A well-installed, clean, perfectly working plumbing system shouldn’t emit odors. However, with continued use, you might begin to notice some foul odors from your drains and pipes. Some people even try opening the windows and running the exhaust fan to no avail. This is a common problem in many households, and it indicates an issue within the plumbing system. Let’s take a look at some possible drain and pipe smells and their causes to learn what you can do about them.

Hydrogen Sulfide Odor

If you begin to notice a smell like rotten eggs coming from your drain, you could be dealing with hydrogen sulfide. It’s formed when bacteria grow in the drains and pipes.

You could end up with a rotten-egg smell if you haven’t used your drain for a long time. The drain lines have a low bend facing downward, known as the P-trap, that collects water. The primary role of the water is to block gases from wafting back up the drain. So, if you don’t use your sink for a while and the P-trap dries up, nasty gas will circulate into your house. The solution is to run water and refill the U-shaped pipe to eliminate the smell. Some older homes may lack the P-trap completely, which will cause a persistent rotten-egg odor. In such a case, have a qualified plumber install one. A leak in the P-trap may also allow the gas to escape. Check for signs of leakage under it, and look for discoloration. If you find a problem, call a plumber to fix the leak.

Tiny food particles and other organic matter can also accumulate in your drain system and form a clog. These blockages slow or stop water flow in the drain, which causes bad smells. Accumulation of soap, grease, hair products, toothpaste and other substances inside the plumbing promotes the growth of bacteria. As the bacteria break down the residue in the drainage system, the process results in the emission of hydrogen sulfide gas.

There are various ways you can resolve this issue. First, boil a kettle of water and pour it into the drain to dislodge the blockage. Note that this method can weaken or deform plastic pipes and fixtures. Alternatively, pour a cup of baking soda into the drain; let it sit for a while, and then, follow up with a cup of vinegar. The mixture quickly foams up, bubbles through the clog, weakens it and breaks it loose. Do not use harsh chemicals to eliminate organic buildup. This can easily damage your pipes. Call a professional plumber to open the traps below the sink and clear out the blockages if the problem persists.

Musty Odor

A musty odor coming from the plumbing system indicates mold and mildew growth. Fungus thrives in warm, dark and damp environments, which makes the drain a good growth area. This is even worse if the sink allows the passage of food particles and other organic debris. They act as a food source for fungi and promote rapid growth.

Mold and mildew affect indoor air quality and can cause serious health issues. If you breathe in mold spores, they can trigger an asthma attack, allergic reaction or other respiratory problem. So, you should attend to the musty odor immediately.

Clean the drain thoroughly to get rid of this nasty smell. Pour half a cup of baking soda into the drain, wait for 20 minutes and, then, add a cup of hydrogen peroxide. Alternatively, add distilled white vinegar into the baking soda in the drain, pause until frothing stops and, then, pour in hot water. Wait for about five minutes, and rinse the drain with cold water.

Note that water can remain at the bottom of your washing machine, and this might also cause a musty odor in the drain lines. You can use washing machine cleaning tablets to get rid of the smell. In addition, water escaping through a leak can also soak wood and other nearby materials, attracting mold growth. If you notice a persistent musty smell, look for leaks, and fix them immediately.

Sewer Smell

The smell of sewage indicates a broader issue in your plumbing system. Prolonged exposure to sewer gas can cause headaches, fatigue, memory loss and heart palpitations, depending on your level of sensitivity. One common cause of the sewer smell is biofilm accumulation in the shower drain. To clear this issue, unscrew the shower drain cover, dip a paint roller into the drain and roll it back and forth to get the film off. Repeat the process a few times, and then pour in hot water.

An improperly installed toilet can cause the nearby walls to smell. Call a professional to handle this issue. Broken or loose toilet seals also allow sewer gas into the home. Either apply caulk to the toilet seal and bolt holes to fix the problem or seek assistance.

There are vent pipes in most homes that connect to the drain pipe. Their primary role is to draw off foul-smelling gases and release them through an opening on the roof, away from windows and other vents. If the vent pipe develops leaks or blocks, it sends back sewage odors into the house. Have a professional fix this.

Gunk buildup in the sink can also make your house smell like sewage. Use a small brush to clear off debris. If the problem persists, call a professional. Another major cause of sewer smell is bacteria colonies in the water. You can resolve this by increasing the water temperature for 24 hours and running the hot water taps. A blocked sewer line or sewer backup can also cause these nasty smells. This is a sensitive issue best handled by a qualified plumber. If you notice gurgling sounds in the sink or toilet besides the sewer smell, call a professional immediately to conduct a sewer inspection.

Smell of Decay

If your drain or pipes emit the scent of a rotten substance, it indicates decomposing particles. Organic matter should go down through the drain system into the septic tank. However, if oils, hair and food particles build up over time, they form a blockage that prevents organic matter from going down the drain. With time, they begin to decompose, giving off a rotten smell.

Clean the drain using hot water and detergent, or seek professional assistance. If you have a garbage disposal, the food scraps may begin to rot if neglected. You can prevent this by running enough water each time you put food through the device. A great way to deodorize the garbage disposal is by grinding up lemon or lime slices.

Seek Professional Drain Cleaning Services

If you are still struggling with drain and pipe smells even after trying the above remedies, enlist the aid of a plumber. You should also seek professional assistance for a comprehensive evaluation if you notice multiple drain odors. An expert has the right tools and knowledge to locate the issue and fix it to avoid recurrence. Keep in mind that attempting to fix plumbing issues without the necessary skills and tools can cause severe water damage. If you experience any plumbing issue, contact Environmental Heating & Air Solutions for quick and reliable solutions. Besides a full range of plumbing options, we offer heating, cooling and indoor air quality installation, maintenance and repair services throughout Roseville and Benicia, CA and the nearby areas. Give us a call today to book an appointment.

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