Do your drains smell? What it means and how to fix it...

Plumbing systems are designed to transport waste and odours away from your home to the public sewer lines. If you notice a foul smell coming from your drain openings, it means that something isn’t quite right with your plumbing. It could be a minor issue such as some decomposing food in the kitchen sink. However if the smell is persistent its normally a symptom of a blocked drain. There are some really simple methods for avoiding blockages, but if the smell persists, don’t hesitate to contact a licensed Sydney plumber.  

Fats, oil and grease

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant you will know how bad grease can smell. When oil and grease gets inside your plumbing pipes it’s much the same. Grease congeals as it cool, sticking to the outsides of pipes. Over time the grease builds up until the pipes becomes completely blocked like an artery. Not only will the grease start to rot,  causing a foul smell in your drains, a completely blocked pipe means that the waste has nowhere else to go except back up into your home.

A simple method for removing some of the grease in your pipes is to pour boiling, soapy water down the drain. Doing this regularly will also prevent grease from building up in the first place.

Prevention tip: Wipe away any excess grease on plates before washing the dishes and always use lots of hot, soapy water. For large amount of grease, such as oil that has been used for deep frying, wait for the oil to cool slightly and then place it in a sealable container such as a milk bottle. Dispose of the container in the bin.  

Tree roots

One of the most common causes of clogs in the underground sewer lines outside of your home is tree roots in the pipes. They are attracted to moisture and can find their way into the smallest hairline cracks. The intricate roots acts like a net catching toilet paper, sanitary items and wet wipes in the pipes. When waste is getting stuck instead of making its way into the main sewer a foul smell can travel back up pipes and into your home. Even worse, if the roots completely block the pipes there is a risk that all the sewerage will back up into your home too.

If your smelly drains are a result of tree roots you will need to employ the services of a drainage plumber. No amount of plunging or drain chemicals will clear tree roots. Plumbers have access to high-pressured jet blasters which can completely flush sewer pipes clean for up to 12 months. Tree roots will eventually find their way back into a cracked pipe, so replacing the damaged section of pipe could provide the best long-term solution. A drain inspection using high-tech CCTV drain cameras can determine exactly what kind of repairs are required.

Prevention tip: Planting trees well away from plumbing pipes is the best way to prevent this kind of blocked drain.

Rotting Food

It’s easy for food scraps to enter the pipes when washing dishes in the kitchen sink. Certain foods, such as pasta and oats, swell when they get wet,  expanding in the pipes and creating a blockage.

This kind of blockage is considered “local” because it’s close to the drain opening. It can easily be fixed with plunging or by pouring boiling water down the drain. If you feel confident enough, you can also remove the S-bend underneath the sink and empty the contents of the pipes into a bucket. This can be a little bit messy so wear gloves and have the bucket handy before removing the pipe.

Prevention tip: Install a drain grate. They are specifically designed to catch food before it goes into the pipes is a great way of preventing smelly blocked drains in the kitchen.


Wet-wipes have been getting a lot of media attention lately, particularly the “flushable” variety. As it turns out, wet-wipes should never be flushed because they are made of a durable material that does not break down when flushed. In fact, false claims about the flushability of their wet-wipes recently resulted in a $700k fine for an Australian based company.

When wet-wipes get flushed they can get snagged on things like tree roots or stick to grease, forming a large fatberg. If they can’t make it to the main sewer line these wipes are sitting stagnant in your pipes. Foul odours and waste can travel back up the pipes and exit through multiple drain openings in your home.

Prevention tip: The best thing to do is to avoid wipes all together because they are bad for the environment. However, if you insist on using them make sure you never flush them down the toilet. Keep a bin in the bathroom so they can be disposed of in the trash.

Got a blocked drain in Sydney?

If none of the methods above are working and the smell persists, get in contact with a drainage plumber as soon as possible. The sooner a plumber can remove the clog the better it is for your plumbing system. Drain plumbers have access to the latest tools such as jet blasters which can completely flush pipes clean, normally in an hour or less. Once the clog is gone the smell will go too and you can go back to enjoying the comfort of your home.

JAB Plumbing Solutions specialise in drain and sewer cleaning. We can be reached on 1800 225 552 and are available 24 hours a day for emergency issues.