How to Clean Out a Sink Trap

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Sometimes sinks get blocked up and drain slowly. Even worse, sometimes they just won't drain at all. If you've tried plunging the sink and pouring hot water down the drain and even used a "drain snake" to try and get it running and it still runs slowly, you've got one more option: remove the sink trap and clean it out. It sounds complicated and a lot like heavy-duty plumbing, but in reality, removing and replacing a sink trap is a job any handy person can do with a few of the right tools. Here is the way to do it.

Things You'll Need

  • Channel lock pliers or pipe wrench
  • Old towel
  • Old rag
  • Bottlebrush
  • Bucket or dishpan
  • Masking tape or duct tape
  • Find your sink trap (it's the U-shaped pipe under the sink), then give yourself room to work by removing the clutter from under your sink.

  • Place the towel over the sink and taps to remind yourself not to turn on the taps or pour any water into the sink.

  • Put the bucket or dishpan under the sink trap to catch any water that might come out of the trap when you remove it.

  • Adjust the channel lock pliers or wrench to the proper size, then unscrew the slip nuts a half turn or so (loose enough that you can undo them by hand). If the trap is metal, put some masking tape on the jaws of the pliers so you don't mar the finish of the nuts.

  • Once the slip nuts are loose, undo them by hand and remove the trap, dumping any water into the bucket.

  • Prevent any sewer gases from coming up into your home by putting the rag into the pipe opening from the wall.

  • Use the bottlebrush or screwdriver to clean out any clog stuck in the trap. It's also a good idea to wash the trap out (not in this sink; that's why you put the towel in there) and scrub it with the bottle brush to get rid of any "grunge" buildup on the pipe walls.

  • After cleaning the trap out, take the rag out of the drain, put the trap back in place and tighten the slip nuts, making sure not to cross thread the nuts.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some plastic traps have a cleanout on the bottom. To clean these, you simply undo the nut on the bottom of the trap and use a stiff wire to hook any blockages. There will be water in the bottom of the trap.
  • Knowing how to remove a sink trap can come in very handy (and save you some big money on plumbing bills) if you ever drop anything valuable down your sink.
  • When replacing the trap and tightening the slip nuts, be careful not to overtighten them--particularly on plastic traps. They'll crack if tightened too much.

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