10 Ways to Get Rid of That Awful Smell in Your Kitchen Sink

published Jun 30, 2019
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Credit: Elissa Crowe

Even when we diligently use a sink strainer or garbage disposal, we work our kitchen sink drains hard. Inevitably, food particles, grease, and other not-so-lovely things make their way into the drain and we wake up one morning to a foul smell coming out of the sink. Blech! Now what?

Thanks to our readers and my fellow editors, I’ve got 10 ways you can kick that kitchen sink smell to the curb (and keep it from coming back).

Ice, salt, and lemon are wonder cleaners for garbage disposals! (Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

3 Tricks to Try If You Have a Garbage Disposal

1. Hot water and dish soap

Start by letting a sink full of hot, soapy water flush through the garbage disposal while it’s running. This is the first step, and may do the trick!

“Put a stopper in the sink and fill it with several inches of hot water. Add a squirt of dish soap. Turn on the disposal and unplug the sink to let the water flush through. This is different than simply running the tap like we usually do since the disposal will actually fill with water.”

Read more: Dealing with a Smelly Garbage Disposal

2. Ice cubes, coarse salt, and lemon peels

If you’re still getting a funky smell, the next step is to make sure the disposal blades are clean and clear of lingering gunky food particles. The combination of ice cubes, coarse salt, and lemon is a three-punch cleaning wonder.

“We threw a few ice cubes and a handful of kosher salt down the disposal. The ice helps knock food off the grinder while the salt scrubs the sides. For good measure, we repeated the flushing and then ground up a few lemon peels for freshness. Voila! This seemed to do the trick and we haven’t noticed any odors since.”

Read more: Dealing with a Smelly Garbage Disposal

“Back in the glory days when I lived in one of the 10 percent or so of NYC apartments with a garbage disposal, I loved the fresh scent that lingered in my kitchen after running a lemon half through the disposal.”

Read more: 5 Ways to Use Zested Lemons

3. Vinegar and lemon ice cubes

A cleaning shortcut? Freeze lemon wedges in white vinegar, and then crush it in the disposal!

“Slice a lemon into small (quarter-sized) wedges and place in muffin cups, pour distilled white vinegar into the cups, let the cubes set up in the freezer overnight, remove the cubes from the tray, and pop a few down the disposal. Run a low stream of water and flip the switch!”

Read more: How To Clean and Remove Odors from a Garbage Disposal

(Image credit: Rachel Zack)

6 Tricks to Try If You Don’t Have a Garbage Disposal

1. Boiling water

The simple power of hot water is not to be underestimated. If you’ve just boiled water for something — a bit of pasta or a pot of tea, for example — don’t let it cool off on the stove. Instead, pour it down the sink. This may be enough to take care of milder drain smells. If not, keep going down this list to amp up the cleaning power, but as you’ll see, every tip ends with a good hot water flush!

“My former landlord taught me the old boiling water trick for clearing junk out of older, weaker pipes. Every time you boil a kettle, instead of letting the water cool again, just pour whatever’s left right down the sink. If you’re like me and use a French press a few times a week, it helps a lot.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water

The most popular trick among readers for getting rid of sink drain smells? A bubbling, baking soda-and-vinegar mix, washed down with very hot water.

“1 cup baking soda plus 2 cups vinegar. Pour the baking soda, then vinegar on top; it will bubble up. Let it sit a couple of minutes, then run hot water.”

“I do the baking soda and vinegar thing, but instead of just hot tap water, I always follow it with a big kettle full of boiling water. The hotter the water, the more bacteria it kills. The more bacteria you can kill off and flush away, the longer it takes for the stink to come back.”

“I do baking soda and hot vinegar (microwave it) and then boiling water. I live in the humid south and my drains can get gross pretty quickly, but this works great.”

“I use the time-honored baking soda and vinegar trick. Dump a good handful of baking soda into the drain, let sit (don’t run any water) for 15 minutes, then pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup white vinegar down. Watch the bubbles, hear the pops and fizz, and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Then, boiling water and voila! It will be right as rain … at least for about six weeks. Just repeat as necessary!”

“I have been using the baking soda/vinegar method to clean dirty and slow drains around my house for a while now. I had a seriously clogged and slow bathtub drain, and my landlord was concerned that he would have to call the plumber. I tried my baking soda and vinegar, followed by a kettle of boiling water — no need for the plumber after all.”

(Image credit: Christine Han)

3. Baking soda, salt, vinegar, and boiling water

Some readers swear that adding coarse salt to the tried-and-true baking soda and vinegar combo offers just enough extra abrasion to break up the gunk.

“I just dealt with this when we got home from a 10-day absence! I found this online and it worked beautifully.

1/2 cup coarse salt
1/2 cup baking soda
1 cup vinegar

Pour these into the drain in order. Cover the drain to get the bubbles working in the drain only (takes about 30 seconds). Supposedly the salt adds an abrasive component. Then pour a kettle of boiling water through to get it all out and dissolve any remaining salt. No more stink over here!”

4. Baking soda, lemon juice, and boiling water

Like vinegar, lemon juice also creates a bubbling reaction when it comes in contact with baking soda. It’s not as economical in this case as vinegar (being without a garbage disposal, you’d have to actually juice a lemon since you can’t grind up an already-juiced-and-zested wedge), but it does smell much nicer!

“The baking soda thing is legit. Whether you use lemon juice (a little expensive for my taste, but it makes your kitchen smell yummy) or vinegar (not nearly as yummy a smell, but just as effective a de-nasty-ifier) is up to you.”

(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

5. Baking soda, essential oils, and boiling water

If after dealing with a terrible smell all you want is to smell something really, really great, then put a few drops of your favorite essential oil down the drain post-baking soda cleanse.

“You can dump in about a half-cup of baking soda, then dribble in a few drops of essential oils — eucalyptus, tea tree, and mint are favorites of mine. Let it sit an hour or so, or overnight if you like, then rinse down with boiling hot water.”

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

6. Hot vinegar

The next time you clean your coffee maker, repurpose all that hot vinegar and use it to de-stink your drain!

“When I clean my coffee maker with vinegar, I use the hot vinegar to wash about a cup of baking soda down the drain. It does a fabulous job keeping the drain (and the coffeemaker) clean and good-smelling, and you don’t have to feel like you wasted a whole coffeepot’s worth of vinegar. (Even if it’s cheap, I still don’t want to waste it).”

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Now, keep your drain smelling fresh!

Sprinkle baking soda down your drain periodically.

Is that smell finally gone? Keep it that way by periodically sprinkling baking soda down the drain to absorb odors. You can do this after you wash the dishes or just once a week, but it’s especially useful when you’re headed out of town and won’t be using your sink for awhile.

“I also sprinkle baking soda down the drain if I’m going to be out of town for more than one day; it prevents coming home to a nasty funk in there.”

“I [sprinkle baking soda down my drain] once a week and it works a charm!”

“Even just sprinkling some baking soda down the drain after washing the dishes makes a huge difference for me.”

Which of these tips — or any others not listed here! — have worked for your smelly sink drains?

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: 10 Ways to Get Rid of That Awful Smell in Your Kitchen Sink