Why Does My Kitchen Sink Drain Smell

How To Stop Your Kitchen Sink From Smelling


There is nothing worse than walking in the front door of your house only to be confronted with a bad odour coming from the kitchen sink!

Why Does My Kitchen Sink Drain Smell?

Every time you cook or use the kitchen, think of the amount of food debris or grease that goes down the drain in your kitchen sink. Even when you wash the dishes, small amounts of food or grease left on the plates, pots or pans run down the drain. These food related debris cause accumulate and build-up on the drainpipes and cause a health risk and a perfect place for bacteria to grow. These particles that are left behind can cause some pretty bad smells!

Figure Out What Is Causing The Problem!

Determining what is causing the smell emanating from your sink will help you to determine what to do in order to rid your sink and your kitchen from that bad odour that seems to penetrate the whole house.

Is It Rotten Food or Something Else?

Even if it smells like rotten food, it can be caused by something worse, the smell of rotten food can mask the scent of a more serious underlying problem. If your drain is operating effectively and dishwater drains away in no time, you think there is no problem, UNTIL you notice “that smell “! That rotten egg odour you are smelling probably means that there is a blockage somewhere along the drainpipes or just under the sink plug where some rotting food has gotten stuck either in the drain or the garbage disposal somewhere. The food debris is just sitting there rotting and the soapy dishwater can’t dislodge it and move it on its way.

What Is The First Step To Remove Bad Odour From My Kitchen Sink?

Always try hot water and dish soap first, the dish soap will cut the grease and the hot water will rinse the greasy film that has built under the sink plug down the drainpipes. First, plug the sink. Now fill the sink at least hallway with hot soapy water, now pull the sink plug out and allow the water to drain. Also, turn on the disposal while doing this.

Next Try White Vinegar and Baking Soda!

First step, pour a cup of baking soda into the drain, follow this by pouring a cup of white vinegar down the drain. Allow this mixture to process for 15 minutes. Now pour at least 8 cups of boiling water down the drain. This will help move any grimy, greasy residue down the drain and the pipes. Is your problem solved yet? If not try this next idea.

Is There Anything Else I can Try To Remove the Bad Smell From My Kitchen Sink?

Would you believe this – Ice cubes, kosher salt and hot water!

Take 4 cups of ice and kosher salt or coarse sea salt, throw this down your drain, run the disposal for 20 seconds.  The ice and salt combination will act like an abrasive and scape of the leftover bits and pieces from the pipes and the sides of the disposal.  To get that clean citrus smell coming from your sink, cut up some lemon or orange peels and use the disposal to grind them.  Ensure that you run the water while doing this as you don’t want these citrus peels getting stuck in the sink, ending up with more food debris lodged in the sink and pipes, causing the whole process to start over!

Make a Kitchen Sink Volcano!

Making a “VOLCANO” in your sink regularly is a good way to clean and maintain your sink and ensure you are not confronted with a bad odour and it deep cleans and sanitises your sink.  This keeps the mould and bacteria from growing.

Place 1 cup of borax, 1 cup of vinegar, and 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide down the drain – Now add water and watch the “volcano” erupt! When you add the water the mixture will foam safely killing all mould and bacteria and deodorizing the sink drain and pipes. Wait 15 minutes and flush this mixture down with at least 10 cups of hot water!

If you add the “volcano” to your weekly cleaning routine, you will never be faced with a sink that smells!

Experts say this method is safe — but don’t mix the three products (borax, vinegar & hydrogen peroxide) into a container, place them directly into your kitchen sink. Combining them creates peracetic acid, which is potentially toxic and can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.

The “Other” smell!

Does the smell coming from your sink have the distinct smell of a sewer?

