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Why Do My Drains Smell? Decoding What Drain Odors Mean

Spring is in the air here in San Francisco—the hills are green, the flowers are in bloom, and the rainy season is nearing its end. But if your drains haven’t been cleaned in a while, you may be smelling more than cherry blossoms in the air. Mysterious drain odors can strike any time of year, and they’re always unpleasant issues to deal with. Thankfully, if you’ve got bad odors coming from your drains, you’ve got options.

At George Salet Plumbing, we’ve seen it all in over 40 years of serving the Bay Area, from biofilm to sewer backups. Read on to learn about why your drains might be giving you grief, what you can try to freshen them up, and when it’s time to call a plumber for a professional inspection or drain cleaning service.

Why Does My Drain Smell?

There are a number of reasons your drains might smell unpleasant. The sooner you investigate and get to the bottom of the problem, the better! Here are the top 4 most common reasons for nasty odors in drains.

Buildup of Bacteria and Debris in the Drain Pipes

No matter what kind of drain we’re talking about, buildup is a fact of life. Over time, soap scum, grease, oils, hair, and other debris can get stuck on the inside of your pipes. Bacteria and molds thrive in these moist, gunky environments, which can easily lead to musty-smelling drains in the bathroom, kitchen, and beyond.

Blocked Sewer Vent

If an offending sink or shower doesn’t just smell bad but also drains slowly, a clogged sewer vent could be to blame. The sewer vent usually sends wastewater gases out of your home via a stack on your roof or another outdoor portal. If this vent stack gets blocked, those sewage smells can rise up through the drains.

Dry P-Trap

If you haven’t used a sink in a long time, its P-Trap could be dried up. The P-Trap is the bent, scoop-shaped pipe beneath your sink. It should have water in it to prevent sewer gas from wafting up into your home. But without regular use, this water can evaporate.

Run some water from the tap and see if that solves the problem. Try to use the faucet at least once per month to prevent this issue!

Food Scraps in Your Garbage Disposal

If you have a garbage disposal in your kitchen, those food scraps that you sent down the drain could be coming back up to haunt you. Under normal circumstances, your garbage disposal liquefies food waste to be disposed of with the rest of your home’s wastewater. However, sometimes leftover residue can accumulate and rot, leading to odors.

DIY Remedies for Bad Odor from Drains

Foul-smelling drains can sometimes be a sign of a larger issue. But before you worry, try these DIY remedies.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

You probably already know that baking soda and vinegar make a powerful fizzing reaction. More than just a fun experiment, this concoction makes a great cleanser for drains that smell like mildew due to biofilm (pink-orange buildup) or other types of residue.

Try these steps:

  1. Remove the drain stopper
  2. Pour in ½ cup baking soda
  3. Follow with 1 cup of white vinegar
  4. Wait 10 minutes
  5. Follow with hot (but not boiling) water. (Boiling water has the potential to damage PVC pipes and pipe seals, especially if a clog is present).

Grind Lemons, Ice, and Salt in the Garbage Disposal

If your kitchen sink drain smells bad and you have a garbage disposal, you can clean it with a simple recipe of lemon peels, ice, and salt.

  1. Turn off the electrical breaker to the disposal for safety
  2. Drop several ice cubes, about a tablespoon of salt or baking soda, and a few lemon wedges or drops of lemon juice into the disposal
  3. Turn on your COLD water (always use cold water with garbage disposals)
  4. Run the disposal until the ice is completely cleared

Professional Solutions for Drain Odors

If these DIY methods don’t clear the air, it’s best to call in the pros. Stubborn smells and clogs may require professional drain cleaning methods.

When you call a plumber at George Salet, we’ll perform a professional inspection to identify the source of the smell. Depending on what we find, we may recommend a cleaning service or clog removal. We have a variety of drain-scouring cleaning methods that are gentle on pipes but tough on scum and blockages, such as a drain snake (or augur).

Spring Drain Cleaning: Preventative Measures

Once you’ve tackled the issue, there are a few steps you can take to save yourself trouble in the future.

  • Avoid dumping grease down your drains: While small amounts of oils and fats can’t be avoided completely, don’t dispose of grease or cooking oils down your drains.
  • Use drain strainers: Every kitchen sink should come equipped with a strainer. You can also purchase products that catch hair before it goes down your shower or tub drain.
  • Clean your drains regularly: Use the DIY methods listed above once per month to prevent large buildups from happening in the first place.
  • Get professional drain cleaning annually: Having your drains professionally cleaned once per year can pay dividends in the long run, keeping your drains flowing free and smelling clean!

Count on the Pros at George Salet Plumbing!

If you have a question or concerns about your home’s drains, don’t hesitate to call your local plumbers at George Salet. We’re proud to help our friends and neighbors in the Bay Area keep their home’s plumbing in tip-top condition. Don’t let a dirty drain ruin that spring-clean feeling. Let our skilled, clean, and honest plumbers solve the problem for good!

Clean & Professional Drain Cleaning in the San Francisco Bay Area

Whether you need an annual cleaning or are worried about a serious drain clog, George Salet Plumbing is here to help. With over 40 years of experience, 100% guaranteed work, and fair and transparent pricing, our team is dedicated to quality in everything we do. If you are in San Francisco, call (415) 234-0733, or if you are in the Peninsula, call (650) 557-3833. Or you can contact us online!

Schedule a service with us today!

Schedule a service with us today!

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