How to Clean Drain Traps


A clogged drain is never pretty, whether it's a slow drainer or a total blockage. Keeping your drains clean is easier than you think, and when a clog does happen, cleaning it out is usually a straightforward process. Most clogs occur fairly close to the drain. Try a few simple techniques before you call out the plumbing cavalry, and you'll be able to clear out even tough clogs on your own.

Things You'll Need

  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Plunger
  • Bucket
  • Bottle brush
  • Remove and clean the strainer. Most types require only a simple 90-degree turn to loosen them, but for others you will have to unscrew the pivot rod under the sink that holds the strainer tight to the sink. Once you unscrew the connection, use pliers to lift out the strainer.

  • Run a few inches of water into your sink -- if there isn't water in the basin already -- and use a plunger to push out the blockage. If you're working in a double sink, use a rag to stop up the second drain and concentrate the plunger's force on the clog.

  • Place a bucket or pan beneath the P-trap. The P-trap is the "J" shaped bit of piping beneath your sink. It connects the pipe running from the sink (waste tee) to the pipe running into the wall (trap arm). When you remove it to clear out clogs, dirty water will run out and the bucket will keep it contained.

  • Use pliers to remove the P-trap beneath the sink. Loosen the slip nut connecting to the trap arm first, and then the slip nut connected to the waste tee.

  • Dump the contents of the P-trap into your bucket and clean out the P-trap using a bottle brush to scrub away clogs.

  • Reattach the P-trap and run water through the pipes to make sure you've taken care of the clog. If your drain still clogs, you'll need to buy a plumber's auger (a pipe snake), which are available at most hardware stores and home centers.

Tips & Warnings

  • To prevent damaging the finish, pad your pliers when removing the strainers from your sinks.
  • The P-trap on some older plumping may not be removable, but should have a clean-out plug. This plug is often square or hexagonal and is located at the base of the P-trap, where it bends. Remove the plug and use a bottle brush to clean the curves of the P-trap.
  • Commercial drain cleaners contain highly corrosive chemicals. Never use them on completely blocked drains, only on slow moving drains.
  • To avoid splashing drain cleaner on yourself, do not attempt to clean pipes that already contain chemical cleaners.

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