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What to Do When the Kitchen Sink Smells Like Sewage

A Done plumber fixing a kitchen faucet

What do you do when the kitchen sink smells like sewage? There are several reasons why the sink might have this odor, from bacteria growth and rotting food in the garbage disposal to a problem with your trap allowing sewer gas into your home. There are a few things you can do to figure out the cause and find a solution to the problem.

Clean Your Garbage Disposal

One of the first things I recommend to do when you have a rancid smell coming from your sink is to clean the garbage disposal if you have one. Putting ice through the disposal while it runs will clean the blades of any old food particles. You should also wash it about once a month with a soap cleanse. To do this, run the water as hot as you can and turn on the garbage disposal. Put several good squirts of liquid detergent down the disposal while it runs. You should see soap suds rise from the other side of the sink. When the soap levels peak, quickly switch the water to cold and keep everything running. This will flush the garbage disposal and the suds should drop and wash away, leaving everything a little cleaner.

Another option is to send some citrus (lemon, lime, or orange) down the garbage disposal. This helps to establish a fresher smell in your garbage disposal, and may be just the quick fix that you need.

Still Smelling? Check the P- or S-Trap

Beneath your kitchen sink, you should have a P-trap or S-trap below the drain. The trap curves in such a way as to always have water in it, with clean water replacing the dirty water when you run the sink. This water creates a seal in the pipes to keep sewer gas from coming back up through the pipes and into your home. If you smell sewage, it’s possible that you’ve got a problem with your trap. If you check under your sink and you don’t have a trap at all, install one right away to block the sewer gas.

If you do have a trap, the first thing to do is to clean it by pouring fresh water through it, or a cleaning product like baking soda that can break up anything built up inside of it. The next thing to do is to check for leaks. If you’ve got water dripping from the trap, then it doesn’t have a tight seal and is allowing air through. If you don’t have a leak, then it might be a problem with the vent being blocked or simply an air pocket that has gotten caught in the trap.

Venting Problem

If you still detect a sewage smell and hear gurgling when water is running, you may have a problem with your vent. Try clearing the vent on the roof from any debris (please be very careful when climbing on your roof). Many times, using a garden hose to run water through it to remove any blockage. You can also reach into the vent to manually remove anything that might be caught inside of it. A clear vent is essential to maintaining the right pressure for the water seals in your p- or s-trap.

If you’ve checked the trap and cleared the vent and you still smell sewage, call the professional plumbers at Done Plumbing, Heating, Cooling, and Electric 24/7 and we’ll be over to your home in Denver to help.

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