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My Drains Smell, What Can I Do?


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Will Southall

Will Southall

a year ago - 6 minute read

Let’s paint a picture. You’ve just moved to a new rental and fallen in love with your apartment.

But, whenever you take a shower or run the tap in the kitchen, your whole place stinks up with a pongy, rotten egg smell.

You’ve tried running the tap for a little while. You’ve tried covering up the stench with air freshener. But nothing seems to work.

Months pass, and you still can’t step foot in your apartment without being hit with a bad drain smell – and neither can your guests!

Smelly drains in a rental are common, but you don’t have to live with their unpleasantries. Surprisingly, a rotten egg drain smell is quite easy to fix.

If you want to make your apartment smell nice and get rid of smelly drains, here’s how to fix them quickly, easily and naturally.

Why Does My Drain Smell So Bad?

Some sort of blockage usually causes smelly drains.

These blockages result from rotten food sticking to your pipes or hot oil being poured down the drain. Sometimes, it’s a mixture of both!

Small blockages like this are often unnoticeable to the eye, as water still runs down the drain smoothly. But it can cause a bad smell, especially when running the tap.

How to Get Rid of Smelly Drains

Thankfully, getting rid of smelly drains is pretty easy.

You can use things you already have around the house to stop drains from smelling without necessarily needing to buy something new.

Here are the top ways how to get rid of smelly drains that’ll make your house or apartment smell better.

1. Use a Drain Cleaning Product

Most supermarkets sell household drain cleaning products. These products contain a foamy substance that, when poured down the drain, expands.

As the foam expands, it cleans your drains and stops bad smells.

Drain cleaning products can sometimes remove blockages, but only if they are very small. They are more effective for cleaning and washing away rotten food stuck inside your pipes.

You can usually use these products in:

  • Kitchen sinks
  • Bathroom sinks
  • Bath or shower plugs
  • Outside drains

You can’t usually use these down the toilet.

Here’s how most drain cleaning products work:

  1. Squirt the cleaning product directly into the drain until the foam escapes out of the plughole
  2. Leave it to sit for 10-15 minutes
  3. Pour hot water down the drain

Be careful not to use boiling water straight from the kettle when unclogging drains. Pipes made of plastic (which are usually found under the kitchen sink) can melt when you pour boiling water down them.

Instead, let the kettle cool down for several minutes before pouring.

2. Make Your Own Drain Cleaner

To save money and the environment, you can make your own drain cleaner instead.

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own drain cleaner:

  • White vinegar
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Boiling water
  • A toothpick (optional)

You can use DIY drain cleaner on the following drains:

  • Kitchen sinks
  • Bathroom sinks
  • Bath or shower plugs
  • Outside drains

It isn’t usually suitable for toilets.

Here’s how to clean drains using a DIY drain cleaner:

  1. Pour bicarbonate of soda down the drain, ensuring as much of it goes down the drain as possible and isn’t sitting around the plug.
  2. Use a small toothpick to poke the bicarbonate of soda into the gaps (optional).
  3. Pour white vinegar down the drain until it starts to bubble up.
  4. Leave to sit for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Pour hot water down the drain (be careful not to use boiling water from the kettle if your pipes are made of plastic).

Repeat this regularly, even when your drains don’t smell. It’ll help keep your drains clean and prevent a build-up of smelly, rotten food.

3. Use a Plunger

If the root cause of your smelly drains is a small blockage, you’ll likely need to use a plunger to get rid of the blockage and bad smell that accompanies it.

You’ll usually know if you have a small blockage in your drains if:

  • Water runs slowly down the sink
  • Your shower tray fills up quickly
  • Your bathtub starts filling up when showering
  • Bathwater takes ages to drain away

Using a plunger down a toilet is pretty simple. Simply place the plunger in the water and pump it up and down vigorously.

If the problem is in your shower or bathtub, run the tap until it fills up slightly with water and then use the plunger. The motion should propel the water down the drain and remove the blockage.

Remember, a plunger won’t necessarily clean a drain, but it can eliminate small blockages causing a bad smell.

You may still need to use a drain cleaner after plunging to get rid of any rotten food remnants around the pipes.

Is My Landlord Responsible for Blocked, Smelly Drains?

Generally, no, your landlord is not responsible for smelly drains in a rental.

Usually, if your drains smell, it’s because they are clogged up and need cleaning. This is something you, as the tenant, can easily fix.

