear the rest of the drain.

  • Andrew Mcp
    Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

    Boat goblin hair.

  • Ken Roach
    Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

    For tiny drains like ours, you can make use of what’s usually a drawback: the ‘hook’ side of Velcro will stick to hair and debris in a drain. I use it on our 1 1/4″ cockpit drains and on the even smaller scupper and settee drain tubes.

    There are a handful of hook-and-loop style miniature drain snakes on the market, including the as-seen-on-TV “Turbo Snake” I use. I also found an even smaller one on Amazon called a “drain millipede”.

    While I’m no fan of single-purpose tools you buy for ten bucks on the Internet, I’m sure that a scrap of Velcro and a bit of wire or metal rod would do the job too and be improvisable anywhere.

  • Laura
    Posted at 31 January 2015 Reply

    I use a mesh sink strainer (similar to this: in my galley sink and in my kitchen sink at home. It filters out a lot more “tiny bits” and hair than a traditional sink strainer, which helps to prevent gunk from forming further down the line.

  • Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious)
    Posted at 01 February 2015 Reply

    If you have a real slow drain, as is often caused by the build-up of debris like you experienced Carolyn the fastest approach is to close the thru-hull and pull the hose out completely and flush it, preferably with hot water. Clean both ends (the thru-hull and the sink drain) and reassemble. In the end it is faster and definitely most effective.

    Hair is bad. Hair and soap are worse. Uggh.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 01 February 2015 Reply

      I was trying to avoid removing the whole hose. If I hadn’t seen anything, that would have been the next step.

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