When you open the cabinet underneath the bathroom sink to put away a cleaning product or fresh towels, you may have to reposition a few things in order to make it fit, as a curved piece of pipe underneath the sink is in the way. This same type of fitting sits underneath your kitchen sink; in fact, it’s underneath every drain in your home. If you were to examine the plumbing system of your home, a curved section of pipe is under every tub, sink, and outdoor drain, a part known as a trap. And the most common type of trap is the P-trap, named for its “P” shape.
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The Purpose of the P-Trap
Plumbing traps have been around since 1775, but the first P-trap was used by Thomas Crapper in 1880. The sole purpose of a plumbing trap is to fill up with water and prevent sewer gases from entering the home. The noxious fumes from sewage are effectively blocked as long as there is a small amount of water in the bend. The original “S” shape would clog and back up frequently, so a U-bend was more appropriate in most cases. The addition of a straight pipe made for a sideways “P,” which is how the new pipe got its name.
Trouble with the P-Trap
The P-trap may eventually run into some trouble, including the occasional leak or clog. But the good news is that the P-trap under your sink is exposed, which makes repairing a leak a lot easier. Furthermore, any clogs are right near the surface, so your plumber won’t have to use any heavy equipment to remove the blockage. And if you lose a piece of jewelry at the P-trap, it’s not too hard for a plumber to fish it out.
Finally, if you do happen to smell something foul from the drains despite the presence of a P-trap, there may be a quick fix. If you’ve been on vacation and the drain has not been used, it might have dried out. Simply turn on the water and see if that helps. If not, try pouring vinegar and baking soda down the drain, and if all else fails, call an expert.