How to Clean a Stinky Drain

Man holding his nose
You walk into the kitchen or bathroom and instantly detect an unidentified odor. Is it the trash? No, that’s not it. Did the dog have an accident? No, that’s not it, either.

Finally, you realize the malodorous offender is the sink. You turn on the faucet and run the disposal if the sink has one but to no avail. It’s official – you have a stinky drain.

Fortunately, with a little investigating, cleaning, and preventative measures, you can remove the odor and freshen up the drain for good.

What Causes a Stinky Drain?

Sinks are notorious for developing unpleasant smells because various things can go wrong inside the pipes. The most common causes of stinky drains include:

  • Gunk and bacteria: Food, hair, grease, soap particles, and other gunk can line your pipes. Even if they don’t form a clog, they attract bacteria, which release foul odors.
  • Clogged vent pipes: When debris clogs drain vents, water can start to pool in the sink. This sluggish water movement leads to stagnant odors.
  • Sewer gases: Empty P-traps allow sewer gases to rise from the drain. This only happens in sinks that receive infrequent use.
  • Plumbing errors: Missing traps or vents, leaks, and rotting drain tubes can all cause odors to seep from a bathroom or kitchen sink.

Stinky Drain Cleaning Supplies

Make sure you have all the supplies you need to tackle that smelly sink:

  • Near-boiling water or white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Rubber gloves
  • Wrench
  • Bucket
  • Hose
  • Ladder

Cleaning a Stinky Drain

There are various ways to eliminate foul odors from a sink drain. Many people find that combined methods work best. Start with the simplest options and work your way toward the more complicated ones.

  • Pour boiling water or vinegar down the drain: Bring a pot of water or white vinegar almost to a boil, and pour half of it slowly down the drain. Wait for a few minutes, rinse the pipe with cold water to solidify any lingering gunk, and pour the rest of the hot water or vinegar down the drain to wash it away.
  • Pour baking soda and vinegar down the drain: Run hot tap water for several seconds, and then turn the water off. Dump one cup of baking soda down the drain followed by two cups of hot vinegar. Let the concoction fizz. After one hour, flush the drain with hot tap water.
  • Clean the P-trap: Put on rubber gloves and remove the curved portion of the plumbing beneath the sink with a wrench. Empty any water and gunk from the trap into a bucket. Take the P-trap outside and rinse it out with a garden hose. Reassemble the plumbing before using the sink again.
  • Clean the drain vent: In most houses, all drain vents terminate in a single opening on the roof. Climb up a ladder and clear away any leaves or other debris clogging the drain vent.

How to Fix Stinky Drains for Good

Follow these tips to prevent future odors:

  • Run the disposal for 20 seconds every time you dispose of food down the kitchen sink.
  • Pour a gallon of near-boiling water down the drain once a week.
  • Occasionally run the water in rarely used sinks to keep the P-trap full of water. Adding mineral oil slows evaporation.

Professional Drain Cleaning

Mr. Rooter Plumbing offers superior drain cleaning services at an affordable price. To take advantage of our licensed experts, modern plumbing equipment, and 24/7 emergency services, please contact us and schedule an appointment today.

This blog is made available by Mr. Rooter LLC, for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding of the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed plumbing professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.