What To Do If Your Drain Smells

Two people doing dishes in a sink

Plumbing issues are never fun—and when they smell bad, it’s even worse! What can you do when faced with a smelly drain bringing foul odors into your home? Read below to learn more about some common causes and easy solutions to smelly drains!

What Causes Smelly Drains?

Most smelly drains come from issues with the trap (sometimes called a “U bend”). Most modern drains include a dip in the pipe right under the drain. Water gathers in that bend, blocking the pipe so that gases within the pipes are prevented from entering your home (and that water is flushed out whenever you use the sink). This is also where you might find a piece of jewelry or other small item you needed to retrieve after it went down the drain!

If there is a leak in your trap, the water may not form a seal, allowing smelly gases into your home. In addition, if you don’t use a sink for a long period of time (for example, in a guest bathroom, or if you are away on vacation), the water can evaporate. 

If the trap isn’t the problem, there may also be build up within the sink or the top portion of the pipe, which is causing odors on this side of the water barrier. 

In very old homes, some drains may not have a trap, which can allow sewer smells or build up on the pipes to enter the home that way. If you have a garbage disposal, another common cause is food debris getting stuck in the disposal.

How To Fix It Yourself

Luckily, the most common causes are easily fixable! Always check the trap for leaks first (you may see water or water damage below the bend in the sink). If there are no leaks in sight, and the sink hasn’t been used for some time, run some water through the pipes. Note that if the smell has gotten strong, you may need to open some windows and wait a bit to make sure that has fixed the issue!

For build up in your pipes or garbage disposal, start by cleaning as well as you can. Run very hot water to loosen any debris, then pour a scoop of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of plain white vinegar. The best way to clean the garbage disposal is to grind up ice cubes the shards of ice will scrape off most of the nasty build up inside of the garbage disposal. Many manufacturers even reccomend grinding marbles… but we’ve found ice cubes work just fine Note: we don’t recommend this as a way to clear clogs, because it will dilute going down the drain. Since these issues are at the very top of your drain, this is a great way to clean the areas that you can’t reach. In addition, make sure that you use lots of water whenever running your garbage disposal, as that helps the food debris to be properly ground and washed away. A professional is needed when the simple steps provided do not resolve the issue. 

A clogged vent or drain pipe could be causing the trap to siphon out and empty even when the fixture is used regularly. 

When To Call An Expert

Sometimes a smelly drain may be a sign of a larger problem. If your sink trap is leaking, unless you are very confident working with plumbing, we recommend contacting a professional, as they may require specialized skills or equipment. In addition, if you notice a slow drain in addition to the smell, it’s best to contact a drain professional to help clear your drains. One great option to consider for ongoing maintenance is hydro jet, which uses high pressure water to clear and clean your pipes.

Need an expert? Contact us today!