If there is a sewer smell coming from your kitchen sink that could mean, there is a leak in the drainage system and the sewer gas is leaking back into the kitchen drainpipes. Never ignore a sewer smell coming from the drain. Sewer smells can cause health problems such as:  

  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor memory
  • Dizziness
  • Sinus infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia

 There could be 2 possible reasons for a sewer smell:

  1. There could be a problem with the sink trap, or the plumbing vent has a leak and that is the cause of this problem.  The trap under the kitchen sink’s function is to retain a small amount of water in the “u-shaped” section of the drain. This water that remains in the u-shaped trap is meant to keep unwanted gas fumes from getting into the home and causing that “sewer” smell. The water level in the trap can fluctuate due to changes in pressure. If the water pressure is too high, the water may be forced through the trap. In reverse, if the water level is too low, the pressure in the u-shaped bend drops and allows the gas smell to come through the kitchen drain. A leak in the trap will definitely allow the gas fumes to escape and fill the kitchen and house with that terrible “sewer” smell that is escaping from the drain.
  2. The second area that could be causing the sewer smell is the drain vent. The drain vent is the vertical pipe that has the top protruding from the roof or the side of the kitchen wall, which allows for the gas to escape. If that vent becomes clogged by an object from outside like leaves or a fallen bird nest or just general dust and dirt build up from the garden. If this vent is blocked the fumes cannot escape from the pipes and they then back up into the house. Another possibility is that the vent is leaking, this will also cause the fumes to be unable to escape and back up into the house, causing that sewer smell.

What if my Kitchen Drain Smells Musty?

Sometimes there is a musty smell coming from the kitchen sink. Although the outside of your sink looks clean and probably is if you wash out your sink daily, there is a good chance that mould spores are growing underneath you sink area. Mould loves the moist environment in your drain. AND, not only your drain but also the straight pipes, the u-bend area right down to the P-trap.  Pieces of decomposing food get stuck in all these areas and cause waste to build up.

If mould is collecting and growing in the drain tailpiece, that is the vertical pipe that extends into the P-trap, the best solution is to physically give this area a thorough cleaning with a solution of detergent and warm water. To do this you have to remove the strainer stopper in order to gain access to the tailpiece. Use a coarse cloth or sponge to scrub both the strainer and the stopper. If you have a bottle brush this is the most effective and easy way to give this area a good scrubbing!

How Do I Disinfect a Musty Drain?

The safest and most effective way to do this is by making a solution of baking soda and white vinegar mixed with a small amount of hot water, just enough to make a paste that is not too thick and will run off completely. Allow 15 minutes for this mixture to process, then rinse the drain and pipes by allowing a continuous flow of hot water to rid the drain and pipes. This solution cleans and disinfects at the same time.

What If My Kitchen Drain Smells Like Dirt?

Organic matter (food particles) shouldn’t remain in the sink pipes or traps or u-bend. It should naturally drain out when you rinse the sink with soapy dishwater. The problem arises when starches and congealed oils build up and prevent that from happening. The result a dirty, mouldy moist odour coming right from your kitchen sink!  Every kind of bacteria that you can imagine thrives on darkness and moist places, mix that with the food particles left behind – and you have a dirty smell permeating your kitchen and home. 

Again the best solution here is baking soda mixed with white vinegar and flushed down with warm water.  This multipurpose cleaner kills bacteria and loosens the debris, leaving your drain clean and hygienic!

Remember to Clean Out The Garbage Disposal!

Sometimes when a kitchen sink drain smells bad the smell is coming from the garbage disposal. The simplest way to clean and deodorize the garbage disposal is to slice two or three lemons and grind them in the disposal. To make this treatment more effective first fill the canister with ice as it takes longer for the garbage disposal to grind the combination of ice and lemon than if you were to only use lemon rinds.

Before You Call the Plumber!

We hope you’ve got some idea of how to get rid of odours coming from your kitchen sink.

Just To Make Sure You’ve Got It

Identify and fix the source of the smell to get rid of sink and sewer gas smells for good!

If sewer odours have taken over your home, think twice before calling local plumbers. Here’s how to get rid of bad smells in the house all by yourself. These DIY tips and tricks can help eliminate sewer odours, and you can avoid calling out a plumber and being left with an expensive bill to pay!

Clear The Vents That Let Out The Gasses From The Vents!

