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Cleaning Smelly Drains

Bacteria growing in your drain can produce odors that waft throughout the house. This is a guide about cleaning smelly drains.

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March 1, 2015 Flag
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My kitchen still has a "sour smell" emanating from the kitchen drain. I cleaned the garbage disposal with lots of ice cubes and lots of running water. I have a septic tank which was pumped 3 months ago and I was told I should never use bleach because it deteriorates the seals? A while back I tried baking soda and vinegar, but it didn't help long. I also have a dishwasher. Jeez. Someone please tell me what else I can do.

By Maryann

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March 2, 20150 found this helpful

A plumber might be able to find and remove or repair the problem.

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March 2, 20150 found this helpful

I will assume it isn't beyond the disposal unit. I used to put citrus peelings through my disposal. just the peelings ... no pulp, seeds or stringy stuff. It makes it smell really fresh and clean. Another thing I remember my Mama doing when I was a little kid was to pour boiling water down the kitchen sink. We had no disposal so she had to keep things super clean.

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June 9, 2015 Flag
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Like a lot of others who have asked similar questions, I too have moldy and bad odors coming from my drains. When we shower or run the water, or let the water out, there is a bad odor, and moldy odors that travel throughout the house through the AC vents. I can see the mold on the inside of the PVC pipe in one side of the kitchen drain. I have tried bleach, and baking soda and white vinegar.

When I have mold start on the caulk on the side of the tub, I spray bleach on it, and it sets and gets rid of the mold. But how can I plug up the inside of the sink drain, so the bleach or whatever, can set right there on the mold to soak it and remove it. Anything poured down the drain just runs off and can't set on it and soak it. Is there something that I can put down the drain to temporarily plug it up in there, so the bleach can soak the mold loose off the inside of the drain? Something that could dissolve slowly. A plumber wants to sell us a $50.00 gallon of stuff, but how can it soak it if it just runs on down the drain? I wish I could get a small scrub brush down the drain to scrub he mold off. Thanks!

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    June 14, 20150 found this helpful

    I had the same problem a few years when I went away to Holland to stay 2 weeks with one of my sons. When I returned there was a horrible odour in the kitchen, before I filled the kettle for my cup of tea, I had a good look at the little drain-hole in my steel sink, it had a wee screw in the middle; I got a screw-driver and removed same, then took the fitting off, poured bleach and bicarb soda and lemon juice in to the hole, and with a thin bottle brush scrubbed all down the insides (the amount of black that came off was quite a surprise).

    Boiled the kettle up and poured this down the plug hole. Then put everything back in place in the plug hole and screwed the wee screw back in the sink hole. What a lovely odour I had ever since. Try this, it worked for me. Cheers, Geraldine in Coventry West Mids.

    PS Be sure to insure the wee screw is tightened securely, or else you will have a leak!

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    April 7, 2009 Flag

    My sink has a moldy, mildew smell that I cannot figure out. It smells like a dishrag that has soured. I do not have a disposal or anything, it is just a plain sink. I have looked under my sink and there is a small dried puddle but it does not stink under there at all and it does not seem to be leaking anymore for whatever reason.

    I have used bleach and I did the baking soda and vinegar thing. It works for a day or two and then that smell is back. I can walk by and get a whiff of that smell and it makes me furious! What can I do? Is there a service for this?

    By sweetie6116 from GA

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    April 10, 20090 found this helpful

    Some kitchen sink drains have a vent device that is located right under the sink. It's a lousy design & I've only seen it installed in rural areas where building codes are not enforced very effectively. It is also sometimes installed on sinks located in an "island" counter. All house waste drains need to be vented to prevent the "glub-glub" sound that also can cause back-ups due to too much air in the waste pipes. Normally, waste water drains are connected to vent pipes hidden in the walls that go up through the roof.

    If you have this undersink vent, it can get wet on occassion & mildew forms in it. Have someone who knows a little about plumbing to see if this is the case. They are easy to spot. A plumber can remedy the situation.

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    April 10, 20090 found this helpful

    If your house is older like mine, there is no exhaust pipe from the sink drain up through the roof. My main sewer pipe has one but it is not near the kitchen so I also have the problem.

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    April 13, 20090 found this helpful

    You can purchase the stuff for bacteria in the pipes. Certain times of the year I find this issue. Maybe we don't use one bathroom more than the kitchen, etc. Running daily water is important.

    Under your kitchen sink, replace the pipes. And note, the poly plastic ones do come loose at the rings much faster. I have a dishwasher (portable) which dumps water down the sink, then I have no problems. In the heat of the year, you can get fruit flies setting up shop in the drains too. Nasty, pesky things, that like the residue left in the pipes. Take a large kettle, boil water, pour down drains daily.

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    August 27, 20090 found this helpful

    You can also crush up some denture cleaning tablets or alka seltzer tablets throw them in the drain & add a cup of water and let it bubble for a little while, then flush with hot water.

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    May 18, 2007 Flag
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    I am in need of some help with my kitchen sink. It has a mildew/mold smell coming out of it, it has the slots in it so i can't stick anything down it and I don't have a garbage disposal. I have tried lemon juice, bleach, baking soda and don't know what else to try. Does anyone have any ideas?

    Thanks,
    Jen from Eau Claire, WI

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    May 25, 20070 found this helpful

    The first day that we moved into our rental home, I thought there was a terrible odor coming from the kitchen drain and tried everything to get rid of it with no luck.

    I finally realized it was the water not the drain. I was used to well water and this was "city" water.

