How to Clean a Stinky Drain

Having a stinky drain is a common problem that can make using your sinks very unpleasant. The bad smells are caused by built-up grime, hair, grease, and waste getting trapped in the pipes. Thankfully, there are several methods you can use to get rid of drain odors and keep your plumbing smelling fresh.

Gather Your Supplies

Before tackling a stinky drain, assemble the following useful supplies:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Boiling water
  • Drain snake/auger
  • Plunger
  • Rubber gloves
  • Old toothbrush
  • Rags or paper towels

Try Baking Soda and Vinegar

One of the easiest ways to clean and deodorize a smelly drain is by using baking soda and vinegar. The chemical reaction between these two ingredients helps break down gunk and odor-causing bacteria.

Here’s how to use them:

  1. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain. Let it sit for a few minutes to work on odors.
  2. Follow with 1 cup of vinegar. It will fizz and bubble, helping break down buildup.
  3. Once fizzing stops, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. This flushes away debris.
  4. Repeat as needed for stubborn odors. The drain should smell fresh!

Use a Drain Snake

If DIY drain cleaners aren’t working, it’s time to bring out a drain snake/auger. This handy tool uses a long, bendable metal wire to physically scrape out debris and clear clogs deep in the pipes.

Follow these steps:

  1. Insert the drain snake down the drain until you feel resistance.
  2. Crank the handle to spin the snake and work through the clog.
  3. Slowly pull out the snake – it should come out with hair and gunk attached.
  4. Rinse the drain with hot water when finished.

Try a Plunger

For minor clogs closer to the drain, a simple plunger can often do the trick. Here’s a quick tutorial:

  1. Fill the sink halfway with water. Make sure the plunger is fully submerged.
  2. Work the plunger vigorously up and down over the drain opening. This creates suction to dislodge clogs.
  3. Repeat several times, then flush with hot water. Check if the odor has improved.

Scrub With Baking Soda

For scummy, smelly drains, baking soda can also be used as a gentle abrasive scrub.

  1. Sprinkle baking soda over the drain and use a toothbrush or other scrub brush to scrub the basin and metal parts of the drain. This will help remove grime and germs.
  2. Rinse thoroughly with hot water when finished scrubbing.

Clean the Overflow Cover

Don’t forget to remove and clean the overflow drain cover. Hair and gunk easily collect here, unseen, causing bad odors.

  1. Unscrew the cover and remove any debris.
  2. Scrub with an old toothbrush and baking soda paste.
  3. Rinse and replace the cleaned cover.

Prevent Future Odors

To help prevent future stinky drain issues:

  • Pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain weekly to melt away grime.
  • Use drain strainers to catch hair and food scraps.
  • Avoid pouring fats and oils down the drain – these solidify and clog pipes.
  • Consider DIY enzyme drain cleaners, which safely break down organic waste over time.

With some effective cleaning methods and preventive habits, you can keep your drains fresh and odor-free. Say goodbye to smelly sinks!

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Stinky Drains

What causes my drain to smell bad?

The most common causes of stinky drains are:

  • Built-up debris like food scraps, hair, and grease clogging pipes
  • Growth of mold and mildew
  • Bacteria that creates a rotten egg odor
  • Improper plumbing that allows sewer gas to enter

What is the best way to prevent smelly drains?

To prevent bad drain odors:

  • Pour boiling water weekly to clear grease
  • Use drain strainers and avoid pouring fats/oils
  • Try enzyme cleaners to break down gunk
  • Check for clogs and clean drains regularly

What should I do if baking soda and vinegar don’t work?

If DIY drain cleaners aren’t effective, try using a drain snake/auger or a plunger. Call a plumber if you can’t clear the clog fully.

Why does my drain get clogged so quickly?

Frequent clogs can be due to pipes that are narrow, sloped improperly, or have intruding roots. Old pipes may also have buildup or corrosion. Have a plumber inspect your drains.

Is it OK to use chemical drain cleaners?

It’s best to avoid harsh chemical cleaners. Try safer DIY options first. If using store-bought chemical cleaners, take precautions and never mix products.


Dealing with a stinky, smelly drain is annoying, but thankfully fixable with some simple cleaning methods. First try DIY solutions like baking soda, vinegar, boiling water, and scrubbing. For severe clogs, use a drain snake or plunger. Prevent odors in the future by regularly maintaining drains and avoiding misuse. With consistent effort, you can banish bad smells coming from the drain.