Sewage smell from floor drain.... not dried

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by samk, May 4, 2006.

  1. samk

    samk New Member

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    Here's an issue that I was hoping someone could offer advice for before I call in someone with a video camera.

    I have a floor drain in the basement that just smells like sewage when you get down by it. It's on one side of the house where a bathroom and kitchen run by it. The water is always full, and I try to flush it with clean water once a week, but by the end of the week, the smell is back.

    I've had a pro come with a powered snake, but the smell was back within a week. I watched for bubbles as the upstairs toilet is flushed, but the water just slightly moves up and down... no bubbles. I even put some dye in the toilet to see if that was backing up into the trap, but when I stuck a piece of paper town into the trap after flushing the dye and it come out clear but stinky. I then put baking soda in the trap and stuck a piece of paper towel in the water, and black spots were on the town that REALLY smelled......sewage?
    .

    I tried bleach, enzyme cleaner, baking soda, so I don't think it's just scum. The smell is too strong for that.

    My next step before calling in a video camera guy is to try snaking the vent tube. I don't know if that will do anything, but I'm out of ideas.

    Can anyone help me?!?

    Thanks for all the advice I've learned from this board.
  2. Lakee911

    Lakee911 I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP)

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    Could it be that waste water is mixing w/ the trap water? Not enough slope away from the drain trap?
  3. samk

    samk New Member

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    It could be, and that's maybe what the camera could show. It seems like that would be the logical explanation. But I thought that my dye-in-the-water trick would show if the waste water was mixing with water in the trap, but it didn't.
  4. Lakee911

    Lakee911 I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP)

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    Hmm true. Try dye in all the fixtures' drains? It might be that the particular fixture you tried the dye in wasn't connected to the same leg as the drain.

    Possibly could have slow drainage which might cause solids to remain suspended when there is high flow. In that case, maybe the camera would be a good idea to see why its sometimes slow draining.

    When I moved into my house I used the wet/dry vac to vacuum out the basement floor drain. Got a lot of smelly sludge and some coins, paperclips, screws, rocks, marbles, etc etc. It seemed to flow a lot better after that and has no smell whatsoever. I'm not sure if it'll help in your case, but it would give you a clean slate so to speak. *shrug*

    Jason
  5. SteveW

    SteveW DIY Senior Member

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    Not a bad idea to try the wet/dry vac, if you've got the stomach for it. You'll probably need to flush the hoses out pretty well by sucking up some hot soapy water afterwards.

    If it were me (a DIY'er), I'd be tempted to then run one of those inflatable rubber hose-end drain cleaners into the trap and turn on the water, to flush that line pretty well. I don't know what the pros think about those devices, but they've worked well for me.
  6. Lakee911

    Lakee911 I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP)

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    Ya, there could be, and probably is, a lot of nasty, let's say stuff, down there. Forgot that part. I wore latex gloves and then took the "stuff" outside and dumped it, hosed out the vac and hose and splashed in some bleach too. Wasn't the highlight of my day, but gets the job done.

    Jason
  7. Cass

    Cass Plumber

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    Blow bags are O.K. under the right conditions and piping, if done wrong you could end up with a vent system full of water to the roof and still have a plugged line and no way to get the water out with out flooding the home.

    Not a position I would care to be in.
    Last edited: May 5, 2006
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    drain

    It is not likely to be a vent problem, but whatever it is, a camera would probably not be able to give you any help either.
  9. prashster

    prashster New Member

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    (not a pro). I had a similar problem with my sink last year. It turned out to be some kind of (bacteria?) growth in the overflow tube. If bleach temporarily stops the problem, I'd suspect it's a similar growth in the pipe between the trap and the drain. If it were further down, I'd expect the water to block the odor.

