14 Easy Steps To Remove A Bathroom Sink Stopper

Jan 22, 2021 | Home Repair, Plumbing

When your sink stopper fails, it can not only cause you significant inconvenience, but it can be unsightly and irritating. If you have no way of preventing your water from draining away, the sink is rendered less useful.

So, if you want to know how to remove a sink stopper so that you can repair or replace it, read on.  

What Is A Sink Stopper And How Does It Work?

Before we get into the details about how to remove a sink stopper, let’s give you some background detail about what a sink stopper is and how it works.

Sink stoppers are the modern equivalent to the old fashioned rubber stoppers from sinks of old. Your parents and their parents would have used a rubber stopper on a chain.

Modern sinks have a similar setup, but the stopper is attached to a lever mechanism known as a lifting rod. When you push or lift the rod, it activates the pop-up assembly inside the sink drain, and the stopper kicks into action.

The lifting rod sits in a slot at the back of the faucet, with the main part hidden underneath the sink. The lift rod attaches via a C-shaped retaining clip to a pivot rod or “clevis.” When pulled, it moves the stopper downwards to seal the sink.  

Reasons To Remove A Bathroom Sink Stopper

Your sink stopper suffers wear and tear, and over time, corrosion starts to eat away at the working parts of the mechanism. Rust causes the joints to malfunction.

Every time you operate the sink stopper, the rusted elements feel the strain, and eventually fail.

Also, because the sink stopper is a permanent feature of the sink, it becomes clogged with hair, soap scum, and dead skin. If this happens, removing the plug is necessary to unblock the channel to allow water to drain away.

Sink stoppers have a rubber seal, known as a gasket, that runs the length of the outer edge. If this fails, the plug won’t create a watertight seal, and the water will drain away.

The stopper itself is attached to the plunging mechanism via a small ball. Sometimes when the stopper fails to seal, it could be because the ball has become detached.

Another reason to remove the sink stopper could be to strip the assembly to replace a bent lifting rod. This is common because when you plunge and lift the rod, it is easy to become heavy-handed and use too much pressure.

Tools Needed To Remove A Bathroom Sink Stopper

You don’t need many tools to perform a sink stopper removal, but it is worth taking stock of the tools you have before taking a trip to the hardware store to get a new unit.

So, what do you need?

First, you need a new stopper assembly. Most are 1.25 inches by 12 inches. They come as a complete set, with all the rods and linkages attached so that you can do a straight swap.

It is possible to get a set without the pop-up assembly, but if one part of your old stopper has failed, other issues will likely arise. Replacing the whole unit means you are starting with a completely new system.

Second, you will need an adjustable wrench and a pair of slip-joint pliers. If you don’t have an adjustable wrench, locking-jaw pliers will suffice.

Also, a screwdriver is a great tool to keep handy. Whether you need a flathead or crosshead version depends on your particular assembly. A sharp knife is also recommended to cut through the old sealant beneath the finishing flange.

Lastly, you will need a sealant of some type. Plumber’s putty is a good choice, but double-check the warning labels to see if you can use it on marble or plastic. If not, you may need a silicone sealant.

When shopping for silicone sealant, get one designed for use in bathrooms and kitchens. The ingredients include an anti-mold formula that inhibits the growth of unsightly spores that discolor the sealant.

How to Remove A Sink Stopper In 14 Steps

If you read the instructions on your new sink stopper assembly, it typically tells you to shut off the water supply to the sink. If you want to perform this task to the letter, go ahead. However, it is not necessary.

You are not touching any waterworks during the replacement process, but do place a container under the pipes and have a dry cloth or paper towels handy for any rogue drips.

1. Remove The P-Trap Nut

This is the large nut that connects your sink assembly to the P-trap, or U-bend. If it is plastic, you might be lucky enough to twist it loose by hand. Some nuts are brass, which means you might need your slip-joint pliers to free them.

The P-trap nut stops sewer vapors from seeping into your home. It is common when houses are left empty for long periods, that you can smell sewer gas. Just run some water into the drain, and the smell goes away.

With the catch pan in place, loosen both retaining nuts and place the P-trap in the container.

2. Disconnect The Lifting Rod Assembly

The C-shaped retainer clip grips the clevis to the lifting rod. Pinch the ends together and slide the clevis free from the hole in the lifting rod. Place the clip somewhere safe. While you shouldn’t need it, a spare is always handy.

3. Loosen The Pop-Up Assembly

Grab the slip-joint pliers and grip them around the pop-up assembly retainer nut. This nut is likely to be brass or chromed brass. Turn it anti-clockwise until the nut comes free. Again, save the nut as a spare.

4. Remove The Finishing Flange

Wiggle the pop-up assembly back and forth to loosen the finishing flange attached to the sink drain hole. You need to break through the old sealant. It might be an idea to run a blade around the flange’s edge to cut the adhesive.

Push up on the assembly to slightly raise the finishing flange. Grip the raised edge with the slip-joint pliers and turn the pop-up body while holding the flange still. This disconnects the two, allowing you to remove the bulk of the pop-up assembly.

5. Remove The Old Sealant

You should remove all traces of the old sealant if you want an even seal without leaks on the new flange. Use the knife to scrape it away. It should come off easily. Discard the old sealant along with the old finishing flange.

6. Does It Fit?

Make sure the new finishing flange fits the sink hole before going any further. Not all flanges are the same size, so if the new one requires adjustments, it’s better to find out in advance.