However, you can’t always get rid of smelly drains with a quick clean. Your drains could smell like rotten eggs because of a more serious issue further down the pipes, like a blockage.

You, as the tenant, are responsible for preventing blockages in your drains.

But landlords will generally be responsible for fixing issues with your pipes or drains, like cracks or severe blockages in exterior pipes.

Related article: Landlord always at your house? Here’s what should & shouldn’t happen during landlord visits

How to Look After Pipes in a Rental

Blockages don’t happen overnight. It takes months, sometimes years, to reach disaster levels.

Rentals aren’t known for being in top-notch condition. Usually, somewhere down the list of former tenants, someone has done something they shouldn’t have with the drains.

Chances are, your landlord hasn’t been cleaning the drains in between tenancies either.

Drains are often seen as a landlord problem. But it’s actually the tenant’s responsibility to keep the drains working and smelling nicely.

If no one’s ever told you how to look after your pipes, here’s what we recommend doing (and not doing!) regularly to prevent blockages and bad smells in your drain.

1. Clean Drains Regularly

The best way to look after your pipes in a rental is to simply clean them regularly. Use one of the natural drain cleaning methods above at least once every 1-2 months to prevent bad smells from appearing.

If you’ve just moved into a new rental and your drains are smelly, they may not have been cleaned for some time.

You may need to clean them more frequently for a couple of weeks/months before you manage to eradicate the smell entirely.

Related article: How lifetime deposits can help renters

2. Don’t Pour Hot Oil Down the Sink or Toilet

One of the best ways to look after your pipes is never to pour hot oil down the drain. That means not putting it down the sink, toilet or bathtub.

When hot oil is poured down a drain and hits the cold pipes or cold water in the pipes, it instantly solidifies. When solidified, it builds up and causes a blockage.

Usually, this blockage doesn’t just form in your own pipes. It tends to create large blockages, known as fatbergs, in your neighbours’ pipes, too.

If you’ve been putting hot oil down the drain for a while and haven’t experienced issues, that doesn’t mean you should keep doing it.

Fatbergs can take a long time to build up, but the effects can be devastating. They also create a bad smell that’s hard to eradicate, as food and other things get attached to the solidified fat.

Instead of pouring oil directly down the drains, pour it into an airtight container and store it somewhere cool.

You can reuse the oil if you want. Or you can wait until the container is full, seal it and throw it in your general waste bin.

Related article: How to properly dispose of cooking oil and fat

3. Avoid Rinsing Greasy Pans in the sink

Just like pouring hot oil down the sink can be problematic, rinsing greasy pans and oven dishes can have the same effect. Cooking a fry-up or roasting potatoes in the oven often leaves behind a silky residue.

Try not to rinse these pots and pans in the sink if you can. Even small amounts of grease can lead to a build-up of fat inside your drains.

Instead, use kitchen roll to wipe around the dish and put it in the bin.

Related article: 15 expert ways to decorate a rental apartment balcony

4. Don’t Put Food Down the Sink

Keeping food out of your drain is the best way to prevent smelly drains.

Food often sticks to the inside of our pipes and doesn’t budge easily, even after running the tap for several minutes. When this happens, the food gets mouldy and starts to release a bad, rotten egg smell.

Follow the tips below to stop drains from smelling eggy:

  • Empty all food on plates, pots or pans into the bin before rinsing
  • Scrape crumbs from your plate into the bin before rinsing
  • When washing up, use a sink strainer on the plug to catch food
  • Pick food out of the plug and put it in the bin (don’t try and squash it down the drain!)

Even if you follow the above tips and don’t put food down the sink, it’s still a good idea to clean your drains regularly to remove any food that’s slipped through.

Related article: Top ways to make a new rental feel like home

Are You Moving Soon?

Smelly drains getting you down? Bad drains in a rental are easy to fix, but other problems may not be so simple.

If you’re thinking about moving rental soon, we’ve got news for you!

For the first time ever, you no longer need to save up for a deposit every time you move. If you already have a deposit protected in a deposit scheme, you can transfer it to your next property.

A Lifetime Deposit will help you keep hold of £1,200 on average, which we think is pretty neat.

We are on a mission to help more people move, so if you are moving soon, don’t forget your Lifetime Deposit!

Get a Lifetime Deposit: Get started

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Will Southall

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Will Southall

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