That curved pipe beneath your sink is called a P-trap. Because of its bend, it always contains a bit of water to prevent dangerous sewer gas from seeping into your home. It’s also something of a catchall for anything you accidentally drop down your sink drain. Toilets and bathtubs have P-traps, too. It is a necessary part of your home’s plumbing system.
Purpose of the P-Trap Under Your Sink or Toilet
The P-trap under your kitchen or bathroom sink has several important functions. Its U-shaped curve traps water, hence its name. This water prevents sewer gases from moving through the pipe, up the drain, and into your living spaces. Without the P-trap plumbing, your home would get smelly.
Another purpose of the P-trap is to catch debris. The drain trap will collect the hair, soap scum, fuzz, and other detritus that settle out of the wastewater you rinse or flush. The P-trap has a clean-out for removing this gunk, which may help if your sink drains slowly.
The P-trap also offers some peace of mind. If you’re washing your hands, and you accidentally drop your wedding or engagement ring down the sink, chances are very good that it will end up in the P-trap instead of your main sewer drain. (It may very well have saved your marriage.) The P-trap can catch pieces of jewelry, coins, and other small items that easily fit down the sink or toilet drain.
How to Retrieve an Item From the P-Trap
One common issue encountered with this plumbing feature is trapping small objects dropped down sink drains or tubs. While this prevents the small object from getting totally lost in your pipes, it can be quite a hassle to retrieve them.
All hope is not lost if your necklace, earring, or ring went down the sink. Here’s how to retrieve it:
- Turn off the water to the faucet by turning the valves under the sink. This is a precautionary measure so that you don’t inadvertently get soaked.
- Clear out enough space under the sink. You’re going to need some elbow room.
- Put a bucket under the pipe. P-traps catch a lot of sludge, and the bucket will collect it.
- Find the drain trap location, unscrew the cleanout nut with a pair of adjustable pliers, and pull out the trap. The bucket will catch anything that falls out, including your ring.
This is a good time to clear the rest of the gunk out of the P-trap. This includes showers, toilets, tubs, showers, bathroom sinks, kitchen sinks, washing machine drains, and more. Replace the drain pipe plug, making sure to tighten all the connections you loosened. (You might even consider using thread seal tape.) Restore the fixture’s water supply, then wash your hands and tools.
P-Trap Plumbing Issues
There are times you’ll need an under-the-sink plumbing repair. There are two problems that typically arise with P-traps:
- Clogs: By far the most common issue associated with P-traps is the accumulation of debris in the bend. Over time, things like hair, food, grease, and mineral deposits build up and reduce the diameter of the drain pipe. Eventually, the drain will clog up and have to be thoroughly cleaned out.
- Dry P-traps: A P-trap usually dries up due to evaporation, leaks, a clog absorbing the water, or dry winter winds entering your plumbing pipes.
Another potential problem with P-traps is that they can eventually vent sewer gases into a living area. This usually occurs because the water in the trap evaporates over the course of several weeks and isn’t around to capture expanding gases.
When drainage issues plague a sink in your home, it’s likely that a P-trap problem is to blame. Bringing in a local Texas Plumber to assess and rectify the situation is highly recommended. Doing so will save you time and money when all is said and done.