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How to Clean a Sink's P Trap

Every homeowner knows that it’s common for a household sink to get clogged up. Sometimes this backup results in slow draining water. If this occurs, you may need to remove the P-trap under the sink to remove the debris.

The P-trap is that curved pipe that you see beneath any sink in your home. Unfortunately, the trap’s water-trapping ability extends to hair, grease, debris, and soap scum. This makes a P-trap the number-one location of clogs in the sewer system. If the P-trap becomes only slightly clogged, then you experience slow drainage in the fixture.

Before you get to the point of needing to dismantle the P-trap, you can try a few other methods to see if this resolves the slow drainage problem.

A few tips to try before removing your drain:

  • First, run some boiling water down the drain in an attempt to clear the blockage
  • If that doesn’t work, try using a plunger in the sink - push down slowly, then pull up quickly
  • If these do not work, it's time to remove the drain

If these suggestions do not do the trick, removing the p-trap is your only alternative, but clearing one of these plumbing fixtures is easy. You don’t have to be an experienced plumber to fix this issue.

Tools you will need to remove the drain: 

Bucket, wrench or channel lock pliers, rags, cleaning brush, masking or duct tape.

Follow these steps to clean your drain trap:

Step 1: 
Locate the drain trap under your sink. The pieces you will most commonly see under your sink are a tailpiece, slip joint nuts, a “J” shaped trap, a waste arm and section of pipe coming from the wall. This is commonly referred to as a "P-trap." 

Step 2: 
Place a bucket or dishpan under the trap to catch any water that might come out as the trap is being removed.

Step 3: 
Unscrew the slip joint nuts on each side of the "J" section of the trap. It is likely you will need to use channel lock pliers or a wrench to loosen them. Another method would be to place a rag over the slip joint nuts before using the pliers or wrench so that the tool does not come in contact with the metal finish.

Step 4: 
Once the slip joint nuts are loose, continue to untighten them by hand and remove the trap. This is where it can get messy as there is usually water in the bend of the "J."

Step 5: 
With the trap removed, you will notice that in between the slip joint nut and trap there is an O-ring. Be sure to put these in a safe place as they are necessary to seal the connection.

Step 6: 
You can stuff a rag into the pipe coming from the wall to prevent any sewer gases from coming up into your home.

Step 7: 
Use a bottle brush or other cleaning tool to remove any debris found in the trap. You can also gently clean the tailpiece coming from the sink, and slightly into the pipe in the wall to remove any "gunk" that may be present.

Step 8: 
With all the parts cleaned up, you can now begin to reassemble the trap. Again, noting the order, the parts are installed: the slip joint nut will go onto the tailpiece or wall pipe, then the O-ring, then the threaded trap end.

Step 9: 
Hand-tighten the slip joint nuts until tight. Use your wrench or pliers to tighten a quarter turn more. Be careful of two things: Do not cross thread and do not over tighten! Plastic traps, especially, will crack if over tightened.

Best Option of All:

Unfortunately, there is no substitute for manually removing a hair clog. Chemicals used to remove hair clogs are often inefficient and often result in manually removing the clog anyway, not to mention harmful. The above steps can be useful not only for unclogging your sink, but to retrieve items dropped down the drain.

If you feel like the above steps are outside of your skillset, call A. McKenna Plumbing today. We service the Oakville and Burlington Region and are happy to help you out with all your plumbing needs.