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Your kitchen should be a place that emanates pleasant aromas and appealing smells. Your family members, along with guests to your home, should associate that room with the smell of garlic cooking in a pan, fresh-baked bread, or of the savory whiff of grilled meat.

But what happens when your kitchen is filled with a bad smell? Unfortunately, this reality is all too common: Whether due to escaped sewer gases or lingering food particles in your drainage area, it’s pretty normal for kitchens to develop unwelcome odors, most of them wafting up from the sink.

The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to troubleshoot your kitchen sink stench and to get the room smelling pleasant again. Often, kitchen sink smells can be fixed with DIY efforts, though in some cases you’ll want to check into professional drain cleaning. For drain cleaning in Indianapolis or the surrounding area, contact Carter’s My Plumber.

Kitchen Sink Smells

Why Do You Have a Smelly Sink in Your Kitchen?

There are two common reasons why kitchens develop revolting odors.

  1. You’ve got food particle build-up in your pipes. Other than water, anything you put down your kitchen sink can stick to the inside of the pipes, or else sit in the U-bend. Over time, the build-up of food particles can attract bacteria, which results in a decomposition process that causes an unwanted stench.
  2. You’ve got sewer gases coming up through your pipes. It’s also possible that your U-bend isn’t doing its job at keeping sewer gases suppressed, whether due to a leak or an obstruction. You can usually determine this by taking the U-bend out and inspecting it.

Of course, there are other possible reasons why your sink may develop a foul odor, including mold or an issue with the garbage disposal. More often than not, however, the culprit is going to be one of these two main concerns.

How Can You Diagnose the Smell?

To get to the bottom of what’s making your sink smell, there are a few basic troubleshooting steps you can try. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Determine whether water is draining slowly, or not draining at all. If there’s a drainage issue, then the smell is almost surely being caused by a blockage, and by the build-up of food particles. This is where you may wish to hire a plumber with some expertise in drain cleaning.
  • See if you can clearly smell rotting food. If you’re pretty sure that you’re smelling rotting food, that likely means there’s something going on inside the pipes, including food particles or congealed grease.
  • Check whether you smell rotten eggs. A rotten egg smell, on the other hand, usually suggests sewer gases that are escaping up into your home.

What Can You Do to Get Rid of the Smell?

There are a number of remedies you can try to get your kitchen smelling fresh and inviting once more. Here are our recommendations:

1) Try to Clean Your Drain with Boiling Water

Sometimes, you can clean out stinky food particles inside your pipes by pouring a couple of pots of boiling water down the drain. (Of course, you should always put safety first when working with hot water.)

2) Use Other Non-Toxic Drain Cleaning Agents

If boiling water doesn’t do it, you might try to flush your drain with white vinegar; or, even use a combination of vinegar and baking soda, which can sometimes help clear out stuck food particles while providing a natural deodorizing effect. If you think the problem is with your disposal, try a combination of ice cubes and coarse salt. As a general rule, we don’t recommend using chemical drain cleaners, which can do damage to your pipes and lead to more serious plumbing woes down the road.

3) Check the U-Bend

The U-bend creates a natural barrier against sewer gases. It should always be filled with water; if you’ve been on vacation for a while, it’s possible for the water in the U-bend to evaporate, in which case the simple solution is just to run some water. Also check the U-bend for leaks or obstructions. If you find any, clean or replace the U-bend as needed.

4) Call the Professionals

If these home remedies don’t work, you may need to call in the pros. If you’re in the Indianapolis area, you can call Carter’s My Plumber at any time to ask about our drain cleaning cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is there a bad smell coming from my kitchen sink?

There are a number of possible explanations, but the two most likely are that there are food particles built up in your pipes, or that the U-bend is malfunctioning, allowing sewer gas to escape into your home.

Why does my kitchen sink smell like rotten eggs?

If you detect the smell of rotten eggs, that’s usually a strong sign that you’re dealing with sewer gas emissions.

Why does my kitchen sink smell musty?

A musty smell is likely due to food particles or evaporated water in the U-bend or P-trap. Try cleaning your drain with soap and hot water, or with a combination of ice, salt, and citrus peels (think lemon, lemon peel, or even lemon juice).

Can I pour bleach down the sink drain?

We do not recommend pouring bleach down the drain, as this corrosive substance can do long-term damage to your pipes.

Can you leave baking soda and vinegar in the drain overnight?

Yes, it’s fine to leave baking soda and vinegar in the drain overnight, then to flush with hot water the next morning.

Will Coca-Cola clean a drain?

While carbonated sodas may technically help clear up the most minor clogs, they’re really not ideal because the sugars from cola can turn into goo and stick to debris further increasing the size of a clog. Again, vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, or plain old boiling water are all preferable.

Kelson Carter

Article reviewed by:

Kelson Carter, aka, The Prince of Plumbing

Kelson is a 3rd generation Plumbing Contractor. His family business is located in Greenwood, Indiana, and provides Residential Plumbing Service to the Indianapolis Metro market.

Kelson grew up watching his grandfather and father do plumbing. After graduating high school, Kelson went to Trade School and became a Licensed Master Plumber and Licensed Plumbing Contractor. He is also Certified in Backflow Prevention. He currently owns and operates Carter's My Plumber with his parents.


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