8 Ways to Get Rid of Sewer Gas Smell

It’s not exactly pleasant to catch a foul-smelling whiff of air whenever you pass by your toilet, sink, bathroom, or kitchen. That smell is likely sewer gas, and it can be a tough plumbing odor to get rid of if you don’t know what you’re doing. Instead of trying to mask the smell with air fresheners and candles, here are eight ways you can get rid of it for good.

1.      Clean the sink overflow

A sink overflow is a hole located either underneath or across from the faucet. It can be a major source of sewer gas smell in the sink. It’s prone to the same accumulation of bacteria, soap scum, and hair that can clog and produce foul smells in a sink. In areas with hard water, mineral buildup can also prevent the overflow from draining correctly.

Because it’s easily overlooked, the sink overflow usually doesn’t get cleaned as often as the sink itself. To clean your sink overflow, you can use a small bottle brush to clean out the hole and wipe away any buildup. Or, you can mix a solution of half chlorine bleach and half water to clear out any grime with ease.

2.      Check the toilet wax ring

When a toilet is installed, a wax ring is put in place underneath the toilet to seal the drain and prevent water seepage. If the wax seal is damaged, sewer gasses can seep through and produce bad odors. You can either replace the wax ring yourself or contact a plumber to do it for you.

3.      Caulk the toilet base

If your toilet isn’t currently caulked to the floor, water may be leaking out and creating an unpleasant smell. Caulking a toilet to the floor prevents smells and keeps the toilet secure—a win-win for homeowners. The process is simple, and can be completed in a single afternoon.

  1. Remove any old caulk from around the toilet base. You can use either a utility knife or razor knife if you don’t already have a caulk removal tool.
  2. Clear away any debris using a general bathroom cleaner and a clean cloth.
  3. Apply masking tape to the floor around the toilet. This will help you get a straighter, smoother seal, while also preventing any caulk from sticking to your floors.
  4. Keeping the caulk gun or caulk squeeze tube at a 45-degree angle, place the caulk along the space between the toilet and the floor.
  5. Use your finger or a caulk finishing tool to scoop off excess caulk and deepen the seal.
  6. Peel off the masking tape you used in step 3.

4.      Clean out bacterial growth in drains

If your drains are full of organic matter build-up or soap scum, you’ve inadvertently created the perfect environment for smelly bacteria to thrive. Fortunately, it’s easy to clean out existing bacteria and prevent new bacteria from growing in the same place.

Baking soda and vinegar

The trusty non-toxic combo of baking soda and vinegar can clean drains naturally. Add one cup of baking soda to the clogged toilet or slow drain, then wait a few minutes. Follow with two cups of vinegar. Listen for bubbling and sizzling noises to indicate that the mixture is working. Wait another couple of minutes before either flushing the toilet or running water down the drain. If you still notice a smell, repeat the steps again.

Enzyme-based cleaners

Rather than using a liquid drain cleaner, which is more likely to hurt your drains than help them, we recommend that you use an enzyme-based cleaner. Instead of caustic chemicals, enzyme-based cleaners use good bacteria cultures and concentrated enzymes that naturally eat away at organic matter.

5.      Check rarely used bathtubs and sinks

Your guest bathroom may not get much use, but it can be a major source of sewer gas odor because of its P-trap. The P-trap is a question-mark shaped piece of PVC or stainless steel located underneath your sink that traps debris and prevents clogs. Usually, the P-trap is full of water. But, in a rarely used sink, this water can evaporate, allowing sewer gasses to escape up the drain and into the air.

If you recently came home from a long vacation, or only live in your home seasonally, you may be greeted by a foul odor. That’s why it’s a good idea to get in the habit of running water down the drains of rarely used plumbing fixtures at least twice a month. This will ensure that the P-trap is full and keeps any bad smells at bay.

6.      Check for leaks

Leaky pipes can cause sewer gas smell, as they allow both water and sewer gases to escape from the pipe when they shouldn’t. Standing water on the floor or in the cabinet where your sink is installed is a sure sign of a leak. Another warning sign to look for is any dampness along the length of the pipe. You can run your hand along the pipe to check for this.

Since even the smallest leaks can turn into major plumbing disasters overnight, it’s best to fix them as soon as possible. You can buy some time with quick fixes, such as using duct tape or an old garden hose to cover the source of the leak. But, quick fixes are only temporary—the best way to ensure the leak is fixed properly is to work with a plumber.

7.      Inspect your garbage disposal splash guard

The underside of your disposal’s splash guard, the black rubber piece you see when looking directly down your drain, is prone to accumulating stinky food waste. With a clean brush, turn the splash guard inside out and wipe away any old food residue, making sure to not reach your hands down the disposal. Once everything looks clean, turn on the disposal and run some hot water down the drain to rinse. You can add a little bit of dish soap to clean up any leftover food as well.

Get rid of garbage disposal smells

Cleaning the splash guard is a good way to eliminate odors, but there are more steps you can take to make sure future smells don’t stink up your whole kitchen. Here are two natural solutions to keep odors at bay.

Citrus

Take fresh lemon, lime, or orange peels and toss them down the disposal when it’s powered on. Since citrus is so effective at neutralizing bad odors, you should immediately notice a difference, with a fresh citrus scent left behind.

Baking soda and vinegar

Start by pouring ¼ cup of baking soda down the drain, and then leave it for about 10 minutes. Then, follow it with one cup of vinegar. Let the mixture fizzle and work for a few minutes, and then finish by turning on the water and running the disposal to clear out any leftover food waste.

8.      Schedule a video drain inspection

Blockages and obstructions like tree roots can lead to slow drains and sewer gas smells. While you can’t exactly go deep down into your home’s sewer line to check for yourself, a video drain inspection is the next best thing. It allows a plumber to see the smallest of problems, whether you have a blockage, cracked pipe, root obstruction, or another issue. The best part is, a video drain inspection is quick and easy, with no damage to your pipes or your home.

After the inspection: drain cleaning

If a video inspection identifies a clog or blockage, the next step is to clean it out of the drain. At Chas Roberts, we utilize several drain cleaning methods to address problems both big and small.

Sewer machines or “drain snakes”

Otherwise known as drain snakes, these mechanical augers, or drills, are used to mechanically remove difficult blockages that cannot be removed from plunging or other methods. When operated by a plumber, sewer machines can restore optimal water flow in your drains and leave no residual blockages behind.

Bio-clean

Bio-clean uses living bacteria and enzymes to break down and eat away the organic waste that can cause clogs and blockages in your plumbing system. An annual cleaning with bio-clean is a perfect solution for maintain your plumbing and keeping any potential clogs at bay.

Hydro jetting

Hydro jetting is a powerful cleaning tool that uses a high-pressure water stream to clean the inside of your plumbing system. The power of the water removes grease, limescale, and other debris that build up in pipes over time. For recurring blockages or frustrating clogs that don’t respond to other methods, hydro jetting is an ideal choice.

Still smelly? Contact a professional

If these tips don’t help, you might be smelling actual sewer gases, also known as hydrogen sulfide. Drain pipes are designed to prevent hydrogen sulfide from entering the air in your home, but if the pipes are malfunctioning or compromised, the gases can flow uninterrupted. Along with a foul smell, prolonged exposure to sulfide can cause nausea, dizziness, and, in very extreme cases, death.

To keep yourself and your family safe, contact an emergency plumber if you suspect you may be breathing in hydrogen sulfide. Whether it means scheduling a drain cleaning or a video drain inspection to look for the problem straight from the source, our plumbers are sure to get to the bottom of it.

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