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Are Plumbing Odors Creeping Into Your Home? Troubleshooting Tips


If you’ve got plumbing odors in your home, they’re hard to miss. Odors originating from plumbing often seem to come from everywhere, yet nowhere in particular. Most plumbing smells are some variety of hydrogen sulfide, better known as sewer gas. It results from the decomposition of organic matter combined with water. As it turns out, the human sense of smell has been proven to be especially sensitive to hydrogen sulfide. That’s why scents from plumbing may seem to permeate the house, even when there’s no conspicuous source.

But it’s got to be coming from somewhere. Here are the main trigger points for plumbing odors and what to do about them:

Kitchen Odors

The u-shaped bend in the drain under the sink is called a trap. Water in the trap seals out noxious plumbing smells. If the trap’s gone dry due to leakage or the fact that you haven’t put any water down the sink for a while, odors can escape. (To check, shine a flashlight down the drain.) Flush about 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of distilled white vinegar. Let it foam for several minutes, then run hot water to replenish the trap. If the trap soon runs dry again, you have a plumbing leak.

Bathroom Odors

  • From a sink or bathtub – Again, see if water’s present in the trap. If there’s no good reason why it should be dry, suspect a leak. Replenish the trap with water and check again.
  • From the toilet – If the toilet bowl’s gone dry, the trap hidden beneath it may be, too. Find out why the bowl has no water in it. Inspect the seal around the toilet base, too. It’s made of wax and doesn’t seal out odors forever.

Vent Issues

Plumbing vents that terminate at the roof allow pressure inside the pipes to equalize as wastewater flows. A vent obstructed by snow, ice or a bird’s nest can force sewer gas up out of drains and other openings.

For more on the causes and cures of plumbing odors, contact Black Diamond Plumbing & Mechanical.

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