Home Maintenance: Clean Out Sink Drains

Clean out sink drains

Today’s home maintenance tip is how to clean out sink drains and P-traps under your sinks. Keeping the drains and P-traps clean ensures that your sink can drain properly and prevents them from smelling bad.

What are P-traps?

A P-trap is the piece of the drain pipe between the sink and the wall that runs horizontally and has a curve in it, making it look like a letter P turned 90 degrees.

Why are they there?

A P-trap traps a small amount of water in the curved part of the pipe. This water acts as a seal to prevent smelly sewer gasses from the drain pipes to come up into the bathroom.

Why do they need cleaning?

When you use the sink, you rinse stuff down the drain such as toothpaste, soap, and hair. However, not all of it makes it through the pipe into the sewer. Over time, this stuff slowly but surely builds up in the drain pipe and P-trap. If left unattended, the build-up restricts the drain pipe. This causes the sink to drain slower. Eventually the drain can no longer keep up with the flow from the faucet. As a result, the sink fills up with water even without the stopper engaged.

What do you need to clean out sink drains?

You need just a few basic tools:

  • Bucket
  • Towel or rag
  • Long screwdriver or similar thin object
  • Pipe wrench

How do you clean out sink drains?

Note that some of the steps vary slightly depending on the type of plumbing hardware in your house.

  1. First, remove all the stuff in the bottom of the sink cabinet so you can actually reach the drain pipe.
  2. Then place a bucket under the P-trap.

    Clean out sink drains
    Place a bucket under the P-trap
  3. Unscrew the connectors so you can remove the P-trap. This might require a wrench.

    Clean out sink drains
    Remove the P-trap
  4. Now clean out all the nasty gunk inside the P-trap.

    Clean out sink drains
    Clean the P-trap
  5. Next, scrape out the build-up in the lower part of the sink drain pipe with a screwdriver or thin brush or similar object.Warning: Depending on how long it has been since the last cleaning, the stuff coming out of the drain can be pretty gross.
    Tip: If you need to upchuck, there’s a bucket right in front of you.
  6. Loosen the sink stopper and lift it out so you can access the drain from the top.
    Clean out sink drains
    Loosen the sink stopper mechanism

    Clean out sink drains
    Remove the sink stopper
  7. Clean out any gunk in the upper part of the sink drain pipe.
  8. Run some water down the drain into the bucket to help flush out any remaining gunk.
  9. Now reassemble everything in reverse order.
  10. Before removing the bucket, run water at the sink for a minute and check for leaks.
  11. While you’re down there, also check the water supply valves and lines and the bottom of the sink faucet for leaks.
  12. If everything checks out, remove the bucket and empty it into the toilet.
  13. Finally, use the rag or towel to wipe up any spills.


And you’re done! Now you have a nice clean sink drain that no longer smells bad and drains nicely. Also, we recommend you add a reminder to your calendar to do this at least once a year on any sink that is in regular use in your house such as your main bathroom.