The finishing flange screws into threads inside the old assembly, so double-check that the new one matches. Some sink stoppers have a flange that screws into the outside of the body. If this is the case, you need to make adjustments.

The drain hole in the sink should have a small rim of plastic that coats the gap. Grab your sharp knife and trim away some of this material to make the flange fit.

7. Fit The New Finishing Flange

Apply sealant to the underside of the new finishing flange and press it in place. Double-check that there are no gaps where water could leak out.

The key to success is not to use too much sealant, but you will still need to wipe away any excess.

8. Seal The Assembly

Grab the new underside of the drain assembly and apply sealant around the base of the threads and just below the rubber seal that sits below the threads.

Now insert the pop-up assembly body into the sink hole and gently screw the threads onto the finishing flange. Be aware that the flange must remain in place, so try not to disturb it as you connect the two parts.

Also, make sure that as you tighten, the linkage assembly fittings face the rear of the sink, towards the wall. This is so you can insert the lifting mechanism in the correct location.

9. Secure The Assembly Body

Tighten the large nut that secures the assembly. Some are plastic with protruding notches that enable you to do it by hand, while others are chrome-coated brass and require an adjustable wrench or slip-joint pliers.

Ensure the pop-up assembly does not rotate as you tighten the nut, and try not to overtighten, which might damage the threads.

When you are satisfied that the assembly is secure and it does not move, release the pliers from the nut.

10. Load The Linkage

Load the linkage into the retainer nut. You will find a ring in the body of the assembly that acts as a seal between the ball and the body. To find out if it is still in place, feel for a small indentation that fits the ball to the linkage rod.

If your pop-up assembly is metal, try not to overtighten the nut because part of the nut is a narrow washer that could dislodge if too much pressure is applied. If it does, you will not form a seal and have difficulty getting the nut to hold the ball onto the linkage.

Plastic pop-up kits are sometimes more forgiving when fitting them compared to metal ones. Metal kits require more tool-tightening and are more time-consuming.

11. Assemble The Linkage Rods

Drop the sink stopper into the finishing flange from the top of the sink. Next, feed the link rod through its hole to secure it to the loop at the bottom of the stopper.

Screw the link rod retainer nut into place on the assembly body. Feed the lift rod through the hole in the faucet body and screw on the knob. Now it’s time to decide which hole you want to slot the clevis rod through to link it to the lifting rod.  

Insert the clevis into the hole in the lifting rod, ensuring that the C-clip is in place. To do this, reverse the process you used to remove the C-clip. Once you release it, the clip springs open to retain the linkage together.

The best way to picture this assembly is to imagine an uppercase L but in reverse. That’s roughly the shape your lifting mechanism should be.

12. Check It Works

Before proceeding, pull up on the lifting rod to see if it activates the sink stopper and forms a tight seal in the drain hole. If all is successful, it’s time to replace the P-trap.

13. Reassemble The P-Trap

Swap the compression washer and nut from the old pop-up assembly and insert them onto the new one. Without these, you would not be able to secure the P-trap. Offer up the P-trap to the pipe in the wall and tighten as needed.

Then secure the other end of the trap to the replacement drain assembly and tighten the nut. Because it is plastic, you should get enough purchase to sufficiently hand-tighten.

14. Finish Up

Remove the protective blue film on the top of your sink stopper and remove any excess sealant. Also, perform a  test run and fill the sink with water. Watch for leaks, both from the drain plug and the assembly, as well as the pipes.

If all is good, sit back and relax.

Tips for Sink Stopper Removal

As with all these techniques, some methods and tips can make the whole thing more manageable and efficient. But what are they?

Save Spare Parts

It is unlikely that you will need all the new components of your sink stopper assembly. Often, one element fails, which prompts you to replace the entire thing.

After you’ve removed the old assembly, salvage any usable spares for later repairs. If the sink stopper needs attention in the future, it may be that you have the appropriate replacement without shelling out any more cash.

Give The Drain a Clean

This is more of a preventative measure. Once you disassemble the pop-up assembly and remove everything, grab an old toothbrush and give the sink drain hole a good clean. It may remove hairs and other gunk that might cause a blockage later down the line.

Take Notes

When you remove the old linkage rods, take note of which hole the clevis went through so that you can replicate it with the new mechanism. That way, you get it right the first time.

You could use your phone to take a photo of the lift rod assembly.

Clear The Work Area

Clearing out the cupboard under the sink saves time and gives you more space to work. It is cramped enough down there without you making it harder still.

Avoid Dirty Water

When stripping out a sink stopper assembly, there’s a strong chance you will be on your back, looking up. When you remove the p-trap, you risk getting dirty, smelly water, and gunk in your face.

It might be an idea to remove the trap before you settle into the most comfortable working position on your back.

Check Out Instructional Videos

There are so many instructional videos available that you can set up a tablet or your smartphone and press play while you perform the repair. It’s like having a plumber in the room showing you what to do.

And the best bit is if you get stuck or don’t understand something, you can pause, rewind, and replay.  


So, there you have it. Removing a bathroom sink stopper is easier than you think. All it takes is a little patience, some planning, and a few basic tools.

Imagine if you didn’t attempt a DIY repair? Imagine calling in a plumber and all the added expense? For something so simple, even the most challenged DIYer could accomplish this task.


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