Are Plumbing Odors Creeping Into Your Home?
Read These Troubleshooting Tips
Imagine a simpler time. One perhaps made of kings and queens residing in extravagant castles … dripping of gluttonous wealth and donning jewels and gold from head to toe. All the while surrounded by the infernal streets of the peasants below. Streets loud with festivity and merry with bliss. Wafting with smells of baking barley bread, simmering cabbage pottage and the sweet, prominent bouquet of sewer waste.
Feeling a little more grateful for your indoor plumbing?
Our plumbing technicians here at J & A South Park all agree that we are a long way away from the time of the Dark Ages. But if you are finding yourself surrounded by the stench of plumbing odors, you probably aren’t feeling much like the proud king or queen of your castle.
Plumbing pipes are like a modern road system, all pipes, like our roads, have their own direction and destinations. In an ideal world, one-way streets would be the only design of your home’s plumbing system. However, these pipe routes are for certain a two-way street. Even with multi-directional properties, we know these pipes are not meant to have foul and unpleasant funky odors that breech the invisible boundary of the drain into your home.
Though the smell must be coming from somewhere, odors don’t just appear out of thin air. Unpleasant, elusive odors that linger with no “probable” culprit to point the finger to, can be a hard source to discover, but there is always a source to be reconciled with. Our plumbing technicians have smelled it all when it comes to odors within the plumbing system of a home. Whether the stink is from natural causes or the result of a mechanical issue, or from a simple fix to a more complex, serious problem, and all the smells in between, we have the experience needed to solve the source of the odor problem
Drain Traps. What, Where and Why?
A simple fix or a serious problem, how to find the source of the odor:
Trap. Seems like an odd word association when it comes to your home’s plumbing. You may be thinking; why would something need to get trapped in the pipes? Aren’t the pipes supposed to stay clear of blockages?
The design of a plumbing’s P-trap, whether be a P-, U- or S- shape, is created to retain a minimal amount of water within the drain pipe leading down from the draining sink above. Even the toilet uses this same concept as the S- shape of the trap is designed into the toilet itself, and the water in the bowl as the barrier to creeping odors from the pipes below. This small amount of water that is left behind in the plumbing to prevent the breech of odor into your home, works the same for sink drains as it does the toilet.
Often when there is odor emanating from one of the sinks in your home, it can possibly be something as simple as a rarely used sink’s drain trap going dry.
If the trap has found itself barren, sewer gas can find a clear path up through the pipes and into your home. Hydrogen sulfide, aka sewer gases and better known as that glorious rotten egg smell, is also commonly known as hydro sulfuric acid and stink damp.
There is a very rare chance of being exposed to high enough hydrogen sulfide levels within your home to permanently harm you, though, it is possible have symptoms of fatigue, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, or dizziness over a prolonged exposure of low-levels.
A dry trap is the simplest fix to the unwanted rotten eggs in your home. All your homes traps, even the ones you don’t often use or rarely think of, such as the washing machine drain, should be flushed every few weeks. Keeping water in the drain trap always will help with unwanted odors, but a dry trap won’t necessarily harm your home’s plumbing.
Some traps are easy to locate, and some prove to be a little better at the game of hide-and-go seek. Showers, tubs and washing machines have traps that can be either within the floor or behind walls. If the home construction company failed to install a P-trap beneath the tub or shower drain, the unwanted sewer smell is guaranteed to plague your Zen-like spa bathroom. Be thankful if this is not the case for you since this fix is not usually an easy one, and is a job for the pros.
A vent stack goes hand in hand with your plumbing’s drain system. You cannot have properly draining sinks and basins if the pipes are not able to function with adequate ventilation. The section of the pipe within your home that connects to the sewer line in one direction also travels up the wall and out through the roof. This allows the relief of what would be a vacuum system within your drain. Without the presence of a vent stack, the drains in your home may find themselves fully disabled.
Vent stacks within the wall or at the point of protrusion on the roof may become detached or broken. This can be a point of cause for the sewer gas leak.
In most cases, to get to a trap for your shower or tub, if you are a lucky homeowner you will have access panels for your plumbing fixtures or a basement with exposed pipes, then these traps can be found easily. If you do not have this luxury, you may find yourself crawling underneath your home or even wiggling through a crawlspace. The professional, even if they start out simple enough, may be better off the handle your drain trap projects.
