Smelly drains are the worst! Read on to learn how to clean a smelly drain and keep the smell from coming back.
A bad odor emanating from a drain can make even the cleanest home smell like a stagnant puddle—or worse. Bacteria thrive on the gunk that gets washed into the drain, making your pipes a breeding ground for these nasty creatures and the even nastier smells they produce. Fortunately, there are several ways you can exorcise the evil odors inhabiting your drain and keep the ghosts of past smells from returning to haunt your home.
Try this first: hot water and dish soap
The easiest drain-freshening method, hot water and dish soap, is often effective for new, relatively mild odors. Start by filling your sink with at least a few inches of hot water (close to the top if you don’t suspect a clog) and then add a couple of squirts of dish soap. Let the soap mix in a bit and then remove the stopper as you turn on your garbage disposal to let water pour through the disposal and down the drain. The high volume of water is likely to completely flush through the disposal with enough force to dislodge debris, and the soap will pick up oil and grime.
Try this next: ice, salt and lemon peels
If hot water and dish soap don’t do the trick, your drain and disposal could be harboring some stubborn residue. First, put a few ice cubes down the (turned-off) disposal, then follow up with a handful or two of salt (coarse salt works best). After you turn on the disposal, toss in a few lemon peels. The action of the ice being shredded by the blade should help knock out particles stuck in the disposal and under the blade and the salt provides abrasion for the smaller deposits. The lemon peels create a fresher smell.
Another option: eggshells and citrus peels
Like ice chunks and salt crystals, the abrasive quality of eggshells can help scrub smelly drains. With the disposal off, nudge a handful of eggshells into the disposal cavity. Turn the faucet on full blast and then let the garbage disposal grind away for a minute or two. Follow up with some lemon peels (you can also use orange or lime peels) to introduce a more pleasant scent; just make sure they’re thoroughly ground up by the disposal and run cold water for a few minutes afterward.
No disposal? No problem!
A sink without a garbage disposal can still host a stinky drain. Try pouring one cup of baking soda into your drain followed by two cups of vinegar. You’ll see and hear some fizzing. After the bubbling subsides, run the hottest possible tap water (or pour boiling water, if possible) down the drain to kill bacteria as the abrasive baking soda-and-vinegar mix creates a mild scrubbing action.
Keeping things fresh
You can use baking soda and vinegar preemptively—even as frequently as once a week—to keep your drains fresh. And pouring boiling water down the drain whenever you cook pasta or brew tea is a great way to break up and move bits of residue before they accumulate into big problems.
If a bad smell persists (especially if your drain is also slow), or if the smell is coming from more than one drain in your home, you might have a more complex plumbing issue that needs the attention of a professional plumber.