    Needless to say, I now use a water filter in the kitchen. I still don't enjoy a shower though, I can still smell that awful odor.

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    October 21, 20070 found this helpful

    This is really helpful- I have the same problem in our master shower. It's a brand new house, so I am assuming with the damp weather and daily showers that mildew has simply grown in the drain- thanks for the tips!

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    August 10, 20080 found this helpful

    I was having this problem in my bathroom sink, The sink also has an overflow / vent built into the sink. It worked better when I poured the vinegar in and added baking soda then put the plug back in the sink so it would also flow through the overflow.

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    Anonymous Flag
    March 17, 20110 found this helpful

    I get a mildew smell coming out of my washing machine. Any idea what is going on? And, how do I get rid of it? c major

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    October 13, 2008 Flag
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    What can I do to get rid of a musty smell coming from the sink drain?

    Stephen from Penns Creek, PA

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    October 14, 20080 found this helpful

    Pour baking soda down the drain and let it sit for a while, then pour some white vinegar down the drain, too. IT will bubble up and help clean the trap and the pipes leading up from it.

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    October 14, 20080 found this helpful

    I pour about 2 cups of clorox down my sink drains about every 2 weeks or anytime you notice odors. it works great. also, avoid pouring grease down your sink at anytime. I also swear by new MR CLEAN W/ FEBREZE for any cleaning job. It smells great and cleans even better.

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    October 16, 20080 found this helpful

    Baking soda is recommended to freshen drains. Put water in with it,as vguy says. Don't bother with vinegar -- it will neutralize the baking soda, so it wont' do its job. If you use bleach, do not use it with the baking soda, as they may combine and cause a poisonous gas. Don't mix bleach with anything except detergent. Nothing else is safe.

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    October 19, 20080 found this helpful

    Homemade Drain Cleaner

    Pour 1/4 cup baking soda into your drain, add 1 cup white vinegar. Allow this to bubble for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup boiling water, & let stand for 5 minutes longer. Then flush running tap water through for a few minutes. If you have a double sink, do one side first before doing the other side. Not both at the same time.

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    March 17, 2014 Flag
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    How to remove odor that comes up from the tub drain when taking a shower or doing laundry?

    By C. F.

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    July 14, 20160 found this helpful

    Odor is what results from organic material breaking down. Somewhere in those lines you have either a soap buildup, or grease, hair, food or something that is decaying, possibly even tree roots. I would start with a draino like product, used according to bottle directions, followed by several gallons of boiling water. If you are on a septic tank, that is often an indication your tank needs to be cleaned out.

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    February 24, 2009 Flag
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    How can you get rid of smells coming from the sink drain?

    Karen from MI

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    February 24, 20090 found this helpful

    My parents had the same problem. We dumped 1/2 cup (for each drain) of vinegar down all the drains at the same time and let it sit without running water. We did that for a week, and about the 2nd day you could really tell the difference in the smell.

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    February 28, 20090 found this helpful

    I've used bleach for this problem before, and it was quite effective- we have a double sink in the kitchen (no disposal), and occasionally, it gets that funky smell- I just pour about a quarter of a cup of bleach down each drain, let it set for about half an hour, and we're good to go. Good luck! :)

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    March 4, 20090 found this helpful

    Use 1/2 cup of salt (I like a more course salt, but regular salt works fine), pour this down the drain. Next pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain. Now get ready to cap the drain quickly, pour 1 cup of white vinegar down the drain and cap it until the bubbles stop, about 1 minute. Kids love watching that part. Next follow with a kettle full of boiling water. Use hot tap water to clean up any spilled salt or soda in the sink.

    The salt acts as a corrosive to clean the drain walls, the baking soda is an odor absorber and acts with the vinegar to "shake-up" the salt when it bubbles and the vinegar is acidic for cleaning and an odor eliminator. The boiling water helps dissolve the salt and washes away any leftover gunk in the drain. Clean your drains once a month and it prevents clogs too.

    This was taught to me by the clean water council as an alternative to the dangerous and caustic chemical drain cleaners. It's thrifty and efficient and best of all won't burn your skin or lungs like commercial cleaners.

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    April 30, 20150 found this helpful

    I tried the 1/2 cup each of salt & baking soda. I couldn't fit that much in my drain because of the bend for my double sink. It clogged everything up & I had to get out the plunger. I tried a 2nd time with 1/4 each of salt & vinegar. I could hear the bubbling in the 2nd sink drain. It seems that has cured the problem, but my nose is full of the smell of vinegar. I'll know by tomorrow if it really worked.

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    March 29, 2010 Flag
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    I have an odor coming from the overflow drain in my bathroom sink. What is causes it and how do I get rid of it?

    By Lynda

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    March 31, 20100 found this helpful

    If it's the drain that stinks, use a flashlight & look down the pipe to see if you see anything in there. We had that problem a couple of times & it was from someone (a kid) dropping something down the sink & not telling us. Once it was a toothbrush & once a paintbrush. They can't go down the drain, so they sit there & gather slime & bacteria & get really gross! Once we took the elbow pipe off & cleaned it out, the smell was gone.

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    March 31, 20100 found this helpful

    I put a small amount of chlorine with water down it. I haven't had a problem since.

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    November 21, 2011 Flag
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    How do I keep my shower drain from smelling foul?

    By Maria

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    November 21, 20110 found this helpful

    Use baking soda and vinegar. Or baking soda and lemon juice or lime juice.

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