What Smells? A Guide to Common Plumbing Odors

Plumbing odors are unpleasant, to say the least. Whether they come from the sink, toilet, shower or garbage disposal, these smells can have you plugging your nose whenever you pass by. Fortunately, many common plumbing odors have easy fixes. With the tips in this article, you can say goodbye to bad smells in your bathroom or kitchen.

Sewer gas smell in bathroom

Sewer gas smell can rear its head when you least expect it, turning your bathroom into a smelly mess. The smell, which resembles rotten eggs or gasoline, can be caused by small problems like cracks or leaks that allow the gases to escape into the air. Damage to a toilet wax ring and base or bacterial growth in drains are two of the most common causes of sewer gas smell in the bathroom.

Toilet wax ring and toilet base

Sewer gas can escape through gaps in the toilet base, or when the wax ring’s seal is damaged. You can either replace the wax ring yourself or contact a plumber to do it for you. Re-caulking a toilet base is relatively simple as well:

  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.

Bacterial growth in drains

Your drains are likely full of build-up resulting from organic matter and soap scum. The dark and damp environment of drains is the perfect breeding ground for smelly bacteria to divide and conquer. Plus, the build-up can trap things like hair to create stubborn blockages and prevent the drains from draining fully, enhancing the potential for bad smells.

Rather than turning to caustic chemical drain cleaners, you can use one of the following safe alternatives to clear bacterial growth in your drains.

Enzyme-based cleaners

Enzyme-based cleaners use good bacteria cultures and concentrated enzymes that naturally eat away at organic matter. They also leave behind “good” bacteria, which spread throughout the plumbing system to prevent future buildup of organic matter. While enzyme-based cleaners often need to sit overnight in order to work, they’re much safer on your plumbing system than conventional drain cleaners.

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 white 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.

Hydro jetting

Hydro jetting uses a powerful burst of water to clean the inside of pipes with high pressure, leaving them squeaky clean. Even tough blockages and build up are no match for the power of hydro jetting.

Sink smells like rotten eggs

If the bad smells are coming from your sink, the first thing to check is the sink overflow. This is a hole located either underneath or across from the faucet. It’s prone to accumulate buildup of bacteria, soap scum, and hair that can clog and produce foul smells. 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.

If the sink in question is rarely used, try running some water down the drain and see if the smell subsides. With normal usage, the P-trap underneath the sink holds water to stop sewer gas smells from entering your home. But, if the sink hasn’t been used in a while, the water dries up and the odors can enter unopposed.

Garbage disposal smells

The first thing to address is the disposal’s splash guard. This is the black rubber piece you see when looking directly down into the disposal. The underside of the splash guard is a magnet for food waste and bacteria, producing bad smells. To clean the splash guard, grab a clean cloth and turn the splash guard inside out. Scrub away whatever grime you find and then rinse with hot water.

Keep future odors at bay

With the amount of food waste that works its way through a garbage disposal, it’s no surprise that some less than pleasant odors can pop up from time to time. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to keep your garbage disposal from stinking up your whole kitchen.

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. Be sure and cover the drain opening so the bubbles don’t escape. 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.

Water smells like sulfur

Sulfuric smelling water isn’t necessarily dangerous, but it can negatively impact taste. If the sulfur smell only comes from the hot side of the faucet, then your water heater may be to blame. Hydrogen sulfide is produced due to reactions between magnesium and aluminum in the water heater tank. The anode rod, which attracts these corrosive agents, corrodes over time. This results in hot water with a strong sulfuric scent.

If the smell comes from both sides of the faucet, the issue may come from your plumbing, or from the source of your water. In any case, water filtration can improve the smell, taste, and color of your tap water through the following methods.

Particle filtration

Particle filtration is used to remove traces of particles in water ranging from sand to clay. Particle filtration also removes sediments from well water.

Activated carbon filtrations (Ultrafiltration)

Activated carbon filtrations are used to remove unwanted taste and odor from water and minimize health hazards. Ultrafiltration removes low concentrations of organic chemicals like pesticides and solvents and can reduce the levels of radon gas and chlorine found in water.

Distillation

Distillation removes microorganisms, minerals, and metals from water. The process kills bacteria and leaves very few contaminants. Some home distillation units with carbon filters can remove volatile organic chemicals.

Reverse Osmosis (RO)

Five-stage reverse osmosis (RO) is the most popular water treatment in Phoenix, because many residents wish to improve the taste and purity of their drinking water. RO systems produce pure and great tasting water through an intricate process.

Ion exchange (Water softening)

Ion exchange is used to replace calcium with magnesium ions. Water softeners can also remove metals. However, they cannot remove organic chemicals, pathogens, particles, or radon gas.

Plumbing odors? Turn to the experts

Plumbing odors have a way of making themselves impossible to ignore. Instead of masking the smells with scented sprays and candles, turn to the plumbing experts for a real solution. Contact us to get to the bottom of any plumbing problems.