How to Clean Smelly Drains

Cleaning a Smelly Sink Drain

Smelly drains aren’t just off-putting for you and your guests – they can also be indicative of health hazards and risky plumbing situations. Masking or ignoring the aroma is a big mistake on the way to more costly problems that require complex solutions.

Thus, we put together this handy guide on how to save time, money, and stress while addressing your drain if it is emitting foul odors. Read more to see if home remedies will work and when you need to bring in professional plumbing solutions.

Why Does My Sink Smell?

There are many blockage, product-based, or biological reasons for stinky drains. Some of the most common culprits for bad smelling drains include:

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  • Grime buildup: If your kitchen or bathroom drain is smelly and draining slowly in conjunction, it can indicate a grime buildup from hair, food, or grease. These clogs are tough to break up due to the fats that create the clog. In turn, you’ll start to smell that funk sooner than later.
  • Clogged drains: If your drain or sink is blocked by defects or irregular objects (coins, toy parts, packaging), then it will continue to trap any food or waste that goes down it. In turn, you will have a smelly sink drain.
  • Faulty plumbing: Whether it’s missing vent pipes, or misdirected wastewater from your sump pump, there are multiple plumbing logistic issues that can cause smelly sinks. These especially require professional attention, as they could lead to significant structural damage down the line.
  • Sewer gases: If your P-trap is dry or blocked,  it can cause sewage smell to emanate from your sink. However, it can also be from a system defect, which is much more hazardous and needs to be treated immediately.
  • Leaking or blocked sewer line: The connections and caps that run throughout most household pipes can become leaked or blocked. When this occurs in a sewage line, it can create bad smells and noxious fumes that have long-term health implications.

More than anything else, we advise taking bad smells as warning signs that something is amiss if you cannot clear them with simple remedies. Learning those and having the right professional plumbing solutions in mind can save you money and keep your household healthy.

How to Clean Sink Drains

When you start noticing that your sink smells bad, you should try the simplest methods to solve it first. In our experience, there are several consistent winners to neutralize foul odors:

  • Baking soda and vinegar: Especially for superficial bad smalls, this can be a great way to freshen up a smelly sink. Mix equal parts baking soda and vinegar and run them down your kitchen sink drain (or wherever the odors are coming from). This is not a solution for heavier blockages, however.
  • Ice and lemon (for garbage disposals): Cut a lemon up into chunks and throw them into the drain alongside a reasonable number of ice cubes. Run the disposal until the ice cubes have dissipated and the lemon is all disposed of. This process will let the citrus and rind texture clean the blades while freshening up your drain.
  • Clean the P-Trap: Sometimes, the smell in your bathroom is from the P-Trap, but not the kind that immediately comes to mind. The curved portion of pipe under your sink can cause sewer gases to accumulate and odorize a room. Removing the aerator cap and removing any buildup or gunk can alleviate simple blockages or biomatter that is affecting your P-Trap.

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  • Clean the vent trap: Your vent pipe carries sewer gases to exit points to be released safely outdoors. However, as it typically is released from a rooftop, it can get clogged with leaves, animal debris, or snow. As a result, it will push the sewer gases back into your drain and cause it to both smell and be harmful. Clean it out by spraying water with a hose into the external area – or more realistically get professional plumbing services so you are not putting yourself at risk.
  • Hot water and vinegar: Sometimes, the simplest solutions can provide respite from bad drain odors. Run a mixture of hot water and vinegar down a stinky sink to remove light buildup from organic matter and keep your pipes fresh.
  • Use a plunger or an auger: The most effective plumbing home-remedies are using tools that will physically remove buildup and bio matter from your drains and pipes. A plunger can help pass the matter through if it is stuck, and you can use a hand auger to effectively clear drains, P-Traps, and other smelly areas of the materials causing the odor.
  • Hydrojetting: This professional plumbing solution is eco-friendly, safe for your pipes, and can help eliminate the toughest odor issues from any set of pipes. Hydrojetting is essentially pressure washing your pipes to scour them of the buildup and bio matter that is causing the most insidious smells. Grease, hair, and any other grime will be removed, and this practice can target clogs far deeper than typical remedies.

While we always advocate seeing if the simplest fixes work for home plumbing, the reality is that many remedies will just waste your time and money. Working with a reputable plumbing company will allow them to properly assess odor issues and only charge you for the necessary services to keep your plumbing ecosystem healthy.

How to Prevent Smelly Drains

In most cases, the best way to avoid stinky sinks is a prevention system. This means implementing best practices including:

  • Run the garbage disposal: In order to keep things ultra-fresh in your kitchen sink, run the disposal for 20 seconds with water after putting anything down there. Quick pulses without proper water flow will just dice up matter and coat the blades/pipes, leading to smelly kitchen sinks.
  • Avoid certain materials: Some things are better off scraped into the trash due to their density or biological composition. Food waste from oils, butter, grease, rice, pasta, or coffee grounds are exceptionally difficult and can lead to clogs/smells.

Read more about what items you should and shouldn’t put down the drain.

  • Use drain strainers: Also known as a sink strainer, these metal sieves or mesh sieves cover your drain openings to catch larger items while still allowing water to pass through. Simply put, if it is getting caught in the drain strainer, there’s a good chance it would be caught in your pipes.

cleaning a drain

These preventative plumbing tips will work wonders for your sinks and drains. Make sure to do them consistently in tandem for best results, and to consult a professional plumber if these methods are not enough to prevent odorous drains. 

Get to the Bottom of Your Smelly Drain Problems

At Deer Valley Plumbing, we know how important it is to have reliable plumbing that doesn’t stink up your house. That’s why our experienced team of licensed plumbers will work hard to offer short and long term solutions to keep your plumbing ecosystem thriving.

If you are looking for top-notch plumbing services in Phoenix, please reach out today. We’d love to help keep your property pristine and odor-free.


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