Bathroom Ps and Qs
An equally as straightforward fix, yet more cringe-worthy than a dry trap, is a trap whose odor is emulating from a natural cause: Biofilm. The bad breath causing, sulfur-production bacteria coats the inside of both the drains from your shower and sinks. This bacteria-ridden film takes its time building layers on the walls of your homes plumbing. Biofilm, due to its most prominent presence on teeth, seems to plague bathroom sinks most of all. This can be remedied with a recipe of simple drain cleaning ingredients: baking soda, vinegar, salt, and water (see instructions below).
While you are busy cleaning out your bathroom sink from Biofilm, don’t forget to clean the sink overflow. This small hole that helps with airflow within the drain is usually overlooked until a great flood forces you to be indebted by its presence. Even though this drain saves you from the mess of a forgotten running faucet, it can hide scum and odor causing bacteria within its small grasp. Flushing it out each week and including it in your regular sink cleaning will keep it from being a small culprit of big terrible smells.
Put a ring on it. A wax ring that is.
Your porcelain throne that allows you an oasis of quiet and a bountiful time of indulgent reading, can steal away this luxury in one fell swoop.
When a toilet is installed, and it is situated on its final resting place, a ring of wax is placed around the exit hole in the bottom of the toilet. This then rests on the flange; a pipe fitting that sits atop the drainpipe and connects the toilet to the sewer drain leading out from your home. The wax ring allows an airtight seal around the groves where the parts of the plumbing and the structure of the toilet meet. This seal prevents odors from the sewage line below to creep into your home by pushing the airflow from within the toilet down into the piping below and not out into your bathroom.
A cracked or broken wax ring can allow seepage of these unwanted smells as well as cause other problems with your toilet such as leaks and wobbles. Wax rings sometimes harden or just simply breakdown on its own over time. If you have had to remove the toilet for any reason, it is always a best practice to replace the old wax ring for new.
Caulking around the base of your toilet will also help in the abatement of the dreaded sewer stench. When your lavatory lacks a good seal between the floor and it’s piece de la resistance it can cause water and urine to reach a crevice it won’t be able to be cleaned from. A 100% silicone caulking should do the trick.
Kitchen Smells Sliced and Diced
The gravitational pull of the kitchen is always stronger than the repulsion of last week’s dinner lingering within the blades of the garbage disposal.
Oh, you don’t have one of those? Oops! Well, you can place a sure bet that the culprit of the scraped dinner plate down the drain into your garbage disposal-less sink, is truly sorry. Nevertheless, odors in your family’s favorite gathering space are bound to happen.
Keeping the sewage smell at bay has a lot to do with the maintenance of your drains and pipes. Ensuring that you are following a cleaning routine will prevent build up within the garbage disposal and traps from the sink and dishwasher.
Diluting the waste thoroughly with a 4:1 ratio of water to food as you run it through the garbage disposal will help to completely flush the food down the drain. That little black rubber piece that sits in the drains and saves small utensils from a death by a thousand cuts can also be a source of putrid smells in your kitchen. Flip it inside out or remove it if you can and give it a through washing.
The same cleaning recipe of baking soda, vinegar, salt and water as used in your bathroom can be the same ingredients used to clean your kitchen sink, as well. If you have a double sink or just opted out of owning a garbage disposal, then this technique is for you.
All you will need is 1/2 cup each of baking soda, vinegar, salt and a few quarts of rapidly boiling water. Pour the mix of baking soda and salt into the drain. Add the vinegar and allow the foaming action to work for 2-3 minutes. Carefully rinse the mix down the drain with a couple quarts of the boiling water. Allow the drain to be unused for 6-8 hours. (We also use this recipe in our blog on Plumbing Myths That Can Cost You Money, this method works great for those bathroom smells too.)
Ever open your recently ran dishwasher and get a hot steamy whiff of the three-egg omelet you had two days ago? It most likely is not the leftovers but rather a blockage in the vent or drain in the pipes below that is causing the rotten egg smell. Check the roof for the air vent associated with your kitchens plumbing to make sure that is it free from obstruction or damage.
What if the Pipes Still Stink?
If after a through cleaning of the pipes you still find yourself gasping for fresh air, it is time to call the professionals. Sewage backups into your home can be caused by blockages due to tree roots, a serve clog in your main sewer line, or broken or collapsed plumbing. Our J & A South Park plumbing technicians are expert detectives when it comes to exposing the offender of your clean, fresh smelling home. Snaking out the drain with a camera will pin point probable causes and bring to light deep rooted problems within your plumbing. Call us today and reclaim your home from the foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide.