How to clean a kitchen sink drain — without getting too grossed out

A sinkware routine like no other

Light and bright kitchen with green cabinets
(Image credit: Jessica Small)

When it comes to cleaning the kitchen, the list of necessary chores is quite long. From maintaining clean dishes and countertops to organizing your pantry, in most households, there are always plenty of bigger projects to undertake. While many areas in your home can attract germs, there is often one area that tends to be overlooked, even during deep cleaning sessions: the kitchen sink drain. 

An often-missed part of the must-do cleaning routine (and one that can produce foul smells), the kitchen sink drain is one place that can feel daunting to undertake. The good news is that with the right tools and professional advice, your kitchen sink area can be as good as new, leaving you with a germ-free drain. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to get that drain shining like new. 

Good to know

Time: 30 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Helpful hints: Try to keep your sink drain clean and free of food debris and coffee grounds each time you do the dishes. This will help you stay on top of the task and won't lead to a pile-up of slime and gunk every time you go to clean it (shudder).

Here's what you'll need

How to clean your kitchen sink drain

Step 1: Create a good sinkware setup

Austin Miller, a professional cleaner and president at SPRUSE cleaning, a company that provides many different cleaning services, explains why it can be so difficult to clean your kitchen drain. “Keeping it clean is next to impossible as it’s where we go to clean things, so naturally it gets dirty quite often,” he explains. 

His solution is to take your "sinkware" seriously. This is a term he uses for tools like “sponge holders, bottle trays, or if you’re really bougie, bin attachments for food waste." Investing in the right setup "will keep your sink cleaner for longer while adding to the overall tidiness of your kitchen." Once that's squared away, we can delve into actually getting the drain clean.

Step 2: Grab the right tools for a sink drain deep clean

“A cleaning hack we use here at SPRUSE is using a toilet bowl scrubber,” Miller says. A separate kitchen-only toilet brush allows you to go deeper into cleaning drains that have build-up. “Keeping it under the sink will give you the perfect tool to keep your drain clean, without touching it,” he adds. Aside from a good cleaning solution, this scrubber brush is all you'll need to get started.

Step 3: Prepare to touch and remove gross stuff


You’ve got the tools and now, it’s time for the fun part: the scrubbing. Even if you’re the cleanest person, it can be difficult to keep a drain clean without using your hands to remove the build-up. In order to avoid feeling disgusted, opt for rubber gloves to make the process easier. “I would simply say whatever method you do choose, make sure it aligns with you and your ‘ick’ tolerance,” Miller says. 

Step 4: Pour in your cleaning solution

You’ve got the tools and you’ve got the gloves. Now it’s time to get to work. A homemade baking soda method is the best way to clean your drain without purchasing specialty cleaning solutions. The method is simple but effective and uses some of the best kitchen cleaning hack ingredients. Start by pouring a handful of baking soda down the drain and let it sit for about 15 minutes before following it with vinegar for an odor-fighting rinse. End the process by pouring a pot of boiling water down the drain (be sure to wear oven mitts and be gentle) to make sure there are no substances left. 

Whether you opt to purchase a drain-friendly cleaning solution or make your own, you can get the drain cleaned and feeling like new in no time. Use a bit of strength to scrub away the grime around the drain and in the sink as well. 

Step 5: Put an end to sink drain odors

Once you are able to properly clean your sink drain, most smells should subside. In order to avoid a smell problem again, consider deodorizing more often, between deeper cleanings. For those with a garbage disposal, Miller’s pro-tip is citrus. “Toss a couple lemons or limes in there,” he says. “Turn the garbage disposal on and it will naturally deodorize the sink.” 

Step 6: Clean the surrounding sink area

Once you've cleaned the drain, wipe down the basin, faucet, handle, and the countertop around your sink for a full clean. By deep cleaning your drain, you’ve set yourself up for success with your sink cleanliness in the future. In order to keep the surrounding areas clean, opt to make daily and weekly cleaning easier with easy-to-reach cleaning solutions and tools. 

A deep clean on your kitchen drain can be just the thing to make your kitchen feel even more clean and fresh. For Miller, having a clean kitchen is the perfect way to start the day. “A fresh cup of coffee doesn't feel the same when drinking it in a dirty kitchen,” he says. Here’s to a happy kitchen. 


How do I stop my drain from smelling?

Try to keep food and other grime from blocking up your drain in the first place. Scrape leftovers into your trash can or a compost bin and frequently check your sink after doing the dishes. If it starts to smell, use a lemon or buy a specialty deodorizer to stop the stench.

How do I remove build-up from a sink drain?

Use a dish brush, or take Miller's hack and use a brush, which has a longer handle. If the tool hasn't pulled out all of the build-up in your sink, put on some rubber gloves and use your hands to get it out. Gross, but very effective.

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!