Sinkstink.
August 8, 2011 9:02 AM   Subscribe

What is wrong with my bathroom sink?

I just moved to a new apartment. It was renovated right before I moved in, so the sink in question is ostensibly new. Here is what is wrong: When I first turn the water on, every single time, it smells strange and even feels a little strange. It's very hard to describe. It smells...greasy, sort of? Maybe? At first I thought it smelled like sweat. Something between sweat, grease, and maybe even sulfur. Leaving the water running for a few minutes dissipates it, and the longer the water is off, the longer I have to run it to get water that doesn't smell.

Does anyone have experience with this? Is this a new sink thing? A disgusting old pipe thing? A my-slumlord-doesn't-want-to-pay-for-water-so-he-made-a-well-in-Crown-Heights-Brooklyn-next-to-an-auto-repair-shop-thing? An I-am-soon-to-die thing?

I know the answer is "ask your landlord," but my landlord is repair-shy, and he already hates me because I call him 8 times a day about my downstairs neighbors who play bass so loud that things fall off my walls. So before I bug him with this, I'm looking for reassurance that it is normal and will pass, or ideas for what is causing it, or warnings that it is dangerous and I need to make him fix it posthaste.
posted by millipede to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
 
he already hates me because I call him 8 times a day about my downstairs neighbors who play bass so loud that things fall off my walls

Call the police for this. Landlord's not going to do anything. The police won't do anything either, except show up and maybe scare the neighbors enough that they turn the volume down.

As for your water, a few apartments ago I was having trouble with water pressure. The landlord opened up some valve to let more water flow into the apartment. It didn't really help the water pressure problem that much, but for the first few days after it was tweaked, we'd get random flecks of dirt, greasiness, and sediment mixed in with the tap water. Nasty, right? So I just turned all the taps on and let them run for several hours until everything cleared up--and it did, eventually, clear up. That you continue to have this problem worries me. Also, my water never smelled.

It almost sounds like there's gas (like, stove-cooking gas) getting mixed in with your water. I don't know if that's even possible, but it seems like it would explain the smell and the off feel.

Call your landlord. It's your right as a tenant to have clean, safe water. If your landlord won't do anything, call a local tenants' rights organization and see if they can recommend someone to come out and take water samples.
posted by phunniemee at 9:14 AM on August 8, 2011


It's your right as a tenant to have clean, safe water.

I do--in the kitchen, and in the bathtub. It's just this one sink.
posted by millipede at 9:17 AM on August 8, 2011


@phunniemee

It would be basically impossible for gas to get mixed with the water line, as they're two different kinds of plumbing altogether.

It's probably manufacturing coating from the new faucet/plumbing connected to your sink. I would also recommend running the water there for a while to let it dissipate off. Just keep an eye that the abnormally large amount of water doesn't begin to back up and overflow the sink. Not that I've ever done that. Ever. No, really! ;)
posted by chrisfromthelc at 9:25 AM on August 8, 2011


Is it just the cold water, just the hot water, or both?

Maybe the smell is coming not from the water, but from the drain? Look under the sink. Where the drain pipe comes down from the bottom of the sink, there should be a U-shaped dip in the pipe (commonly called a P trap). The trap is used to prevent sewer gas from coming up through the drain. I've seen a lot of DIY repairs either totally missing the trap, or (believe it or not) manage to get it upside-down, which of course doesn't work.

If the trap is improperly vented, it can cause the trap to siphon dry, rendering it useless.

Your description of the odor as "sweat, grease, sulphur" makes me think: Sewer gas.
posted by xedrik at 9:30 AM on August 8, 2011


I just tested--it's both the hot and cold water.

If it were the drain, would it smell prior to turning any water on? Because it only smells when the water comes on. Also, the water itself smells--if you put it in a cup and sniff, there it is. Pew.
posted by millipede at 9:36 AM on August 8, 2011


If it were the drain, would it smell prior to turning any water on? Because it only smells when the water comes on. Also, the water itself smells--if you put it in a cup and sniff, there it is. Pew.

Are you sure the water smells from both hot and cold? Do you have a separate hot and cold knob or a single mixer?

Sometimes hot water heaters (tanks) will get a bacterial colony which produces a strong sulphur smell (well actually the sacrificial anode)... but then all of your hot water would smell (presuming it comes from the same source...which might not be true)

Are you sure the cold water smells?
posted by ennui.bz at 10:33 AM on August 8, 2011


I got this when I installed a new kitchen faucet. In my case, it was from the lube in the fixture when it came from the manufacturer. For me, I've been able to let the water run of a couple of seconds before I use it and then I don't get that taste and feel. It's slowly getting better with time.
posted by advicepig at 10:49 AM on August 8, 2011


@ennui.bz yes, i am 100% sure the cold water smells. i have separate knobs. i first noticed it with the cold water, because i use cold water alone while brushing my teeth.
posted by millipede at 12:04 PM on August 8, 2011


Hm, if the water itself smells, then yeah I'd suspect either the fixture or the plumbing to it. It will probably clear up over time and with use.

If water is included in your rent, you may want to still talk to your landlord about the issue and let him know that because of the foul smell you'll be running the water a bit more than usual; he can either accept this or have the unit serviced to eliminate the smell. This way, if he sees a spike in the water usage on that unit, he'll know what it's from, and hopefully won't try to charge extra for it.
posted by xedrik at 12:37 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you, or someone who owes you a favor, have any plumbing skills? I believe that the problem is with the pipe compound they used when they attached to supply lines to the faucet. If you know how, it is pretty easy to unscrew them, wipe them off and put just a little dab back on before reinstalling them. For some reason "handyman" types seem to think that if some pipe compound is good, a lot more is better. This is not true.
posted by Old Geezer at 1:42 PM on August 8, 2011


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