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Cleaning your smelly drain to remove odor


Now, we know you're a nice, clean person with nice, clean habits. But sometimes, even the sinks of tidy people can be afflicted with odor. As long as the odor isn't sewer gas (in which case, you have a much more dangerous problem and should consult a plumber right away), you can probably stop the smell by cleaning out the trap under the sink. But there is another site where bad smells congregate.

Some sinks have little, metal pop-up plugs that close the sink by way of a lever that fits into the drain. When you move the handle, the sink drain is open or shut by the metal stopper. The rod that pulls the stopper up and down is a natural place for nasty things to collect, since it drops right down into the drain and everything that goes into the sink goes past or comes into contact with the metal rod. When the soap scum, toothpaste, bits of hair and other assorted goodies collect on the rod, you get bad smells coming from the sink. Over time, enough stuff will build up around the stopper assembly that you may get slow draining or a complete clog.



There is a series of tactics to try when your sink is stinky or clogged. First off, you can try putting a chemical drain cleaner down the sink, (remove the trap and plug the bottom of the drain so the chemical can sit in the pipe drain awhile and work its magic). Because chemical drain cleaners tend to eliminate things like scum, it may resolve the clog and the problem. But if it's a big problem clog, you might need to take apart the pop-up assembly to get the gunk off of it.

It is important to note, that while using a chemical solution may work, most plumbers recommend that you don't use chemicals in your drains. Not only are they bad for the environment, but the chemical could damage your plumbing system as well.


A much better idea than to use a store-bought chemical is to create a chemical reaction with things you already have in your home. Not only is it nearly as effective, but it is safe and inexpensive.


Simply mix around a cup of vinegar with a cup of boiling water and pour it down your drain. Cover the drain with a cloth or plug, and let the chemical react with the scum in your drain. Leave it for 5 - 15 minutes, then pour boiling water down the drain. If this method fails, keep reading.


When vinegar and water alone haven't solved your problem, you can step it up by adding baking soda to the equation. After pouring boiling water down your drain (to help loosen any grime and buildup, pour about a half of a cup of baking soda down the drain. Let this sit for at least 5 or 10 minutes so the chemicals have time to react.

After letting the baking soda sit in your drain for a while, repeat the vinegar method from above, don't forget to cover the drain with a cloth or stopper after pouring the vinegar and boiling water mixture.

If after repeating this process a few times, your drain is still producing an odor, keep reading to learn about non-chemical solutions. If you aren't comfortable taking things apart, this might be a good time to call 1-877-DRPIPES at 1-877-377-4737.


Sometimes the metal stopper can be pulled out of the sink without any extra tools, which is great, because you might be able to use a screwdriver to break up the clog and either pull it out or get it small enough to wash through the pipe. If you can't pull it out, make sure it's in small pieces before you try to wash it away, or you may wind up with a clog even further down the drain. This is important: if your sink is old, the plumbing behind it may be old too, and metal pipes may be thin enough in places to jab a wooden toothpick through their walls. If your pipes are metal and old, you can do some serious damage if you're jabbing away with a screwdriver. So, be careful, work at the clog patiently, and keep the screwdriver from poking against the sides of the pipe.

Once you push or pull the clog out, run the hottest water you can find through the drain to finish cleaning it out.


If the stopper doesn't come out when you pull it, it may be attached to the pop-up assembly, and you'll have to unscrew the rod. You can find it under the sink: it has a big nut on the side, so get your wrench or a pair of pliers and unscrew the nut, which will then allow you to pull the pop-up rod free of the sink. You might need to bend the place where it's attached to get it free, but you can bend it back when you put the sink back together.


When you're doing this work, you may encounter a variety of small metal or rubber rings, called washers. Washers are used when parts join one another, and their job is to make the connection tighter, preventing leaks and keeping parts right up against each other. If you lose a washer or forget to put it back where it belongs, you're going to wind up with a leak. And if you haven't done plumbing or other mechanical tasks before, this is a good time to cover what experienced mechanics do automatically. When you start to take things apart, lay them out on a piece of newspaper in the order in which they were removed. That way, when you aren't sure whether to put the widget before or after the thingamabob, you'll be able to see which comes first. And if you have to remove parts to clean them or replace them, you may even want to take notes, so keep a pencil and paper handy too.


Once you've got the pop-up assembly apart, use a wire brush and some oxygen bleach to scrub off the pop-up and various bits and pieces, including as much of the trap pipe itself as you can get to. Never use chlorine bleach to clean your gunky plumbing as it can mix with soaps or other chemicals and create a dangerous gas. If you really have your act together, you can add some lubricant to the pop-up assembly once you've put it back together, use plumber's grease. Put the grease on the rod where it attaches to other parts, and spread a little on the seals and threads of the pipes. Your pop-up stopper will work smoothly, and you'll have an easier time the next time you take the pop-up apart. Once you've got the whole thing back together, make sure you have replaced and tightened the nut at the underside of the sink, or you'll wind up with a floor full of water when you start to flush the drain. Run a little water down to sink to make sure the nut is holding tight, and then pour plenty of hot, hot water down the drain. This helps any little bits of gunk that you dislodged but didn't remove to slide down the drain.

Take note

Low flow sinks and toilets are great because they save water, but they can be prone to clogs because they don't have the pressure of gallons and gallons of water rushing through them whenever they're being used. If you're having continual problems with clogs, you may want to waste a little water and really give your sink a good flushing out once a month or so. Pouring some chemical drain cleaner down the sink might help to keep your drains clean and clear, as much of the debris that would otherwise settle on the sides of the pipes will be digested by the microbes in chemical drain cleaner. Once the waste is made very small and broken into its organic components, it will tend to liquefy and move on out as wastewater instead of taking up residence in your drains.


If you've found that you're running into problems doing this yourself, or, have decided that it is too time-consuming, don't hesitate to call us at 1-877-DRPIPES (1-877-377-4737). An experienced local plumber will be able to quickly resolve your smelly drain problem.

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