Smelly drains in the bathroom

Smelly drains are not only overwhelming, they can be unsanitary and a sign of more sinister plumbing problems. For bigger issues your professional plumber is you go-to, but for other minor issues there are a few things you can do as part of your overall home maintenance routine to fix them. Here are some tips on how to get rid of smelly drains in the bathroom.

What causes smelly drains?

Smelly bathroom drains can be caused by a number of things that can stick to pipes including dead skin, rubbish, food, a build-up of soap scum and solidified liquids like oils. Dodgy pipes can also cause odours, particularly if you live in an older house, as pre-1980 pipes were made of clay joined with cement. Understandably, these aren’t crack proof so slight underground movements can cause damage and lead to blockages. If this is in the main sewerage line then it can cause a drain to smell.

Drains can also become smelly if the bathroom hasn’t been used in a while and the water at the bottom of the floor waste has dried up. This allows the main sewer smell to enter your bathroom. Phew! Luckily this issue is a simple fix – simply run a tap and the water from the shower or basin waste will automatically fill up the floor waste and create a water seal, which should hopefully stop the smell. However, this will only work if the water running from the shower and basin waste goes into the floor waste.

Drain flies commonly known as moth flies can also often cause odours, particularly when they’re present in a drain in large numbers. Moth flies love decomposing organic matter which they lay their eggs in, and their favourite places to breed are in drains as well as anywhere else that contains sewerage.

However, the most common cause of a blocked and therefore smelly drains? Tree roots. Symptoms of tree root damage to drains include prolonged toilet flushing, gurgling sounds and raw sewerage appearing from pipes.

What can I do about smelly drains?

One of the easiest methods of dealing with smelly floor drains in the bathroom is to flush them out with boiling water. It won’t work in every case, however if you have a slow drain with just a minor blockage, it’s worth giving it a go. Make sure the water’s not too hot though – boiling water can work fine in metal pipes however it may soften or melt joints in PVC pipes. In this instance, just use water that’s about the same temperature as what comes out of your hot water tap.

Drain cleaners can also work, however most plumbers will recommend that commercial drain cleaners should only be used as a last resort because they’ll only work on certain types of blocked drains. If you’ve got a minor issue, a combination of baking soda, vinegar and boiling water is a good substitute. Plus it’s environmentally friendly! Start by pouring one cup of baking soda down the drain, then add two cups of boiling water and wait a few minutes. Add another cup of baking soda and a cup of white vinegar and then plug the drain. You’ll eventually hear sizzling noises and see bubbles foaming up from the drain. When the bubbles have died down, add another two cups of boiling water and repeat if necessary.

If your bath or shower drain is blocked or you have a smelly bathroom sink it’s worth trying a cup plunger. These work on flat surfaces as they fit smoothly over the drain and have a flat rubber suction cup on the bottom. Cover the opening fully and keep the seal between the surface and the plunger cup intact. Around six push-pull movements should break up any clogs and you should see water draining away. If not, repeat the process and after it’s been cleared, flush out with hot water. This will send any debris into the main drain line and hopefully prevent a new clog from forming.

Got a blocked toilet? Toilet plungers may work and they come in two basic types that both have rubber bottoms and longer handles to match the trap opening in your toilet bowl. A ball plunger has a flange which is an additional piece of rubber that helps it former a proper seal, and a bellows plunger has an accordion style cup and a flange. To unblock your toilet, plunge up and down a few times and then flush. If the water clears it’s been unclogged. If it starts to overflow again, close the flapper to stop water from entering the bowl and try again until the clog’s gone.

How can I prevent smelly drains?

As it is with most household issues, prevention is better that cure and sometimes a little bit of regular plumbing maintenance can go a long way towards keeping smelly bathroom drains at bay.

Once a week, boil up the kettle and slowly tip steaming water into every drain in your bathroom twice. After that run the cold water for a minute. Once a month, undertake your vinegar, baking soda and boiling water routine then plug up the sink overnight. In the morning, remove the plug and tip in a steady stream of hot water. Your drains will not only be dirt-free but smelling fresh as well!

What if the problem still isn’t fixed?

If you’ve got ongoing issues with smelly drains in the bathroom, then unfortunately they probably can’t be solved with a little DIY. If they can’t be fixed with the tips above or you notice other strange plumbing behaviour like gurgling sounds, then it’s best to call your plumber straight away.

Plumbers use special tools that are able to clean drains efficiently, effectively and safely and can prevent minor plumbing issues turning into major ones later on down the track!

Do you have a smelly bathroom drains that can’t be fixed with a DIY job? Contact Yarrow Plumbing today on (07) 3277 5742.