If a stench most foul is causing the hair on the back of your neck and in your nose to stand on end, who ya gonna call? Odor-busters! (Also known as, the vanquishers of smelly drains everywhere, Ben Franklin Plumbing!) Although we’re being light-hearted about this frequent and malodorous problem, it can downright frighten you out of your own home if it’s left to fester.
We figure the season of All Hallows’ Eve is the perfect time to review why your pipes might turn putrid and the 6 Ways to Scare Them Clean!
First, let’s review how these noxious ne’er-do-wells get in your pipes in the first place:
1. Bacteria buildup: If you think the smell is bad, we won’t even show you pictures of what we usually see once we descend below the drain in most homes. Food particles, biological matter, dirt, pet hair and so much more. Over time, this gunk sticks to your pipes, especially in the bends. Bacteria grows. Bacteria smells. Soon, your drains are a veritable Frankenstein’s lab of monstrous odors. Chances are your kitchen sink is connected to a garbage disposal, which is a potential witch’s caldron of messy organic debris that can rot and reek if it gets stuck.
THE FIX: Bring a pot of water or white vinegar almost to a boil and pour half of it slowly down the drain. After a few minutes, let cold water run through the pipes which will cause any leftover residue to harden. Then, pour the rest of the hot water or vinegar down the drain to wash it all away.
Run hot tap water for several seconds, and then turn the water off. Dump one cup of baking soda down the drain followed by two cups of hot vinegar. Let the concoction fizz. After one hour, flush the drain with hot tap water.
(HINT: Throw in some lemon or lime slices for a natural, citrusy fragrance (this will also help “reset” your nose if it’s been inhaling that stench for a while!)
2. Grease goblins: We need to highlight this one particular kitchen culprit by itself…cooking grease. Please never pour grease down your drain! When it congeals in your pipes, it can unleash a horrid rotten egg or moldy smell that is downright offensive to the senses.
THE FIX: Throw 2 teaspoons of baking soda into the drain, followed by vinegar and a pot of boiling water. This easy, DIY solution will eat away at the gunk, while the water will flush it away.
3. Dry P-Trap: Sometimes not enough going down a drain is the problem. The P-trap is the goose-necked section of pipe that’s installed to block sewer gas from wafting up through the drain. When the sink isn’t used, the water in the trap evaporates. This empty drain causes the smell as ghostly gasses waft into your home.
THE FIX: If it’s been a while since you used a certain sink or bathtub with a drain, start with running the water to fill up the P-trap inside. If this does not exorcise the smell, you may need to don rubber gloves and remove the curved portion of the plumbing beneath the sink with a wrench. Empty the trap of any residue inside. You should run water through it using a utility tub or outdoor hose. Reassemble the pipe before using the sink again. (If that second part is outside your comfort zone, don’t worry, that’s why Ben Franklin Plumbing is just one easy call away, we’ll handle it!)
4. Vexing vents? Did your vent pipes mysteriously disappear into the night? Are they being clogged by some invasive alien species? Probably nothing that severe or supernatural, however, there is a ventilation system connected to your drains called DWV or drain-waste-vent network. These pipes allow fresh air in to your home and let wastewater gasses out. Usually there are vertical vent pipes that exit through the roof, away from windows and other vents. If a blockage occurs, problems can creep in, like zombies in the night, and smelly drains are one of them.
THE FIX: For something like this, you’ll need a little professional backup (unless you have some professional plumbing experience). Our Ben Franklin Plumbing technician can check your DWV system and recommend the best course of action.
5. Stanky Sump Pump: What’s lurking down in your basement? It could be a sump pump in dire need of attention. Check to be sure that you aren’t accidentally misdirecting wastewater through the sump pump versus the main sewer line. This is done most commonly from the washing machine. When this happens, water collects in the sump pump and, you guessed it, bacterial creatures from the Black Lagoon can arise into your home and attack your olfactory glands.
THE FIX: Reduce the amount of pipes that drain into your sump pump, hence, minimizing entry points for smells. Ensure you have a proper-fitting cap over the top to help keep smells from floating into your home like a specter. This also protects the pump from foreign objects getting inside it. (If you’re unsure how your washing machine or other appliances drain, especially in the basement, our highly-skilled plumbing professionals can easily access this for you and recommend a fix.)
6. Drain Trap Trouble: If there’s a smell coming from your bathroom tub, shower, or sink, you might have a broken or missing drain trap (or one not properly installed). The drain trap is designed to prevent sewer gasses and smells from escaping into your home.
THE FIX: Here, too, you’ll need a professional to properly assess and install a drain trap if that is indeed the issue.
Don’t let spooky, smelly pipes be the stuff of nightmares at your house. Let the insured, bonded, and certified professionals at Ben Franklin Plumbing address your plumbing concerns correctly, safely, and affordably the first time. We’ve been proudly serving customers in Charlotte and the surrounding area for decades, including Indian Trail, Concord, and Mooresville.