Plumbing Smells and Odors – Solutions To the Stink

I can’t tell you how many times we hear about areas of the home that have some of the worst smells imaginable.  Certainly there can be many causes for these odors and quite a few of them can be traced back to a plumbing problem.  Or what we like to call, a plumbing opportunity.  Yes indeed, if there is something…anything we can do that will contribute to eliminating or reducing these common complaints of foul,  rotten egg smells and odors in your home, then we have hopefully can do something to make your day just a little bit (or a lot) better.  So let us first get a sampling of some of these nasty plumbing related odor issues, by way of our very own readers.  Who better to tell us about these smells than the very people who have been dealing with them.  Here is a good little list of real life questions and complaints to be followed by some practical suggestions on what you can do to rid your home of these most awful smells.

1. My toilet stinks and the floor is rotting underneath it. Why?

2.When I start my washer after sitting for a day or two, that first wash smells like sewage.  We live out in the country and have our own well, any idea what this could be and how can i fix it?

3. I have a smell that comes the the drain of the sinks and tub when it hot out side what is this?

4. Kitchen sink smells like rotten food on both sides of sink coming from the pipes so what can i do?

5. I have a split level home with a a bathroom upstairs and downstairs.  The bathroom downstairs hardly gets used maybe except for the toilet now and then. We have lived in the home for about 3 years.  About 2 years ago the downstairs bathroom flooded, we don’t know how or why, but it did.  We got some very strong blowers and dried everything real well, but I had to do some repairs to a wall and carpet that is on the bathroom (shower) wall about 6 months ago.  It had mold in the carpet and some of the wall. The mold on the wall was surface mold, but I had to cut a small section of the carpet that had developed mold in it. Before I effected repairs though, I got a heater and dried that section of the wall out very well.  There does not seem to be anymore mold.  But the downstairs bathroom stinks like a sewer.  It wasn’t this way when we moved in, but has developed over the last year.  What could it be? Can mold stink like a sewer? There is no longer any mold stink in the downstairs at all. So I believe I got all the mold.

6. My shower drain has an odor every time i shower.  The odor smells like an old fashioned perm. What could it be? How do I solve the problem?

7. What is it when I run my shower a sewer smell comes out of the basement and rises thru out the house?

8.My house has had a smell like that of cooked or boiled eggs that I’ve noticed for a couple of weeks now.  It’s only noticeable when I first walk in the house from outside and is only on the 1st floor and not the basement.  I have had a professional check for a gas leak, and no leak.  I don’t notice it more when flushing the toilet, although, I have noticed that when I flush my high efficiency toilet, at times not everything flushes out on the first flush (ie small bits of toilet paper left behind).  I’ve poured vinegar down my kitchen and bathroom pipes but that did not fix the problem.  Could this be a partial blocked sewage line or other plumbing problem?

9. There is a foul smell coming from the unit were our washing machine drains.  It is a square shaped unit with hot and cold water valves on top and a hole on the bottom for the washing machine to drain into.  I think that it is moldy lint in the drain pipe, how do I get it out?

10.I just recently installed a new sink.  I replaced the trap as well.  Nothing leaks and it drains properly, but every time I run the water I get that sewer smell.  This only happens when I run the water and other sinks in the house do not have the same issue.  Please Help!!!

11.Over the last week I have noticed a strange smell in my garage and somewhat in my house. The smell is a chemical fertilizer type smell. It is sometimes faint and sometimes extremely strong, usually more so in the morning. I am curious if this could be a plumbing problem. Of note: my home is a condo with a shared wall. I have been unable to reach my neighbor to ask about it. There is no fertilizer in my garage or anything new to cause the smell. There is a laundry machine in the garage but the smell doesn’t seem to be coming from it. Really puzzled and a little worried given the chemical odor.

12.Our downstairs toilet is very smelly.  Our next door neighbour has had problems but seem to have sorted out their blockage.  We are on a shared drain.   We have used drain unblocker and flushed it through, there seems to be flow, although not a great deal of flow.   Have tried various things to get rid of smell, it smells musty and vaguely sewer, can you help please

13.MY well water pressure is very low and the water smells like motor oil.  Any suggestions why?

