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What to Do When Your Sink Stinks
Lots of things can get stuck in the trap of the kitchen or bathroom sinks, and when those things start to decompose, it can make the drain breathe out a horrible rotten-egg smell. The following is an easy, inexpensive, and very effective solution.
All you need is the dynamic duo of organic home cleaning: white vinegar and baking soda.
Why Baking Soda and Vinegar?
Baking soda is a sodium bicarbonate that deodorizes by bringing both acidic and basic odor molecules into a more neutral state.
White vinegar is about 5% acetic acid. Acids are very reactive in water. They donate protons, which destroys organic molecules. Odor molecules are especially susceptible to being broken.
Simple Sink Deodorizing
- Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda down the drain.
- Follow that with 1 cup of white vinegar. The mixture will foam like crazy.
- Finish off with a teapot full of boiling water to wash it all down the drain.
Why Do Baking Soda and Vinegar Foam?
What actually happens is this: the acetic acid (that's what makes vinegar sour) reacts with sodium bicarbonate (a compound that's in baking soda) to form carbonic acid. It's really a double replacement reaction. Carbonic acid is unstable, and it immediately falls apart into carbon dioxide and water (it's a decomposition reaction). The bubbles you see from the reaction come from the carbon dioxide escaping the solution that is left.
And that's all there is to it. The combination of the baking soda and vinegar will stop any stinky decomposing that's happening in the sink, and the boiling water makes sure it all gets washed away down the drain.
The effect is immediate, and the smell is completely gone.
If there's any lingering smell, just try the process again.
Where does that sulfur stench come from?
That stench of rotten eggs is actually hydrogen sulfide, a compound of sewer gas. In sewers, it is produced when, without oxygen, microbial organic matter breaks down and emits an odor. That's why it smells so bad.
What causes that sewer smell?
The most common cause is a clogged or blocked drain where food or waste matter collects, bacteria builds up, and hydrogen sulfide gas is emitted. Other causes include a dirty or blocked garbage disposal or plumbing that has not been used, because when a p-trap dries out completely, there's nothing to prevent the gas from rising out of the sewer and into your home.
It could just be a dry p-trap.
When plumbing sits, unused, the water barrier in the p-trap dries up and then smelly gasses can waft in freely. All you have to do in this situation is just pour a few gallons of water in to fill the p-trap and put a barrier of water between the smell and your nose.
Is the smell coming from the water or from the drain?
It's likely not the water that smells bad and more likely bacteria in your drain. When you turn on the water it forces gas out, making it seem like the water brought the smell. But it's not the water you're smelling, it's the gas. If your water tastes or smells like sulfur, it's most likely a sign that you need to clean your pipes. (More rarely, the gas may be occurring somewhere else in your plumbing: see below.)
What if cleaning the drain doesn't work?
If cleaning your drain even two or three times does not remove the bad taste/smell, then there may be a deeper issue. Here are two ideas:
- It could be your water heater. There's a chance that the hydrogen sulfide is forming in your hot water heater. Try turning the temperature up for 24 hours to "burn" out the debris. You may need to disinfect your tank. Consider consulting a plumber.
- If you have one, it could be your well. Consider consulting a plumber and having tests performed to see if your well is contaminated with bacteria.
Hey buddy on August 25, 2018:
If you use lemon it’s got to replace the vinegar. Otherwise you will not get the bubbles
ZIL on February 25, 2018:
CAN I USE LEMON INSTEAD OF BAKING SODA........
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 30, 2014:
There are so many commercial products out in the market but I really don't like using to much chemicals. This kitchen option will be better for me. plus it's does not have chemicals I can't pronounce. LOL