You walk into your house to discover a lingering, unpleasant scent. You take out the garbage, check the refrigerator for expired food, spray some deodorant…but the smell is still there. You search everywhere to discover the source of the stench, only to be taken aback when you realize it’s your kitchen sink!
Don’t worry, smelly sinks are a fairly common problem – especially for households priding themselves on home cooked meals. There are many common causes for stinky sinks. Bacteria build-up in the drain pipe, decomposing food particles in the garbage disposal and ventilation issues can all lead to odor issues in the kitchen. Fortunately, you are not doomed to a smelly food preparation area.
Dealing with Bacteria
There are many ways to deal with bacteria build-up in your drains – many of them household remedies and Eco-friendly. We recommend avoiding harsh chemicals in the kitchen to reduce food contamination. DO NOT mix bleach and commercial drain cleaners like Drano as the chemicals can mix to form a poisonous gas such as chlorine.
Pour ½ cup baking soda and 1 cup white vinegar into the drain. Allow solution to react and foam for 5-10 minutes. Clear out by pouring several cups of hot (but not boiling) water down the drain.
Use a bio-enzyme drain cleaner.
Taking Care of Food Particles
If your issue turns out to be decomposing food particles caught in your garbage disposal, try filling the drain with two cups of ice and a cup of salt. Then, turn on the cold water and run the disposal until the ice is gone. Follow this up with baking soda/vinegar cleanse or a bio-enzyme drain cleaner to ensure the food particles are thoroughly flushed from the system.
Vanquishing Stinky Vents
When a cleansing of the disposal and the bacteria does not resolve the stench, you likely have a ventilation problem. In this case, the smell pervading your home is sewer gas which could mean either the sink trap or the plumbing vent is the issue.
To check the sink trap, look under your sink. The trap is the sharp bend in the tubing below the drain – forming a “U”. The sink trap is designed to create a water barrier between your sink and the sewer outlet, preventing sewer gasses from entering the home. In some uncommon scenarios, there is no sink trap. If this is the case, you may want to consider installing one. If there is a sink trap, check for leaks that could be causing the barrier waterline to be too low.
You have tried cleaning the drain, clearing the disposal and there are no leaks in the sink trap. What now? You may have a blockage or leak in your drain vent. Check for leaks first and, if there are none, snaking the vent should be able to clear any blockage and solve your stinking sink problem.