What is a P-Trap? How Does it Work and How Can You Clean It?

Every house owner, irrespective of the different countries, might have faced issues related to their sink or plumbing system once in their lifetime. You might have heard the name “P trap” because it is the most common component of the plumbing system that causes the issues. It can be easily visualized under shower tubs or sinks. Your plumbing system is Incomplete without the P-trap.

A remarkable fact is that we live in a technological world where every other equipment is replaced in a few months. Still, this technology has been used continuously for 250 years. Even today, the newly built house’s plumbing system must be prepared using a P trap. So now you know the importance of this equipment in your home.

In this article, we will talk more about the P trap and its functions. Furthermore, as it causes most of the common issues in the plumbing system, we will also discuss how you can continuously clean this part to protect yourself from such problems.

What is a P-Trap?

What is a P Trap?

Firstly, this equipment has been named a P-trap because it has a shape like “P” or “U.” Most commonly, the shape is like a  “U,”  which can be easily noticed under the sinks of your bathroom or kitchen.

The main task of this part of the plumbing system is to prevent the backflow of gases like methane from entering the house. It enhances the drainage system by not allowing the gases to rise back to your home. Apart from methane, it also helps prevent the backflow of Nitrogen oxides, Ammonia, sulfur oxide, hydrogen sulfide, etc. Prolonged exposure to such gases can negatively impact your health, which is why a P-trap is one of the essential components in kitchen sinks and bathroom sinks. Excessive exposure or inhalation of such gases can result in loss of appetite, lightheadedness, bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infection, irritability, headache, memory issues, fatigue, etc.

Note: Whenever you smell a rotten egg-like smell near the sink area, things are stuck in your P-trap. So instead of evacuating the house, you should call the plumber to clean the p trap.

Another crucial aspect of this trap is that whenever something falls into your sink, you can easily find the object in this area. Also, whenever you drop something, it does not directly goes to the drainage system. The thing/object remains at this part of the sink so you can quickly recover the small items. However, you cannot recover it once you have drained the sink with excessive water.

These types of equipment are generally made of stainless steel and help maintain the proper cleanliness and hygiene of your bathroom or kitchen. Another purpose of the P-trap is to solve the problem of clogging your house’s plumbing system. It can be installed anywhere at your home, posing a high possibility of spilling the water in an open area. This small equipment will automatically prevent leakage.

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What is the Functioning of the P-Trap?

What is the Functioning of the P-Trap?

It’s finally time we will discuss the functioning of the P-trap. As we have already discussed, the primary purpose of the P trap system and how important it is for your house’s plumbing system are!

These P-trap pipes comprise materials like ABS, PVC,18-gauge brass, etc. It all depends on a customer’s choices and budget. Plastic pipes are the most commonly used, with a diameter of 1 to 1/4 inches for the standard bathroom sink, 2 inches for the floor drain, and 1-1/2 inches in the laundry sink.

The P trap has a shaped or P-shaped structure, which prevents the plumbing system from clogging by trapped hairs, small objects, and food particles. In its curve, a water seal is present, which traps all these materials from passing into the drainage system. It may capture the small objects for a bit. Still, continuous usage of the sink or a passage of water will automatically drain everything.

The Other primary purposes of the P-trap have already been discussed in the above section. The customer must remember that a P-trap is critical to ensure the plumbing system works. Like the other plumbing system parts,  the P-trap also requires periodic replacement. Another method by which you can enhance the P-trap’s efficiency without replacing it is by cleaning it periodically and maintaining the part. In the next section, we will discuss the different methods by which you can easily clean the P-trap. So ensure you read this because it will save a big chunk of your pocket.

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How Can you Clean the P-Trap in Simple Steps?

P-trap is a short form of “plumbing trap,” which is one of the essential tools in your house’s plumbing system. It makes a gravity barrier that stops or prevents undesirable objects from directly going into the drainage system or unwanted gases or orders coming back to your house through the pipes.

As this is the main component of the plumbing system and is present under your sink, and can be easily visualized. This also means that every time you use water, this particular component always gets filled with water. And that is why it becomes essential to clean it periodically to maintain the protective barrier between the sewer line/ drainage system and your house.

Here we will discuss how you can clean the P trap step by step. But before that, ensure you have collected all the materials needed for us to perform the cleaning process. Here is a list of all the materials that you may need:

  •  The first object is a bucket to collect all the debris and the water collected/ deposited in the pipe.

Note: Never try to ignore this object because your P trap will always be filled with water. So if you want to prevent all the mess, ensure you already have a bucket or utensil to collect the water.

  • The second object is a flexible wire brush. As we have already discussed in the above sections, the P trap is in curve shapes like a P shape or a U shape from the bottom, so you will require a flexible brush which can reach that particular area to clean it.
  • An adjustable wrench can be of great use. If you have read another article on our website, we have always mentioned how essential it is to have the basic tools to solve your house’s most common plumbing problems. This can save a lot of money as you can do the simple task yourself instead of calling the plumbers and asking them to do it. Here, we need an adjustable wrench because sometimes the nut nearby the P trap is tough, so you can’t open them with your hands, and it will require specific plumbing tools.

