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A Guide to Smelly Drains

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Smelly drains can be an ongoing problem, or they could be the result of an intermittent issue that seems to resolve and then comes back at a later time. It's important to find out the cause, as sometimes smelly drains can indicate a major plumbing issue or even cause health concerns.

Common Causes of Smelly Drains

Smelly drains can be the result of a developing clog or material caught in the P-trap beneath the sink. Soap scum and grease create a film that catches debris. Bacteria then begins to grow in the residue and a biofilm forms. This film can be quite smelly, especially if other bad-smelling debris like food scraps are also becoming trapped.

Sewer gases are the other common cause of drain odors. Gas odors are often intermittent, but not always. Sewer gas can come up the drain and into your home for several different reasons. Issues with your septic system or main septic line area common causes. A dry P-trap can also allow gasses to come up the drain, as can issues with your plumbing ventilation system.

Concerns From Drain Odors

Drain odors can be more than a nuisance. Smells caused by scum, debris, and biofilm are symptoms of a developing drain clog, which can lead to backups and flooding. The bacteria in the biofilm that forms can also be a concern, especially if slow draining or backups are common.

Sewer gases can do more than smell. Often, dangerous fumes accompany sewer gases, which can cause headaches or respiratory distress. Further, if gases are coming up the drain, then raw sewage may not be far behind. Raw sewage coming into your home through the drain poses major health hazards due to the pathogens it can contain.

Prevention and Repairs

Dirty drain odors can be solved with a drain cleaning. Your plumber can use an auger to clear developing clogs, or they may use high pressured jets of water to ensure that all residue is cleared from the inside of the pipes. Sometimes they may need to remove the P-trap and thoroughly clean it as well. Pouring boiling water down the drains occasionally can help keep them clean.

Sewer gas treatments depend on the cause. If the trap is drying out in a little-used bathroom drain, for example, pouring water down it weekly solves the issue. Poor venting may require no more than cleaning the plumbing vents or installing additional vents. Sewer line and septic issues may require line and tank cleaning, or you may need to repair the sewer line.

Contact a plumbing contractor in your area or click to find out more about smelly drains.