#191 That bend in the pipe under the sink

Keep the poo outside.

Hon, we all agreed on this hundreds of years ago and beyond when we scooted outside whenever nature called. Outhouses were the norm and everyone put on slippers and blindly stepped through flower gardens whenever they tinkled in the middle of the night.

The rules changed after public water supplies and pressurized well systems came round and we soon started outfitting our new pads with indoor plumbing. Sounds well and good? Well it was except for one big problem: the smell. Yes, it turns out that sticking pipes in your house and draining them straight into sewers makes your house smell like Fart Perfume.

Who knew?

Well, a guy named Alexander Cummings did and he thought of a great idea. “Let’s put a bend in the pipes,” he said. “That’ll trap water in the pipe which will block sewer smells from filling our homes.” Great idea, and as a side benefit if you ever drop a ruby ring or a diamond necklace down the drain, there’s a good chance it’ll get caught in that bend in the pipe and save your family jewels from traveling all the way to the ocean.

So take a whiff today and if your place smells great make sure you stop and take a moment to say thanks to Big Al from three hundred years ago for keeping the poo outside.


Photos from: here and here

37 thoughts on “#191 That bend in the pipe under the sink

  1. “No more fart perfume.”

    Hilarious stuff! I’ve never actually understood what that bend in the pipe was for, so I’ve learned something here today.

    Thank you, Alexander Cummings. (:

    1. I knew what it was for! :D
      (ok i guess I have a slight advantage over the rest of your since my fiancee is a plumber! ) LOL but I do admit, before I met him, I never knew what it was for either!
      But NOW, I am such the expert that I can even tell you that the bend in the pipe shown above is called a ‘P trap’ ( looks like a capital P)
      & there is also the other one the – ‘S Trap’

  2. I always thought the sole purpose of the pipe-bend WAS to catch things you dropped down the drain! I finally learned the true reason for the bend … just last year, at the Museum of Science and Industry. I thought it was interesting, but never stopped to appreciate its true awesomeness. DEFINITELY awesome.

  3. Hmm, I just learned something new today. I didn’t know the function of that little bend. Thanks Neil!!!

  4. The WORST is when you share a house with other people and the sewer pipes back up. This happened to me recently. I had just finished cleaning the kitchen too. I came downstairs to make myself a nice matcha frappe one morning only to find a overflow of other people’s poo (mostly) all over the kitchen floor. Fortunately there was already this tall guy in a paper hat peering into the sink (whoever had the decency to call a plumber, I’m grateful). Man did it STINK. Of course I got to work cleaning it up right away.

  5. I actually wrote an article for my school newspaper about a year ago because of several bathroom incidents and such. And I actually had to do research on p-traps! I am so thankful for them and I’m sure everyone else is also. Awesome! :)

  6. Such an important thing, you’d think we’d have a national Alexander Cummings Day! Somebody start the petition…

  7. Ya know, I never gave that bendy pipe much though until just now. Now that I know how important is it and its purpose, I’m very thankful that it was invented. Thanks for the lesson, Neil.

    1. Don’t worry, Mary, there was a PHOTO of an ACTUAL TOILET! You’re bang on! Thanks for making the tick for me!

  8. Fascinating! I had no idea! I guess I never really thought about it but now I’ll appreciate it so much more =)

  9. oh man! I learned the importance of the P trap first hand! After finishing a recent kitchen remodel, I installed the drain from the disposal to the existing drain. I couldn’t finagle the bend, so I went straight from the disposal outlet to the drain. Two things:
    1. We could hear every flush from the bathroom, as the kitchen drain now acted like a megaphone to broadcast everyone’s flush!
    2. The kitchen drain started to really stink!

    P- trap, how I love you….(once my dear contractor friend came and fixed my shoddy work!)

  10. I’ve never actually lost anything down a drain, but often when I handle something I wouldn’t want to drop in a drain above a sink, I think of that bend in the pipe and am reassured. And now I know who’s idea it was. Definitely awesome!

  11. Haha, this is amazing because my boyfriend and I were having a conversation about this exact topic just the other week! I was wondering about the bend and he explained that it had two purposes — to keep sewer smells from coming back in and to make it easy to fish out wedding rings in case you drop them down. Pretty much exactly what you wrote here! I shall now send him a link to this page — hello, my lovely one :-)

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