What Is a Plumbing Drain Trap?

If you open up the cabinet below your kitchen or bathroom sink to take a look at your plumbing fixtures, you’ll likely see a pipe shaped like a U or S that comes down from the main drain opening in the sink. This curved section is what’s referred to as the “drain trap.”

Here’s an overview of everything you should know about your plumbing trap in Duluth, MN.

What is its purpose?

Plumbing drain traps are used to hold a small amount of water every time the sink drains. The water that is held in the trap seals off the drain and prevents sewer gases from getting up through the drain and into your home. Every drain has these kinds of traps, because any plumbing connection that goes to the drain system could potentially cause sewer gas to get into your home. This is why you also see toilets that have internal curved shapes in the porcelain—the idea is to prevent those gases from emanating from the drain.

This means that if the drain trap isn’t working properly, you might smell some funky odors coming from the drain. Usually this means the trap is dry, which allows the sewer gas to escape. This should be relatively simple to fix—all you need to do is run some water down the drain, and once the trap has water in it, the smell will not be able to reach the surface.

The smell is more of a nuisance than anything—it’s hydrogen sulfide created from the decay of organic waste. In extreme concentrations it may be able to cause health problems, but this is unlikely.

Where can you find the drain trap?

Usually the location of the drain trap is quite obvious. In your toilet, the standing water is located right over the drain trap. It’s not quite as obvious in sinks, but if you follow the drain lines, you’ll come across the U- or S-shaped pipes where the water gets stored to prevent gas from escaping.

With sinks, the drain traps are also used to collect objects that get dropped down into the drain. This means if you drop a ring or another valuable item, it will likely be held in the trap. Drain traps are designed to be taken apart for cleaning, as they’ll build up a lot of debris over time, which means if you drop a valuable item down the drain, you should be able to get it back without much difficulty.

What do I need to do to maintain my drain trap?

Drain traps don’t require much in the way of maintenance. You should try to use the fixtures at least once every couple of weeks just to make sure water stays in them. Even then, though, if the drain trap goes dry, this won’t hurt the plumbing—it will just result in some unwanted smells making their presence known in your home. If you’ll be away for a long time, you may consider using plastic wrap in your drain openings to prevent those sewer gases from emanating.

For more information about caring for your plumbing traps in Duluth, MN, contact the team at ASP today.