How to Rid Your Home of Drain Odor

Let’s set a scene: you enter your bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room to do some chores when you’re suddenly overwhelmed by an offensive, and seemingly unidentifiable, odor. If you can’t find a source of the odor after looking in the usual places (garbage, cat box, etc.), then the culprit is, most likely, your drains. As strange as it sounds, your drains can smell extremely bad. Let’s talk about why that is and what you, as a homeowner, can do to eradicate drain odor and get back to living your best-smelling life.

What Causes Smelly Drains?

Before we get into the DIY steps you can take to make your drains smell pleasant again, we should first discuss what causes them to smell bad in the first place.

The usual culprits behind smelly drains are bacteria and clogs. Hair, food, gunk, grease, and other debris can clog pipes. If left untreated, a clog provides the perfect breeding ground for several types of odor-causing bacteria.

However, clogs and their friendly neighborhood bacteria colonies are not the only causes of smelly drains. Other things that can cause your drains to take on a significant stink are as follows:

  • Sewage As sewage decomposes it releases noxious fumes and gases. These gases are unpleasant and smell like old sewage. Sewer gases can permeate through your drains when there are empty drain traps. Usually, sewer smells occur in drains that are not regularly used.
  • Mold and Mildew Mold and mildew smells are directly attributed to the existence of mold or mildew near your drains. Usually, mold and mildew smells occur in drains when there is a leak in the drain or pipes that connect to it.
  • Plumber Error Plumbers, like everyone else, aren’t perfect. Sometimes they make mistakes. Simple errors like forgetting to install drain traps or sewage vents can cause severe drain odors.

How to Get Rid of Drain Odor Yourself

Okay, now that you know the various causes of foul-smelling drains, let’s dive into the different things you can do to eliminate the problem. Common DIY solutions include:

  • Bleach Bleach kills almost every type of bacteria commonly found in drain lines. Since it kills the bacteria, it also eliminates odors at the source. To clean your drains with bleach, block the drain and fill the sink with hot water, add a generous helping of bleach, then remove the stopper and let the sink drain.
  • Boiling Water You can also get rid of smelly drains by slowly pouring boiling water into them. Do so a little bit at a time, letting the water completely drain before adding more. Like bleach, boiling water kills most of the types of bacteria found in drain lines. Remember, kill the bacteria, and you’ll kill the smell as a result.
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda Vinegar and baking soda can do wonders to help eliminate bad smells coming from your drains. To clean a drain with vinegar and baking soda, pour a generous helping of baking soda down the drain and then slowly add vinegar. Wait until you can no longer hear any bubbling or fizzing to pour in more vinegar. Repeat the process until all the baking soda has reacted with the vinegar (no more bubbles form when you pour more vinegar down the drain).
  • Snake the Drain Using a store-bought drain snake (usually around $15) can help remove clogs. Removing the clog removes the source of the bacteria, which, in turn, removes the smell. If you don’t want to spend your hard-earned money on a store-bought drain snake, you can also bend a wire coat hanger to use instead.
  • Run Water or Mineral Oil Down Unused Drains Like we mentioned before, sewer gasses can escape through empty drain traps, causing a noxious odor. To eliminate those odors, all you have to do is regularly run water down your less-than-often used drains. You can also pour a little bit of mineral oil into the drain to help prevent sewer gasses from resurfacing.


Nobody likes to deal with drain odor, and there are several causes behind it. Luckily, most drain odor problems can be solved at home with a little bit of elbow grease and some basic knowledge. The steps listed in this article won’t hurt your plumbing, and they might even save you a couple of hundred dollars in plumbing repairs! So, if you’re facing a bad-smelling drain at your home or business, then give some of the hints and tips listed in this article a try.