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Thread: another stinky kitchen drain and dishwasher problem

  1. #16
    DIY Junior Member ThomPlumb's Avatar
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    In you first post you said two traps didn't have water in them, which two? Do they now? It definitely sounds like you might have a vent problem. Do you have a picture of the drain below?

    “When I open doors and windows in the day, the smell will immediately waft up”

    This would make sense if the traps have been siphoned out, the cross breeze will carry the rising gas as spread it through the house.

  2. #17
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    There are only two reasons a trap might end up dry that I know of: that fixture has not been used regularly (or ever) and evaporation eventually ends up dry, or the plumbing drains are not done correctly and waste going down the drain creates a suction and sucks it dry.

    Also note that very long sink drop pipes (the pipe coming out of the drain of the sink) before the trap means that there's a lot of surface area for crud to potentially accumulate. It can scour clean, depending on what is regularly run down the drain, but it can also accumulate and smell nasty.

    Individual sinks that have an overflow (this would include the tub) can get crud in that overflow passage and smell pretty nasty, too.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #18
    DIY Junior Member Lynn V's Avatar
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    OKay, I spent the day doing laundry and watching and listening to the kitchen drain. There was no glug, and I was also watching the level of the trap with a flashlight. It had some soap in it, and nary a bubble even shook while the washing machine was draining. The odor was still evident in the drain (unpleasant to keep my head close) but today not bad enough that someone would notice it in the kitchen. This is what confounds my plumbers. They cannot understand how an odor could get thru the trap in the sink as well as the dishwasher drain hose and the trap in the dishwasher. However, there is no odor whatsoever under the cabinet.

    To Jim: the dry traps were in the basement and not used for a long time - they were an old washing machine discharge point and the sink drain in the basement bathroom, also never used. However, there was no odor ever coming up thru those. I put water in them, I have cleaned them, and I inspect all basement drains and toilet every week to make sure they have water. We have cleaned the overflow in the bathroom, but that did not change the odor there (although that has always been very slight.) I don't know what you mean by "long" pipe - how long is long? However, I can see down the pipe in the kitchen and it is clean. After the trap, there is a long pipe down to the basement drain (about one story). Could there be something in that pipe, even tho I have cleaned and cleaned the drain above it?

    As a point of information, there are three discharge drains that exit the house from the basement (not counting the basement floor drains, of which there are four but I don't know where those go). Because my house is on a hill, these drains all exit close to ground level even tho it is a basement.

    One discharge drain handles the washing machine and a sink (both in basement); no odor there.

    The second handles the main level bathroom, toilet and tub. We've found some issues here (loose vent and cleanout, which have been fixed). There is a slight odor coming from the bathroom drain.

    The third handles the kitchen sink and dishwasher and the basement bathroom (never used, but as I said, I am now keeping traps full). The kitchen sink and the dishwasher are the worst offenders; no odor in the basement bathroom.

    That also seems to indicate some connection between the two discharge pipes that exit separately from the house? They have the same vent pipe up thru the roof. Does that mean anything?

    To Thomplumb: I think I have answered your questions also with the info on this reply. If not, let me know.

    In I've missed someone's questions, let me know. Thank you all again for your continuing to try to help me with this problem. If I am using plumber terms wrongly, please let me know!
    Last edited by Lynn V; 10-05-2013 at 01:01 PM. Reason: clarity

  4. #19
    DIY Junior Member Lynn V's Avatar
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    Okay. Since I've received no more responses, I assume that you all are either out of ideas or I posted too much info to follow. If I can impose just a bit more, I'd still like some thoughts on where to go next, since all simple and normal solutions/ideas have been tried.

    Facts: Odor comes worst thru dishwasher when washing dishes, bad thru kitchen drain, and sometimes thru bathroom sink drain. All share same vent pipe. I do not smell all of the time.

    The trap in the kitchen drain is never dry or even affected. I've checked while running shower, washing clothes, flushing toilet, and draining dishwasher (well, I can see the water drain thru the trap on this one, but no change in level.)

    I have been unable to solidly identify the odor, and neither has the plumber.

    What do you recommend next? Tearing out kitchen cabinets to further investigate vent pipes? Snaking the kitchen drain?
    Anything? Ask people over to try to pin down the odor? Move and take the loss on the house?

  5. #20

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    My gut feeling is that it is not a vent issue on that kitchen drain, but to eliminate that possibility, could she cut the vent above the sanitary tee & temporarily install an AAV to eliminate that possibility.

    Another thought. since you say your dishes smell, could you be using some unusual cleaning products that are causing a reaction?

