Smelly drains? It could be your fault your kitchen or bathroom stinks... but you can prevent and cure

Smelly drains can really ruin your enjoyment of your home. Fortunately, most drain smells are easy to remove

Smelly drains: FlexiSnake Drain Millipede Hair Clog Tool for Drain Cleaning
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Are smelly drains ruining your weekend lie-in, or the time spent preparing food in the kitchen? Most people, especially those who live in older properties, will have caught unpleasant whiffs from their kitchen or shower drains. 

In some cases, though, the smell can become so strong that it really makes being indoors off-putting. However, before you ring the council, call in a plumber or ask your other half to hop down to the DIY store for anything that will sort the problem, you might need to ask yourself if it's your fault in the first place, and whether changing your habits will prevent future nasty niffs from invading your home.

1. Your smelly drains are because you let stuff go down the plug hole

This goes without saying, but prevention is far better than the cure with drainage. Especially in the kitchen, make sure you always use a strainer and never allow any food to go down the drain. The same goes for oils and fats: pour them into your food waste bin, never down the kitchen sink (doing so is what causes the much-hyped fat balls). 

Preventing build-up in bathroom drains is a bit more difficult, especially if you have long-haired members of the household. However, hooking hairs out of the plughole after every shower or bath, and pouring boiling water down your shower drain weekly and using an enzyme-based drain cleaner about once a month should prevent the buildup of soap scum and hair. 

2. You're not maintaining your drains (hint: baking soda for smelly drains works)

If your drains tend to get a bit smelly, befriend baking soda: unlike liquid, baking soda will puff up into a paste inside your drain, which is more likely to help remove any bits stuck inside the drainpipe. 

Soda crystals are also equally effective. Let them sit in the drain for a good half hour to 40 minutes, then add a bit of water and let sit for another five minutes. Rinse with boiling water. 

We have more ways to clean your home with baking soda in our guide. 

3. You've never tried mechanical cleaning of shower drains

It's not gonna be pretty, but if you've got a load of hair in the shower drain, you'll need to remove it (and any soap scum stuck to it) before you clean and disinfect. Avoid poking around with a hanger – use a dedicated drain cleaning snake instead. Unlike a traditional plumbing snake, this tool has a hooked surface that will grab onto the blockages. They're effective and easy to use, too.

4. You've called a plumber instead of cleaning smelly drains with sulphuric acid

Disclaimer: only use this method if nothing else has worked, and only while wearing protective gloves and goggles, and following manufacturer's instructions. Not comfortable? Call in that plumber.

Sulphuric acid is corrosive and will literally melt away anything stuck to your pipework. It is safe to use with plastic pipework; sulphuric acid-based drain cleaning products vary in strength from 45 to 95 per cent, with the strongest usually only available for sale to tradespeople. 

Always follow instructions on the packaging, and don't use too much of the acid – a little really goes a very long way with this stuff. Make sure children/pets are not around when you're cleaning the drains with sulphuric acid. 

If the blockage is severe, you may need to perform the cleaning several times over the course of a couple of weeks before the smell is gone. If the smell is still there after sulphuric acid treatment, you will need to call in a plumber. 

More plumbing related questions? Read our top solutions to the most common plumbing problems