For May, we're tackling a stinky question here at HP Mechanical with this month's installment of our monthly blog, Ask a Plumber.
A: In the bathroom, there are a couple main areas that can be the cause. Often the problem is as simple as the plumbing not being used for several weeks to several months. All drains use a trap to hold enough water to act as a barrier to sewer gas and odors that build in unused pipes. Generally, you hear these traps referred to as P-traps.
These P-traps are specifically designed to hold (trap) water in them at all times. This creates a barrier that keeps the odors caused by Hydrogen Sulfide or Methane gas caused by rotting matter and feces from passing up through your toilets, sinks, showers, tubs and floor drains. Sometimes due to a leak in the P-trap, or evaporation due to non-use, the water barrier is eliminated and the odors are allowed to pass by. Sometimes even slight clogs of long material like hair can act like a wick and over time draw the water out of the P-trap allowing the odors to escape.
Another area in the bathroom that can have odors is the toilet. Although toilets have an internal trap, an additional trap is positioned under the floor below them, and the same situation noted above can occur. In the case of toilets, there is another fairly common source of odors. This is the failure of the wax ring the toilet is installed on. These wax rings can be damaged or go bad over a very long time. This allows the gas causing odors to slip by the base of the toilet instead of up through the toilet itself. Often, having a ‘rocking’ toilet can be caused by rusting and breaking bolts holding it to the floor and this can damage its wax ring.
In the kitchen, your sink has a P-trap just like the sink in your bathroom. This is subject to all the same issues previously discussed. In addition, most everyone has a garbage disposal in the kitchen. This can be a creator of odors, too. If your disposal becomes clogged, the material there can begin to decompose and create odor-causing gasses. The modern disposal works very well with just a little maintenance and care. If your disposal gets clogged with the usual culprits like potato peels, rice, egg shells, etc., often you will need to remove the pipes below the disposal to gain access to the clog and remove it. If this happens and over time, your disposal starts to smell because it just isn’t clean; running a good quantity of ice down it will usually clean it right up. Water is always the best cleaner to use in a disposal.
If you have a floor drain in a garage or basement, this will lose its water barrier in the P-trap as typically it is not just water that goes to the drain. If you smell something there, generally running a couple of gallons of water down it will take care of the problem. This will also inform you if the drain may have been blocked over time with dirt and debris.
As always, there is no substitute for having a licensed plumber check out your odors to see if there may be a more serious situation brewing. A leak or break in a line you don’t know is there, could cause greater problems than odors in the future.
For many years, HP Mechanical has proudly provided comfort to thousands of homes and light commercial businesses across the Santa Rosa/Windsor area and throughout Sonoma County. We are an honest, loyal company who takes pride in our work. We take care of our customers as if they were family. Referrals are where 90% of our business comes from, so the relationships we build along the way mean a lot to our small business. The one constant with everything involves working and helping people, by striving to provide the best service available at a reasonable cost. We take personal responsibility to make sure comfort and quality meets accountability & affordability, with exceptional customer service every time!
Ask the Plumber
They were very courteous and professional in dealing with the toilets and sink. They were on time and cleaned up the job area. They explained everything that they were going to do. Also did a great job fixing the toilet by fabricating a tube and facilitating a cost savings that was tremendous, saving the cost of getting a new mechanism.