The Stink Under the Sink

Friday Night Game of, “Dear Lord! What’s that Stink!?”

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Dani Ramos-Unsplash

Last Friday we had a party planned at our house. We were expecting about 15 people to arrive at around 7:00 pm. At 6:00 PM, I was rushing around making Sangria and tidying up our supper dishes when I discovered IT:

Now, a few factors played as supporting roles in this scenario:

1). The party was planned for outside (thank goodness)

2). We had a record hot day happening and our house was excessively warm. We don’t have central air conditioning, but we have a portable one that was rigged to work as a temporary fix in our bedroom. It wasn’t helping the rest of the house to cool down.

3). We are both clean freaks so THIS was a huge deal.

4). I am a stickler for making nice aromas in the house, addicted to essential oils and fabric softeners etc.

5). I am a major gagger. EVERYTHING NASTY MAKES ME GAG

So, back to the mystery stink.

I found it when I put a fresh garbage bag in the bin under the sink. It was a stench that slapped me in the face and made my eyes water, right before I fought back the urge to lose my supper. A strange, foul odor emitting from under the sink, that was not garbage can related. It was not a pleasant scene.

The odor can only be described as the smell of death. It was as if something had crawled under our sink and breathed its last breath- a month ago. It was absolutely horrific! If you can imagine the smell of death and then wonder what that death would smell like when it died again, after having a big poop? That’s a pretty accurate description. And the smell had never been there before. This was totally new, and of course it was an evening when we had something planned that involved people.

I looked at the clock and it was now 6:10 pm. Guests would begin to arrive by 6:45. Not much time to deal with this, but I had no choice. I got on my hands and knees and gingerly pulled all of my cleaning supplies out of the cabinet. Everything looked (and smelled) fine. There was no moisture anywhere and no signs of dead critters. Mystery unsolved.

So, I did what everyone does. I Googled it; “Bad smell under sink”.

GUESS WHAT! This is a very common problem. I am not sure if that’s a positive or a negative, but now I want to know the cause. So, I quickly scroll through forums, like I was cramming for a final exam.


People have had mice die in their sink pipes, and get stuck in the elbow, some people say it was because of their dishwasher and others say it’s debris caught in your pipes because of food and grease. I was hoping we had the latter issue.

I looked up videos and websites on how to fix the issue. My father was a plumber, so I felt secure in the fact that I could fix this by myself, while my partner got snacks and chairs ready for the evening. I prayed that no one would arrive while I was dealing with the devil stench, and frantically looked for ways to resolve the issue.

On a plumber’s website I found the method. The way to end the aroma from hell. I jumped up and started looking for the ingredients of the brew to cure the beast.

Baking Soda and Vinegar. Easy!

But, where’s the baking soda? I like to use it in the bath with me, as well as for actual baking, but cannot seem to find the box anywhere.

The doorbell rings. Shit.

I talked my partner, Dave, into asking the guest to go around the back of the house to the patio in the yard. He agrees and we avoided a guest coming near the kitchen. Guest #1 was saved from the smell from hell. He kept him entertained downstairs while I frantically searched all over the house for the box of baking soda. Finally, after about 8 wasted minutes, I find a new box by scaling a ladder in my pantry and frantically pulling out items that had been placed randomly in front of it.

Okay, now vinegar.

I pull a partial bottle out of the cupboard and hope it’s enough. I put the kettle on to boil water, like the instructions say, and proceed to dump a shitload of baking soda in the drain. Step 1 complete.

Now, for the vinegar. I dump the contents of the jug into the sink and become mesmerized momentarily by the foaming, sizzling reaction. It takes me back to my Science project days when I was in elementary school, making volcanoes.

But, wait. Something is wrong!.

The foaming mess doesn’t go down the drain like it was supposed to. It plugs the damn sink! Oh My God. And now the smell has engulfed me and the entire upper floor of the house. I start to gag loudly and hold my face over the other sink, just in case my dinner salad decides to abandon ship. The vinegar and soda mixture sits in the sink laughing at me. It refuses to sizzle, bubble or do anything other than just mock me.

The kettle has boiled by now, but I don’t want to dump more liquids into the already plugged sink. So I retreat to the basement to grab the only tool I know might work.

The plunger.

The doorbell rings. Again, SHIT! No one can be in the stinky kitchen but me, and I honestly am having a minor meltdown at this point, holding the plunger in hand and trying to decide how to answer the door. Keep in mind, the house is hotter than sin, the stench has gone from a 3 to an 15 , on a scale of 1 to 10. I am sweaty, the kitchen is a mess, and the Sangria is half made on the counter, becoming warm.

Dave goes out the basement door, and meets our guests at the front entrance, luring them around the outside of the house with promises of cold beer. Crisis averted. Almost.

