How can I get rid of the moldy smell from my sink?
October 5, 2006 6:49 AM   Subscribe

What can I do about a strong, moldy odor that seems to be coming from my kitchen sink or disposer?

I've cleaned out the disposer, scrubbed the rubber gasket at the opening (topside and underside), left bleach overnight in the disposer and adjoining sink. I've also used a little brush to clean out the connector tube between the disposer and the sink. I've run the dishwasher with some bleach inside. Each of these things seemed to help for a day, then the odor returns. I went to Home Depot and bought "Sink and Disposer Cleaner" solution. Again, helps for a day. This is driving me nuts, and I'm not much of a plumber. Any suggestions?
posted by rdauphin to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bleach and other anti-microbial solutions will only work where they can penetrate. You may have something in the trap which doesn't go down the drain and which traps some stinky bugs in areas which won't absorb enough bleach to kill them. The bleach kills the bugs on the surface to knock down the smell but then the bugs just grow back. It's just a theory. However, perhaps pulling the trap and cleaning it out could help. You don't really need to be a plumber for this job, just make sure you put a bucket under it when you take it out as it will be full of water.
posted by caddis at 7:16 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck with baking soda and vinegar. Dump some baking soda down the drain, follow with vinegar, and enjoy the foam volcano that results.
posted by COD at 7:27 AM on October 5, 2006

I would suggest putting a good amount of ice down there and grinding it up with the disposal, it will dislodge almost any crap you have stuck in there without messing up anything.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:29 AM on October 5, 2006

Ice + 2 or 3 whole lemons usually does it for me.
posted by kaseijin at 7:31 AM on October 5, 2006

I have heard of people combining the above solutions and make ice cubes out of distilled vinegar and grind them in the disposal to clean it. Also, the problem might be in your pipes beyond the disposal and be coming from your septic system/sewer connection. Make sure all of your drains are open and flowing well and all your traps are functional if cleaning the disposal doesn't work.
posted by TedW at 7:33 AM on October 5, 2006

Usually, when my disposal has that not-fresh feeling, I throw a cocktail party, and then chuck the leftover ice and the snapped spines of lemon wedges in the scary hole.

Mmm, martini fresh.
posted by Sallyfur at 7:37 AM on October 5, 2006

Can't believe this question was asked. I have the exact same problem and was about to ask. Only mine's more understandable because my disposal is broken. Got some, uhh, glass in there (don't ask) and it siezed up. Didn't want to tell the apartment people and get charged for it, so kept thinking I'd fix it myself. Who am I kidding. But anyway now there's a bad mold smell and I think I'm starting to hallucinate. Not really but it makes me sniffly. I'll be watching this thread with interest.

Incidentally, I read that tea tree oil works well to kill mold. Check this out.
I adapted this recipe from spray bottle to squirt bottle, so I could squirt it hard all down and around in the disposal cavern. I think it actually did work for a while.
posted by kookoobirdz at 7:43 AM on October 5, 2006

I second the ice + lemons trick always seems to work.
posted by stilgar at 8:22 AM on October 5, 2006

Do you have a clothes washer on the same system? Sometimes the water from the washer can run back up the pipe and cause this problem. Getting a one way valve can help.
posted by wackybrit at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

kookoobirbz-a broomstick can often be used to free a locked-up disposal; more info here.
posted by TedW at 9:47 AM on October 5, 2006

Last time I had a moldy smell like this my waste pipe (drain pipe after the disposal) had broken under the house and had been that way for a couple of weeks. The smell was pretty bad, and it was coming from under the house as well.

I hope that this isn't your problem.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 12:19 PM on October 5, 2006

I had a similar problem for which I tried lemons, ice, etc, to no avail. What finally worked was to fill up a big bowl (probably about 1.5 gallons) and empty it into the sink with the water and disposal running. My theory is that there was some crud stuck on the inside of the disposal chamber near the mouth, and only by flooding the whole thing could I knock it loose. Certainly low-impact in terms of risk and effort.
posted by oats at 4:43 PM on October 5, 2006

Draino does the trick. I don't know if you would have that exact product wherever you are, but try the dishwashing liquid area of the supermarket.
posted by Lucie at 11:21 PM on October 5, 2006

HA! Got that broomstick out and cranked that motherflapping disposal loose! Well, that and a shishkabob stick to pry out some pieces of jammed glass. Hot diggity dog, I'm back in bidness. Still moldy, but I'm going to lemon-ice-tea-tree my way to back to health.
posted by kookoobirdz at 6:24 PM on October 6, 2006

+1 situation similar to RikiTikiTavi's. A bad pipe joint inside the wall was allowing drain water to pool and fester in the wall/between floors.
posted by desuetude at 8:40 PM on October 15, 2006

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