Stinky Sinks

If you smell a strange and unusual odor coming from your kitchen or bathroom check the usual suspects like the garbage cans first, but if your nose leads you to the sink area you’ll need to further investigate. A stinky sink could be caused by 2 primary reasons. The first and most probable cause of a stinky kitchen sink is bacteria in the kitchen drain and the second most common cause is a leak under the kitchen sink.

A study done in 2007 by Reckitt Benckiser (the company that owns Lysol products) and the Hygiene Council revealed that the kitchen drain has 5 times more bacteria than your bathroom toilet. One of their findings was that an average kitchen sponge had more germs than almost any place in your house. It is recommended that you rinse your sponge after each use in soapy water and squeeze it dry. I have heard that you can put a sponge in the microwave for a couple of seconds (2-3) and that will kill most of the bacteria. It is also recommended that you use a new sponge every month because the bacteria build-up can spread all over your kitchen when you use an old sponge in your kitchen.

Besides your kitchen sponge the kitchen drain is another trap for stinky bacteria. In fact there should be a kitchen pipe under your sink called “the trap” – that squiggly “U” shaped piece of pipe that is used to trap the bacterial gases from coming back up the pipe and exhaling into your house.

To fix a foul smelling kitchen sink you may be able to get by with simply running your disposal or putting something down your drain. If things are starting to back up however, then things become more challenging.

How to clean a stinky sink trap:

First, you’ll need to remove all the stuff stored under the sink so you can get at the trap.

Next you’ll need a bucket to catch any sewage water that may drip from the pipe. If you have standing water in the sink, make sure your bucket is larger enough to hold all the water!

I recommend wearing rubber gloves when working with such high levels of bacteria to protect your hands, and try not to breathe the gasses any more than necessary. In high concentrations these gases can make you ill or even kill.

You may need to use additional lighting so you can see better under the cabinet, so if you have a small lamp you can set it on the floor to provide enough light to see.

Slide the bucket under the sink trap so when you start to loosen it you’ll be ready to catch all that bacteria. Use your fingers to loosen the nuts on both sides of the “U” pipe. If they are too tight you may need a large pair of pliers, but be careful not to harm the pipes.

Once the nuts have been loosened the trap piece of pipe should easily come off if it has not already fallen into the bucket. Leave the bucket in place to catch drips, but take out the trap pipe and clean it in another sink in the house. Notice all the slimy material insideā€¦ that is bacteria. I’ve found a toothbrush and some cleanser work really well at removing the bacteria.

Often the root cause for a backup is a knot of hair that has become caught in and above your trap (hair often catches on the drain plug connection above the trap.)

You will also want to clean the exposed pipe ends under the kitchen sink with a damp rag and some cleanser as well.

Replace the sink trap, tighten the nuts and run water down the sink to look for leaks. If there are no leaks remove the bucket and replace all the items back under the sink.

How to keep your sinks & garbage disposal smelling wonderfully clean:

  • If you have a garbage disposal use citrus peels from oranges, lemons or grapefruit. Not only does this clean the garbage disposal it naturally kills bacteria and makes the kitchen smell really fresh. Do not use too much. Everything you grind in your disposal has the potential to cause a drain clog somewhere down the line.
  • A small amount of bleach mixed with water and poured down the drain will help to kill germs. Be cautious and never mix bleach with other soaps because the toxic fumes are very dangerous.
  • Baking soda and vinegar are mildly effective but I have used this method too.
  • Baking soda and lemon are also popular choices for people who want to naturally clean without toxic chemicals such as bleach.