Causes of a Bad-Smelling Sink


It's not uncommon to notice a garbage smell coming from a sink drain or, worse, the smell of sewage. These odors are indicative of problems with your home's plumbing, but they are often very easy to fix, even if you don't consider yourself a handyman. The following are a few common causes of sink odor and how to remedy them.

Garbage Disposal

  • Garbage disposal odor is the result of food particles getting stuck to the inside of the disposal chamber and decomposing. This most often occurs when you don't run the water long enough while using your disposal, and the rotting food matter can build up over time, creating an ever-worsening odor. To flush out the disposal and eliminate the smell, put the stopper in the drain and fill the sink with about a gallon of soapy water. Then, with the water still running, remove the stopper, and turn on the garbage disposal. The draining water will flush out the disposal chamber and wash away the debris. Let the water run for a few more minutes after the sink has drained. After you've cleaned out your disposal, let the water run generously every time you use it, to prevent another buildup.

Poor Ventilation

  • Particularly if you have an older home, you may periodically have issues with the ventilation of your plumbing system. The problem will make itself known when you use a washing machine or flush a toilet and notice a foul odor coming from various drains in the house. This happens when air in the pipes isn't making it out through the plumbing vents in your roof and instead backs up and escapes through the next most convenient opening -- the drains in your sinks and showers. You can often fix this problem yourself simply by cleaning out the "P traps" (rounded sections of pipe) underneath every drain in your home. However, if this method doesn't solve the problem, you will have to call a professional plumber for a total air line flush.


  • In the short area between the drain trap and the pipes underneath your sink, a slimy film tends to form over time, particularly in bathroom sinks that often have hair, toothpaste and other debris washed down the drain. This film is full of bacteria that can release an unpleasant smell when you turn on the water. This problem is easy to fix; you just need to remove the drain trap (some pull out easily without tools, while others require a screwdriver) and use a paper towel or rag to clean out the slime inside the drain. If you choose, you can follow this by pouring some bleach down the drain to kill the rest of the bacteria.

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