You've met your match, nasty sink smells.

By Christine Coppa
December 10, 2019
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There are few kitchen problems more unsettling than a stinky sink. Food, grease, sweet and sour smells can mix in the basin and drain, causing a yucky stench in your kitchen — one that may even drift into other rooms of your home or apartment.

Because most of us consider the sink to be a clean place — after all, it's where we wash dishes with suds — it's no wonder kitchen sink stink is overlooked, or even unknown as a nasty culprit of kitchen odors. Here, we get to the bottom of the grime, to help you zap bad smells in the basin.

1. Use tried-and-true baking soda.

After you wash the dishes, Stephanie M. Casey, CEO of Lovage Inc., says to sprinkle basic baking soda into the empty basin or directly onto a rag. Use some elbow grease and get to work scrubbing the sink, drain, and faucet area. It takes just two to three minutes, but doing this daily can nix nasty odors.

"Baking soda is a great, non-toxic exfoliate," Casey says. "But its main superpower is that it neutralizes acidic pH odors, thus killing sink stink before it spreads."

2. Create a sweet-smelling cheap-o cleaner.

Casey, who is passionate about cultivating intention and simplicity in the home, says you don't need to spend money on fancy cleaning products. "Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, plus 20 to 30 drops of your favorite essential oil into a spray bottle." (Peppermint, rosemary, cinnamon, and citrus oils are a good bet because they are fresh-smelling and kitchen-scent friendly.) "Spray the basin, paying extra attention to the drain. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then wipe with a damp rag. Boom, you're done," she says, adding that the solution is great for kitchen countertops, too.

3. Nix nasty sponges now.

According to Casey, sponges are, in a word, gross. "They grow bacteria and will eventually smell," she says. Where does a sponge live? The sink. So it acts like a foul air-freshener pod.

"Use repurposed cotton rags (cut up old t-shirts and towels) instead, to wash dishes and surfaces," Casey says. Also, the beauty of this method is that you can toss them into the washing machine on hot to clean and reuse them. "If they are too sloppy to salvage, you won't feel bad tossing them into the trash, because you didn't buy them."

4. Use ice, baby.

If your sink is equipped with a garbage disposal, grab 12 ice cubes from the freezer, toss a few down the drain at a time, add 10 drops of essential oil and flip the switch. "The hard, crunchy ice works to remove caked-on grime," Casey says. "The oil adds a fragrant touch. Follow up by running hot water for a few seconds."

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5. Use your fruit drawer finds.

Are you someone who keeps a pitcher of lemon water in the fridge? Maybe you like lemon in your Diet Coke or as a garnish in your vodka tonic. Perhaps you bake with lemon. Don't waste those wedges when your drink is empty or it's time to make a new batch of lemon-infused H2O.

"Cut the wedges into smaller pieces, toss them into the disposal, and flip the switch," Casey says. The scent is clean and invigorating. Orange peels and lime wedges are fragrant, too. Bonus use: "You can use a lemon half, sprinkled with baking soda, to scrub the basin, first. The natural citric acid will dissolve stuck-on food, and overall freshen-up the entire sink," Casey adds.

6. Don't leave dirty dishes in the sink

If you don't want to wash the dishes by hand, rinse and pop them into the dishwasher. No dishwasher? "Unfortunately, letting dirty dishes sit in the sink will create a bad stink. If food bits are exposed to air they will start to harden and rot," Casey says.

However, she says, no worries if you don't have time to wash dishes immediately after a meal (who does!?). Plug the drain, fill it with hot water and dish detergent, and slip dirty dishes, pots, pans, and forks into the soapy water. That's right — give your dishes a bubble bath.

"This not only gives you time, it saves time since soaking makes for easier and quicker cleaning," Casey says. Important: Just be sure to empty the drain net/plug into the garbage and wipe down the basin with an all-purpose cleaner when you do finally get around to washing those dishes.

7. Get rid of grease.

Grease, hot liquids, or other marinades that accumulated during the cooking process can stink. You might think pouring them down the drain is a quick way to dispose of them, but it's not a good idea. "It's definitely not advised to pour any type of hot grease, fat, or heavy liquid down the kitchen sink drain. This can clog pipes or even eat away at materials in your drainage system," Casey says. "Instead, let the grease and leftover cooking liquids cool. Sop up as much as you can with paper towels, and dispose of them in a heavy-duty garbage pail bag. If you can move the trash outside after this smelly task, do it."

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