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Trapping Troubles: A Guide to Effective Maintenance

Plumbing traps are important components that often go unnoticed until problems arise. Without proper maintenance, these traps can cause blockages and emit unpleasant odors. These then allow harmful sewer gases to seep into your home, creating health hazards.

Plumbing traps are designed to maintain a water barrier that prevents sewer gases from entering while allowing wastewater to exit. Common types include P-traps, which are typically found under sinks. There are also S-traps, which are seen in older installations but are often replaced due to their tendency to siphon and lose their water seal. 

Knowing the early warning signs—such as slow draining, gurgling sounds, or bad odors—can help you identify when maintenance is needed. Regularly caring for these traps can prevent them and ensure they continue to function effectively.

Avoid the inconvenience of clogged traps in your home. Call R.S. Andrews at (770) 674-8996 for professional plumbing maintenance services. Our expert team is ready to keep your plumbing system running smoothly.

This guide will explore the functions of various plumbing traps. You’ll learn practical maintenance strategies that help preserve these essential parts of your plumbing system.

grease trap

What Are Traps?

In plumbing, a trap is a simple but essential device that’s part of your sink, shower, and other drain systems. Its main job is to hold a small amount of water at all times, which forms a seal. This seal prevents unwanted gases and odors from the sewage system from entering your home through the drains. Without this barrier, your living spaces could smell unpleasant and might even pose health risks from sewer gases.

Types of Plumbing Traps

Every time you use your sink or shower, water washes into the trap, and some of it stays behind to maintain the seal. Each type of trap has a specific shape and purpose, designed to be used in different parts of your house or business. 

Below is a closer look at some common traps:


This trap is the most frequently used type in homes. It looks like the letter “P” lying on its side. You’ll find P-traps under sinks, showers, and bathtubs. They stop sewer gases from coming back up into the house and catch debris that might clog the plumbing deeper down.


Shaped like the letter “S,” this trap is similar to the P-trap but is often found in older buildings. Because it can sometimes allow sewer gases to escape if the water in the trap evaporates, it’s not used in new constructions.

Bottle Trap

This trap, which resembles a bottle, is stylish and compact, making it a favorite for modern bathroom installations. It works much like a P-trap but is better suited for places where the trap might be visible, such as open shelving or wall-mounted sinks.

Grease Trap

Essential in restaurant kitchens, grease traps help prevent grease from entering the plumbing system where it can harden and cause serious blockages. They also separate grease from the water from kitchen sinks and dishwashers.

Drum Trap

These traps are cylindrical and designed to catch hair, soap scum, and other debris that could clog the pipes. Drum traps are typically installed in bathtubs and laundry sinks to facilitate easy cleaning and prevent blockages.

Common Trap Problems

Traps can sometimes face several common issues that could disrupt their effectiveness and the overall plumbing performance. 

Here’s what homeowners should be vigilant about:

  1. Clogs: The most frequent problem with traps is clogging. Over time, things like hair, soap scum, food debris, and grease can build up in the trap. As such, they slow down or block water flow. This can lead to backups and slow drainage.
  2. Leaks: Traps can start to leak if they become loose or if the seals between the pipes wear out. This can happen due to regular use or shifts in the fixture’s alignment. Leaks not only waste water but can also cause damage to your home’s structure.
  3. Evaporation: If a trap isn’t used often, such as in a guest bathroom, the water in the trap can evaporate. This removes the water seal that blocks sewer gases, potentially allowing bad smells to enter the home.
  4. Corrosion: Metal traps, especially older ones, can corrode over time. Corrosion can lead to holes in the trap and cause leaks. This can also weaken the trap, leading to breaks.
  5. Siphoning: In some cases, particularly with poorly designed S-traps, the water in the trap can be siphoned out by water flow down the drain. This would again remove the water seal, allowing sewer gases to enter the home.

Signs Your Trap Needs Maintenance

Maintaining the traps in your plumbing system is crucial for preventing blockages and ensuring efficient water flow. Here are key signs that your trap needs attention:

Slow Drainage

If water drains slowly from your sink, shower, or bathtub, it could be a sign that the trap is partially blocked. Slow drainage often indicates a buildup of debris that needs to be cleared.

Unusual Noises

Gurgling sounds coming from your drains can be a sign of a poorly ventilated trap or blockage within the pipes. These noises may suggest that the water flow is obstructed, causing air bubbles to form.

Bad Odors

One of the primary functions of a trap is to prevent sewer gases from entering the home. If you start noticing foul odors from your drain, it might mean the trap is dry, damaged, or clogged.

Water Backup

Any water backup from your drains, such as water back up in the sink or the toilet, indicates a serious blockage. If plunging doesn’t clear it, the trap and connecting pipes might need professional cleaning.

Visible Debris in the Trap

In some setups, especially with clear traps under sinks, debris might collect in the trap. If not cleared, this debris can lead to clogs and slow drainage.

Frequent Clogs

If you’re dealing with frequent clogs, this might indicate an ongoing issue with your trap. It might not be trapping debris as effectively, possibly due to damage or installation issues.

How to Maintain Traps

Maintaining the integrity of your home’s plumbing system is essential to avoid unpleasant issues. Plumbing traps require regular attention to ensure they perform their job effectively.

The following are some important steps you can take to keep your plumbing traps in good condition:

Clean Regularly

To avoid build-up that can lead to clogs, clean your traps regularly. For most households, cleaning the traps every few months is sufficient. This involves removing the trap under the sink or shower and manually removing debris.

Reduce Grease Accumulation

Grease is a common cause of trap blockages. To prevent grease buildup, avoid pouring oils and grease down the drain. Instead, dispose of grease in the trash after it cools. You can also run hot water down the drain after each use to help minimize grease buildup.

Consult a Professional

If you’re unsure about cleaning the traps yourself or encountering stubborn clogs, it’s wise to hire a professional plumber. They have the tools and expertise to handle more complex trap issues.

Don’t let clogged traps disrupt your home. Contact R.S. Andrews today at (770) 674-8996 for expert plumbing maintenance services. Our team is here to ensure your plumbing is in top condition.


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