14.We turn off the facets. And the hot water leaks real bad I came home &I water flooded in the hallway & but it was coming from underneath the my hardwood floor. We try tried to fix the facets but it continue to leak. My home is on a concert slab.what am I looking at here,what do I need to do. Also the water is seeping into one of my room now and a musty smell is becoming noticeable.Thank you

15. Sewer gas smell coming from the shower. Is there anything I can do beside adding a trap. This would require breaking out the tile floor

16.I have a 3bd/2ba “99” modular home. In the spare bathroom, the toilet will flush but very slowly and its like it has no pressure and it takes like 3 or more flushes 2 get a tiny piece of paper 2 go down. The bathtub and sink work fine in that bathroom and the master bathroom works fine. But also when i run my washing machine and it drains it gurgles in my kitchen sink, but the dish washer works fine. There’s a big soggy spot in my backyard and when it rains real bad you can sometimes smell sewer. I just recently had the septic tank pumped out hoping that would fix the spare toilet, the sometimes smell, and the soggy spot. Unfortunately it did not, although i have not noticed the sometimes smell in awhile. but when they were here pumping it out, OMG, that smell was harsh and awful and you could probably smell it a mile away. So what can i do next to try to get the spare toilet to work properly, the sink to stop gurgling, and the soggy spot in my yard to dry up.

17.  Got weird smell after I flush my toilet. But the toilet itself is not leaking or clogging at all. Can you please tell me what might cause this smell. The smell seem to be somewhere around the walls from my second floor bathroom.

18. Recently removed an old shower with a very foul smelling drain.  I was able to get the whole shower removed, concrete base and all.  The drain needs to be covered as we want to tile over it.  Is there a way to cap the drain and possibly fill over with self-leveling cement?  And if so, will the moisture from the drain, or the smell still be able to seep through?  And will I be able to tile over it?

19. Recently had a clogged kitchen sink on both sides which also clogged bathroom sink tub & toilet OK. So i snaked the drain in bathroom and fixed clog. Since then I have this sewer smell coming from bathroom sink.  If i plug the sink drain with a piece of cotton smell goes away(by the way no overflow hole in bath sink). This concerns me for health reasons.

20. I got up this morning a when brushing my teeth I smelled this terrible stinky rotten egg like smell coming up from the sink.  It is a foul stench and am trying to understand how to get rid of it.

Getting Rid of the Plumbing Related Smells in Your Home

So now that you have a handle on the terrible smells that plague many of our homes, let’s try to better understand the underlying cause and more importantly how you can go about getting rid of these annoying smells.

A. Not surprisingly, the toilet is one area plagued with some of the worst smells imaginable and it is not necessarily what you may first think.  Typically a deodorizer can be place in the toilet bowl and/or tank to help remedy the obvious foul odors coming from the toilet from everyday use. Regular flushing should be par for the course. Sewer organisms can make their way, uninvited, into your toilet bowl and the water in your toilet bowl can stagnate if not flushed regularly.  But what if the underlying cause of the smell is something different?

The smell could be caused by a broken wax ring seal found at the base of the toilet.  Your toilet drain pipe depends on the wax ring and flange to be in working order.  If there is a leak and the seal is compromised, then sewer gases can rise up and create the foul smell you so do not want.  Check to make sure your toilet is seated level and ensure the anchor bolts are properly tightened.  If your toilet is rocking around, either your bolts are not secure enough are the toilet is not seated level.  Be careful not to over tighten as you do not want to crack your porcelain bowl.  You may need to remove the toilet and visually inspect your seal and replace as needed.

Also, you should look for cracks in the toilet base, any of the piping, including the P trap as that is also an invitation for sewer gases to rise up.  The P trap sometimes can get mucked up with all kinds of slime and crud, so it is not a difficult task to remove the P trap and clean it out thoroughly.

Plumbing fixtures by nature are built into your home with a vent pipe to ensure their is replenished air as water leaves the area down the drain.  If the vent pipe is clogged then your will have a air circulatory problem impacting the plumbing fixtures in your home.

