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One of the less joyful things about owning or even renting your own place is having to deal with the maintenance and cleaning that comes along with that. One of those things we all have to deal with at some point is cleaning smelly drains! That includes your sinks and your toilets too. When things get blocked and backed up, the odour can become really unpleasant really quickly!

While it’s not a plumbing emergency, smelly drains can quickly deteriorate into a more serious problem. Here are some tips on cleaning drains and removing odours focusing on bathrooms, the worst culprit!

What causes smelly drains?

There are three common causes of smelly drains. Firstly, bacteria can grow in drains feeding on food particles grease and other build up causing stinky drain smells. Often this is accompanied by drain flies, small moth-like flies that love to breed in stinky sink drains.

If you have a blocked drain, water can sit in your pipes and even pool up in the sink causing stagnant smells. You can try unblocking a drain yourself if you’re feeling handy. If the blockage is stubborn or keeps coming back, it’s time to get expert blocked drain plumbers involved. They’ll have the right equipment to diagnose and fix the blockage in a jiffy.

When used infrequently bathroom and kitchen sinks can release gases from your drain pipes. This is because the airlock effect of the “P” shaped pipe (or P trap) under your sink stops working as the water evaporates, allowing drain smells to waft from the sink.

Tips for Cleaning Smelly Drains

  1. You need more than hot soapy water for cleaning this kind of thing. One option for how to clean smelly drains is to use a combination of 1 litre of boiling water, 1 cup of white vinegar and 2 cups of baking soda. Pour the baking soda down the drain, followed by the boiling water to dissolve it. Add the vinegar and insert the drain plug. There will be foaming and a fizzing sound from the reaction which works to break down the build-up in the pipes – great for removing grease and grime, as well as odours.
  2. For bathrooms that have had a lot of use over the years, it is not just the drains and toilet that need cleaning. The smell and dirt can get into the walls, the tiles, the grouting, the rugs and even the sink. Disinfect everything from the fixtures to the walls and ceiling. Give everything a proper clean down using bleach or ammonia. Make sure you have some ventilation going on in there though, either the fan turned on or windows open when you clean smelly drains.
  3. Do you have a smelly toilet drain? The toilet bowl needs to be kept clean regularly. When you need to give it a deeper clean you might want to use a cleaning agent and scrub with a brush. Let it sit for a few minutes before flushing. If the problem is your toilet not flushing or draining slowly, there might be a blockage. You can use a plunger, or try another chemical solution bought from a store. Just be careful what chemicals you mix.


When you are looking at how to clean a smelly drain the key will be identifying what the cause of the smell is. If it is blocked you need to find a way to unblock it. If it is dirty you need to clean it. If there’s a P trap problem it will need attention. If you have tried all the usual things and are still having problems, call on us, your trusted Gold Coast plumbing company. You don’t have to put up with stinky smells in your kitchen or bathroom!