How to Remove and Clean a P-Trap

You’ve plunged and you’ve plunged and you’ve plunged, but you still can’t clear the blockage in your sink drain. Have you tried cleaning out the P-trap?

The P-trap is that curved section of pipe beneath the sink. It’s shaped like that for a reason: The deep bend always retains a plug of water to block out dangerous sewer gas. In addition to protecting your health, the P-trap is something of a catchall for anything you accidentally drop down the drain -- a toothbrush, the toothpaste cap or, heaven forbid, jewelry. The P-trap can also become clogged with gunk and it can be a source of foul odors. That’s why it’s helpful to know how to detach it and clean it out.

How to Disassemble the P-Trap

  • Clear out space in the sink cabinet so you can have some elbow room.
  • Place a bucket under the pipe before removing it because it will be full of water and gunk.
  • Unscrew the connectors securing the P-trap to the sink drain and the wall. The connectors should only be hand-tight so you shouldn’t need tools. Otherwise, use a pair of Channellock (or tongue-and-groove) pliers. If you have metal piping, wrap a rag around it so you don’t scratch the finish.
  • Slowly pull out the trap and brace yourself for dirty water.
  • With the P-trap disassembled, be careful not to lose the o-ring as it creates a watertight seal between the connections.
  • Stuff a rag into the horizontal pipe coming from the wall to seal out sewer gas.

How to Clean the P-Trap

  • Don’t be surprised if the P-trap is loaded with soap scrum, beard clippings, or in the case of a kitchen sink, grease and bits of food.
  • Take the P-trap to another sink to rinse it out. Better yet, take it outside and rinse with a hose.
  • Use a bottle brush to scrub out any remaining debris.
  • This is also a good opportunity to clean the tailpiece. That’s the vertical length of pipe coming down from the sink.

A Few More P-Trap Pointers

When reinstalling the P-trap, note the order of the parts: The slip joint nut goes into the tailpiece or wall pipe, followed by the o-ring and the threaded trap end. Hand-tighten the connections so that you don’t strip the threads or crack the plastic P-trap.

To prevent this from becoming a recurring task, consider using a drain catcher in your sinks. This cheap, simple device stops hair and debris from going down the drain. Also, periodically flush your drains with a mixture of vinegar, baking soda and hot water to prevent buildup.

To keep your drains flowing, turn to the Mesa drain cleaning pros at Rainforest Plumbing and Air. To schedule your appointment, call (602) 755-2995.