Why Does My Drain Smell?

Why Does My Drain Smell?
crawfordmech October 5, 2016

There is nothing quite like a sparkling clean kitchen to set the mood for family gatherings or holiday meals. Stray odors from your drains can ruin the effect and leave your kitchen feeling dirty. Understanding what causes the odor is the first step to getting rid of it. If you are suffering from stinky drains, consider these causes and what you can do about it.

Sources of Smelly Drain Odors

How you get rid of drain odors depends on the cause of the odor. There are three major causes of a smelly kitchen sink. Each requires its own method for combating the odor. Consider these cause of kitchen drain odors:

  • Strong Smelling Foods: Sometimes recently cooked foods are the cause of your stinky drains. Foods like fish, broccoli, onions and garlic can leave lingering odors, especially if they are allowed to sit for several hours before the dishes are washed or the cooking water is poured down the drain. These drain odors are only temporary and can typically be removed by neutralizing them.
  • Rotten Food Odor: It is normal for some food particles to build up in your drain over time. This typically occurs because you have washed grease from meats and poultry, fats from sauces and dairy or other sticky substances down the drain. The fats and grease build up a thin layer on the inside of the pipes, setting the stage for trapping tiny food particles as they are flushed down the drain. When the food particles begin to decay, the odor comes up the drain giving off a nasty odor.
  • Sewer Gases: Sewer gases can enter your home through the kitchen drain if the p-trap is dry or if your plumbing is not vented properly. This smelly gas resembles the odor of rotten eggs and can be overpowering. In fact, sewer gases do more than make your kitchen smell like a sewer. They pose a health risk too. If you are experiencing sewer gases coming from your kitchen sink, you need to act quickly to correct the problem.

Solutions for Smelly or Stinky Drains

Some drain odors, like the residual odor from strong smelling foods, are relatively easy to eradicate. Others, like grease-filled drains or dry p-traps, require more work. Follow these tips for getting rid of those yucky odors coming out of your kitchen drains.

Neutralizing Odors

There are a number of natural household products you can use to eliminate odors from strong smelling foods or minor problems with grease and food particles in the drain. Try these:

  • Baking Soda and Vinegar: Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain and follow with two cups of white distilled vinegar. Let the mixture rest for about 10 minutes and flush it away with boiling water. The baking soda and vinegar creates a chemical reaction that causes it to fizz or foam as it works to break up grease in the drain. The boiling water works to wash away the loosened particles and kills odor-causing bacteria, too.
  • Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is another great odor neutralizer. Pour the juice of several lemons down the drain to remove offensive odors and leave your kitchen smelling like fresh citrus. If you have a garbage disposal, try grinding lemon slices and ice cubes to freshen it.

Dealing with Sewer Gases

There are two common causes for problems with sewer gases.  Here’s how to solve them.

  • Dry p-trap: The p-trap is located under your sink and works to keep sewer gases from coming back up the drain by filling with water to block them. Sometimes, the p-trap loses the water and no longer provides a barrier against sewer gases. This typically happens if you have been on vacation or have not used the drain in a long time. To correct a dry p-trap, run water down the drain to refill the trap.
  • Blocked Sewer Vents: Your plumbing system is vented to the outside to allow sewer gases to escape. If this vent gets blocked by debris or snow or the pipe breaks, it will force sewer gases back into the home and up your drains. If you smell sewer gases coming up your drain, call your local plumber right away. While you and your family probably aren’t in any immediate danger, sewer gases are a health risk. Cover or plug the drain until your plumber arrives.

If you have problems with stinky odors from your drains that don’t respond to your attempts to solve them, contact us right away. We are available 24/7 and can help you solve all your plumbing problems in the greater Columbus area.

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