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Know what you’re buying: Waste vs Plug

The term ‘waste’ refers to the tube which fixes to the base of the sink or bath and allows the waste water to flow. In basic terms, it’s the plug-hole and plug mechanism. It allows water to flow away via the ‘trap’- we’ll get onto those in a bit - and into the pumping system. They come in different styles, finishes and designs, but are made to a standard size to fit with most sink or baths.

Slotted vs unslotted

The difference between a slotted waste and an unslotted is simple - a slotted waste has two small slits in the metal threading which allows water to flow in, and an unslotted waste doesn’t. Which one you need depends on whether your sink basin has a built-in overflow or not. The overflow looks like a small hole set at the back of the sink, underneath your taps. It does two things, firstly helps drain water away before the sink overflows, and secondly, it allows air out when the water is flowing down the drain. If your sink has an overflow you’ll need a slotted waste. If it doesn’t, you’ll need an unslotted waste. A simple way to remember is just to match the number of holes. Once you know which waste you need, you can choose your plug design. There are lots of different types, they all do the same thing, but the way they do that varies. Which one you choose is down to personal taste and style.

Pop-up plug

A pop-up plug is normally controlled by a pull lever set behind the taps (in sinks) or a twist knob (in baths - often integrated with the overflow). Its movement is made through a series of rods or cables. When you pull the sink lever up, it moves these rods, which pulls the plug down, sealing the plug-hole. Some sink mixer taps will have this type of plug built in.

Sprung plug

Sometimes called a ‘click-clack’ waste, this type of plug has become increasingly popular due to its simple design. It’s controlled by simply pressing on the plug, which clicks and secures itself down. Then to release it, you just press it again and it springs up. This type of plug is not reliant on particular taps, giving you a wide variety to choose from.

Flip-top, free-running and plug & chain

A flip-top plug, sometimes called a ‘captive’ plug, has a brilliantly clever, yet simple-to-use design. This plug has a circular ‘disc’ which sits flush inside the plug hole. To release the water, you just press on a side (any side) of the ‘disc’ which flips it vertically, allowing water to flow. A free-running plug (sometimes called free-flowing) can’t be closed. It sits slightly proud of the basin, allowing water to slowly flow down the drain. It’s perfect for a sink that’s never going to be filled, such as in a cloakroom or commercial setting. A plug and chain is the most traditional type of plug. It’s made up of two separate items - the waste and the plug with chain. You can get different types of chains, but the two most common are link-chain and ball-chain; the plug can be made of rubber, or have a chrome finish. They all work in the same way, which one you choose depends on your taste and how much you want to spend - generally this type of plug is cheaper then the more sophisticated plugs.

Bottle traps

Once you have chosen your desired plug you might want to consider one final finishing touch. We generally choose the most beautiful sink and taps, but when it comes to visible pipework it’s easy to allow functionality to come first. A chrome-finished bottle trap can add a stylish finishing-touch to your wall-hung sink, or counter-top sink - depending on your chosen counter. A bottle trap has the function of a waste pipe with the added bonus of its vertical drop section and attractive finish (although plastic ones are available for use inside furniture units). The drop section reduces the chance of bad drainage odours coming up into the bathroom as its holds a small amount of water, this water gets replaced with every use.