    Describe how you cleaned the trap with bleach. Did you just pour it down? How long did you leave it? Did you mechanically scour the inside of the drain?
    1 person likes this.
  10. Lakee911

    Lakee911 I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP)

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    Interesting. Very interesting. What do you scour it with? Old dish brush or something?
  11. prashster

    prashster New Member

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    Tongue, but only if you're Gene Simmons.

    I'm not sure how you'd scrub around the bends of the trap, but there has to be some kind of flexible brush. Before you go investing in one though, I'm not a pro; just theorizing here in the absence of any solutions yet.
  12. SteveW

    SteveW DIY Senior Member

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    They actually sell cylindrical brushes specifically for cleaning drain tailpieces -- I found one in a hardware store years ago and periodically swab out a smelly drain in the sink in my bathroom.

    One word of advice when using -- use a towel or some newspapers to cover the drain and your hands before brushing out the trap, or else you'll spew noxious stuff all over the room.
  13. samk

    samk New Member

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    Previously when cleaning the trap, I just dumped bleach or enzymes down the down the drain and let it sit for a few hours and then ran some more water down the drain.

    So yesterday, I took a toilet brush that was a perfect fit to it with some toilet bowl cleaner with bleach in it. It seems to be smelling fine since then, but I will need to give it at least a week to see if the smell comes back.

    Can I just leave the cleaner in the trap or would it be best to flush it out? It smells much better with it in.

    Thanks for all the help and advice!
  14. Cass

    Cass Plumber

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    You sure can.
  15. samk

    samk New Member

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    Well, I flushed out the toilet bowl cleaner to make sure the smell went away, and it seemed fine for a few days. However, I went to check it today and noticed some paper in the trap. When I cleaned it earlier, I flushed it with about 5 gallons of water beforehand, so it has to have gotten in there recently. I pulled some of the paper out with a stick, and sure enough, it's toilet paper.

    I didn't do anything with the vent because like another member said, I don't think it really has anything to do with that, and plus, I couldn't find it.

    Can anyone give me some advice on what my next step should be?

    Thanks!
  16. Cass

    Cass Plumber

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    Are you septic or city and reguardless of which where it leaves the house and goes to the tank or street is there a tree within 50" in any direction of the line.
  17. samk

    samk New Member

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    I'm on city water/sewer, and the only tree is about 75' away, and only about 6-7' tall.

    The house itself is about 8 years old, so there aren't any big trees around. Although, we have only lived in the house for 1 year.

    Water flow is great, and we've never had a problem with backups or slow drains.
  18. Cass

    Cass Plumber

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    Heres what is going on. You have roots, broken line, or partial clog somewhere. When you use the shower or washer the line backs up then someone flushes the toilet and the toilet backs up to the floor drain.

    Here's what you to to test.

    Fill the washer with no clothes and water level set to high. When full turn it off. Adjust dial so the washer will dump all water when you turn it on. Start all tubs/showers flowing and kitchen/bath faucets and let all run full force for 20 min.. At the 20 min. mark and all faucets still flowing dump water in washer and flush all toilets at the same time. Watch the floor drain while all this is going on incase it starts to back up. I'll bet at some point it will.

    If it does send a camera down the line and you should see/find the problem.
    Last edited: May 12, 2006
  19. samk

    samk New Member

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    Thanks for the suggestion. I did as you stated, but the drain appears to be flowing well. It would slightly move up and down, like it was breathing, but never backed-up. When all toilets flushed and washer emptied, it moved up about a 1/8 to 1/4 inch for a second, and then right back down again.

    The plumber snaked the floor drain, too.

    I'm so confused as to what is going on with it. I'm lost. Can you think of anything else to try?
    Last edited: May 12, 2006
  20. Lakee911

    Lakee911 I&C Engineer (mostly WWTP)

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    It could have been/be a partial clog. When I had roots in my line, it really depended on what went down the drain before it backed up. It would drain fine all day then clog up and then drain for a while, then clog. Now its good after rooting it out. If there is still any issue, send the cam down. Tried everything else.

    Jason
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