The above three mentioned objects are the essential materials that you may need.

 while you perform the cleaning process. Now it’s finally the time to have a step-by-step process of cleaning the  P-trap:

Step 1

Whenever you have any work on the plumbing system, always ensure that you have already shut off the main water supply of your house. Water flow can sometimes create several problems when working in the plumbing system, so ensure that you have already taken specific steps to avoid this problem.

Step 2

As you work in the sink, ensure no one will use the sink for some time until you are done with your task or finish the job. (This step should be avoided or is of no use if you have already followed step 1)

Step 3

Put the bucket under the P Trap to collect all the debris and the water while removing the P trap. Once you have kept the bucket, now, it’s finally time to open the P trap but carefully. In this process, you don’t require any plumbing tool, but the washcloth is mandatory to prevent your hands from all the mess and dirt. If you feel that the P trap is very tight and you cannot remove it through the hands, then unscrew the nut nearby the P trap by using an adjustable wrench. This nut holds the P Trap in its place,  but once you unscramble it with the help of a plumbing tool or your hands, the P trap can be easily removed.

Step 4

Dump all the contents or the contaminants into the bucket. Dump all the visible contamination so that the contaminants don’t stick on the brush whenever you start brushing.

Step 5

With the help of the flexible brush, clean the  P trap carefully. The brush will remove everything that may stick inside to ensure you brush it properly. Clean the pipe until and unless you don’t find any residue in the brush.

Step 6 

Once you have cleaned the pipe, it’s time to assemble all the components and the P-trap. The process is straightforward as we didn’t go through a complex process while removing the P trap. There was only a screw that needed to be fixed again to hold the P Trap, so make sure you do it properly.

Step 7

Before concluding that you are done with the task, perform a run Test. In the test, you have to switch on the main water supply, open the sink tap, and leave it for 1 to 2 minutes. Scrutinize the P trap; if there is no leakage, you have finished the task. But if there is a leakage, tighten the nut carefully.

To clean the P-trap, ensure that you’re following all the steps and are not committing any mistakes. If your P-trap is old, then make sure that you replace it with the new one because it is one of the essential components of your plumbing system. Investing in good quality and a durable P-trap will always save a lot of the amount of money because the water continuously runs through the system, so the higher the durability longer will be the lifespan of this trap,  and the better the efficiency.

A Pro Tip

Another question that must strike your mind is how often you should clean your plumbing system. See, there is no particular period by which you should clean the P-trap because it entirely depends on the usage of the sink and what kind of materials you are dumping into the sink. For example, the kitchen sink is different from the bathroom sink. Depending on the food particles you continuously leave in the kitchen sink means that your kitchen sink requires regular maintenance compared to the bathroom sink. There is one way to figure out when your P-trap requires maintenance.

Suppose you feel a rotten egg-like smell in your kitchen or the sink. In that case, it is time to clean the P-trap. As mentioned earlier in this article, the P-trap does not allow the hazardous gases to backflow into the house. Still, if it does, then that means it is not efficient enough and requires maintenance. So it would help if you cleaned the P-trap properly. Apart from this, if there is any leakage in the P-trap, it is time to clean it properly and tighten the nut back again.

The experts recommend cleaning the P-trap four times yearly, which MEANS once every three months. But if you feel a smell or clogging issue, don’t hesitate to clean the P trap as recommended.

If there is any issue with the plumbing system, make sure that you turn off the main water supply and figure out the location of the problem from where it is arising. If it is with the P trap, you can quickly solve it by yourself but if it is somewhere else, then make sure you call the plumber.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I clean the P-trap?

If you feel that there is a smell ( rotten egg-like smell) in your house or nearby the sink, it is time to clean the P-trap. Apart from this, if there is a leakage from the P trap, you can quickly fix it by tightening the nut or replacing the P- trap with the new one.

Shall I clean the P trap, even though there is no smell near the sink?

According to the experts, the P-traps should be cleaned every three months. So even though there is no smell near the sink, you should clean it every three months to enhance its efficiency.

Where can I buy the flexible wire brush?

A flexible wire brush is one of the most common pieces of equipment, and you can find it in nearby stores or order it online. It is a relatively inexpensive tool because it is one of the most commonly used equipment. If you don’t have it, you can also use a regular scrub,  but ensure you are handling it properly.


The P-trap is one of the most critical components of the plumbing system and is a component of continuous water usage. That is why there is a high probability that this component can get affected most commonly as compared to the other parts of the plumbing system. The good news is that consumers can easily clean the P-trap if any issues occur because it is just under the sink and visible to the human eye.

You don’t require any plumber’s help to fix this issue, as you can easily remove the p-trap, clean it properly, and then place it again in its place. This article discussed a step-by-step process to perform it easier, so read it carefully. We hope that the article helped you!

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