How to Clean a P-Trap?

If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about your plumbing until there’s a problem. And when that problem is a backed-up sink or toilet, the P-trap is usually the first thing to come to mind. The good news is that cleaning a P-trap is a quick and easy process, and it can be done with just a few simple tools.

A toilet P-trap that is present within the body can be cleaned using a chemical cleaner, toilet plunger, or an auger. Whereas, the sink P-trap, which is underneath the sinks, is removed from its place, cleaned using a flexible wire brush, and then re-attached. 

Both of these utilities are cleaned following a series of steps. In this DIY guide, we will walk you through the steps of how to clean a P-trap in your bathroom or kitchen sink.

First, let’s discuss the function and importance of a P-Trap in any plumbing system.

What is P-Trap?

A P-Trap or Plumbing Trap is a U-shaped piece of pipe that is installed under or within any plumbing fixture (sinks, basins, bathtubs, or toilets) to catch and hold any water that drains from that fixture.  In the case of sinks or bathtubs, P-traps are separately attached underneath them. While a toilet holds it within its body.

p-trap and sink p-trap

The major function of the P-trap is to hold water to prevent sewer smell enter your kitchen or bathroom. Actually, the water in the P-trap creates a seal that prevents sewer gases and odors from entering your home through the drain.  In addition, it is also important for preventing small objects from falling into the drain and causing a clog.

Now that you have learned what a P-trap is and what function it serves. Let’s focus on how to clean it when it gets clogged.

We mentioned that a P-trap can be separately attached to a plumbing fixture or within its body. The cleaning method is different in each case. First, let’s talk about how to clean a P-trap which is inside the body i.e. in the case of the toilet.

How to Clean a Toilet P-Trap? [3-Effective Methods]

For unclogging a toilet’s P-trap, you can use a chemical cleaner, a toilet plunger, or an auger. Whatever the equipment you use, follow the mentioned steps in each case.

two bottles of chemical cleaner
Image from Jay Poly Plast

Cleaning the P-trap with a chemical cleaner

Chemical cleaners are quite corrosive. They eat through clogs and clear the toilet’s trap.

When purchasing the cleaner, make sure that it is designed for use in toilets. Chemical clog removers that are intended for sinks will not be effective in toilets.

Also, remember that this approach requires very little water in the bowl. So, manually removing water may be necessary.

To dissolve the blockage, follow product directions. Pour at least half a gallon of hot water down the toilet drain, then flush to eliminate chemicals and replenish with clean water.

If this method doesn’t work, you can try using a plunger.

Cleaning the P-Trap with a Plunger

A toilet plunger is available in most homes, so another common way to unclog a toilet P-trap is by the use of a plunger. Remember to follow these four simple steps

Step 1: Flush the toilet

Flush the toilet in case there isn’t enough water in the toilet bowl. You have to ensure there’s enough water in the bowl to fill the plunger and seal it over the opening.

person using toilet plunger to remove an object from the toilet trap

Step 2: Place the Toilet Plunger into the bowl

Place the plunger cup at an angle in the bowl’s water so that it gets filled with water. As the cup fills, its plunging power increases. After that, push the plunger and seal the hole. 

Step 3: Push the plunger in and out

Maintain the cup’s cover over the hole while pushing the plunger evenly and vigorously. The plunging movement drives water throughout both directions to release the blockage. Plunge five to six times, then remove the plunger to check for clogs.

Step 4: Repeat step 3

Repeat step 3 further till the trap gets cleared.

However, if you aren’t unable to clear the trap with this method, you can use a toilet auger or the plumber’s snake.

Cleaning the P-Trap with Toilet Auger

To clear the P-trap using a Toilet, stick to these steps:

Step 1: Configure the Auger

Take out the auger handle until just the cable tip is visible.

man inserting auger into the bowl

Step 2: Insert the auger into the bowl

Put one end of the tube into the toilet bowl’s hole until it doesn’t go any further.

Step 3: Extend the auger

Turn the cable clockwise while gradually pushing the handle down toward the tube. This drives the cable into the trap; the turning helps the cable end navigate the trap’s bends. Continue to turn and push the cable until it can no longer advance.

Step 4: Repeat Step 3

Take out the cable and then repeat the process until the obstruction in the trap is cleared.

Now, let’s discuss how to clean another type of P-trap that is commonly found under sinks, basins, and bathtubs.

sink p-trap
Image from 5Alpha LLC

How to Clean a Sink P-Trap? [5-Easy Steps]

Unlike the toilet P-trap, the sink P-Trap is removable. So, it needs to be removed from its place to clean it.

Tools You’ll Need

For cleaning a sink P-trap, you will need the following tools/things:

  • Bucket or bowl
  • Pliers
  • Rubber gloves
  • Flexible wire brush or an old toothbrush
  • Paper towels
  • Vinegar (optional)

Now, let’s move toward the steps.

Step 1: Clear the area under the Sink

Since the sink’s P-trap is attached under it. So, to access it, you will have to clear the area under the sink.

removing sink p-trap
Image from PS Rapp Sewer & Plumbing Co

Step 2: Remove the P-trap

The second step involves removing the P-trap from under the sink. For that, you will need a pair of pliers to loosen the nuts that connect the P-trap to the drain and sewer lines.

Once the nuts are loose, you can remove the P-trap using your hands.

The P-trap may contain water or anything that’s clogged inside. Empty that stuff into it into a bucket or bowl.

Step 3: Thoroughly Clean out the P-trap

After you have removed the P-trap, it’s time to clean it out.

Simply scrub the inside of the P-trap with a flexible wire brush to remove any build-up debris, mold, or slime. Adding some vinegar will make the cleaning easy.

Step 4: Reattach the P-trap

Once you have cleaned out the P-trap, dry it with a cloth and reattach it. To do this, simply take the reverse process you used to remove the P-trap.

Tighten the nuts with a pair of pliers, and make sure the P-trap is secure.

testing if the p-trap is leaking
Image from Home Inspections Port St Lucie – Right 2 Inspect

Step 5: Test for leaks

After you have reattached the P-trap, it is important to test it for leaks.  To do this, simply run some water into the sink and check for any leaks around the P-trap.

If there are no leaks, you’re all done!

Final Words

Cleaning a P-trap is a quick and easy process that can be done with a few simple tools. Whatever P-trap you are planning to clean, be it a sink trap or toilet trap, the steps in this guide will help you efficiently clean it. However, if you are afraid to do it yourself, you always have an option to consult a professional.

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