What if we told you that your drains are full of traps? You might think this means your drains are full of clogs and need to be repaired right away. However, this isn’t necessarily the case—traps are not only a good thing in drain lines, but are an extremely important and necessary feature that allows you to reliably use a modern drain and sewer system without discomfort or worry. In this blog, we’ll discuss plumbing traps and explain what they do, why you need them, and some things you should know about them in order to keep your drains working smoothly.
What Is a Plumbing Trap?
Take a look in the cabinet beneath any sink in your home and follow the drain pipe that leads out of it. You will probably see a U-shaped bend where the pipe appears to go back upward for a few inches before bending back around and heading down and out of your bathroom or kitchen again. This brief segment of inverted pipe is what is known as a “trap” in the world of plumbing and drains.
Why do you need a segment of pipe that flows upward? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of gravity carrying wastewater and waste out of your drains? It does, but there is a precise reason for this. Your drains are a long and extensive network of pipes that all end up in one place: your main sewer line, and in turn that sewer line is connected to the public sewer or a septic tank. While most people know that a sewer is full of wastewater and all sorts of other foul refuse, what many people often forget is that sewers are packed with another type of waste: foul odors and gasses. Unlike solid waste and water, gasses are far less impacted by gravity and that means they can flow back up drain lines with ease. So long as nothing stands in the way, these gasses can easily work their way back up and out your drains, and that fills your home with these foul smells that can be extremely difficult to get rid of.
This is where your trap comes in. Traps create a spot where a small amount of water blocks the drain line and stands between these gasses and the rest of your home. This blocks these gasses and prevents them from entering your home, leaving you to enjoy your home in peace. The water in the trap itself doesn’t go foul because it is frequently replaced by more water flowing down your drain. Any waste in the trap is typically flushed out in this way as well.
Problems with Plumbing Traps
Traps are fantastic additions to most homes because they provide passive protection against sewer gasses and odors, meaning they have no moving parts, require no extra power, and function properly just by the very nature of their installation. That makes them incredibly reliable. Whereas something like a garbage disposal may eventually experience a mechanical problem, plumbing traps rarely have any issues at all. However, that doesn’t mean they are completely problem-free.
As you might imagine, plumbing traps are a place where debris can build up rather easily, and that means they are a common site for clogs and obstructions. This is particularly true for traps in places that see a lot of debris. While toilets might seem like logical trap problems, most modern toilets are engineered to avoid this issue with smaller traps and extended flushes that clean the trap out entirely with every cycle. It’s actually rather rare to have a trap clog in a modern toilet, and even then most trap clogs can be cleared out with a standard toilet plunger.
Bathroom sinks and shower drains are extremely vulnerable to clogs due to one factor: hair. Hair can easily stick to the inside of plumbing walls, and sometimes it can be hard to dislodge without a huge amount of water pressure behind it. Because most bathroom sinks and showers don’t drain a ton of water all at once and they often have to deal with a pretty high volume of hair going down the drain (as well as dirt and grime), these traps tend to fill up with a ton of hair-based blockages.
However, while traps do have a nasty habit of catching things you don’t want them to, sometimes they can catch something you do need them to. For example, small pieces of jewelry are one of the most common things that plumbers are called to rescue from a sink drain. Sometimes they fall off when washing hands or by accidentally being bumped into the sink (where they slide down the drain). However, because jewelry is often a fairly heavy type of metal like gold or silver, these small pieces tend to sink to the bottom of the trap. From there, the trap can be disconnected and opened up, allowing the piece of jewelry to be rescued before it proceeds all the way down your drain line.If your trap is clogged or is leaking and needs to be replaced, choose the team at Moe Plumbing! Dial (818) 396-8002 today to schedule your service.