Ah, swivel plugs are great when they work but a real pain when they don’t. If you have ever had the misfortune of having your swivel sink plug get stuck, then you know how frustrating it can be. I have seen in many forums online that a lot of people resort to brute force and just use a hammer along with another implement, but we do not recommend doing that as you will cause damage to your plug and have to replace it. The good news is that there are several easy solutions for fixing this problem! In this article, we will go over some of those fixes, so you’ll never find your swivel sink plug stuck again.

Open Swivel Sink Plug

What is a Swivel Sink Plug?

A swivel sink plug (also known as a swivel basin waste) is a plumbing device that can be found in sinks. The function of the swivel sink plug is the same as the plug on top of any basin waste, it is there to prevent the water from going down the hole, so you are in control of how much water remains in the sink or bath.

Why do Swivel Plugs Get Stuck?

Swivel sink plugs can get stuck for a variety of reasons, but the most common reason is that they are dirty and have accumulated residue over time. When you use your sink plug, it will accumulate debris such as food waste or soap scum which causes it to stick. Another common cause is sand or grit from hand washing when the small particles get stuck in the swivel axis. If this is not cleaned out properly then it could lead to the swivel plug not working.

If your sink plugs are getting stuck often, then you need to take a look at how much soap is being used and for what purpose. Be sure that you rinse down the sink after using things like hand wash because this can cause problems with the build-up of residue in your sink plug over time.

Swivel Plug in Bathroom Sink
Swivel Plug in Bathroom Sink

How to Free a Stuck Swivel Plug

The best ways to try and free your swivel plug without causing damage will depend on whether the plug is stuck in the open position or closed. If your swivel plug is stuck open, this will make things much easier but if the plug is stuck closed, it is a little more involved but still doable for most people.

Swivel Plug Stuck Open

If your swivel plug is stuck open, you are in luck as this means that you are still able to use the sink freely and not have to worry about it filling up when running the taps. With the plug stuck open, here are a few things you could try:

Hot Water

First off, you can try hot water. If it is just dirt and grime, hot water is often enough to loosen the debris. Run the hot tap for around 5 minutes and keep trying to move the swivel back and forth every 30 seconds or so.


Yes, the trusty plumber’s plunger. Place your plunger over the plug hole and give it a good working over, hopefully, the suction that it creates will dislodge anything that may be stuck in there causing a nuisance.


If you are still having no joy, I would try a lubricant such as WD40. I would give this a few sprays 1 hour apart trying to get it into all the joints and see if that has had any effect – often, this is highly successful.

Sink and Plughole Unblocker

Now you are wondering how that will help if the plug is stuck open… Well, this method is for if the waste is sealed in tight. You will need to isolate the water, remove the trap (u-bend) under the sink and block it. When the waste has been blocked from below, you can pour some sink and drain unblocked into the sink until it comes up and over the plug. Leave this to soak for some time so it can dissolve any scum or debris that may be there.

Note: Putty is the best thing to block the waste from below. Roll it into a large ball (larger than the opening) and then force it up over the opening to create a seal.

Swivel Plug Stuck Closed

Now, if your swivel sink plug is stuck closed, it will have a watertight seal from above meaning that if you want to get it open again without damage, it is best to remove it.
Removing the basin waste can seem a little daunting although it is not too difficult at all. We have an article here on how to re-fit the waste (to remove it, follow the steps backwards); I am sure you will be just fine. Once you have removed the waste, you can try similar things to what we tried with the plug open.

  • Soaking in Hot Water
  • WD40 from Below
  • Soak in Sink and Plughole Unblocker

How to Stop Swivel Sink Plug from Getting Stuck in the Future

Sink plugs do get stuck, they are hammered daily with dirt, grime, and waste of all different types so it is important to keep it clean. Regular cleaning with a limescale remover or sink unblocker is important and will keep your swivel plug functioning for years.


Dirt, Filth, Food, Sand, Grime, all of these things can be the cause of your swivel sink plug being stuck. And just because the plug is used with water every day, that does not mean that it is clean. A good clean every once in a while, with the right product to dissolve any residue or build-up, will give you every chance of preventing this in the future. Hopefully, this article has been useful, and your swivel sink plug is now swivelling again.

How to Free a Stuck Swivel Plug Infographic

Plumbing Wizard Tips

“Do not use a hammer because you run the risk of damaging the basin waste!”

“Add sink unblocker to your next shopping list to prevent it from happening again!”

“Think about what you are putting down the sink – some things are best taken straight outside and poured into the drain!”

“Use putty to block the waste pipe from below if it is sealed in tight – if not, just remove the whole thing and soak it in a bowl!”

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you unstick a swivel plug?

There are various different ways this can be done and can all work depending on the reason for the plug being stuck in the first place. Hot water, WD40, and Sink unblocker can all work.

Do swivel plugs work?

Of course, they do! These are my favourite type of plug, no more plugs on chains or sticky pop-ups. Swivel plugs look great and are all I recommend.

How to unblock a swivel plug?

You would unblock a swivel plug in the same way as any other plug. If there are obstructions that can be removed from above – do so. If the obstructions cannot be reached from above, the trap (u-bend) will have to be removed so that the obstructions can be located and removed.

Are swivel plugs easy to replace?

Yes, replacing a worn-out or stuck swivel plug is very easy to do and not too expensive either. All you have to do is unscrew it from underneath and it will come away.

Can I use vinegar or other household items to unstick a swivel plug?

Yes, vinegar, especially white vinegar, can help dissolve limescale and other build-ups. Pour a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water around the base of the plug and let it sit for a few hours. Baking soda combined with vinegar can also be effective for more stubborn build-ups. Ensure you rinse thoroughly after using these solutions.

Should I replace my swivel plug if it frequently gets stuck?

If your swivel plug often becomes stuck, it may be due to a design flaw, wear and tear, or repeated build-up of debris or limescale. It might be worthwhile to consider replacing it with a higher-quality or different design plug that is less prone to jamming.


Lee Pearce is not just a master plumber; he’s a veritable Plumbing Wizard. With over 30 years of experience in the trenches of pipes and drains, Lee has become the go-to sage for DIY plumbing, saving homeowners thousands in potential call-out charges. As the founder of Plumbing Wizard, he’s dedicated to demystifying the complexities of home plumbing, offering easy-to-follow advice that stands the test of time and pressure. His online blog is a treasure trove of tips, tricks, and tutorials that empower everyday individuals to take charge of their home’s plumbing health. Lee’s practical wisdom is not just about fixing leaks; it’s about imparting confidence and self-reliance. When he’s not writing or elbow-deep in a plumbing project, Lee is passionate about educating the next generation of DIYers, ensuring that practical skills are passed down and preserved.

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