Sunrise Specialty » How to Clean a Smelly Kitchen Sink Drain? (Causes & Methods)

How to Clean a Smelly Kitchen Sink Drain? (Causes & Methods)

If your kitchen sink is starting to smell a bit funky, it may be time to give it a good cleaning. Luckily, you’re in the right place to learn how to clean a kitchen sink drain. It’s relatively easy and only requires a few household supplies that you probably already have on hand!

What Causes Odors in Your Kitchen Sink?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to clean your kitchen sink drain, let’s talk about what causes these odors in the first place.

A Clogged Kitchen Sink Drain

Sometimes when foul odors linger in a kitchen sink, it’s because of a clog within the kitchen drain or garbage disposal. There are a few common culprits when it comes to clogged kitchen sink pipes. These might include:

  • Food particles and debris
  • Grease and oil
  • Soap scum and grime
  • Hair
  • Coffee grounds
  • Rust

When gunk like this builds up and lines the sink drain over time, it sometimes clogs the drain so much that it creates standing water. With or without standing water, this is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. And with bacteria comes a nasty smell.

A Dry P-Trap

Another potential cause of odors coming from a kitchen sink is a dry plumber’s trap, or p-trap. The p-trap is that little curved portion of pipe underneath your sink. It’s there to catch water in order to seal off the drain opening and prevent sewer gas from seeping back into your home through the drain.

If the P-trap becomes dry, it no longer serves its purpose. When this happens, sewer gas can escape from the drain and into your kitchen, leading to a nasty smell.

Common Supplies for Cleaning Kitchen Sink Drains

If you’re not sure what’s causing the smell, don’t fret. We’ll show you how to clean a kitchen sink drain so that it’s free and clear of any odorous debris in no time.

The great thing about cleaning a kitchen sink drain is that you likely have all of the necessary supplies already in your home. For this project, here are a few household items you might try:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Salt
  • Boiling water
  • A plunger or drain snake (if needed)
  • Dish soap
  • A sponge or brush
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Lemon peels (optional)
  • Ice cubes (optional)
  • Chemical cleaning products

You likely won’t need all of these items to clean your kitchen sink drain, but if one doesn’t work, they are all worth a try. If you need to purchase anything from this list, they are all easily accessible from your local grocery store.

How to Clean a Kitchen Sink Drain Naturally

Now that you know some of the possible causes of odors in a kitchen sink and a great list of cleaning supplies you can use, let’s talk about how to actually clean a kitchen sink drain.

If you prefer not to use chemicals, there are a number of ways to clean your kitchen sink drain without them. Using a natural approach is still a great way to get rid of odors in your kitchen sink and is also much better for the environment.

Step 1: Check the Garbage Disposal

If the issue is a clogged garbage disposal, the first step is to check the disposal for any big pieces of debris. Big debris could be food but could also be a small dish or sponge that fell into the drain.

Put on rubber gloves if you’d like, and then use a spoon or other utensil to reach into the drain to remove anything you see.

Warning: be very careful not to turn on the disposal if you are reaching into it!

If you can dislodge whatever is stuck, great! Go ahead and pull it out through the sink.

But if it turns out that nothing large is lodged, the clog may simply be rotting food. If this is the case, simply turn on your disposal and the food will be ground up and flushed through the system.

Step 2: Boil Water and Pour It Down the Drain

Sometimes even when there’s no debris in the garbage disposal, the odor still remains. When this is the case, the next step is to boil a pot of water and pour it down the drain. Boiling water can help break up any small clogs that might be causing the odor and wash them away.

Step 3: Create a Mixture of Baking Soda, Vinegar, and Salt

If boiling water alone doesn’t work, the next step is to create a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and salt. This combination can help break down any stubborn clogs that might be causing the odor.

To make the mixture, start by pouring 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain. Then follow that with 1/2 cup of white vinegar. The mixture will fizz and bubble, but that’s okay. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes to allow the baking soda and vinegar to work their magic.

Then flush it all with hot water. This process often works wonders, but if you still don’t see results, try adding 1/2 cup of salt to the mixture and repeating the process.

Step 4: Use a Drain Snake or Plunger

If the baking soda, vinegar, and salt mixture doesn’t work, you can use a plunger or drain snake (drain auger) to dislodge any debris that might be stuck in the pipes. Be sure to use the correct type of plunger, one that is designed for a sink.

To use a plunger, simply place it over the drain opening and push and pull the plunger up and down. Be sure to cover the entire drain opening with the plunger to create a strong seal. This can create pressure that will help break up the clog.

If a plunger doesn’t do the trick, or if you don’t have a plunger handy, you can try using a drain snake. To do this, insert the snake into the drain and turn it until you feel resistance. This is likely the clog.

Once you’ve found the clog, continue turning the snake to break up the debris.

Step 5: Rinse with Hot Water

Once you’ve dislodged the clog, go ahead and flush the drain with hot water. This will help rinse away any remaining food particles.

Step 6: Flush with Hydrogen Peroxide

Here is a bonus step for you! For extra power, mix together hydrogen peroxide and water to create a cleaning solution. Pour it down the drain and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing with hot water.