In most homes the plumbing vent openings are above the main bathroom in the home. These vents can be blocked by fallen leaves, any wind-blown debris or even by a dead animal.  This causes an obstruction and does not allow the sewer gasses from escaping through the ventilation pipes.

Take These Preventative Measures For Your Drain!

To stop sewer odours from coming back into the house simply add a preventative drain maintenance to your weekly house cleaning routine!

On you weekly checklist add regular drain cleaning and maintenance to prevent the build-up of a layer of smelly film onto your pipes. Avoid using harsh cleaning products by making your own biodegradable solution.

Recipe for Preventative Mixture

1 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup baking soda

Hot water

First pour the white vinegar and baking soda down the sink drain. Leave it to process for an hour! Flush away the mixture with hot water to ensure that all the leftover biofilm is rinsed away.  For a clean fresh smell add an essential oil like lemongrass or lavender to give your drain that fresh clean smell!

Prevention is the key!

To prevent and eliminate residue from building up in the pipes use Sodium Hydroxide mixed with water. This disinfects, kills bacteria and mould, cleans and eliminates odours. Always use latex gloves and wear a mask when handling this product as it is toxic and must be handled with caution. Check in advance whether your house pipes are resistant to this chemical.

Most supermarkets stock cleaning products that clear blockages and prevent bad odours. All chemical products are labelled and have clear instructions, make sure to read the label and follow the instructions before using the product.

I’ve Done This And The Smell Is Still There – Now What Do I Do?

Call the Professionals!

If you have taken all the tips and tricks that we provided and there is still a bad odour, it is time to call the plumber.  Always bear in mind that it’s important to know when it’s time to call in a professional plumber. If the problems or odours persist and you can’t solve your stinky drain problem, call a professional. Don’t risk turning what is possibly a minor problem into a bigger and more expensive one. 

These are the possible problems:

  1. If the P trap is dry – A P trap is the curved pipe attachment on your kitchen sink drain which traps water in order to stop sewer gases from coming back up into your home. Your P trap can dry out, as a basic rule, take a torch and shine it down your sink drain to check whether there is any water in plain view. If you don’t see any water, pour a couple of cups down the drain and wait for about an hour.  If the water is still there, then you have solved the problem. If there is no water visible that possibly means that you need to have your P trap replaced. Don’t try to fix this yourself, the problem is potentially a cracked or split P trap. This replacement will require a professional plumber.
  2. Is your vent pipe blocked – Your drain waste vent pipe is the way your drain releases sewer gases outside of your house. If it becomes blocked, the bad odour will come back into the house. Using our tips above you have tried to clean the drain and get rid of the odour. If this has not worked the vent pipe itself could have a leak or crack that prevents the air from being released to the outside. If this is the case, then you need to call a professional to come and inspect the drainage system and repair or replace whatever part is broken.
  3. Damaged pipework – If the bad odour is continuously recurring regardless of all the methods you have tried to unblock, unclog, deep clean, sanitise and deodorize and the water drains very slowly from your kitchen sink there could be damage to one of the pipes. It is time to call the plumber to inspect and replace or repair the pipe that is damaged.
  4. Broken sewer line – This is the biggest possible problem in any household. Most sewer smells come from the basement where there could be a leak from a cracked or broken sewer line. Damage to sewer lines can often be in areas where the pipes are not visible, such as under the flooring or in the wall pipes. Don’t even think of fixing this yourself. Call a plumber who specializes in finding the leaks and who is able to fix the problem. Broken or damaged sewer pipes are a health risk, so don’t take any chances!

If cleaning your kitchen sink is part of your daily routine and a deep clean of your sink is part of your weekly cleaning routine, and you are using your VOLCANO, you will never be greeted by a smelly kitchen sink and you can rest assured you are living in a healthy bacteria and mould free home!

1 thought on “How To Stop Your Kitchen Sink From Smelling”

  1. Hello! It is very important to keep the kitchen neat and clean. Smelling sinks always destroy the mood of cooking in the kitchen. As you suggest, the use of white vinegar and baking soda can reduce the smell. We tried this at our home. Overall, your blog is very informative, keep writing. Thank you!

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