How to Clean a Stinky Drain

A foul-smelling drain can become very difficult to deal with if not dealt with immediately. What are you doing about it?

I hate it when I wake up to a smelly sink in the morning. It ruins my day. Worst of all, I would waste a long time trying to fix it. 

Today, I will show you how to clean your drain and prevent the smell from returning. 

What Causes a Smelly Drain?

Sinks have foul odors because various things can go wrong with the pipes.

The most typical causes of foul drains include:

  • Odor-forming bacteria: Your pipes can be clogged from food, hair, grease, soap particles, and other gunk. Even if they do not cause a clog, they attract odor-releasing bacteria.
  • Clogged vent pipes: When debris clogs a drain, water may begin to pool in the sink. This stagnant water can lead to odors.
  • Sewer gases: Sewer gases can rise from the drain when there is an empty P-trap. This typically only happens in sinks that are infrequently used.
  • Plumbing errors: Missing traps or vents, leaks, and rotting drain tubes can all cause odors to seep from a bathroom or kitchen sink.
A stainless kitchen sink with a dirty drain

How to Clean a Smelly Drain

There are several techniques for cleaning a sink drain of foul odors. Look at the different methods and find the one that would seem easiest for you in your unique situation. If it does not work, then move on to another method. 

Using Hot Water or Vinegar

Bring a pot of water or white vinegar to a boil, then half of it should be poured down the drain. Allow at least a few minutes for the pipe to cool before washing it out. Once all of the gunk has been rinsed away, drain any remaining hot water or vinegar down the drain to get rid of any other remaining residue.

The Baking Soda and Vinegar

  1. Mix 1/2 cup baking soda + 1/4 cup table salt
  2. Pour the mixture down the drain.
  3. Pour 1 cup of heated vinegar down the drain; the mixture will foam and bubble.
  4. Allow for 15 minutes for the solution to sit.
  5. Let water from a hot tap run for at least 15 to 30 seconds.

If a smell lingers, your drain most likely is blocked. Difficult clogs continue to emit odors until they are entirely removed from the drain system. With caution, attempt pouring the vinegar straight down your sink drain.

A clean sink with a water flowing

Clean the P-trap

With gloves on, remove the drainpipe’s curved section beneath the sink. Remove any water or debris from the trap and dump it in a bucket. Take the P-trap outside and clean it with a garden hose. Before putting the sink back in service, reassemble the plumbing.

Clean the Drain Vent

In most houses, all drain vents end in a single roof opening. Remove any leaves or other debris obstructing the drain vent by climbing up a ladder.

How to Prevent Odors From Returning

To avoid future smells, follow these suggestions:

Every time you throw food down the kitchen sink, run the disposal and faucet for 20 seconds.

Once a week, pour a gallon of near-boiling water down the drain.

Occasionally run water in seldom-used sinks to keep the P-trap filled with water. You can also add mineral oil to slow evaporation.

How to Clean a Stinky Garbage Disposal

Here are some quick ways to get rid of the unpleasant odor coming from your garbage disposal:

  1. Cut a lemon or lime into quarters.
  2. Turn on the disposal and run hot water.
  3. Add the lemon or lime slices to the drain, one by one, until they are completely crushed.
  4. Pour 2 cups of ice and 1 cup of rock salt into the garbage disposal for a more thorough cleaning.
A sink with lime slices

Things to Avoid

Do not pour bleach down the drain if you have a septic system. Bleach destroys the pathogens used to eliminate waste in the septic system. Doing this can result in significant damage to your septic tank and pipes.

If you’ve used a homemade drain cleaner but still notice a stench, it’s time to contact your local plumbers. If not dealt with swiftly, odors that persist or blockages may lead to more serious and expensive difficulties.

Caitlyn Koch
Caitlyn Koch has been working in interior design for over 5 years. Caitlyn believes that interior design is more than just making a space look pretty - it's about creating an environment that people will enjoy living in.
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