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Nobody wants to share space with a smelly drain! There are all sorts of reasons why a drain can start smelling less-than-fresh, as well as, thankfully, a number of different measures homeowners can take to get their drains smelling beautiful again.

Here, we take a look at common causes of foul-smelling drains, as well as other signs that could indicate your drain needs further attention. We go on to detail a few DIY measures that are frequently effective in resolving smelly drains. If these fail, we suggest calling out a professional to resolve the problem.

It’s important to note that although smelly drains in themselves aren’t hazardous to health, if the smell is accompanied by signs that there is a blockage in your drain, there is the potential for sewage backflow to occur. Raw sewage is dangerous, so if DIY measures don’t work to resolve the problem, professional drain clearing is the way to go.

Common causes of foul-smelling drains

Almost everybody will encounter a foul-smelling drain at some point. Common causes include:

– Slow draining waste. If a pipe is partially blocked, water may drain away, but more slowly than normal. This leads to solid waste being deposited in the pipe, rather than washed away. This is a common cause of unpleasant odours.
– A dead animal. Small animals can become trapped in a drainage pipe, or just die from natural causes in an unfortunate location – your drainage system. In some cases, the animal may be too big to be washed away by the flow of wastewater. In other circumstances, the corpse may become wedged, causing a foul-smelling blockage.
– A blockage. If your sewage pipe is blocked for any reason, wastewater, with its attendant smells, will build up.

DIY drain clearing methods

The success of DIY drain cleaning largely depends on the reason for the blockage. For example, if a blockage is due to a build-up of fat, the bicarb and vinegar method can work really well. After running hot water into the drain, flush down a cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with two cups of warmed vinegar. Leave for an hour, then flush with hot water.

If a blockage is caused by a build-up of hair (or similar detritus), a drain snake may do the job. A drain snake is a thin, flexible coil of wire with a hooked end. Inserted into the drain, it can hook out debris that may be causing a blockage. It can also break up softer blockages.

For foul odours that are due to a build-up of grot and grime in the U-bend of a sink or basin, it’s usually possible to unscrew the U-shaped section, clear out the grime, and reattach it.

Caustic soda or proprietary drain cleaning compounds will clear blockages that can be removed by chemical means. Fat ‘burgs, for example, can be effectively dispersed using a chemical drain cleaner. Unfortunately, these won’t remove a physical blockage (such as a build-up of toilet paper, or a large hairball, for example).

Other signs your drains could need professional attention

In addition to a foul smell, there are several other signs that your drain probably needs professional attention. Some of these include:

– Slow draining water from a sink or basin. The rate of flow can often be temporarily improved by using a sink plunger, but if the cause of the problem isn’t resolved, plunging is usually only successful in the short term.
– Gurgling sounds (water makes odd noises as it passes through your drainage system).
– Backflow – sewage and/or wastewater appears in your sink or toilet, due to a blockage that’s stopped the flow of wastewater completely.

What can a professional do?

A professional drain cleaning team will respond promptly to your call. On arrival, they will carry out a swift assessment to determine the likely cause of the smell, as well as the best method of resolving the issue.

There are a number of different options professionals can use to clear your drains. In the first instance, they may try a professional-grade drain snake or plumbers’ plungers to remove the blockage. If that fails, they may use a jet of high-pressure water to blast away the blockage. Using a water jet is often a more permanent solution, as it not only disperses the blockage, it also propels the detritus into the main sewer. This reduces the risk of another blockage building up.

Prevention is always better than cure! The best way to keep your drains sweet-smelling is to reduce the risk of blockages. Install a grease trap in your kitchen sink and avoid chucking anything other than the three P’s (poo, pee and paper) into your toilet. Regularly remove hair from the plug holes of your shower or bathtub.

If you are experiencing any problems with smelly drains and could use the services of a seasoned, professional plumber, get in touch with the team at Same Day Trades.