You throw food down the drain, flip a switch and — just like magic — it disappears! Or at least it does when your garbage disposal and kitchen plumbing are functioning correctly. If you’re experiencing unpleasant odors or backups in your sink, you might have a problem with some part of your garbage disposal or kitchen plumbing, such as the the u-bend. Learn more about this important component of your home plumbing.
What is the u-bend?
A u-bend by any other name … may still not smell sweet? That is, if you’re having problems with it. The u-bend is the part of the plumbing that traps and prevents unpleasant odors from floating back into your kitchen. It’s a standard piece of piping that you’ll find under most sinks, including the bathroom as well.
When a u-bend is attached to a disposal, it’s protecting you from the smell of decomposing food, which emits methane gas. It functions as something like a seal and a vent, and serves to protect your plumbing against clogs! The u-bend retains water after each use that creates a seal that stops rotten-egg like odors from permeating your home.
Don’t be confused by the many different terms plumbers and others use for this section of your kitchen sink and bathroom sink plumbing. You might hear this piece of piping referred to by any number of other names depending on the specifics of the system, including:
Technically, s-bend and j-bend pipes are slightly different from the u-bend. The u-bend is the most common and modern version of the pipe that serves the same important function. Plumbing codes usually determine how far the bend must be positioned from an outside vent to work properly.
Where is the u-bend located?
U-bends and traps aren’t exclusive to sinks with garbage disposals. You’ll find one under each sink in your home, including in your bathroom plumbing, and double sinks should have two. Just look inside your vanity or kitchen cabinet (or just beneath a free-standing sink!) to find the u-bend. Behind the pipe that’s connected to the drain you will likely find this pipe. It’s shaped just like you would imagine — in the form of the letter U!
Times you may need to access the u-bend in a sink are when you observe the presence of:
- Sewer gas or a rotting smell
- A slow drain or apparent clog
- Leaking under the sink
If you have handyman ability and want to attempt to clean out or tighten a u-bend connection, you’ll need a bucket, gloves and a plumber’s wrench. If you see a leak, try tightening the nuts that connect the u-bend. To clean it out, place a bucket beneath the bend and loosen the nuts to detach the u-bend pipe. Pour out the water and debris inside, flush it out with water, dry it and reattach the unit. If you still have unpleasant odors, leaks or drainage problems, you probably want to call a pro.
How can I avoid garbage disposal problems?
As always, preventive measures help you avoid having plumbing problems with your u-bend and other kitchen sink pipes. Only put small and easy-to-decompose organic waste in the disposal. Throw hard or fibrous foods, like root and stem vegetable scraps, in the trash or a compost bin instead. Avoid pouring oil or fat into the disposal. Run your unit regularly using cold water, keep it clean and occasionally grind up a few ice cubes to help knock stubborn waste particles off the blades.
To keep kitchen plumbing functioning properly, try to avoid putting excessive toothpaste, hair, hair clippings and grooming products down the drain. Use hair trips if necessary.
Calling in the professionals
If you don’t feel like hunching below your kitchen sink to fix a faulty u-bend, enlist the help of the plumbing pros at John C. Flood. We offer friendly and expert service to homes in D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia.