Stop the Stink: How to Get Rid of Smelly Drains for Good!

Getting rid of a smelly drain can be an unpleasant task. Foul odors are often caused by organic materials accumulating in your pipes over time.

Fortunately, there are some simple solutions that can help you get rid of the smell. In this guide, we’ll explore how to identify the source of the smell and different methods to get rid of it for good.

Stinky Drains Be Gone: How to Eliminate Odors for Good

A build-up of organic matter such as food, soap scum or hair is often the cause of a smelly drain.

Unpleasant smells emanating from a drain plug are no fun at all. In most cases, the cause of the nasty smell is a buildup of food particles, soap particles, and other organic matter trapped in the drainage pipes. 

The good news is that a few simple solutions can help you get rid of drain odors and keep them from coming back. All it takes is a little know-how and a few simple supplies.

In this post, we’ll explore how to identify the source of the stink and how to get rid of smelly drains using different methods, all of which are cheap, easy, and won’t take up much of your time.

Smelly Drain? Key Takeaways

  • Build-up of Organic Matter The main cause of bad odors emanating from drains is the buildup of food particles, soap particles, and other organic matter in the drainage pipes.
  • Identify the source of the smell – Food buildup, hair clogs, bacteria, mold, or sewer gasses? Different causes will require different solutions.
  • Try DIY solutions – A number of homemade products can be used to get rid of that bathroom stink, such as boiling water and dish soap, hot vinegar, baking soda, and vinegar.
  • Clean Regularly – Keeping your pipes clean and free of clogs should help prevent future bad smells.
  • Call a Professional – In the case of persistent odors, call a plumbing professional to inspect for underlying issues.

Why Do My Sink, Bathtub, and Shower Drains Smell?

Smelly odors emanating from a sink or shower drain are a common plumbing problem in many homes. These odors can come from a variety of sources, including food buildup in your garbage disposal, hair clogs, bacteria and mold growth, and even sewer gases.

The first step to getting rid of smelly drains is to identify the source of the odor. If you have recently done a lot of cooking that involves oily or greasy foods, then the smell from your sink may be coming from those substances sticking to your pipes. 

Kitchen sinks are often clogged by oily or greasy buildups.

Alternatively, if you haven’t been using your shower or bathtub for a few days, then a buildup of soap scum and hair may be causing the odor. In some cases, mold or bacteria growth in your pipes may also be to blame. 

Finally, if there is an issue with your sewer system or drainage lines outside of your home, it could be seeping into your drains and creating an unpleasant smell.

How to Clean Smelly Drains: DIY Solutions

Having smelly drains can be an unpleasant and embarrassing experience. Fortunately, there are some do-it-yourself solutions available that have serious cleaning power and can help you get rid of the awful smell with minimal effort!

1. Boiling Water and Dish Soap

top of dish soap bottle
Dish soap is designed to break up fatty organic compounds.

​​To get rid of a stinky drain smells, you can try using boiling water and soap.

  1. Boil hot water in your kettle or on the stove.
  2. Pour half of the boiled water in and let it sit for a minute.
  3. Add around 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap.
  4. Pour the other half of the hot water and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  5. Rinse the sink with cold running water for several minutes to flush out any debris or bacteria.
  6. Repeat as necessary.

This method is great for removing any built-up grease or grime that may be making your kitchen or bathroom sink smell. The hot water and soap will break down the grease and flush it out of the kitchen drain, leaving it smelling fresh and clean.

2. Hot Distilled White Vinegar

bottle of vinegar
Hot vinegar is a great way to remove greasy buildups.

To get rid of a stinky drain smell using hot vinegar, follow these steps:

  1. Heat 4 cups of distilled white vinegar in a microwave-safe container for 30 seconds on high heat or on the kitchen stove.
  2. Pour a cup of the hot vinegar down the drain and let sit for a minute.
  3. Pour down another cup and let the water run for a minute or two.
  4. Repeat with the remaining vinegar and boil more if the unpleasant odor remains.

Hot vinegar is acidic and will help dissolve any built-up gunk or grime that may be causing the stinky. The vinegar’s acidity also helps to neutralize and absorb odors. 

3. Baking Soda and Vinegar

vinegar and baking soda
Baking Soda and Vinegar have been a cleaning staple for centuries.

This is another cleaning process that you use with regular household items. You can see our full guide to using baking soda & vinegar or here’s a quick TL:DR on how it’s done: 

  1. Run the hot water tap for a few seconds.
  2. Pour in one cup of baking soda.
  3. Slowly pour 1 cup of hot vinegar (can also be heated on the stove) over the baking soda.
  4. Wait 5-10 minutes for the mixture to stop foaming.
  5. Flush with hot tap water to clear away any debris or residue.
  6. Repeat the process if necessary.

