Why Do My Drains Smell?

Updated July 20, 2017

Drain smells can range from unpleasant to downright unbearable, and they are embarrassing when company visits. These odours are typically caused by clogs in the plumbing. Drain smells can also be caused by obstructed vents or damaged sewer lines. Removing any obstructions will usually eliminate the odours.

Slowly Draining Drains

Drains that empty slowly indicate clogs in the plumbing. The simplest method for clearing these obstructions involves taking apart the p-trap and removing any visible material. Using a plumber's wrench, loosen the fitting near the curved pipe under your sink. Remove the pieces of pipe, clear any visible debris and put it all back together.

If this does not completely take care of the slow-draining drain, there are probably clogs further down the plumbing line. This will necessitate the use of a plumber's snake. A plumber's snake is a flexible coil that is extended down the drain and through the plumbing line. The tool is rotated while it is advanced, and this twisting action helps remove clogs along the way. Extend the plumber's snake as far as possible and then retract it. It may be necessary to repeat this process several times.

Other Possible Obstructions

Clogs can also occur in the vent that exits the house on the roof. These are commonly caused by a build-up of leaves. Obstructions in the vent must be cleared using a special snake inserted from the roof vent downward. Work of this nature is dangerous and best left to a professional plumber.

Damaged or clogged sewer lines can also cause odours to appear in the home. Cleaning or repair of these lines requires extensive labour and specialised tools. This is another job that is best left to professionals. Work performed by unskilled homeowners can cause unnecessary damage that will then require professional help, resulting in additional costs and delays.

Chemical Cleaning Method

Many drain-opening chemical solutions are sold at home improvement stores and grocery or discount stores. While they are effective at removing clogs in drains, they consist of caustic materials that are dangerous to humans. Overuse of these chemicals can also damage plumbing pipes. If these solutions are employed, always wear gloves and safety goggles during their application. Wash hands well after use and store chemicals safely out of reach of children.

Natural Cleaning Method

A safer, more environmentally friendly option can be found in your pantry. A mixture of salt, baking soda and vinegar can quickly clean the pipes and deodorise at the same time. Pour ½ cup of table salt down the drain, followed by ½ cup of baking soda. Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into the drain. The vinegar reacts with the baking soda, creating a bubbling foam. This foam moves the salt around, scouring the inside of the pipe and loosening small clogs. Once the bubbling stops, pour 2 cups of boiling water into the drain. This will help to flush any loosened debris. Administer this cleaning method monthly to keep clogs from forming.

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About the Author

Ma Picard began writing professionally in 1995. She has been published in various media, both print and online. Writing topics include health and wellness, literature, family issues, gardening and simplicity. Her work appears on eHow, One Healthy Lifestyle, North Valley Magazine, and several other websites. With experience in an ever-growing variety of fields, Picard writes to share her knowledge with the world.