How to Get Rid of Sewer Gas Smells in Your Home

Updated July 26, 2021
Plumber showing homeowner kitchen sink pipes
Paul Bradbury/KOTO -

Sewer gases don't just smell bad, but they can also be a health hazard unless you know how to get rid of them

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You work hard to make your home a haven, but when sewer gas seeps in, no amount of polish and potpourri will make it right. Sewer gases are more than just unpleasant, though; they can also be dangerous. That’s why you should know how to find and prevent sewer gas from leaking into your home.

Even at low levels, prolonged exposure to hydrogen sulfide and other common sewer gases can cause eye irritation and significant respiratory distress. But knowing how to detect, pinpoint, and get rid of that nasty rotten egg and raw sewage smell will make the entire family breathe easier.

1. Mind the P-Trap

If you’re getting an unpleasant odor from your drains, that could mean the water in your p-trap has evaporated. This nifty little feature in your drains maintains a stable pool of water to form a barrier between the sewage system and your open drains. The water traps these sewage gasses and prevents them from entering your home.

If you have a sink or tub that you rarely use, then your p-trap may have gone dry, allowing those nasty sewer line fumes to enter your home through your sink and tub drains.

Fortunately, fixing the problem is easy: Running water in rarely used sinks and tubs will help keep the p-traps full and those noxious odors at bay. But if you suspect that your p-trap may have cracks or other damage, causing it to leak, a local plumber can always do a quick visual inspection courtesy of a sewer camera.

2. Check Your Toilet Wax Ring

That rotten egg smell may be coming from inside the house, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s coming from your rarely-used drains. Instead, you may find your toilet’s wax ring has loosened or started to degrade.

Your toilet’s wax ring seals the drain beneath and prevents water seepage. Although the toilet wax ring should not degrade, a loose toilet bowl can damage the wax seal. Check your toilet bowl to ensure a nice, secure fit. If the toilet bowl wobbles or feels loose, replace the toilet wax ring and reset the toilet.

3. Caulk Your Toilet Base

If your wax ring looks solid and secure, but your toilet still smells pretty foul, then you might need to do a bit of caulking. Any looseness, gaps, or crevices in your toilet base may not only allow stinky sewer gases to escape, but they can also collect water. That environment creates ideal conditions for odor-causing bacteria to grow.

To keep the base of your toilet fresh and dry, simply apply a bead of tub and tile caulk around the base of your toilet, where it meets the bathroom’s finished flooring.

4. Check Cleanout Caps

Those dangerous and disgusting fumes could also indicate that your sewer cleanout caps have loosened. 

You can generally locate your sewer cleanout caps on the wall beneath your sinks and beside your toilets. The cover plates attach to the cleanout caps with a screw that can easily break or degrade over time, allowing sewer gasses to escape from the cleanout caps. 

Check for these cover plates in your home. Replace the screws with new ones, and be sure to use Teflon tape on the threads to form an even tighter seal against those harmful and hair-raising odors.

Plumber using chemicals to clean sink drain
Galaganov -

5. Clean and Clear Your Drains

Making your home a fortress against sewer gasses will mean taking great care of your drains. You’ll want to safeguard against anything that might clog or damage your plumbing. 

In the kitchen, compost debris, such as paper towels, cooking oils, and food waste rather than flushing down the sink or toilet. Always dispose of bathroom items, such as dental floss and feminine hygiene products, in the trash rather than the toilet. You can also purchase a hair trap in the tub or shower for less than $10 to help prevent damaging clogs. 

Clogs can also occur from soap scum buildup and materials washed down the drain, from human skin cells to hair. These can all produce microbes that not only reek, but may also damage your pipes and expose your home to sewer gases. 

But preventing such clog-causing buildup, not to mention rampant bacterial growth, doesn’t require a lot of effort. Multiple applications of drain chemicals or an enzyme drain cleaner should resolve the problem. The keyword, though, is multiple. These chemicals can’t get the job done in a single shot. Instead, you’ll need several applications daily over the course of a week.

Regularly inspecting and cleaning your sewer lines as needed will also help to prevent damage and protect your home and family from odors.

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