Drain odors are a common problem in many homes
and are typically noticed when running the water
in a sink, shower or bathtub. Initially it seems
that the water stinks, but a little detective
work and proper knowledge will help you discover
and eliminate the source of the odor.
To determine where the smell is coming from,
plug the drain before running the water, so your
nose is not already filled with the odor. Now
turn the water on. If you don't detect the
smell, then the culprit is probably a
combination of rotting, mildewing dirt and hair
debris lodged in the P-shaped trap under the
fixture and a buildup of a bacteria-filled slime
layer (biofilm) on the sides of the vertical
drain pipe. As water rushes past the slime and
debris, odor-causing molecules dislodge and
drift up out of the drain into your nose.
To eliminate the odor's source, remove the
strainer cover from the shower drain or the
stopper mechanism from the sink drain so you can
see into the drainpipe. Use soap and water and a
larger-diameter bottlebrush to thoroughly clean
the underside of the strainer, the stopper
mechanism, the drain assembly and the sides of
the vertical drainpipe, then rinse thoroughly
with hot water. In addition, pour a solution of
one or two parts household bleach to 10 parts
water into the drain and let sit overnight to
kill the odor-causing bacteria. The bleach
solution is also helpful if the drain cover or
stopper mechanism cannot be removed.
If you don't like using chemicals, have a septic
system, or are cleaning a garbage disposal drain
that can be damaged by bleach, consider this
natural drain cleaner. Pour 1/2 cup of baking
soda into the drain followed by 1/2 cup of white
vinegar. The baking soda is basic and the
vinegar is acidic, so they will react with a
churning action that will help clean the drain.
Also, if a sink or shower is used infrequently,
the water in the P-trap below the drain can
evaporate allowing sewer gasses to come up
through the drain into your home. To prevent
this from happening, make sure the trap never
dries out by periodically running water in the
sink or shower."
Does your hot water smell?
Even though Johnson Utilities chlorinates every water source before it
enters the distribution system, sulfur or
"rotten-egg" odors can build up in water
heaters. Incidences of these odors in hot water
are primarily due to the presence of sulfates
and their reaction with sulfate-reducing
bacteria that can thrive in the conditions
provided by a water heater. The odors may occur
due to one or a combination of the following
factors: setting the water heater temperature to
low, and/or inactivity during vacations when the
water sits for days, weeks or months.
Despite the offensive odor, the presence of
sulfates at levels detected in the Johnson
Utilities drinking water and the
sulfate-reducing bacteria living in the water
heater are not harmful to your health. This
simple test will help you determine whether the
odor is coming from the hot or cold water:
Cover the drain (odors commonly occur in the
drain pipe) and run the hot water. Note if you
detect the rotten-egg odor. Next, move to
another faucet in the house, cover the drain and
run the cold water. If you determine that the
odor is only in the hot water, then it is most
likely originating in the water heater.
The remedy may be as simple as killing the
bacteria with increased heat. Sulfate-reducing
bacteria die at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water heaters are factory set at 140 degrees,
which is the medium setting on the temperature
control dial. Increasing the temperature to the
high setting 160 degrees Fahrenheit for several
hours should kill the sulfate-reducing bacteria.
It is just as important to then flush the water
heater to remove the dead bacteria. The fastest
way to do this is by turning on the hot water in
the bathtub for 10 to 15 minutes. CAUTION: The
hot water tank must have an operable pressure
relief valve; otherwise this method of treatment
may be dangerous. The temperature setting must
be reduced following treatment to prevent
scalding hot water and to avoid high energy
How to Clean a Sink Drain
How to Clean a Sink Drain
Is your drain sluggish or backed up? It's a good
idea to clean your drainage pipes to keep them
free of odors and clogs. Here are a few simple
steps to keep your drains odor free and draining
Things You’ll Need:
Every few days run very hot tap water
through the drain. This is one way to keep a
drain free of odors. Treat any partially
clogged drains promptly.
Put a tablespoon of
soda into the kitchen drain about once a
week, then slowly pour in 1/4 cup of vinegar
or lemon juice and let it stand for 30
minutes. Next run hot water through the
drain to eliminate minor buildups and odors.
Pouring a strong salt water (brine) solution
down the kitchen sink drain will eliminate
odors and keep grease from building up.
Consider buying a drain cleaner solution if
you have drains you can't clear out
naturally. Be sure to read the label
regarding the product suitability safety for
your drain pipes. (Some chemical drain
cleaners will harm plastic drain pipes).
Make sure the solution is safe for plastic
pipes or a garbage disposal. Be sure to
follow the drain cleaner instructions.
Alternatively, consider a natural drain
cleaner even for blockages. Remove any
standing water then pour 1/2 c. baking soda
into your drain. Follow this with 1/2 c.
white vinegar. The baking soda is basic and
the vinegar is acidic, so they will react
with a churning action should break up the
blockage without using any chemicals.
Call a licensed plumber for anything beyond
regular drain cleaning and simple unclogging
Tips & Warnings
Help keep tree roots from
growing into house drains by flushing either
2 cups rock salt or 2 cups of copper sulfate
down the toilet during the last flush of the
night. (You may have to flush a few times to
get the material down). Don't use both
products at the same time. Repeat the
process two weeks later, then wait at least
six months before doing it again.
Use drain insert strainers to
help prevent any vegetable matter going down
a kitchen drain. If you have to put some
grease down a drain follow it with a lot of
hot water to clear the drain pipes.
Clean hair out of bathroom or
shower before they can go down the drain and
possibly cause a blockage.
If you decide to use a
chemical drain cleaner, be very careful.
Follow the directions and react immediately
if you get the drain cleaner on your skin,
eyes or even clothes. Follow the flushing
instructions on the container.