Guest number 1 doesn’t realize we have a bathroom downstairs and stumbles up to the kitchen to ask me where the washroom is. I can tell by his face that he is avoiding the obvious question, being polite. I barely know this man, as he is Dave’s buddy. He sees me with the plunger and looks away from eye contact, asking me if he can use the facilities. I am pretty sure he is as mortified as I am, when he sees me plunging the sink.

The good news is, I plunged once, and the vinegar/soda combo went down the drain. I took a quick moment to set up 3 oil burners throughout the house to try and cover up the death stank. Almost immediately, all of the aromas combined and it reeked like a hippy convention with an overflowing outhouse. I think I made it worse. I gag again.

In a panic I dumped the kettle down the drain, and I believe I crossed myself with a quick hail Mary as it ran down the drain. It never plugged up again, so I turned the hot water tap on and let it run for a long time.

The guest had now returned from the bathroom, and somehow decided to get up the nerve to ask me what I was doing. If it was me, seeing someone I was visiting with a plunger in the kitchen sink, next to a jug of Sangria and a pile of dirty dishes, I would NEVER ask what she was doing. I would avoid the scene at all costs and hope that any food or drinks I was served didn’t kill me. Or, I would politely refuse to accept anything to eat or drink.

I took a deep breath, and ended it with a long sigh, and tried to explain the situation without freaking the poor guy out.

Surprisingly, he KNEW what I was dealing with!

“Oh, I have had this problem before. No worries You did exactly what I always do. You may want to do it twice though. The second time you run the vinegar and soda it clears out the smell. The first time just moves it down the line.”

I look at the empty vinegar bottle on the counter and hope he can’t see it. I nod graciously, thank him and send him back downstairs to Dave. I swear to myself, dropping a few F bombs, and continue running hot water down the drain in hopes that he is wrong. I am hoping the water is clearing the pipes. The smell, by now, is so strong, I can barely tell it’s there. It has saturated my sinuses, my hair, my clothing and everything else on the upper floor. I can’t even smell the fresh citrus oils. I am determined that the stench has burned my nose hairs out of my face. I know it will float its nasty self down the stairs eventually, and I am grateful when Dave ushers everyone out onto the patio.

The water has now been running for at least a half hour and I can hear Dave greeting our guests in front of the house and detouring them outside to help me from being embarrassed by the eau’ d dead animal.

I quickly tidy up the dishes, fill the sangria jug with sliced up fruit and ice and head downstairs. Before embarking on the staircase, I quickly spray myself with some perfume to ensure I am not carrying the lingering scents. I take the plunger discreetly back downstairs and pray no one can see it in my hand through the windows. I washed my hands in the downstairs sink and notice in the mirror that I look like I had just ran a marathon. Splash some cold water on my face, and hope for the best.

As I enter the patio, everyone greets me with hugs and hellos and I make sure everyone has a freshened drink. No one asks where I was or what I was doing. I assume they all thought I was making the Sangria or preparing snacks.

As I finally am able to have a seat, and start chatting with one of our neighbors, the man sitting across from me, near Dave starts to sniff the air around him. He looks puzzled for a moment before he loudly inquires, “What’s that smell?”

My heart races, and I feel my cheeks turn crimson. Oh My F. It’s seeping from within the house.

Dave tries to be nonchalant and acts like he is smelling the air around him, copying his friend. “I don’t smell anything”. He knows I would die of embarrassment if he told on me.

His friend rises from his chair and starts to move toward me. All 9 of our friends are watching as he comes closer, and closer, finally taking a big, loud sniff through his nostrils. “That smell. What is it?” he asks me.

I am not prepared to go over the story in the midst of our company, so I sheepishly look down at the ground, then sideways at Dave. He shrugs. He’s got nothing to say.

His friend leans down and for a moment I am afraid he’s going to kiss me. I back away as far as I can in my chair, while our surrounding friends giggle quietly. I feel tension in the air, and am trying to find comical ways to share the story of the last hour. I think quickly of ways to make light of the situation. The man takes another huge sniff of me and gets close enough to put his face in my hair.

“I just love your perfume. Can you tell me the name of it please? I think my wife would love it.”

I can hear Dave’s sigh of relief next to me, right before he bursts into laughter. Our friends start laughing along with him, and a rush of hilarity consumes me. The past hour and the lingering stench upstairs, the plugged sink and plunger, the house being hot as hell, the Sangria and the messy dishes and the timing of it all.

I took a Long sip of my full glass, relaxed in my chair and joined the laughter.

Thank goodness for Google, Friends and a Great Perfume.

PS. The odor is gone now. I woke the next morning and bought new vinegar and we had all the doors and windows open all day . The vinegar and baking soda did the trick the second time and my house smells lovely once again

Writer of relationships / early childhood and mental health . Poetry and fiction dabbler

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