Fixing a Leaking Sink Drain

Fixing plumbing problems can be a pain, especially when it is a pressurized water line. At least with a leaking drain you do not have to worry about water spraying all over the place. Here is how you can fix a leaking sink drain.

As always, these instructions are provided as general advice. Always proceed with home repairs at your own risk.

Watch Under the Sink
I recently discovered a slow leak from one of the two drains in our kitchen sink. Unfortunately, this was a drain I installed seven months ago, so I was fixing a problem I created. Ah, such is the life of a do-it-yourself person!

Finding the Leak
The first step in fixing a leaking drain is determining where the leak is coming from. This may not always be as simple as finding the water droplets, because the droplets of water can travel far from the leak location before they fall to the ground. Keep in mind that water obeys the law of gravity, so if you follow a water trail up to its highest point, that will usually be the source of the leak.

The blue arrow in this photo shows where some water was collecting. The PVC pipe above was also wet. The pipes and drain to the left were completely dry, so I knew they were not the culprit. After using a flashlight, I could see that the drain itself was leaking, not the pipes.

Fixing a Leaking Sink Drain
Now that I knew what part of the drainage system under the sink was leaking, it was only a matter of fixing it before it got any worse.

Luckily for me, this was a quick fix. I would only need three things:
  1. Plumber's Putty
  2. Teflon (Plumber's) Tape
  3. Channel Lock Pliers
1. Place a large bowl or small bucket under the pipes to catch any water.
2. In order to remove the drain, I had to first unscrew the first connector (first photo).
3. Then, I removed the 'T' section of PVC pipe (second photo).
This 'T' section has a splash shield in it that prevents water coming from the left arm to splash up and out of the top opening. When reinstalling, make sure it is installed correctly.

At this time, I took the 'T' section outside and used our garden hose to flush it out and clean it. This step is not necessary, but I figured that I might as well do it while I can.

4. I now had access to the drain. The drain is attached to the bottom of the sink by a large nut. Between the nut and sink is a washer. Unscrew the large nut and place the nut and washer off to the side.

5. The drain is now free, all that has to be done is to lift it out of the sink. The plumber's putty may offer a little resistance, so if you are having trouble, try twisting the drain a little to break the putty's hold.

I have seen some people use silicone adhesive caulk instead of plumber's putty.
The silicone caulk will ensure the drain is water proof and secure, but once it adheres, you will not be able to remove the drain. This would be especially bad if your sink is like ours and is made out of solid surface material because it can lead to a cracked sink.

6. Remove all traces of old plumber's putty from both the sink and the drain. The old putty may be reused if it has not hardened.

7. Apply a bead of plumber's putty around the collar of the drain. There should be enough putty to make a good seal. When you install the drain, some putty should be squeezed out, if not, there is not enough putty.

8. Reinstall the large washer and the drain nut. Tighten. I then used a rag to clean all traces of putty in the sink. A good way to judge whether you have enough putty and the drain is tight enough is by looking at how flush the collar of the drain is to the bottom of the sink. If the collar sticks out past the bottom of the sink, then there is either too much putty or the drain has not been tightened down enough.

9. Wrap the threads of the sink drain and all the threaded portions of the PVC pipe with new Teflon tape (clean the old tape out first).

10. Reinstall the 'T' section of pipe and tighten all the fittings. That is it!

  1. Remove the old drain and clean the plumber's putty off it.
  2. Apply a bead of plumber's putty around the neck of the drain.
  3. Reinstall the drain and tighten the drain nut.
  4. Make sure you have enough plumber's putty to create a water-tight seal.
Dry as a Bone
This simple half hour repair ensures the cabinet under the kitchen sink will remain nice and dry. Always keep an eye on all of your plumbing and watch for any signs of leaking.

Relevant Sites
Here are some external links to sites with information relevant to this article.


Bibi Karpel September 28, 2012 at 12:59 PM  

This plumbing issue seemed to be quite easy for you to deal with. Well, maybe because you already encountered this kind of problem before, and given that you were the one who installed it seven months ago. Anyway, I agree with what you said that we should always keep an eye on our plumbing system, especially with those parts that are showing signs of leakage. Water leakage is one of the common and major problems that we should give immediate action.

Althea Tumlin October 29, 2012 at 12:34 PM  

These are helpful and easy to follow DIY plumbing tips. Though fixing leaks on your own is not an easy job, it’s still important that you exert some effort in knowing how to do it, and at least try to do it. If you think you can’t or you’re not ready, then you can always call a reliable plumber to do it for you.

-Althea Tumlin

Gayle Manning November 14, 2012 at 7:39 AM  

Well, fixing your leaky pipes might be a little hard, especially if you don't have any experience, but it's a good thing that there are tips like this one that can help us learn the basics of fixing our pipes. Well, basically, if you buy a material, like fittings, there is a procedure that comes along with it. On that same note, it should be best if you buy brass fittings as this material has a very long lifespan.

Darryl Iorio December 10, 2012 at 12:41 PM  

A leaking sink drain is one of the most common plumbing problems in our home, but it is not the hardest part to fix. Reminder: Plumber’s putty always dries quickly, so you can use the sink right away after the installation. No need to worry about leakage as long as you know that it is properly sealed by putty.

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Rachel Benson January 7, 2015 at 11:13 PM  

We just visited my Grandmother's condo and found that she has a leaky kitchen sink. She doesn't have much money to hire a plumber. We are going to try to follow your tips and hopefully fix it on our own.

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