Most people associate plumbing with bad smells. Lots of smelly things go into our drains or down our toilets, and we’ve pulled a few sinks apart that were pretty ripe as a result! But even though bad-smelling stuff goes down the plumbing, your plumbing or water-using devices should never smell by themselves. We’re going over a few common “stinky situations” and their causes today, and hopefully we’ll inspire a few people to fix issues that they’ve been living with for a while. If you’re one of those people, and something in your plumbing smells this article is for you!
A common source of odor is the dishwasher. Lots of people put things in the dishwasher they shouldn’t, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. As cool as those advertisements showing whole cakes on platters being put into the dishwasher and coming out cake-free and clean are, we’re here to tell you that your plumbing is not designed to carry away an entire cake–or, for that matter, much food at all. And your dishwasher probably isn’t either. The best way to prevent odor in your dishwasher is simple: scrape your dishes off into the garbage first, and then rinse them in the sink. This will stop food from accumulating in places it shouldn’t, where it will clog things that shouldn’t be clogged in addition to starting to smell.
If your dishwasher seems to always have water in the bottom, it may need to be adjusted by a professional. Clogs could have formed, and a licensed plumber will need to snake the drains and the overflow (if present) to clear them out. Another common cause of water pooling is improper installation: if the dishwasher isn’t level or tilts forward even a little bit, it can stop water from draining correctly. Many dishwashers need to tilt back a few degrees in order to function correctly. Pooling water goes rancid pretty fast, and that’s often the source of nasty dishwasher odors. Keep in mind that clogs and bad installs are best fixed by a plumbing professional.
P-traps are water traps built into all waste-water devices or other waste plumbing. They hold water 24-7, acting as a buffer that stops gas from the sewer from entering the home. Toilets, showers, and sinks all have them. If you’re using all the drains in your house regularly–say, at least once a week–then you shouldn’t have any problems. If there are drains in your home that are used less frequently, you may end up like our client in Dixon who noticed a pretty horrible odor emanating from the guest bathroom. Because it was a guest room, it was rarely ever used, and the p-trap in the shower had gone dry. This allowed smelly sewer gas to enter the home, which was unpleasant and can be very unhealthy.
If your p-traps go dry, don’t fear: the fix is often simple. They usually just need to be refilled with water! So find the offending smelly drain and run a little water down it! It should only take ten seconds or so, and the smell should go away quickly. If it doesn’t, or the drain continues to stink even after putting water down it, you may have a larger plumbing issue. That’s a good time to call a plumber and have them take a look: as we mentioned before, sewer gas can be a real health hazard as well as nasty to smell. Our homeowner in Dixon didn’t catch a break so easy–it turned out that the p-trap wasn’t the only thing gone wrong–a cracked vent pipe was also leaking gas. We set his plumbing straight and he had no more smelly drains!
Bad Wax Rings
This is a pretty uncommon problem, but we see it a few times a year. Toilets don’t usually smell; more than other plumbing devices, they’re designed to not hold odor (for obvious reasons). But sometimes they do, and the culprit (if it’s not a dry p-trap) is almost always a bad wax ring. Wax rings create a seal between the toilet and the drain in the floor, so if one goes bad…well, let’s just say you don’t want that. If you’ve had a new toilet installed recently, it’s possible it was put in incorrectly. Older toilets may just have wax rings that go bad through normal wear and tear. They’re supposed to last 20 years or more, but it’s not uncommon for wax rings to be found that are older than that. It’s a cheap, quick fix as long as the wax ring is the only problem. Call a plumber if you’re having toilet odor issues–other than flushing it a few times to fill the p-trap, it’s not something you’ll be able to fix yourself.
Hopefully this got a few of our readers thinking. Usually, people are pretty diligent about smells in their home–and in the case of sewer gas leakage or a stinky toilet, the smell will be too bad to ignore! But smelly drains and other things can take a while for the odor to “build up” and you may find yourself living with smells you’d rather not be smelling! Trust your nose–and call Bell Brothers!