What's the smell coming from my sink, shower and dishwasher?
July 9, 2007 11:57 AM   Subscribe

What's the smell coming from my sink, shower and dishwasher?

In the last couple months, I've noticed that activating the water in my dishwasher, kitchen sink or downstairs bathroom all result in the same immediate sulfur/bilge kind of smell, which mercifully goes away after a few minutes. I'd like to try and diagnose it without making an expensive appointment with a plumber. Can it be easily remedied, or does it mean some of my (old, 1960s) pipes will need replacing?
posted by deern the headlice to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry guys, I found some potential answers in the search. For about the last hour I've tried the search on and off and gotten a "Connection Reset" error screen in Firefox. Not sure if AskMe has been down or if the problem's on my end.
posted by deern the headlice at 12:03 PM on July 9, 2007

One thing to check: down in the basement, often in a laundry room, you may have a floor drain. Sometimes that can back up from sewage and begin to smell, and it's responsive to the use of water elsewhere in the house. As a temporary solution, at least, it can be flushed with water from a hose.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 12:04 PM on July 9, 2007

Sometimes those floor drains dry out, so that there isn't any water in the trap any longer. Just dumping a couple of pitchers of water into it will refill the trap.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:15 PM on July 9, 2007

Maybe this answer from Answer Bag will help you - he sounds like he knows what he's talking about. Someone farther down the thread also mentions that she replaced her copper pipes and the smell disappeared.
posted by iconomy at 12:26 PM on July 9, 2007

The last post applies if the tapwater itself is the source of the smell.

Try to sniff the drain before running any water to see if it's the drain.

Occasionally we get that sort of nasty smell from our drains, particularly the kitchen sink. It's usually a case of the drain or trap being gross. To remedy we just use a few ounces of an acid drain cleaner poured down the drain; it dissolves all the guck.

**DISCLAIMER ** whatever drain cleaner you use, be sure it's compatible with your sink and pipes
posted by Artful Codger at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2007

If it's the same stink from multiple drains, and it started happening at about the same time, it's pretty likely that the problem is due to a blocked vent pipe downstream from all those drains. Perhaps a bird has nested in your vent?

If the vent is blocked, then the U-traps underneath the drains tend to siphon themselves empty as the last of the water goes through, making them far less effective at keeping sewer gases out of your house.
posted by flabdablet at 6:10 PM on July 9, 2007

If it's only when the hot water is run, it might be sulfur oxidizing or sulfur reducing bacteria in your hot water heater.

You can try turning it up to the highest setting (both top and bottom element, if it's electric) for 24 hours and see if that makes the smell go away. You'll also have to run the hot water from all spigots a couple of times to get the smell from the pipes.

If that doesn't make the smell of the hot water go away, you need to have your hot water tank flushed and treated, and probably have the sacrificial anode replaced.
posted by tomierna at 9:19 AM on July 10, 2007

Bi Carb, throw like 1/3 of a cup down your sink drain (Just so you can get the hang of it - it's simple though) Then get White Vinegar. (2L of the cheapest) Pour a bit say 1/2 cup in on top *count 1..2..3..4* as you pour. Then listen for the sizzle. When that stops or quietens just toss !/4 cup of vinegar in the sink and listen again.

The sizzle will resume and now you've got the hang of it too. You can use a short burst of water to wash the two into contact with each other with no troubles. It eats smell and scunge (provided we're not talking like a dead rat hardcore kinda thing - though it would only help the situation)

It's pretty tremendous and effective but totally harmless, non-toxic ect. My skins fairly sensitive and it can react directly on me with no effect save that Bi-carb dries my skin a little... meh! (Oh and you can clean all manner of things with this too!).
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 1:18 AM on July 11, 2007

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