How to Make a Better Homemade Sink Trap for Your Pottery Studio

Save your pipes and learn how to make a sink trap for your studio!

sink trap

When setting up a studio, it is important to find a safe way to wash your hands and tools without harming your drain (or the environment!). Enter the sink trap. Building a sink trap can be a daunting task, but this three-bucket sink trap makes the task seem super do-able. In this post, potter Charan Sachar explains the cool design of his easy-to-make and super-effective sink trap. Have a look! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

sink trap

fig.1 – click to enlarge

Working with clay can sure be messy, and throwing your mess down the drain is just not an option. Having worked in several studios during the last five years, I learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work in a studio. When I finally set up my own studio in our new home, planning every tiny detail was exciting and I wanted to tackle the sink-trap problem. I set out to create something that improved on previous designs, which all had shortcomings. There were three problems that I wanted to solve. First, connecting pipes to round buckets is annoying, and they are prone to leaking after maintenance. Second, opaque traps make it difficult to determine when the trap needs cleaning. Finally, under-sink traps are difficult and unpleasant to clean.

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The first thing was to attach pipes to a square bucket rather than a round one (fig. 1). The outer large bucket is a sturdy 10-gallon square translucent storage container. It needs to be strong enough to take the weight of water and clay, and have at least one side as flat as possible to attach a pipe to the sewer drain.

sink trap

fig.2 – click to enlarge

If you think your container is not strong enough, use two containers for added strength. On the inside sits another square bucket (a cat litter bucket works well for this purpose). This bucket serves as the first filter. Drill three rows of holes in the top 4 inches on three sides of this bucket. Do not make holes on the side that faces the sewer outlet because water pouring from the holes will agitate the sediment close to the drain.

sink trap

fig.3 – click to enlarge

The height of your trap depends on the height of the sink outlet and the waste pipe. Because my sewer drain is high, I had to raise both my sink and the trap (fig. 2). You may not have to do this. The sink legs are fastened to the blocks so they cannot be kicked out. Hooking up the trap is easy. Use washers and silicone to make a watertight seal for the drain (fig. 3). Locate the smaller square bucket at the end farthest from the drain. Even if there is a lot of clay water flowing out from the inner bucket it will still flow on the sides, which are farther away from the main outlet, giving enough time for the clay to settle before the water goes out.

sink trap

fig.4 – click to enlarge

To solve the inconvenience of cleaning the trap, I located the entire trap to the side of the sink rather than right below it (fig. 4). When the trap is located below the sink, it is hard reach, remove and reattach the fittings. By directing the sink trap to the side, there is no need to remove any fittings, just pop up the lid, rotate it around, and the sink trap can be cleaned easily. No loose connections, no mess! I installed this sink trap over a year ago and it has worked great.

When the settled clay level reaches a certain point, you know it is time to clean. I clean it once a year and it takes 15 minutes without any problems. Also because the bucket is transparent, you can actually see if your clay trap is working. It makes me feel very comfortable when I see clear water seeping out the outlet.

Want more great tips? Check out this article on how to make an instant damp box!

Charan Sachar is a studio potter in Federal Way, Washington, who does wheel throwing, extruding and handbuilding. To learn more or see images of his work, please visit

**First published in 2012
  • Joan K.

    We installed one of these and it works great except the water/sledge stinks. Any ideas on how to get rid of the smell?

    • It has been my experience that the smell comes from your water. It is most likely a “sulfur” water area you are in and the smell is caused by the microbes in sulfur water settle into the clay and phewy does it ever stink! I have no solution for it, just familiar with it. I have put a little bleach in mine before without noticing any ill effects on the clay. We rebuild the clay from our slurry pot on a regular basis and just have gotten used to it.

  • This dessign is spectacular! You most certainly know how to keep a reader entertained.

    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job.
    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that,
    how you presented it. Too cool!

  • Marsha C.

    I use this same “system” but have no sewer outlet for my dry sink set up.

    I installed a regular hose spigot through the plastic at the lowest point on the end side of the large plastic tub shown in the pics – opposite end from the smaller solids collection bucket location. I can drain the “clear” water with a garden hose attached to the spigot. the studio which is one step up from ground level drains the water down hill into the grass yard.

    I can also just slide the whole unit out from behind the sink and open the lid to tip the solids bucket and drain the clear water, carefully, from it into the large tub it sits in . I then lift the large tub and drain it outside. I do this frequently so there is little solid material to contain, and not too much water weight. I dry out the sludge in a 5 gal bucket and properly dispose of at the landfill.

    I do not have running water in the studio and it is amazing how little water you use and sludge you produce when you haul water from the house 🙂

  • Robert K.

    This looks like a well thought out and elegant solution to the pesky sludge problem. I have been looking for a way to do this in my home studio especially since we now have a septic system. One question – does the sludge trap smell at all and if so, what do you do to combat the smell? Thanks!

  • Hanna F.

    I have been using a super simple sink trap, which consists of a 5-gal. bucket with a faucet attached in about the middle. It sits in my utility sink. I drain off the clear water through the faucet until the bucket is light enough for me to lift out of the sink and I dump the muck outside. The bonus is, that there is always water to rinse off your hands or whatever without touching anything!

  • Scott M.

    Thanks for sharing this well-thought out idea and for the update 7 years later. Setting up my home studio and going to build my own trap instead of buying one.

  • Carola L.

    Thanks for these instructions. I asked my husband to build me one for my new studio. The sink trap is already installed now I can move the rest. Regards Carola

  • Janet W.

    Thanks, Charan – that’s why I asked. It makes much more sense for the drain holes in the inner bucket to be lower than the sewer outlet!

  • John S.

    Just throwing the sludge away is NOT a good idea; if it contains any glaze ingredients this is polluting the environment. To make it inert, dry it out in the same way you would do when recycling clay (plaster slab etc) and then fire it to a low biscuit. It is now inert and can be thrown away with a clear conscience.

  • Ceramics Enthusiast S.

    Rosemary,… I clean my sludge out once a year. It has mostly clay and glazes and it fills a 25 pound plastic bag of clay. I just toss it because 25 pounds a year is really not that much. And definetly not worth reclaiming.

  • Ceramics Enthusiast S.

    Ho Jan, To answer your question… the bottom drain holes in the inner bucket are actually above the level of the outlet to the sewer. It might appear to be level in the picture. The sewer drain has to be lower for the water to flow through. Charan

  • Rosemary H.

    We have a similar setup at our studio, wish ours was to the side of the sink like the article suggests though. It needs to get cleaned out every six months or so because it gets filled with clay, glaze and plaster sludge.

    So my big question is – when you folks clean it out, what do you do with the sludge?

  • Kaveri B.

    Fantastic! I am going to install this this week, at both, my own little studio as well as the community studio that I manage. Thank you, Charan, for the clear instructions and great pictures.

  • Janet W.

    Thank you so much, Charan! I hope to be using your plans in my home within the year. I do have a question, though: in the diagram it looks like the bottom drain holes in the inner bucket are below the level of the outlet to the sewer, is that correct?

    Thanks again! Jan

  • Adrian S.

    Tnx Charan. Our clay club with 260 members finally installed a very similar system. If we have problems, we will make modifications similar to your.


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