Not all of us are cut out to be effective handymen, capable of handling all repairs and being able to build amazing things from scratch. However, as homeowners, being able to handle at least minor electrical and plumbing repairs is essential. This will not only save us some money since we won’t always need to hire professional contractors, but it’s also sure to give a sense of achievement, as most DIY projects tend to.

In this short read, we’re going to introduce you to one such easy but essential chore: P trap cleaning and maintenance.

What is a P-trap?

what is a p trap

If you look underneath your toilets and sinks, you are likely to see a u-shaped pipe that connects to the main drain lines. These pipes are known as P-traps, or plumbing traps. 

P-traps hold a certain amount of water in them and act as a gravity barrier that prevents sewage gases and foul smells from getting into living areas. There are, however, more reasons that make P-traps an essential plumbing component.

What are P-traps useful for?

  1. The water in P-traps blocks out dangerous sewer gases and foul odors from entering our homes.
  2. They prevent food waste, grease, hair, and other wastes from blocking up your drain pipes.
  3. If, by mistake, you were to drop jewelry into your sink, rest assured you will find it in the P-trap.

Common issues and simple solutions

Let’s now take a look at some common issues you may face with P-traps and the simple solutions for them.

  1. If you do not use a sink or a toilet for a long time, the water in the P-trap is liable to dry up. If this happens, there is nothing to prevent sewer gases from escaping and stinking up your home. 

Gutter gases comprise methane, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and sulfur dioxide among others. Prolonged exposure to these gases can cause headaches, fatigue, sinus infections, memory issues, loss of appetite, and in some cases, even pneumonia, 

That being said, the solution to the problem is very simple. You can either simply pour water back into the trap yourself. Or, in case you’re going for a long time, install a tap seal primer to automatically inject water and maintain the water seal.

  1. Over a period of time, the accumulation of grease, hair, food, and other debris in the P-trap can block the pipes. The obvious solution is to clean out the trap.

However, you can avoid this situation entirely if we just schedule a clean-up every three months or so.

How to clean a P-trap

installing p trap

Here’s a step-by-step representation of how to clean a P-trap.

What you will need

  1. A bucket for waste water and dirt from inside the trap.
  2. A pair of pliers or a wrench
  3. A flexible wire brush.

The process

  1. Turn off the faucet of the sink and put a bucket underneath the trap. Things are about to get messy!
  2. The next step is removing the P-trap. Ideally, you should be able to just hold the pipe in one hand and unscrew the screws holding the trap in place. If it’s been a long time since the trap has been removed, you may need to use the wrench or pliers to loosen the screws. Keep the bucket handy, because leftover water will gush out of the pipes as soon as the screws are loosened.
  3. Now, carefully remove the P-trap and empty its contents into the bucket. Once it’s completely empty, clean out the pipe using the wire brush.
  4. Once the trap is clean, hold it back in place and screw both ends securely back in place. Make sure the screws are securely attached without tightening them too much. 
  5. Now, turn on the faucet and let the water run to make sure the trap is attached correctly and there are no more clogs or leakages. 

Replacing a P-trap

You now already know how to remove a P-trap. If you need to replace one, you must buy a new one from your local store. You could incur a cost of between $6 and $8 for a white plastic trap. 

Then, simply unscrew the old trap and screw on the new one. Just make sure you’re buying the same size. 

An essential guide to P trap cleaning and maintenance was last modified: October 2nd, 2022 by Narayan Shrouthy
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