When plumbing is done right, it gives you years of fuss-free operation where water and other waste go down, stay down, and never bother you again. But even the best job in the world can fall victim to aging or changes in a home, and sometimes things go wrong.
One of the issues that can crop up unexpectedly is a bad smell coming from your plumbing. This is an issue that you should not ignore, the way some might tolerate a leaking faucet. An unpleasant odor means there is something that poses a possible health risk somewhere in your plumbing, and you need to stop it before it gets worse.
Fortunately, some of the causes of these smells have simple solutions.
SEWER GAS COMING UP YOUR DRAIN
It’s normal for sewer gas to drift throughout a network of pipes.
After all, sewer gas is itself just another type of gas, like oxygen, and can go where it pleases.
Normally, however, it doesn’t manage to enter your home through the drain where you can smell it.
The reason for that is the p-trap, which is the series of bends in the pipe directly under a sink.
The p-trap is built such that a layer of water stays in the pipe, and this acts as a barrier against gases.
If it dries out or is sucked away because of air pressure from water movement in other parts of the house plumbing, you can just pour in more water to restore the barrier.
BACTERIA IN YOUR WATER HEATER TANK
If you’re still using a tank to heat your water, the temperature setting can sometimes be low enough to provide a warm, nurturing environment if the right type of bacteria should enter your plumbing. This makes sense, as a water heater tank is dark and provides a safe, protected area.
So if the warmth in your water heater is “just right,” this is a perfect spot for an infestation.
Fortunately, bacteria aren’t that hardy, so you don’t have to worry about scalding yourself just to get rid of germs that have taken up residence in a tank. If you can manage to adjust the temperature to something in the neighborhood of 55-60°C, that should kill off the bacteria.
SMELLS FROM WITHIN YOUR SEWER LINE
If it’s not a p-trap problem or a water tank problem, you might have an issue somewhere along the sewer line itself.
Things get more nebulous here as the sewer line has more potential places for issues to crop up, and the severity of those issues can vary from simple things that you can still solve yourself to much bigger problems.
For example, if it’s a matter of blocked ventilation, then you might just need to go outside, check your sewer vent, and clear off leaves, a bird’s nest, or whatever is obstructing the flow to allow gas to escape again.
If you have a break in your sewer line or a partial blockage, you won’t even know what the exact problem is until a professional conducts an inspection.