You just drilled a three pointer like Kobe. Unfortunately, the hoop was the sink drain and the ball was your wedding ring/contact/paper boat (dear lord, don’t go down after that thing!). All is not lost. In fact, you’re about to both embark on a rescue mission and take a simple opportunity to check on an oft leaky, clogged or corroded piece of plumbing that’s an easy DIY fix: the P-Trap.

A P-Trap connects a sink’s drain pipe to the main plumbing, holding a small amount of water and keeping sewer smells from seeping back up the pipes and into your home from their source (pro tip: don’t light a match, blame the P-Trap). Lucky for you, the P-Trap also tends to catch items dropped down the drain, at least for a short time. Quit your cursing and follow these easy tips to retrieve your lost treasure and check or replace the trap while you’re down there.

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Removing and Inspecting the P-Trap For a Beloved Item/Heirloom

1
Don’t panic. Swear a few times. If the faucet is running, turn it off so you don’t wash away whatever you dropped down the drain. Grab a pair of pliers or a wrench, a flashlight, a bowl and some rubber gloves.

UNFORTUNATE MOMENTS IN DRAINPIPE HISTORY

Casino Royale

P-Trap-Bond-Sidebar-Gear-Patrol

Should’ve cleaned out the P-Trap. That’s a bad clog.

It

P-Trap-IT-Sidebar-Gear-Patrol

Certain issues may call for the help of a professional plumber.

Arachnophobia

P-Trap-Arachnophobia-Sidebar-Gear-Patrol

See note above.

2
Know your enemy. Get under your sink and examine the setup. You should be able to see the drainpipe, a u-shaped bend and a pipe that goes into the wall. The u-shaped bend section is your p-trap; it will be made of PVC, chrome, or possibly black ABS. The section behind that is the P-Trap arm. More on that later.

3
Remove the P-Trap. Place bowl or bucket underneath P-Trap to catch the water that’s about to come out. Don’t worry; as long as you don’t have the faucet running, it’ll only be a small amount. Loosen the lock nuts holding either end of the P-Trap to the other pipes with a wrench or pliers, then with your hands. Pull the P-Trap off with a downward tug and inspect it for lost items. Do a small jig if you find said items. If you weren’t a doofus in the first place and are rather being a handyman (or if you’ve just successfully found your item), look for any debris that may be clogging your drain. Use the rubber gloves for this part if not participating in Fear Factor challenge. Rinse the trap out in a faucet (not the faucet without the P-Trap, smarty) to flush out any stubborn goobers.

4
Check for corrosion or leakage. Often the rubber gaskets that seal the nuts will be cracked and can cause leaking. Check these; replacements can be bought at your local hardware store for pence. Corroded nuts or even the pipe itself can be easily and cheaply replaced. But if things are looking good, go ahead and re-attach the trap.

5
Re-attach the P-Trap. If everything checks out, reattach the P-Trap, tightening the lugs on either end first with your hands and then with pliers or a wrench. Keep the bowl underneath and run the sink to make sure things aren’t leaking. If they are, make sure the nuts are threaded correctly. As before, the most common cause of leakage will be the gaskets underneath the nuts.

Replacing a P-Trap

1
Survey what you need to replace. It might just be the rubber gaskets that are busted; it might be the nuts or the P-Trap piping or the P-Trap arm. Take a moment to remember that all the parts are cheap at a hardware store. Stop being a penny-pincher — you should replace them all.

2
Procure your parts. Bring your old parts to your local hardware store. Peruse the piping section looking for replacement parts that match yours. (We recommend PVC piping under an enclosed sink; chrome piping is best if the P-trap will be visible.) When an employee walks by, ask him or her for help to make sure you’ve got the right bits. This may be vital, depending on your plumbing and/or DIY competency.

3
Replace the old, corroded parts with your new bits. Reattach the new parts via the instructions above, using the new gaskets and nuts you’ve purchased. If you’re replacing the P-Trap arm, simply unscrew its attachment nut, pull the arm off, and plug the new one back in, sliding the new nut and gasket over the new pipe and screwing them in. Lining things up may take some slight adjustments. If things don’t match up, head back to the hardware store. Keep the swearing down — this is still an easy job.

4
Check for leakage. If there is still dribbling and/or cascades of excess water, call a plumber or one of your more savvy friends. You know, the guy who has his own tool shop. If the leaking is gone…

5
Celebrate your slightly handy accomplishments. It’s never too early for a celebratory beer. Wash your hands first though. Yuck.