How to Clean Out a Drain Trap (Just 7 Simple Steps!)

In this post, we’re going to learn how to clean out a drain trap, those U-shaped pipes beneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks.

A drain trap’s design is to keep sewer gasses from seeping into your home. And they do it well. But sometimes, they get clogged with all sorts of debris: food, grease, soap, hair, tampons, toys, and much more. You name it, we’ve probably seen it.

Regardless of how (or by what) your drain trap has a clog, cleaning it out is relatively easy.

What is a Drain Trap?

A drain trap is a U-shaped pipe that blogs sewer gasses from coming back up the drain and into the house. The gasses are blocked by a small amount of water at the bottom of the “U.”

Drain traps come in many different sizes, shapes, and materials (metal to plastic). Every drain in your house, including your toilets, requires a trap of some kind.

The drain traps most found under kitchen and bathroom sinks are P-traps and S-traps. S-traps are no longer allowed because they do not have venting (for the gasses). P-traps are the recommendation.

illustration of s-trap vs p-trap - how to clean out a drain trap
Today, the P-trap is the preferred (and legal) drain trap used to prevent sewer gasses from entering the home.

How to Clean Out a Drain Trap in 7 Steps

Most plugged traps will yield to a plumber’s friend (plunger). Occasionally, you need to open them to clean, or replace them.

  1. Place a good-sized pan or bucket underneath the trap to catch spilling water and debris
  2. Loosen the slip nuts at the tops of both legs (or sections) of the “U.” Wrap masking tape around the jaws of your wrench to avoid marring the trap.
  3. Ease the washers away from the joints so they don’t split.
  4. Then, pull the trap downward to free it and empty its contents into your bucket.
  5. Clean out any debris that is sticking to the inside walls of the trap.
  6. Reassemble the trap by reversing the steps above. Manually tighten the slip nuts, then use the adjustable wrench to make sure it’s secure.
  7. Test your handiwork to make sure there are no leaks. If you see a leak, tighten the slip nuts even further (a one-quarter turn at a time).

Sometimes, the blockage turns out to be beyond the trap. Even if this is so, the effort of dismantling the drain trap is not a waste. It will provide free access to the pipe farther along and make the use of an 8- or 10-foot drain snake more effective.

metal p-trap and bucket under sink - how to clean out a drain trap
Make sure to place a bucket or pan underneath the drain trap while you’re removing it. Once opened, water and debris will spill into the bucket.

Replacing a Leaky Drain Trap

If you discover that the drain trap has damage and is leaking, you’ll need to replace it.

Take the old trap to a hardware store and purchase a replacement that has the same dimensions as the original. We recommend you purchase a trap that includes a cleanout. The cleanout is a small plug that allows you to empty the trap without removing it. It is similar in function to the plug at the bottom of a kayak or cooler.

corroded drain trap - how to clean out a drain trap
This is a good example of a metal drain trap that needs to be replaced due to corrosion.


Final Thoughts

In conclusion, learning how to clean out a drain trap is easy for any DIY beginner or new homeowner.

More so, the skills required are minimal, as is the time (about 15 to 20 minutes tops!). In fact, all you really need to do is turn off the water, unscrew a couple of slip nuts, and put it back together.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need help replacing or cleaning out your drain traps.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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