    And lastly, maybe you're just plain crazy... ;-)
    Last edited by jm66208; 10-18-2013 at 12:08 PM.

  6. #21

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    Another idea. My brother lived on a farm with well water which would dissolve the anode rod in his hot water heater in less than a year. Then the weird water smells would begin...

  7. #22
    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn V View Post
    I have been unable to solidly identify the odor, and neither has the plumber.

    What do you recommend next? Tearing out kitchen cabinets to further investigate vent pipes? Snaking the kitchen drain?
    Anything? Ask people over to try to pin down the odor? Move and take the loss on the house?
    Asking people over to try to identify the odor sounds good. Ask what it smells like without leading them. Do they independently say old mop, dead animal, or what? Include young noses... more sensitive, but probably without the experience of many smells and describing them.

    Unorthodox, but how about rigging up a fan as a test to power suck from the vent that seems associated with the problem. If the smells go away, it would seem that the problem is associated with that vent system.

  8. #23
    DIY Junior Member Lynn V's Avatar
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    I'll leave it to others to advise about "AAV". No unusual cleaning products, and odor is also in kitchen and bathroom drain. Lastly, I think it would be cheaper if I were just plain crazy!

  9. #24
    DIY Junior Member Lynn V's Avatar
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    I will check with others on odor. I don't quite understand your suggestion of rigging up a fan. Are you talking about going up on the roof and rigging up a fan?

  10. #25
    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynn V View Post
    Are you talking about going up on the roof and rigging up a fan?
    I was. I would run it for a few days in dry weather as an experiment. You would need to have a friend who was into experiments. I am not sure what fan I would use. If I had a big fast muffin fan in my junk box, I might use that attached by duct tape! A radon fan would work, but that would be expensive for a test.

    I am presuming a not too pitched roof to have an amateur go up there. What I brought up as an idea here is something a professional is not going to recommend. Ok... I am not going to recommend it. It is something I might have done for myself in a similar circumstance.

  11. #26
    DIY Junior Member Lynn V's Avatar
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    What would this prove and/or eliminate?

  12. #27
    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    Sucking on the vent is kluge. It causes a vacuum in the vent lines, precluding the vent line from injecting odors into your kitchen sink or dishwasher, even if there is an unknown hole in the vent or some other flaw. Depending on how much suction there is, it may suck your traps dry, but the air flow through a dry trap would still keep odors from entering the house by that route.

    I don't really expect you to try this. I thought you might try item #3 on reply #8 on this thread, but that was also out of the mainstream. The point there was to see if the vent air pressure ever got significantly positive to where it could push its way throug a trap. Sucking on the roof vents is even more novel/kludgy. However if conventional means fail, it might be worth considering unconventional means. These were both presented as possible troubleshooting steps rather than cures.

  13. #28
    DIY Junior Member Lynn V's Avatar
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    Sorry. I kind of overlooked Item #3 because I didn't understand it and I was busy trying other things. I do think that whatever is down there HAS to exert enough pressure to overcome the pressure of the water in the trap. We explored the idea that the odor could come from "above" the trap - e.g., something from underneath the sink - but we could neither smell nor find anything under the sink. (I have had mold in the caulking in the countertop behind the faucets, which I removed the caulk and replaced, but the particle board was still black under that. But, again, if this were the source of the odor, how would it get in the drains and why would we not smell or see it under the counter?)

    In addition, now that it is cold and the house is closed up, the odor is less. Still acrid now and then from the drains, but more likely to be stronger from the dishwasher after I use it (I'm assuming because that trap is drained dry during the process of using the dishwasher.) To me, that would assume less volatility and therefore less pressure?

    Anyway, I will look for a hose that is less than 1/4" in diameter if you still think this is worth trying after hearing all that?

  14. #29
    DIY Junior Member Lynn V's Avatar
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    Here I am again! I tried number 3 above. When I couldn't get the tubing up thru the trap to the other side, I decided to remove the trap. Then I got the idea to cap off both sides of the trap and see if the odor would still come up thru the dishwasher and drain. It did for several days. So it appeared to me that the odor was indeed coming from above the trap and not thru the trap. So you definitely helped me in making that diagnosis.

    My question now is: how and where would a dishwasher suck in a smell, not in the dishwasher, that would come thru badly when washing? The plumbers pulled the sink and looked at everything there. Absolutely NO smell. Sears came out and pulled the dishwasher, and, although there was some past water damage, again absolutely NO odor in the opening and certainly not in the dishwasher itself. Again, as it gets colder and the house is shut up, this odor gets less and less, but it is still there and I don't use the dishwasher at all because of it.

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