By Mordechai Schmutter

If you’re a homeowner, chances are that at some point your sink will back up, and your spouse will ask you to take a look at it. Because you’re not calling a plumber every time there’s a backup or he’ll be living in your house. Especially given some of the things your children shove down the sink.

• As soon as your spouse asks you to take a look, you should begin to procrastinate for a couple of weeks, coming up with real, believable excuses each time.

• Wait until one evening when you have a couple of minutes. Do this at a time nobody will need to use the sink, like at night. The last thing you need is to be lying under your sink with a pipe in your hand and have your kid come by and turn it on.

• First take all the weird cleansers out from under the sink and put down either a bucket or a towel, depending on how much of a mess you’d like to make.

• Before you begin, look at your pipes. You’ll notice that they don’t just go straight into the wall. Some of them go straight down at first, but then immediately change direction and come back up for seemingly no reason.

• That curve is called a P-trap, which is so called because it looks nothing like the letter P. It’s actually more of a J, and it’s designed so that when you remove it, both joints from which you remove it are facing downward, to better spill on your towel. (It should be called a J-trap, but that sounds anti-Semitic.)

• It’s also designed that way so things like wedding rings get stuck down there instead of making it into the wall. It’s designed to be easily removable, as the J-trap has these things on either side called O-rings, which is a ridiculous name, because all rings are O-rings. All you have to do is turn one of the O-rings counterclockwise, and … it won’t turn. OK, I guess it’s supposed to go clockwise. So just turn it clockwise, and it will … not turn either. Wait, which way is counterclockwise? The pipes are up and down.

• You may have to use a wrench to force them.

• Okay, the first ring’s off. But why won’t the second one turn?

• If the ring doesn’t turn either way, take a wild guess. It should turn in the same direction as the other one, right? Try that.

• Great, now you cracked the ring. Great job! I guess it goes the other way. Why were you listening to me?

• OK, so now turn it the other way. Remove the trap.

• It will be full of water. We should have mentioned that.

• Pour out the water.

• Not down the sink, genius!

• Take note of anything that falls out of the trap that might have been causing your backup, so you know who to blame.

• Try to remove the ring that you cracked from the J-trap, so you can go to the store and replace it.

• See? It still doesn’t come off.

• Put the entire trap back. Maybe if you ignore the issue, it won’t have any negative effect on the operation of the sink as a whole.

• OK, so now the sink leaks. This is a lot worse than when it was just backed up.

• At this point, you don’t want to panic. You can just replace this. It’s a $4 piece.

• The only issue is that all the stores are closed. Why did you do this at night, again? Also, no one else in the house is awake, and they’ll probably turn on the sink tomorrow morning before you wake up.

• Using a computer, print out a note in clear, bold typeface. Leave the note on the counter, and leave the mess of stuff you pulled out from under the sink on the floor in front of the sink in case no one reads the note.

• In the morning, after you drive carpool, go to Home Depot. Remember to take the piece with you, so you can say, “I need something like this,” if anyone asks.

• No one will ask. At 9:00 in the morning, the store is full of contractors shopping for huge truckloads of supplies. No one’s wandering around to help you find your $4 piece.

• After a good half-hour, note that not a single item in the store matches what you’re holding. Also notice that the item in your hand has a brand name on it, and that that brand name is nowhere to be found in the store.

• After a half-hour looking through every piece, select something of a different brand that’s close. Close enough counts, right? Your sink will be pretty understanding about this, I think.

• Get home all excited, climb under the sink, and realize that although the top part of the J fits perfectly, the lower part does not. The elbow joint it has to screw onto is way too fat. Maybe you should’ve taken the elbow joint to the stores.

• Try to remove the elbow joint. With a little bit of effort, it doesn’t come off. Which way does it screw? Not this way. Not that way. “Should I try the wrench again?”

• No. Not after what happened the last time.

• Call your spouse to let her know the story and that you’re going back to the store with her later, so that your next mistake will be the fault of both of you.

• Your spouse, who hasn’t really been involved, will be clear-headed enough to suggest you go to the local dedicated plumbing-supply store.

• You didn’t even know there was a dedicated plumbing-supply store.

• Go to the store. Don’t forget the piece. Try again to get the other piece off, and when it doesn’t come off, take a picture.

• As soon as you get to the plumbing store, a salesman will pounce, because smaller stores have a different sales model, which is what keeps them small. His model is to talk a mile a minute about what you have to do. You will understand about half.

• “First of all,” he’ll tell you, “no one sells just the rings.” Which you’ve figured out. You have to buy the whole J.

• You also have to buy another elbow piece, though it’s not clear why. Though when you get home, you’ll see it’s because the treads on the J he’s selling you don’t fit the treads of the elbow you have at home. It’s a scam.

• Then he tells you that the old elbow won’t come off your house. It’s cemented on. You have to saw through the pipe it’s connected to. Then you have to replace the piece of pipe that you cut off, and cement it to the end of the pipe you just cut. Using a sleeve, which he sells you.

• Have him show you on your picture what he’s talking about, because you lost him a few times.

• He also wants to sell you a pipe, obviously, from which you can cut a small piece to replace the piece that you’re sawing. The thing is, he says, he only sells 5-foot lengths. Most people fixing their sinks need five whole feet.

• He also sells you two small cans of cement.

• Go home with your huge box of pieces. You’re doing great! Only several more steps.

• Get out the electric saw and cut the pipe loose from the house without cutting anything else down there, such as the water intake or the towel. Make a line on the pipe so you know where to cut.

• Note that it’s impossible to hold a vibrating saw and aim exactly for the line that you made. It’s just approximate.

• Take the piece you cut off and compare its length to the new elbow you just bought with the new pipe shoved in it. Note that you have no idea where to draw your approximate cutting line on the new pipe, because the elbows are different shapes.

• It turns out that you do need five feet, because of trial and error.

• As recommended on the cement can, shove all the pieces of pipe into each other and see if you can dry-fit it without the cement.

• The pipe you cut is too long. Try cutting it shorter.

• Cut the pipe a little crooked, because “Safety First, Before Making Sure You’re Cutting Straight.” And anyway, the sleeve covers for that. This is one of the secrets of plumbing. (The other one is which way to turn stuff.)

• Dry-fit it again. It fits! Basically.

• Don’t run the water yet, or you’ll make a mess. You need cement.

• Remove all the dry-fitted pipes from their sockets.

• There will be one piece you can’t get out—that tiny piece you had to cut twice. Spend some time fighting it before you wonder why you’re trying so hard to get a stubborn pipe apart so you can glue it back together.

• Apply the cement and immediately put the pieces together perfectly as quick as you can without anything sticking to the paper towel. Set an oven timer for 15 minutes.

• While you’re waiting, put the glue away for other projects that need waterproof adhesive, such as sukkah decorations.

And there you have it! You’ve fixed the clog! (Which was your original problem, if you recall.) Who needs a plumber? 

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at

Previous articleTime After Time
Next articleBefore The Holiday


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here