B. An annoying smell often plagues sinks in the bathroom and kitchen.  More often than not, it is those sinks that get the most use that at times will have some of the worst odors.  If you ever look under your sink in the kitchen you will notice the pipes are often shaped like an S.  This is not the artistic side of plumbing, but is a practical way of shaping the pipe in such a way that water gets trapped into these curved pockets.  Water acts as a smell barrier preventing sewer gases from rising up the drain, right up into your nose!  This is your drain trap pipes.  If you have a leak here, well you best get it attended to immediately as the bad smell is not your only problem.

Kitchen sinks present unique issues because of the food particles and debris that oftentimes ends up down the drain.  This also applies to the garbage disposal. If there is no water circulation through those drain pipes for an extended period of time…let’s say you went on vacation….or if the pipe is clogged for a good amount of time…it presents an environment ripe for bad bacteria and sewer gases to do their dastardly deeds.

There are some off the shelf products you can purchase to help clean up and out the muck, but you can also take a about 1/2 a cup of baking soda and pour it down each sink drain, then chase it down with a cup of vinegar.  Sit back and watch these elements work together.  You will see a lot of foam.  After 5 minutes, thoroughly rinse out the sink and drain with hot water.  That will set back the smell germs.

The bathroom sink smell can be particularly annoying.  If there is no leak and you have cleaned out the P trap and have tried a sink cleaner product, then make sure you have a proper operating vent pipe for proper air circulation as it could be obstructed if you are still smelling the sewer odor.  A sign that your vent may be obstructed is that your sink water will gurgle and bubble when you fill it up quickly and wait for it to drain.  If all of your sinks are smelling up a storm, the I would question the public works water authority for your area.  But if its just isolated sinks, then it more likely you have an obstruction somewhere in the vent pipe.  Maybe its high on the roof line where venting/circulation should occur where a bird or squirrel nest is creating an obstruction.

C. If the smell is coming from your shower or bathtub drain, then once again you need to play plumbing detective.  The culprit could be again in the trap drain.  Accessibility is more of a challenge here.  Remove the drain cover and take a look to see if there is some water standing in the trap (i.e. remember…smell barrier).  Often a good, strong dose of drain cleaner can help with the problem.

D. Weather can sometimes play havoc when it comes to smells in the home.  Older homes can be more vulnerable to humid weather and if there is inadequate air circulation, a lingering odor may be the order of the day.

F. Many people complain or have noticed that their is an odor coming from their washing machine.  Remember, odors originate from bacteria and when conditions are right, bacteria can thrive in certain areas as washing machines can be a hot spot.  Smelly clothes, dirt, grime, as well as detergents and fabric softener residue can accumulate in small, thin layers and colonies of bacteria can grow.  Keeping the interior and exterior of the machine is important and you can use various antibacterial cleaning supplies commercially available.  There are some specific products designed for cleaning washing machines.  Another very practical tactic you should employ all of the time is keep washing machine door open when not in use to promote better air circulation.  Some of the newer models come with a sanitizer cycle that you can run with or without clothes to help remedy the problem.  You should also check to be sure you are not over stuffing your washing machine as the clothes will not be sufficiently clean and the odor problem will grow worse.  Also make sure the clothes is getting sufficient water during the appropriate cycles.  Also, remove the cleaned clothes and put into the dryer as soon as the washing cycle has concluded. Leaving the damp clothes in the washer enclosed promotes bacterial growth.

Sometimes the foul smell originates from the washing machine drain pipe.  This can consist of mildew, slime, and all sorts of muck.  Sometimes a good cleaning will help remedy the problem.  Try pouring a cup of bleach down the drain pipe.  Just as described above, these drain pipes have a trap (sometimes called a P trap or U trap) that creates a water barrier to prevent escaping sewer gases entering up into the utility room where you washer is located.  If this trap is blocked or leaking, then action needs to be taken to correct.  Another idea is you can have the drain pipe brushed, then add a degreaser.  Then run a full cycle (no clothes) through.  Drain Care or similar product from a place like  Home Depot can also be utilized.

A special word about the smell of rotten eggs is definitely a warning that an unsafe level of sewer gases are intruding in your home The stench of sewer gases consist of methane and hydrogen sulfide….not something you want to be around for an extended period of time.  If this is the smell, then seek out the cause.  Follow the smell to its source and act accordingly.



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