Knowing how to clean stinky drains will help you keep kitchen odors under control. It’s certainly helped me.
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 guys. Sometimes it’s their shoes — and, sometimes, it’s them. (Related: How to Deodorize Smelly Shoes.)
Other times, the source is a nasty sink drain, and I can’t blame the guys about that at all. Smelly drains are usually the result of built-up food residue. Fortunately, smelly drains are easy to clean and, if you make a habit of it, you can keep them odor-free.
Ways to Clean Smelly Drains
There are a variety of ways to clean stinky drains. Many people find that a combination of methods works best. Choose the one that’s most convenient to start, then try another approach if the smell persists.
Try Hot Soapy Water First
Often, stray hair and other debris get stuck in soap scum that’s lining the pipe and make the drain stinky. So, try this simple method to clean the drain first and see if it solves the problem.
- Stir a couple of drops of liquid dish detergent into two quarts of very hot water and pour this down the drain.
- Wait for five minutes, then follow with cold water to solidify any remaining grease.
- Finally, repeat the hot water flush to remove the congealed matter.
Vinegar Cleans Stinky Drains
Vinegar is a fantastic deodorizer. Since white vinegar contains acetic acid, it neutralizes alkaline sources of odor. It also cuts through grease and has disinfecting properties, so it can help clean smelly drains by dissolving biofilm or other material.
- Heat four cups of white vinegar until it simmers, not boils.
- Pour half down the drain then run water for a minute.
- Repeat with the remaining hot vinegar.
This method powers through small clogs, which are often the source of the drain’s smell.
Scour the Drain with Baking Soda
Remember the baking soda and vinegar “volcano” you made in grade school? That same foaming action can clean stinky drains and eliminate the smell.
- Run hot tap water down the drain for a minute. Turn the water off.
- Dump 1 cup of baking soda down the drain and chase it with 2 cups of hot vinegar down the drain. (Watch out, it’ll fizz.)
- Wait 10-15 minutes for the fizzing to stop then flush the drain with hot tap water.
How To Keep Your Garbage Disposal From Smelling
Sometimes, the problem isn’t a stinky drain but a garbage disposal that needs cleaning. Here are two things you can do to keep your sink’s disposer smelling fresh and working well.
Run Ice Cubes Through It
Ice cubes are hard, so they scour the disposal blades while it runs. The cold temperature also helps collect any excess grease in your garbage disposal and carry it away.
- Do the hot water method approach above to clean smelly drains. This step ensures your drain is free of small clogs, so the steps below don’t cause a problem.
- Turn the disposer and faucet off, and push two cups of ice cubes past the rubber flanges into your disposer.
- Turn on the cold water tap full blast, then turn on the garbage disposal. Let it run for two minutes.
- With the disposer still running, switch the tap to hot water. Let that run for another minute, then turn off both the garbage disposal and the water in that order.
Grind Citrus Peels or Egg Shells
My mother shoves half a lemon down her disposal and lets it whir around until it’s gone. This approach cleans her garbage disposal and smelly drain at the same time. Using an entire lemon clogs my drain, though, so I slice it into wedges.
You can substitute eggshells for the citrus peels if you happen to have some on hand. (Related: 9 Genius Uses for Eggshells.)
- Slice a piece of citrus fruit into wedges. (I keep a bag in the freezer stocked with ones I’ve juiced for recipes, and slice them before adding them to the bag.)
- With the garbage disposal and faucet off, tuck the sliced citrus wedges past the rubber flanges into your disposal.
- Turn the faucet to cold water and open it full blast, and start the garbage disposal. Let it run for two minutes then switch to hot water for another minute.
- Turn the garbage disposal and water off. Wait for the blades to stop moving.
- With the disposal OFF, reach inside to ensure that all of the citrus peel is gone. Remove any remaining bits you find, so they don’t clog your sink.
Cleaning both stinky drains and garbage disposals every week will help reduce household odors. They’re great ways to prevent fruit flies from breeding in your kitchen, too.