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A sink trap is an essential component of the plumbing in your home. You will find sink traps underneath the drains in your home. They are most noticeable underneath your kitchen and bathroom sinks. A sink trap is an upwardly curved piece of pipe that attaches to the pipe directly underneath your drain. Water flows straight down, hits the upward curve, and flows back up and out through the rest of the plumbing system. Heavy things that fall down the drain can’t make it back up this curve so they are trapped there until removed.
While a sink trap is effective, over time it will start to build up with food, hair, and anything else that may have fallen down the drain. Eventually, this can reduce your drain’s ability to drain water out of your sink effectively to a trickle.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can clear out your sink trap. They don’t require any – or very few – tools, which makes them easy to do by yourself. Here are a few methods to try:
If the things clogging up your sink trap are not solid – like food and hair – you may be able to clear it out without opening your tools at all.
First, boil some water in a pot on your stove. You will need about six cups. Once the water is boiling, pour two cups of it into the drain. Keep the unused water on the stovetop. Then, pour ½ cup of baking soda into the drain. Let the baking soda sit in the drain for at least five minutes. If the clog is really stubborn, leave the baking soda for 20 minutes or more.
In a bowl, whisk together one cup of the hot water from the stovetop and one cup of white vinegar. Once it’s mixed, pour it down the drain where the baking soda is sitting. Quickly cover the drain with a plug or a towel to prevent the mixture bubbling out. Let this mixture sit for another 10-15 minutes at least or longer if needed.
Finally, pour the last of the hot water down the drain to flush out the baking soda and vinegar mixture. Bring the water back to a boil if it has cooled down. Test the drain to see if it’s draining quicker. If not, you may need to try the next method.
Something else you can try to clear out the clog is plunging the drain. Use a standard “cup” style plunger. Using this type on the flat surface of a sink will help you get the tightest seal possible.
If the sink you’re plunging has an overflow opening, cover it with duct tape or put a towel in it. This ensures that what you’re plunging can only go down through your plumbing and not back up into your sink.
Once that’s done, fill the sink with several inches of water. Then seal the plunger over the sink opening while water remains in the sink. Once the plunger is in place, plunge with quick hard plunges to try to get the clog out. You may need to do this several times before everything starts flowing properly.
Unseal the plunger and let the water drain out of the sink. Run the tap for a few minutes to test to see if the drain is flowing better. If not, you can try the next technique.
If you’ve exhausted your options to clear the clog from above, you will have to get underneath your sink and remove the trap itself. You may need a wrench for this task. Also grab a bucket and some towels to clean up after.
Locate the sink trap by looking for a pipe with a J- or P-shaped curve and a connector on each end. Place the bucket underneath the connectors to catch any water that may leak out when they come off. You may be able to detach the connectors by turning them with your hands. If they are difficult to move or stuck, use a wrench to loosen them.
Once you have loosened them completely, you’ll be able to take off the sink trap. Keep an eye where you put the O-rings. These will need to go back on the connectors when you reattach them to create a watertight seal. Also, take a look at the condition of the O-rings. If they are worn or broken, you should replace them so you don’t run into any issues with leaks down the road. Use a towel to cover the pipe opening connected to the wall to prevent sewer gases from entering your home.
Knock the sink trap against the side of your garbage can to shake out anything that is stuck in there. Use hot water and rinse all throughout the inside of the trap. A stiff bottle brush will come in handy so you can scrape off any gunk on the inside walls of the trap. This not only cleans the trap but also prevents new grime from building on top of it.
Once you’re satisfied with how you’ve cleaned the sink trap, reassemble it the same way you took it apart. Put the O-rings in and tighten with a wrench to maintain your waterproof seal. Now, your drain should be flowing quickly and efficiently. Once you’ve removed and cleaned your sink trap, do the water/vinegar/baking soda method regularly to prevent having to remove it again.