5 Ways to Fix a Stinky Sink Drain, According to Plumbers

updated Jul 10, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

There are lots of opportunities for offensive smells to form in the kitchen. But very few things can reek quite as badly as the drain in your kitchen sink. It’s essentially a hidden highway for odors. Luckily, a stinky drain is usually pretty easy to remedy.

To find out the very best ways to tackle a stinky sink drain problem, we asked the people who know best: plumbers. Straight from the experts’ mouths, here are the best ways to fix a pungent-smelling drain.

Note: Keep in mind that it’s important to know when it’s time to call in a professional. If these straightforward methods don’t solve a persistent stinky drain problem, call a pro, so you don’t risk turning a possibly small problem into a bigger and more expensive one. 

1. Stock up on special disposal tablets and sink deodorizers.

The predominant cause of stinky kitchen sink drains is food particles. As Bryant Scaife of B.E. Scaife Plumbing tells us: “If you put food down the disposal or drain and it doesn’t get washed all the way through, the particles will start to rot. This is why you tend to notice the smell first thing in the morning — because the food’s been sitting all night.” 

The first thing you should do when you notice a smell coming from your kitchen sink drain is run the water — this may flush the offensive food down through the pipes. If the smell lingers and you have a disposal, drop a few lemon-scented disposal tablets down the drain and run the disposal. Mr. Scaife points out that even those without a garbage disposal can benefit from similar sink deodorizers, which can be dropped down a regular drain to help mask any lingering acute smells. 

Chris Johnson of Genteel Plumbing also recommends those sorts of lemon-scented tablets or, if you have a disposal, putting actual lemon peels down the drain and running the disposal.

2. Run enough water every time you wash dishes.

We’re not saying you should waste water, but running too little water through your drains can cause problems because food can get stuck if water isn’t flushing the debris out. 

Scaife explains the problems that arise with over-exuberant water conservation. If you don’t run enough water, it can’t flush through the system to get the pipes clear. When we wash dishes, the water not only helps us get our dishes clean, but it also performs this flushing function. Don’t be afraid to “Turn the kitchen sink on and step back and let the water flow,” Scaife says.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Pour some boiling water down the drain.

In addition to actual pieces of food, Johnson also warns of grease, which over time becomes thicker and can trap food, eventually leading to odors wafting up through the drain. 

To fix grease buildup and prevent its repercussions, Johnson recommends using boiling water, and only boiling water. He describes the technique: “Boil a lot of hot water, plug up the sink, put hot water in. Drain the water while the disposal is running.” If you don’t have a disposal, just pour the water right in. The quick rush of hotter-than-usual water will flush out the food and the grease buildup. 

Credit: Cat Meschia

4. Put ice down your disposal.

Scaife also suggests using ice to help clean your disposal blades of bits of food that might be left behind during normal use. Simply drop the cubes into the disposal and run it. The bigger chunks of ice will help to dislodge food that’s clinging to the blades. 

Related: How To Clean a Garbage Disposal

5. Flush your drain twice a year. 

In addition to regularly using the disposal and running enough water through the drain, it’s also a good idea to do a longer flush every once in a while. Twice a year or so, says Scaife. To perform a flush of your pipes, just turn on the water and let it run for two to three minutes. 

How do you deal with a stinky sink drain? Leave your tips in the comments below.