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How Bathroom & Kitchen Sink Stoppers Work

Bathroom sink stoppers are a key feature in ensuring water is drained correctly. However, how do bathroom sink stoppers work?

Bathroom rubber sink stoppers work by pushing them into the hole and then pulling them out by the attached ball and chain. Bathroom pop-up sink stoppers work with you pulling the lift rod (handle) attached to a clevis strap and pivot rod. The pivot rod pulls or pushes the stopper up or down accordingly. Push-button bathroom stoppers work by you pushing down on the stopper to both open and close it.

In this article, we will cover what a sink stopper precisely is, what sink stoppers are, what they are made of, and how they work.

What Is a Sink Stopper?

A sink stopper (also called a plug) is an object that is used in sanitation to firmly close a drainage outlet (in this case, a bathroom stopper)

When the sink stopper closes the drainage outlet, the container is filled with water or other liquids. These are different from caps (even though they serve the same purpose) because caps are put over a hole while sink stoppers are pushed into the hole.

You will find sink stoppers most commonly in your bathroom and kitchen, and they are used for your bathtubs, sinks, and basins.

We also recommend you read our bathroom sink plumbing guide, so you’re able to get a grasp of how everything works.

Is There A Difference Between a Kitchen And a Bathroom Sink Stopper?

There is no difference between a kitchen and a bathroom sink stopper. The only difference will be the design of the stoppers. This includes having different structural designs, being made of other materials, and having a different look.

What Different Types Of Bathroom Sink Stoppers Do You Get?

Below is a list of sink stoppers that you can purchase for your bathroom & kitchen.

Traditional plugs

Plug sink stopper

Traditionally sink stoppers were and still are made of soft material, such as rubber. If they are not made of rubber, they have a smooth outer rim made from it to seal the hole in which they sit, and additionally, they can sit in a slightly smaller spot than their diameter.

Typically plugs are made from a soft material, such as rubber, or have a smooth outer rim so that they can be fitted to holes slightly smaller than their diameter; this ensures a tight seal.

They are often connected by a ball chain, ensuring the plug may be relatively easily pulled from the drain.

Pop-up plugs

With modern designs, sink stoppers are not separate plugs. They instead have a built-in pop-up feature. This is where the plug is built into the container and is operated by a handle.

You push or pull the handle, and the stopper either moves up or down accordingly.

Push-button sink stopper

This is a sink stopper that does not have a handle that you push to lift or close the stopper but instead pushes the stopper itself (both to open and close it, downwards) to open and close the stopper.

The push-button sink stopper is newer compared to the other sink stoppers that we’ve featured.

What Types Of Materials Are Bathroom Sink Stoppers Made Of?

As we said, traditional stoppers are made out of rubber, and new modern plugs are made from different materials such as stainless steel and silicone.

How Do Bathroom Sink Stoppers Work?

Traditional sink stoppers

Traditional sink stoppers work by creating suction and pressure.

You take the rubber sink stopper, which is slightly larger in diameter than the hole, and then push it into the hole. They are designed with a curvature, so you cannot push them all the way down into the pipe.

Since they are made of rubber, and the diameter is more significant than the hole, the rubber causes suction and pressure to secure the sink stopper. 

The stopper will have a small handle designed on the top or a ball and chain connected to it. This helps remove the plug with relative ease, even though you might feel pressure to remove the stopper.

Pop-up sink stoppers

Modern-day sink stoppers, designed with the handle connected to the faucet, work with a pop-up mechanism. If your sink stopper is not opening and closing, the fault usually lies with the pop-up tool.

The entire mechanism for the stopper to work is made up of a few components. We need to know what they are and what their function is to understand how sink stoppers work.

Below are all the components of a sink stopper:

  • Lift rod – The lift rod is the handle on which you pull to activate the mechanism
  • Clevis screw – The clevis screw secures the clevis strap to the lift rod
  • Clevis strap – The clevis strap connects the lift rod to the pivot rod
  • Spring clip – The spring-clip connects the clevis strap to the pivot rod
  • Pivot rod – The pivot rod is the rod that pushes the stopper up and down
  • Seal – The seal efficiently covers the hole that the pivot rod goes through into the drainage pipe
  • Stopper – The stopper is the object that seals the hole of the container

The design and process are very simplistic. The sink stopper is adjusted accordingly when you pull or push the lift rod (handle) up or down. The pivot rod is connected to the plug by a circle that the pivot rod goes through. This allows the pivot rod to pull the stopper down. 

The clevis strap connects both the lift rod and pivot rod. Even though the lift rod is vertically positioned and the pivot rod is horizontally positioned.

The clevis strap’s design and the spring clip allow the pivot rod and lift rod to move vertically when the lift rod (handle) is pushed or pulled upward or downward. 

That is how a pop-up sink stopper works. You lift or push the handle connected to the pivot rod via the clevis strap, and the pivot rod pushes the plug up or down accordingly. That’s it. It’s pretty simplistic.

Push-Button Sink Stopper Components

Push-button sink stoppers are also built with a pop-up mechanism, although there are no rods and connectors, and this mechanism works with a clicker.

A push-button sink stopper has only one entire object, which is made of a couple of separate parts that everything is built into (even the stopper).

All you have to do is push down on the stopper. When the stopper has gone down a certain distance, the clicker comes into effect and clicks the stopper.

To release the plug, you again push down until the clicker clicks and releases the plug, so it can rise to a certain height that is not covering the hole.

Couple your sink stoppers with the perfect bathroom vanity with our guide here.

How To Fix Or Clean A Stuck Sink Stopper?

Many little things could be wrong if your sink stopper is not opening or closing correctly, and that goes for both the pop-up and the push-button stoppers.

What you will try and first is clean the mechanisms that the stopper is attached to and again. This goes for both pop-up and push-button stoppers.

Both are relatively simple to clean. With the push-button stopper, all you have to do is usually turn the stopper counter-clockwise like a screw, and it should turn out.

Then all you need to do is get steel wire wool or a steel wire brush and scrub it clean. This will usually do the trick.

A pop-up stopper has more parts, so what you will have to do is go through each of them one by one. It is best to start at the location where you think the problem is occurring.

Again. All you will need is some steel wool, a little bit of industrial degreaser heavy-duty liquid cleaner, a screwdriver (if need be), and a cloth. 

If you need to get to any parts that you can’t get to, you need to use the screwdriver to disassemble the mechanism to clean it properly. Some features will be rusted and broken due to wear and tear, and in this case, it is best to replace those parts rather than try and clean and fix them.

Watch HowToWith GEO go over how to clean out a pop-up sink stopper

Next Steps

We noted that you get traditional stoppers made of rubber and then modern-day stoppers made of stainless steel but have rubber around the edge to seal the hole still. 

We get a common question if you can use a kitchen faucet or bathroom faucet for the same purpose. Read here to find out.

There are two types of modern-day stoppers, which are pop-up stoppers and push-button stoppers. The pop-up stopper works with rods and a handle, and the push-button stopper works by pushing the stopper down to open and close it.

We’ve compiled a complete list of frequently asked bathroom questions for new and experienced homeowners.

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