Sinks — and running water in general — are wonderful things. Hot or cold water, whenever we want it, straight out of a tap conveniently located in our own homes? It’s pretty great. But sometimes, sinks get stinky.
If it’s your kitchen sink, the stench is probably coming from rotting food stuck in your drain. A smell from your bathroom sink is probably from bacterial buildup, maybe mixed with hair, toothpaste, and whatever else ends up down there.
Luckily, this is usually something you can handle on your own, without having to enlist the help of a professional. Here are a few things you can try to rid your sink of nasty smells.
Soak the sink
Though it might sound weird to soak the the place where water comes from, it’s definitely worth a try. Here’s a method from BobVila.com:
Insert a sink stopper into the sink drain, and fill the basin halfway with hot water and one teaspoon of dish soap. Use a gloved hand to swirl the contents of the basin until the soap has dissolved in the water, then let the solution dwell in the basin for 10 minutes to help loosen the food residue. Remove the sink stopper and turn on the garbage disposal (if your kitchen sink has one) to flush the loose debris down the sink drain.
Given that this is pretty simple and only requires stuff you probably already have by your sink (dish soap), it’s a good place to start.
Clean the sink flange
If you’re fortunate enough to have a garbage disposal, that means you also have something called a “sink flange,” which may also be the source of the bad smell. To clean it, either unplug the garbage disposal at the wall outlet or cut the power from the breaker box. Then put a little liquid dish soap on a brush with a handle or dish wand, wet it, then stick it down the sink, scrub the top of the sink flange, and run cold water for 30 seconds.
Make a DIY deodoriser
You probably already have everything you need to make a DIY drain deodoriser in your kitchen right now, so there’s no excuse not to try this. You’ll need:
- Two lemons
- ¼ cup of baking soda
- ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar
- A pot of boiling water
According to the expert cleaners at Merry Maids, here’s what to do next:
1. Cut the lemons in half as if you were going to juice them. Sprinkle each half with salt.
2. Use your salted lemon to scrub the bottom and sides of the sink basin.
3. Rinse the basin with warm water.
4. Pour the baking soda into your stinky sink drain.
5. Add the vinegar. When the baking soda and vinegar are combined, the resulting chemical reaction will cause the solution to fizz, so be prepared for that.
6. Bring your water to a boil while you wait for the fizzing solution to settle down.
7. Slowly pour the boiling water down your drain. The temperature can help kill any remaining microorganisms that may be causing the smell coming from your sink.
Be careful when you’re pouring the hot water and don’t put your face over the drain to see if it’s working — the steam can come up and burn you.
Of course, there are plenty of other DIY drain deodoriser recipes, which usually feature some combination of the ingredients above, but this one includes all the major components, so might be a good place to start.
If none of this works and you think the smell is caused by a bigger problem, you may want to contact a professional plumber to take a look at your sink, drain, or garbage disposal to see what’s going on. But if it’s just a little smell, you might as well see if you can handle it on your own.
This story was originally published in 2012 and was updated on November 25, 2020 to provide more thorough and current information.