Most plumbing fixtures in homes have P traps. These traps are installed to block sewer smells from coming into homes and to catch valuables (e.g. rings) that may fall down drains. Their bends make them prone to collecting gunk and clogging, but they’re easy to clean out. Here’s how to clean a P trap.
Supplies for Cleaning P Traps
Cleaning P traps require only a few basic supplies. You’ll want a bucket or pail to catch water in, as there is some water retained in the trap itself. In addition to this, you may want or need:
- latex gloves (so you don’t touch gross things in the trap)
- a slip nut pliers (only if the trap is on too tight to loosen by hand)
- a flex brush (for cleaning the sides of the trap if they’re dirty)
Remove the P Trap’s Pipe
The first step is to remove the P trap from the adjacent pipes. To do this:
- Place the bucket or pail below the trap so it will catch any water that spills from the pipes.
- Unscrew the slip nuts that hold the P trap’s pipe onto the adjacent pipes. If you can’t loosen them by hand, use the slip nut pliers. (There are normally two slip nuts.)
- Once the P trap’s pipe is unfastened, dump any water in the trap into the bucket.
Clean the P Trap
The next step is to actually clean out the P trap. This involves the following steps:
- Reach into the trap and remove any large objects you see. The trap isn’t too big, so you should be able to reach most of the way into it. You will want to wear latex or nitrile gloves for this. (Really. It can be very gross.)
- If there are objects still caught in the trap, try gently tapping it to jostle the objects free. Then, reach in and pull them out.
- Scrub the sides of the trap clean with the flex brush, using warm water and soap.
Put the P Trap Back in Place
Once the P trap is clean, put it back in place and secure it with the slip nuts. The slip nuts normally only have to be hand-tightened so as to not damage the threads. If they still leak after hand-tightening them, then use a slip nut pliers to tighten them 1/4 to 1/2 turn. Any more than that and you can strip the threads.
To make sure the trap is correctly secured, run the water for about 15 seconds and make sure the trap isn’t leaking. If it is, tighten the slip nuts further as described above with the slip nut pliers. You should not use Teflon tape on white plastic pipe threads and fittings.
Cleaning your drain P trap is not the most pleasant job in the world, but cleaning it out regularly will keep your drains running better. You might even find some forgotten treasure in that P trap!
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