Everyone knows that sewage stinks. Although your plumbing system is designed in a way to prevent these nasty sewage odors from seeping into the house, there are still times when it can happen. Still, there is usually no reason to panic if your plumbing smells bad as most of the issues that can cause this are fairly easy to remedy. Nonetheless, there are times when these odors could indicate a more serious problem with your plumbing. For this reason, it is important to be proactive and try to uncover the source of the smell as soon as you first notice it.
1. Bacteria Growth Inside the Drains
By far the most common reason for smelly plumbing is that your drains are simply dirty and/or partially clogged. Grease, food particles, hair and other organic materials sitting inside your drain will quickly begin to decay. As this happens, it creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria that feed on this rotting matter.
This process releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which has an unpleasant smell similar to sewage or rotten eggs. High humidity levels can increase the rate at which the bacteria multiply and thus make the smell much stronger. This is why you might notice that your drains smell much worse in the spring and summer. However, this problem can occur at any time of the year.
Kitchen sinks can be especially susceptible to this issue. Grease, oil, fat and food particles should never go down the drain. When they do, the fats tend to harden and coagulate inside the drainpipes, forming a sticky blob that can collect additional grease and food particles. Over time, this can partially or fully clog your pipes in addition to simply smelling bad. Using a sink strainer to prevent food particles from going down the drain and making sure never to put grease, oil or fat down the drain is the easiest way to prevent this problem.
If the smell is coming from your bathroom sink, shower or bathtub, the culprit is usually a combination of hair and what is known as biofilm. This is basically an accumulation of oils from your skin and also waste from shampoo, soap, lotion, etc. Hair is incredibly difficult to wash down the drain and usually collects inside it instead. As a result, the biofilm can cling to it, which again creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. As with your kitchen sink, using a strainer in your shower and bathroom sink can help prevent hair from getting into the drains so you can hopefully avoid this issue.
Whether the smell is coming from your kitchen or bathroom sink, shower or bathtub, eliminating the issue can sometimes be as simple as thoroughly flushing your drains with a liquid degreasing soap and hot water. Alternatively, you may try pouring some baking soda down the drain and following this up with a few cups of white vinegar. Let this sit inside the drain for an hour or two and then flush the drain thoroughly with hot water. Some people also recommend flushing drains with boiling water. However, if the water is too hot, it could damage your PVC drain line, which is why we suggest simply using the hottest water from your tap instead.
There are also numerous enzyme drain cleaning products on the market, which may also help eliminate any odors coming from your drains. These products use organic enzymes that can both break down organic matter inside the drain and counteract any odor-causing bacteria.
2. Dry or Improperly Installed Drain Trap
If you haven’t used your sink, shower or washing machine for a few weeks, the chances are high that the smell is a result of a dry P-trap. This trap sits underneath every drain in your home, and it is designed to prevent sewer gases from seeping back through the plumbing and into the house. It works by trapping water in the bend of the pipe, which acts as a shield that blocks the gas in the sewer line from coming up through the drain.
However, if the P-trap is dry, the gas is unobstructed and can flow freely up through the drain. Resolving this issue is as simple as running the water for a minute or so in order to refill the trap. You can also prevent this problem by running water through each drain at least once a month.
This same problem can also be caused if your P-trap is damaged, leaking or improperly installed. If you live in an older home, there is also a slight chance that your drain either doesn’t have a trap or has the wrong type of trap. In this case, it is best to have a professional plumber inspect your drain to make sure everything is as it should be.
3. Garbage Disposal Needs Cleaning
If your kitchen has a garbage disposal, this could also be what’s causing the bad odors. As with the sink drain, a dirty garbage disposal can also be a breeding ground for bacteria. Therefore, it is recommended that you thoroughly flush and clean your disposal once a month. This usually involves flushing the disposal with hot, soapy water and then unplugging the disposal and scrubbing the inside of it with a long-handled brush. There are also numerous garbage disposal cleaners on the market that may help.
4. Damaged or Clogged Vent Pipe
The P-trap isn’t the only method that your plumbing system uses to prevent sewer gas from seeping back into the house. All plumbing systems also have a series of vent pipes that run from each drain to the main vent pipe, which then extends vertically up and out through the roof. This system ensures that gas can’t build up inside the pipes and also that it doesn’t escape into the house. However, if your main vent pipe is clogged, damaged or wasn’t installed properly, the gas will have nowhere to go and will instead back up inside the house. In this case, you will definitely need the assistance of a professional plumber to diagnose the specific cause and location of your vent pipe issue.
5. Broken Toilet Seal
A broken toilet seal can also result in sewage smells seeping into the bathroom. Also known as a wax ring, this seal connects the base of the toilet to the drainpipe via the toilet flange. The wax ring is meant to create an airtight seal to prevent gas from leaking out of the pipe. However, the ring can become cracked or damaged over time, which can allow gas to seep through. This problem is usually fairly easy to spot as it will also result in water leaking out around the base of the toilet.
6. Leak in the Sewer Line
If you notice the smell of sewage in your yard or outside of the home, this could be a sign of a potentially much more serious problem. In this case, it usually indicates that your main sewer line is leaking. This is most commonly caused by tree roots getting into the pipe, but it can also result from the sewer line being blocked. If you suspect your sewer line is leaking, it is essential that you contact a professional plumbing company immediately as the problem could quickly get much worse and possibly flood your yard and home with sewage.
If you’re in need of drain cleaning, plumbing repair, pipe replacement, leak detection or any other plumbing service, Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing has got you covered. We also offer a full range of heating and air conditioning installation, maintenance and repair services to customers in Norcross and the surrounding areas. Our duct cleaning and air purification services are also great for anyone looking to improve their home’s indoor air quality. Contact Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment.