How to Clean a Kitchen Drain

Once you’ve used the kitchen sink to clean the dishes, or anything else for that matter, you may end up with the unfortunate side effect of a dirty kitchen drain. One would think a sink used for cleaning would basically clean itself, but on the contrary, it takes a bit of effort to keep the kitchen drain clear and odor free.

Before you can clean and deodorize your kitchen drain, you have to remove any food or other debris that is clogging it. If it’s just a minor clog, you can probably remove it by running the garbage disposal if you have one, or picking the food out of the drain with your hands if you don’t. (Be sure that the garbage disposal is turned off before sticking your fingers in the drain!) To find out how to deal with a more seriously clogged kitchen sink drain, see how to unclog a drain. To find out how to deodorize your drain, just keep reading.

Kitchen Drain Cleaning Instructions

1. Run hot water in the drain

The stinky scent in your drain is most likely caused by bacteria, and hot water can go a long way in beginning to zap. By hot water, this means very hot water, such as when you can see steam coming out of the drain. You can even boil water in a pan on the stove and then pour it down, using oven mitts on your hands of course. Also, don’t put your hands in the sink at this point or you will definitely risk burning them. Just let the water run through for about 15 seconds.

2. Drop in some baking Soda

Once the drain is good and hot, throw in about a teaspoon of baking soda, and keep the hot water coming for another 15 seconds. Baking soda is great for killing odors and this just might do the trick.

3. Do some heavy-duty deodorizing (if necessary)

If the hot water and baking soda doesn’t quite work at getting rid of the smell, there are several additional cleaning solutions you can try. You can pour about a cup of one of the following substances in the drain, let it sit for about half an hour, and then rinse it out with hot water: table vinegar, bleach or lemon juice. If you’re going to use bleach, wear old clothing, since it may spatter when you pour it. And only use it in a well-ventilated area.

4. Buy and use a stronger solution

If none of these do-it-yourself solutions work, you may want to try one made especially for cleaning gunk out of drains, such as a corrosive drain cleaner or Bio-Clean’s Bac-Out. These products should be some available at your local grocery store or home improvement store, or you can order them online. You can also try swabbing out the drain with a scrub brush.

Drain still not clean?

If there’s still an odor coming from your drain after trying all of these methods, you may have a more serious plumbing problem, such as a clog further down in your plumbing system, or the scent could be coming from your garbage disposal. If you think it’s coming from the garbage disposal, see cleaning your garbage disposal for further instruction. If you’re not sure what the problem is or just don’t feel comfortable dealing with it yourself, it may be time for you to call in a professional.

Dreaded Drain Flies

Though it is not that common, your kitchen drain may be inhabited by “drain flies,” small, furry flies, which can live in pipes and sewers. Before you get to work on eliminating them, you should make sure that you actually have drain flies, and not fruit flies or some other similar pest.

An easy way to tell if the flies are actually emerging from your drain is by using a roll of masking tape or package tape. All you have to do is put a piece of tape across the drain at night with the sticky side down. (Just one piece stretched across will do. You don’t have to cover the entire opening.) Make sure the sink is dry so that the tape will stick well.

Then, in the morning, see if there are any flies stuck to the bottom of the tape. If you repeat this process four nights in a row and don’t end up with any trapped flies, then they are probably coming not from your drain, but elsewhere in your home.

If your test determines that you do in fact have drain flies, then it is time to get rid of them. They are pretty gross to look at, not to mention unsanitary. These flies feed on food and other organic waste in your drain, so the Bac-Out or corrosive cleaner should take care of them as well, as your drain odor, by eliminating their food source. There are also special drain gels made for the removal of these pests. Just ask at your local hardware store.

If the infestation in your home is already severe, or you find you don’t have drain flies but one of their winged cousins instead and you can’t figure out where they’re coming from, you may want to call a professional exterminator.

Keeping your Kitchen Drain Clean and Fresh

To prevent odors from lingering in your kitchen drain, scrape your dishes into the trash can instead of down the drain, especially if the food on them is moldy or has a strong odor. Also, run hot water down the sink after each time you use it to wash dishes, and drop a tablespoon of baking soda and/or a cup of vinegar down the drain about once a week to prevent odors from building up.


  1. Use a Mr. Clean type sponge to wipe a stainless steel kitchen sink bowl. Amazing the corrosion this type of sponge removes without harsh chemicals.

  2. I put the little sink strainer basket in the dishwasher almost every time I run the dishwasher. It stays very clean that way!

  3. Another source of sink odor is under the rubber gasket over the drain containing the garbage disposal. Wear rubber gloves for this one! Take a wadded dry paper towel & wipe all around the underside of the rubber gasket, making sure to also wipe the sides of the drain beneath the gasket. Repeat until the paper towel no longer picks up gunk. Optimally, this should be done weekly,

    Periodically dump ice down the garbage disposal & grind them up with baking soda & a little bleach. Run a slow stream of warm water while the ice is grinding. Do not use the sink for several hours.


    Take it from someone who has just been chewed out by the PLUMBER and then paid out a large some of money ($$$$$) to have my Septic Tank pumped and field lines partially replaced.

    Bleach and other corrosives kill the BACTERIA that lives in the Septic Tank and eats the solid waste particles, this keeps the solids from clogging the lines leading from the house and those leaving the septic tank. When either of these get clogged, you have some really nasty back up in bathtubs and sinks when the washing machine rinses and commodes are flushed! TRUST ME, YOU DON’T WANT TO EXPERIENCE THIS. RB

  5. If it’s a stubborn odor coming from the disposal, grind up some lemon peel in it.

  6. I have a guest shower that is used very infrequently. Every once in a while the drain pipe dries out and I start seeing drain flies. A plumber once told me to pour a cup of bleach down the drain (I am connected to the public sewer system, not a septic tank) and then to run the hot water for a bit. This clears up the problem immediately every time.

  7. My best cleaning tip for sinks is: with the water off, pour about a 1/2 half cup of baking soda, followed by 1 cup of vinegar — it will foam up into the sink. Follow this with a few cups of boiling water. It works for me.

  8. Moved into a new apartment. Now, cockroaches are coming up the drain. The building manager mentioned they come up from the sewer. What can I use to put down the drain to eliminate them? Bleach, etc.

  9. Does anyone have any ideas on how to clean the rubber shield above the garburator?

  10. I take the rubber shield out of the garbage disposal all the time and rinse it under running water to remove loose gunk. Then, I take a soft toothbrush and put some liquid DAWN on it and scrub all around the edges and all surfaces and rinse with hot water. I also put it in the dishwasher during the washing cycle at least twice a month if needed. I also discovered by accident that gunk builds up in the pipes BETWEEN the garbage disposal and the other side of the sink. I discovered this by removing the stopper in the garbage disposal side and turning the garbage disposal on at the same time. TONS OF BLACK SLUDGE came up the other side of the sink as the garbage disposal drained. Disgusting! I cleaned it all out by using vinegar and baking soda and boiling water…I kept repeating that until I could fill the garbage disposal with hot water and then pulling the plug on it while the garbage disposal ran. Each time, the water backs up, as there is such a volume of water being released so quickly. BUT, that does the trick. It is clean as a whistle now! NO GUNK AT ALL!

  11. Another idea that really works is to put a lot of ice in the sink until it is nearly full, then throw in some bleach and start the garbage disposal. Run the hot water; you will see so much dirt coming up and cleaning.

  12. With the water off, pour about 1/2 cup baking soda and a 1 cup of vinegar down the drain. Let the mixture set for a few minutes – it will bubble up – then pour down several cups of boiling hot water. This will leave a fresh smell and open up the smelly clogged drain. Voila!

  13. Thank you so much for the post. It was really helpful!

  14. Lemon peel, bleach, and Drano are bad for disposal/pipes.

  15. BJ, you saved my life with that info on the yucky stopper! I was arguing with my husband about it coming from the pipes until I read him your review. Once he pulled it out, I learned that was the source! He cleaned it up with degreaser and we are still married. In fact, he’s a bit of a hero for doing that clean up!

  16. Help please! I used a drain cleaner to unclog my kitchen sink and now it is all dark and ugly-looking. What can I do to restore? It’s stainless steel. Thanks.

  17. I use baking soda and vinegar followed by boiling water to clean my drain, but also wad up several paper towels and pour a little bleach on it and leave overnight to clean the part of the drain that goes into the pipe (under the basket). Works really well for me. Good luck!

  18. I tried all of the sink stuff. Nothing worked. I remembered that bacteria like dark, wet, and warm places. We kept leaving hot water in the drain because we thought it was killing the germs. I guess the ones that survived were the really bad ones and they multiplied. Anyway, just leaving cold water in the drain after using the sink has fixed the problem for almost a year now after having the problem for 20 years. Anything else just temporarily fixes it if at all.

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