How to get rid of a smelly sink without using harmful chemicals
Written by Hannah Robbins
We’ve all been there – gotten home from a busy day out, or finished doing the dishes, and you’re greeted by a sink drain that smells like rotten eggs. Big sigh – an unpleasant problem that needs to be dealt with. Do you call a plumber, or do you roll up your sleeves and opt for a DIY approach?
As important as it is to use the correct products to maintain a clean and hygienic home, many of the chemical compounds found in household cleaners are extremely harmful to us, as well as animals and plant life.
Why should you forgo the chemical drain cleaner?
Household cleaners, including drain cleaning products, contain chemical compounds that are harmful for the environment when disposed of improperly – and even then, they still have an environmental impact.
There are a multitude of reasons not to use these types of cleaning products:
- The production methods for these kinds of chemicals are highly inefficient, energy intensive processes.
- Improper disposal of the plastic packaging adds to landfill waste, leaving toxic chemical residue where it shouldn’t be and potentially causing harm to wildlife.
- They degrade your drain piping over time, due to the heat generated from the chemical reactions, so overuse becomes pricey, especially if you need to replace your piping (which also adds to landfill).
- Small quantities of these compounds can linger even after passing through water treatment plants, and over time they can build up in lakes, ponds and rivers and have an adverse effect on wildlife.
- They can injure you if used improperly, causing chemical burns when contact with skin, and producing fumes that are harmful if inhaled.
These are just a few, and there are sure to be many more downsides to using these harsh chemicals just to sort out a smelly or blocked drain.
Natural methods to prevent sink smells
First, you need to identify the source of the smell to figure out what may be the likely culprit. If it’s your kitchen sink producing the familiar rotten egg smell, the likelihood is there’s a build up of fats, oils and grease (FOG) or food particles coating the pipes, serving as a breeding ground for bacteria. However if it’s your bathroom sink that smells, it’ll more likely be hair and soap scum causing the bad smell.
If your kitchen sink smells when the water runs, or any sink for that matter, you may have a more sinister underlying problem with your water – and it’s time to bring in the professionals.
Once you have your culprit, and have identified the type of problem you face, you can now choose the best way to get rid of the stench. Some of these methods call for using boiling water, but be careful using boiling water if you have PVC pipes as it can damage them. Water boiled and then cooled to approximately 65°C (150°F) should be hot enough to achieve the same effect.
Here are our top 4 ways to get rid of that stinky drain.
Liquid dish soap and boiling water
For FOG related pipe problems in your kitchen, dissolve a few tablespoons of dish soap into 2 litres of boiling (or 65°C) water and slowly pour this down your drain then flush through with hot tap water. You may need to repeat this process a few times depending on how slow your drain is running.
Why does this work? The surfactants in the dish soap will work to break down the fat, whilst the water will help melt the grease present. Also, the pressure of the large quantities of water will help gravity do its job.
Salt and boiling water
For FOG or soap scum coated pipes, you can pour half a cup of salt down the drain, followed by 2 litres of nearly boiling water (or heated to 65°C) and flush with hot water. It doesn’t have to be a specific salt – it could even be table salt. Again, this may need a few goes if you have a slow moving drain.
Why does this work? The hot water melts the grease, and the salt acts as a scouring agent due to its abrasive texture, helping remove the greasy buildup, getting rid of the source of the smell.
Biological Enzymatic Cleaners
These kinds of cleaners are good for organic based smells from grease, soap and hair, making them ideal for any drain in the house. There’s a wide range of these kinds of cleaners, from liquid solutions to enzyme sticks that sit in the drain pipe. They’re also safe for use with septic tanks (unlike the chemical based drain cleaners).
Why does this work? Enzymatic solutions eat through the FOG, soap scum and bacteria, helping to clear the debris and prevent smells. They do however recommend regular use, so you’ll have to follow the instructions on whichever product you buy.
Enzyme sticks are designed to sit in the pipe, dissolving over the course of a month. They work to neutralise odours within the pipe, preventing deposits and thus preventing bacteria from growing, and are pretty cost effective.
Both products are natural, biodegradable and depending which ones you buy, are often vegan certified, cruelty free and in 100% recyclable packaging, unlike their chemical alternatives.
Drain and waste pipe cleaning tools
You can buy a special drain pipe clearing tool to clear pipe blockages on which bacteria builds up, which cause the rotten smells. You can also use this in combination with any of the above methods.
Why does this work? They are effective at clearing larger clogs and deposits that are too large for any of the individual solutions above. They are easy for the average Joe to use and as they aren’t disposable products it means your investment is a one time only price.
Want more articles like this?
For more advice and tips on how to be more sustainable at home, subscribe to our Learn&Save newsletter.
Subscribe to Learn&Save