These steps should easily do the trick, but if for some reason the clog and stink consists, you may need to call a professional plumber to investigate the problem further.

Step 7: Add A Little Lemon

Lemon can also help to clean and freshen your kitchen sink drain. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, then 1/2 cup lemon juice. Allow to sit for one hour and then pour hot water over it.

We would recommend lemon juice as opposed to lemon rinds, because even if your disposal chops the rinds into very small pieces, they can still build up in your pipes over time and cause clogging.

Another lemony option are citrus garbage disposal deodorizing bombs. You can make these at home or you can buy them premade from any store that sells things for your kitchen.

Lemon is a great option for adding freshness to your kitchen drain. It smells way better than vinegar, too, so it may be a great alternative to Step 3!

Cleaning Your Kitchen Sink Drain With Chemicals

Sometimes, even when you’ve tried everything, a clog can still persist or your drain is simply not clean enough. Perhaps even a stench still exists in the pipes. If this is the case, you may need to resort to a more heavy-duty cleaning solution, such as using chemicals or an enzymatic cleaner to clean your kitchen sink drain.

There are a variety of drain cleaners available on the market, and they come in both liquid and solid form. Both work by breaking down the clog so that it can be flushed away.

Examples of drain-clearing chemicals that work well include Drano, Liquid Plumr, and Green Gobbler. An enzymatic cleaner (containing enzymes that break down organic material like food) that works well is Bio Clean.

However, it’s important to use caution when using chemicals, as they can be corrosive and dangerous. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection when using any kind of chemical cleaner.

And if you’re using a plunger, do so before you use cleaner and not after. You don’t want the chemical to splash onto your skin and clothes as you use the plunger.

When it comes to using chemical or enzymatic cleaners, each will have its own specific instructions. Carefully follow the directions on your particular cleaner carefully and do not leave the cleaner in the drain for longer than recommended. Always store chemicals in a safe place where children cannot reach them.

Cleaning the Kitchen Sink Basin

Success! Now that you’ve cleared the drain and thoroughly cleaned it, you’ll want to finish the job by cleaning the sink basin.

This will help remove any grime, grease, food, or dirt that remains after cleaning the drain. Oftentimes you’ll find gunk like this gathering around the edge of the drain itself. You can always use an old tooth brush to scrub those pesky nooks and crannies.

The method for cleaning the sink basin will depend on the material its made of, so let’s look at several different options.

Stainless Steel

If your kitchen sink is made of stainless steel, you may want to avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as these can damage the finish on your sink.

Start by rinsing your sink basin with tap water to get the surface wet, and then spread baking soda over the entire area. In order to protect the sink’s shine, scrub with a clean sponge or soft bristle brush in the direction of the stainless steel’s grain. Finally, finish up by spraying on vinegar, letting it sit, then rinsing it all off with warm water.

If you’d like to up-level your cleaning, you can also apply a paste of vinegar and cream of tartar to eliminate tough stains, and polish your shine afterwards with a few drops of olive oil.


Unfortunately, porcelain sinks are infamous for being a bit more high maintenance when it comes to cleaning. This is because they’re prone to staining and can show water spots rather easily.

That being said, there are still some simple ways you can clean a porcelain sink and make it look shiny again.

One way you can try is to scrub a mixture of cream of tartar and vinegar into the porcelain surface.

Another way is to rinse the sink, sprinkle on a fine layer of baking soda, and scrub with a clean sponge. Watch the stains magically erase away! Finish it off by adding a little hydrogen peroxide to your sponge, scrub again, and rinse everything with water.


To clean the basin of a copper sink, you follow the same steps of daily washing with mild soap or baking soda, but you also want to use copper polish and copper wax in order to keep the surface patina fresh and shiny.

How to Prevent Grime and Build-Up In Your Kitchen Sink Drain

Prevention is key when it comes to keeping your kitchen sink basin and drain clean.

Be sure to scrape food debris into the garbage disposal and rinse the sink basin with dish soap and water after each use. Wipe down the sink with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to remove any water spots or grime.

To help prevent clogs, regularly check and turn on your garbage disposal. Then pour a cup of white vinegar down the drain once a week, followed with hot water.

You can also send a cup of baking soda down the drain once a week, followed by hot water, to finish up the job.

In Conclusion to How to Clean A Kitchen Sink Drain

No matter what type of kitchen sink you have, it’s important to clean it regularly to prevent debris and grime from building up. Cleaning your kitchen sink drain doesn’t have to be a difficult task. In fact, it can be quite easy and straightforward.

There are a number of ways to clean your kitchen sink drain, including using chemicals, natural cleaners, or a plunger. And by following the steps outlined above, you can easily remove any clogs and keep your drain smelling fresh and clean. Don’t forget, prevention is key!

With a little consistency and care, you’ll have a clean and fresh-smelling kitchen sink drain for years to come.

Do you have other tips and tricks for cleaning your kitchen sink drain? Please let us know in the comments below! Happy cleaning!