How To Clean Stinky Drains

How to clean stinky drains from Living with two males and two (male) cats, I wind up playing “What’s That Smell?” far more often than I like. Most of the time, I can trace the source of the stench back to one of the males. Most of the time… but sometimes the source is a nasty sink drain. Fortunately, smelly drains are easy to clean and, if you make a habit of it, you can keep them odor-free.

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How To Clean Stinky Drains

Easy: Often, the smell is caused by stray hairs and other debris getting stuck in soap scum lining the drain. Eliminate that stuff quickly by pouring a couple of quarts of boiling water down the drain. Wait five minutes, then pour an equal amount of cold water down the drain to force any remaining grease to congeal. Finally, repeat the boiling water flush to remove that last bit of congealed stuff. (Do be sure to have a plunger handy, just in case.)

Easier: Boil four cups of white vinegar. Pour two down the drain, rinse with cold water, follow with the rest of the hot vinegar. This usually powers through any small clogs in the drain (which are often the source of the smell).

Easiest: Run hot water down the drain. Turn the water off. Dump a cup of baking soda down the drain. Pour two cups of hot vinegar down the drain. (Watch out, it’ll fizz.) Wait a half hour then flush the drain with hot, if not boiling, water.

How To Keep Your Garbage Disposal From Smelling

Using any of the above methods every week or two will keep your drain from developing a nasty residue that can lead to small clogs, but sometimes kitchen garbage disposals need a bit of extra help. Here are two things you can do that will keep your kitchen sink smelling fresh all the time.

Run ice cubes in the disposal: Not only are they hard enough to help clean the disposal blades, but the cold temperature will help collect any excess grease in your disposal and carry it away.

Grind citrus peels: My mother simply shoves half a lemon down her disposal and lets it whir around until it’s gone. That clogs my older sink, though, so I slice my lemon or orange peels up before whirring them. It does give a nice smell to the sink and, thanks to the acidic action of the citrus, it helps carry away any greasy buildup.

A few minutes a day while you’re at the sink, and a minute or two as part of your weekly cleaning routine, can clean stinky drains. What solutions do you have to keep your drains from stinking up your house? Share in the comments!

Equipment I Use For This:


  1. FLreader says

    Hi! Thanks for the great tips on eliminating that awful odor which recently invaded my kitchen sink drain. Hot water + vinegar did the trick!

  2. Plainer says

    I’ve read all the suggestions when I had this problematic odor from the kitchen sink but none of them worked. On a separate note, I prevent bathroom sinks from clogging by draining them every day by filling the sink with water up to the brim and then draining it. I have not bought Liquid Plumr for a couple years since I started this ritual. I figured why not do the same with the kitchen sink? After I wash the dishes, I turn on the faucet and I run the garbage disposal unit before draining the sink of the water. When I do that, I then drain the sink of the water while the disposer is running. After the water has drained I let the water faucet run for another 15 seconds for good measure. Do this for a couple days after you wash your dishes and presto, the odor has disappeared. What the other suggestions don’t factor into the solution to this problem is gravity. You need to have gravity of the water to do the work for you when eliminating kitchen sink odors and also unclog your bathroom sinks to boot. If you don’t , you will waste money buying drainage products you really don’t need.

  3. Kay Randal says

    Use the same method as above with the addition of Ajax when you clean a disposal with ice. I’ve had very good luck with that method. A very old method used to clean a sink or disposal is to dump in half a cup or a little more of baking soda followed by about a cup of white vinegar. Once the fizzing stops run water and turn on the disposal. Run cold water for 20 seconds or so after you turn off the disposal. If you’re using this method to clean a drain leave it set in the drain until after the fizzing stops and then run in some water to clean any leftover baking soda residue. Another method that works extremely well for a disposal is to put some Dawn dish washing soap into the disposal then run hot water as you run the disposal. Run for a minute or so. Then put Dawn down the drain again and runin a little hot water. This time just leave the Dawn and hot water in the disposal. This method is extremely effective for hard to remove odors.

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