This method combines a base substance and acid – baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a base substance and when combined with acidic vinegar (acetic acid), creates a chemical reaction that breaks down and dissolves grease, grime, and other debris causing the funky smell in your drain pipe. The hot water flush helps remove lingering gunk and neutralize odors.

As an alternative, you can use lemon juice instead of vinegar. Simply mix the baking soda and lemon juice together and slowly pour it down the drain. Leave for a while and pour boiling hot water to remove any rotting food, odor-causing bacteria, and other gunk. Easy!

4. Coarse Salt and Baking Soda

baking soda and salt mix
Another baking soda cure!

This one is a super-simple solution to removing a foul smell from your drainage system.

Mix equal parts of baking soda and salt, and pour the mixture down your kitchen sink drain. Let it sit for a few hours before flushing with water. This should help break down any blockages and eliminate bad odors coming from your kitchen drains.

5. Ice Cubes and Lemon Peels

Lemons have natural anti-bacterial properties and the juice is acidic (and smell nice).

Lemon peels provide natural cleaning properties to help eliminate bad smells in your garbage disposal.

  1. Save the peels from a few lemons and put them in an ice cube tray with water in the freezer.
  2. Pour some very hot water into the drain.
  3. Drop a few cubes into your garbage disposal system and turn it on with the cold water on.
  4. Follow up with more boiling water.
  5. Repeat the process if necessary.

6. Remove Drain Clog

plumber using plumbing snake to clear a sink clog
Clogs will often cause bad odors.

The disagreeable smells emanating from your bathroom or kitchen sink may be caused by a clogged drain. To remove the clog (and the smell) use vinegar and baking soda, a plumbing snake, or a store-bought cleaner.

7. Fill Your P-Trap

p trap under sink
Make sure your P-Trap is filled with water to avoid nasty sewer smells.

A P-trap is a U-shaped pipe located under the bathroom sink. The curved portion should always have water in it to prevent foul-smelling sewer gasses from rising up through the drain from the sewer lines and creating a potential health hazard. A dry P-Trap is a common issue with bathroom sinks that are not used frequently.

The solution is to simply pour cold water into the drain to prevent the sewer gas from being able to make its way into your house.

8. Remove Air Vent Blockages

plumbing vent stack surrounded by snow
Check your vent stack for blockages

Vents in plumbing systems allow trapped gasses to escape through the pipes and dissipate outside, preventing unpleasant odors in the home. If the vent becomes blocked, gasses can leak out through the drains, resulting in unpleasant smells. 

All you have to do is find the blocked air vent and remove the blockage.

9. Flush the Drain with Chemical Products

chemical drain cleaner
If all else fails, there are a variety of chemical drain cleaners on the market.

If all the above methods have failed, you may want to turn to harsher, store-bought chemical products such as bleach or drain cleaner.

Say Goodbye to Nasty Odors: Putting the Finishing Touches on a Fresh Drain

In conclusion, smelly drains can be a frustrating problem, but they don’t have to stay that way. With some simple solutions and regular household items, you can quickly banish those odors and keep your drains smelling nice and clean. Follow the tips outlined in this article to keep your drains fresh and free of unpleasant smells.

If you have any other ideas or tricks to share when it comes to keeping your drains odor-free, we’d love to hear them in the comments section!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Prevent Stinky Drains After Cleaning?

To prevent future odors from occurring in your sinks and showers, it’s important to routinely clean out your drainage pipes by removing any buildup with cleaners or plungers. 

Sprinkle baking soda down your drain periodically will also help to keep unwanted smells away.

Additionally, installing floor traps will help keep food particles and other debris away from your pipes – hopefully keeping those odors away too!

How Often Should You Clean a Stinky Drain?

When it comes to keeping your drain clean and free from nasty odors, regular maintenance is key. Depending on the type of drain and its usage, it may need to be cleaned every couple of weeks or even more often.

When Should I Call a Plumber?

When dealing with stinky drains, there may come a time when it is necessary to call in a professional plumber. This is particularly applicable if you have noticed that the smell is increasing or not going away after attempting to clean the drains yourself.

In such cases, it is likely that there is an issue with the plumbing system – for instance, a clogged sewer line – and getting your drains clean will require expert knowledge and tools to resolve properly.

About the author

An accomplished plumber with more than 15 years of experience in the industry, David "Fitz" Fitzgerald began as an apprentice and steadily worked his way up to become a fully licensed and certified master plumber.

With extensive training in all aspects of plumbing. David is well-versed in the installation, repair, and maintenance of plumbing systems, including pipes, fixtures, and appliances, and is able to troubleshoot and solve even the most complex plumbing issues.

He loves to share his wealth of knowledge and looks forward to engaging with the community here on No Hassle Plumbing.

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