Home Improvements

What to Do if Your Drains Smell Bad

Every now and then, you’re going to have to deal with drains that smell bad. There are a few reasons this might happen, but don’t worry, they’re manageable!

If you’re smelling things like rotten food or musty odours from your drain, it’s best to deal with it immediately. The longer you leave it, the worse it will get. Even if only one drain is smelling bad, it’s worth using these solutions on all of them; that way you make sure the problem isn’t everywhere. 

Keep reading to learn more about the causes that make drains smell bad, and what you can do to fix them. 

White sink with a metal plug and drain system.

Reasons Why Your Drains Smell Bad

There are a few reasons why your drains could smell bad. The most common reasons include:

  • Bacteria and gunk buildup
  • Dry P-trap
  • Clogged vents
  • Congealed grease
  • Faulty drain trap
  • Water problems

Don’t be disheartened by how many causes there are for bad smells coming from your drains! There are also plenty of solutions you can try. 

If the taps haven’t run for a few days, then the P-trap might just be dry. Running the taps for a few minutes should solve this. If you’re still smelling something bad, then it’s probably a buildup somewhere in the pipes. 

Food getting stuck in the pipes can make your drains smell bad. Image of mother and child washing vegetables in the sink.

DIY Solutions for Smelly Drains

Home-made drain cleaners are an efficient solution to tackle bad smells due to buildups. But if you’re worried about the DIY approach, or you don’t have some of the ingredients, you can always use a store-bought drain cleaner. 

These cleaners work by breaking down the bacteria, grease, or whatever else is in the drain. Pouring hot water down afterwards helps clear it out of the way. 

Baking Soda, Salt, and Vinegar

To clear out your drains yourself, use a mixture of baking soda, salt, and vinegar. 

  1. Mix up ½ cup baking soda and ¼ cup salt, then pour down the drain
  2. Start pouring a big bottle of white vinegar into the drain
  3. As the substances create a chemical reaction, you’ll see bubbles and foam rising up from the drain
  4. Let sit for about 15 minutes
  5. Rinse away with just-below-boiling water 
  6. Run the cold water to clear everything out of the drain

This combination is easy to do yourself and sorts out the most common causes of smelly drains. 

It’s best to do this every few months on all your drains, even if they aren’t smelling bad yet. That way you prevent larger problems later on. 

Close up of water running down a drain, with a brown hue over the image. If you don't look after your plumbing system, the drains can smell bad.

Store-Bought Drain Cleaner

If your home-made drain cleaner wasn’t strong enough to solve the problem, then some stronger store-bought chemicals might be needed. Follow the instructions on the bottle carefully, especially any safety instructions. 

These drain cleaners are incredibly effective, but can damage your plumbing if you use them too often. That’s why they’re good as a last resort, but don’t use these for your preventative drain maintenance. 

Close up of a metal drain with lots of very small holes to stop larger particles from going down the drain. This will help reduce the chances that your drains smell bad.

Call a Professional Plumber

When your home remedies aren’t working, it means the problem is more intense. You might have a blockage somewhere down the line that’s causing issues. Or there might be a problem with the plumbing system itself.

If you find yourself in this position, then it’s time to call the professionals

Regardless of the problem, professional plumbers will be able to help you figure out exactly what is causing the bad smells, and offer assistance in fixing it. 

Several pipes connected in a plumbing network.

Improving Drains That Smell Bad

It can be incredibly frustrating when your drains smell bad. Even if you’re doing the proper maintenance, foul odours can find a way to show up. 

On the bright side, they’re fairly easy to fix! Make your own drain cleaner or buy one from the shops, and you should clear up most problems with ease. If you’re still having trouble, it might be a problem with the plumbing. 

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