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How to Clean Smelly Drains

Most people don’t pay much attention to their drains until something unpleasant happens. A lot of times, that unpleasant event is either a smelly drain or a clogged drain.

Sinks, shower drains and kitchen drains need to be cleaned so they don’t get smelly. Scented candles or potpourri may cover stinky drain smells, but you need to address the source to fully eliminate odors.

Continue reading to learn what can cause different drains in your home to clog or smell and how to clean smelly drains and keep them from smelling.

Why Does My Bathroom Sink Smell?

There are a few possible reasons your bathroom sink smells. Luckily, cleaning a smelly drain in a bathroom sink can be easy if you have the right tools.

To clean a bathroom sink, it’s important to have a proper P-trap. A P-trap is the curved portion of pipe under the sink. It’s supposed to create a seal by holding water, which prevents sewer gases from getting into the bathroom.

If the P-trap isn’t working properly, sewer gasses can make their way into the bathroom and cause your sink to stink.

Your sink should also have a vent that gives backflowing gases somewhere to go. If the sewer smell in your sink is caused by a blocked air vent, you may need professional assistance.

If the smell is coming from the water flowing from your sink, and not the drain, there is probably something in the faucet causing the odor. Take off the aerator cap and look inside for any buildup or gunk you can clean off.

There could also be stagnant water in your overflow drain, which can cause an unpleasant smell.

Why Do My Shower and Bathtub Drains Smell?

There are a couple of reasons that your shower drain or bathtub drain smells.

There could be odor-causing bacteria feeding on debris in your pipes. This process will give off a foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells like sewage or rotten eggs.

Also, mold grows where it’s warm and wet — and mold growth on the debris causing a clog can also cause a bad smell.

Why Does My Kitchen Drain Smell?

If your kitchen sink smells, especially if there is a sewer smell, you may have a dry P-trap. The P-trap is the curved portion of pipe under the sink. It is supposed to hold water, which creates a seal that prevents sewer gases from getting into your kitchen. There needs to be water in the P-trap at all times.

There may also be a drain pipe or vent problem. This could involve pipe damage or an obstruction in your vent.

How Do I Clean My Drains?

To clean your drains, use Liquid-Plumr® Clog Destroyer Plus+ Pipeguard™. The thick gel formula will dissolve clogs, prevent new ones and get rid of odors.

Check out our article Spring Plumbing Tips for Your Drains for more information about cleaning and maintaining drains throughout your home.

How Do I Stop My Drains from Smelling?

If the smell is coming from a sink that is rarely used, flush your drain to ensure your P-trap is filled with water. When filled, the P-trap can do its job, which is to create an airtight seal that prevents obnoxious sewer or septic smells from escaping.

If you’re curious about how to maintain septic tanks, check out our article All About Septic Tank Cleaning.

You can also deodorize drains with a combination of baking soda and vinegar. These ingredients, when used together, can also sometimes help to clear drain clogs.

For this process, start by pouring a pot of boiling water down the drain. Next, pour a mixture of one cup baking soda and one cup vinegar into the drain. Insert the drain plug, or close the filter, and wait 5–10 minutes. Then, flush the drain with another pot of boiling water.

For more information on this process, check out our article Do Baking Soda and Vinegar Solutions Clear Clogs?

Why Does My Dishwasher Smell?

If you have a smelly dishwasher, it could be because you’re not rinsing your dishes properly before loading them. Food particles can collect in your dishwasher’s filter and crevices, and over time, this can cause an unpleasant odor.

One way to prevent food from accumulating is to practice proper dishwasher usage. A great rule of thumb is to thoroughly scrape and rinse plates, silverware, bowls, and other items before they go into the dishwasher.

Depending on the mess, you probably won’t need to scrub the plates with soap, but scrape food off and rinse dishes clean. Failure to do this means large food particles can get caught in the grates (your dishwasher’s drainage system). This can result in clogs that prevent draining or can create a smelly dishwasher.

If there’s food caught in the drain system of your dishwasher, remove it. Then, use a clean sponge to wipe the area clean. Also, you can pour a chemical drain cleaner like Liquid-Plumr® Disposal & Drain Cleaner down your garbage disposal, too. It’ll help freshen the same plumbing the dishwasher uses and leave a fresh, citrus scent.

For tips on how to combat a smelly garbage disposal, check out our articles How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal and How to Clean a Garbage Disposal.

Clean a Smelly Drain: Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO make sure there is a P-trap installed under your bathroom sink.
  • DO flush your drain to ensure the P-trap is filled with water.
  • DO scrape food off dishes and rinse them clean before putting in the dishwasher to keep grates clean and prevent clogs.
  • DO take off the aerator cap on your faucet and clean off any buildup if there is a smell coming from the running water.

For more information on how you can use Liquid-Plumr® products, visit our FAQs page.

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