Unless it’s in a petri dish in science class or some other it’s-supposed-to-be-here space, mold is an unwanted guest. Now, in the kitchen, mold becomes even more unwelcome. You prepare food, eat, clean, and so on in the kitchen, so there is no place for mold.
So, let’s say the dreaded fungi spawns in your kitchen sink drain. Now what? Should you pour a gallon of bleach down the drain and hope that does the trick? Or is there a better way to go about it? If you’ve suddenly become host to a moldy, uninvited guest, keep reading for tips and tricks to get rid of it (and keep it gone).
Why Is There Mold In My Sink Drain?
Your kitchen or bathroom sink drain is the perfect breeding ground for mold – plenty of moisture and humidity is almost an invitation for mold. These conditions are favorable for various types of bacteria and fungi, including mold and mildew.
However, mold has no place in a kitchen sink (or anywhere in your kitchen, for that matter), so it’s essential to take care of it as soon as you notice it.
How Do I Know If There’s Mold In My Sink Drain?
There are a few ways to determine if there’s mold in your kitchen sink drain. You might not actually see mold in the drain but recognize the musty smell or random allergic reactions.
However, in some scenarios, you might see mold gathering around the sink drain or even catch a glimpse of goop in the drain tailpiece. Mold in your sink drain is usually black and goopy, hanging out in the drain’s tailpiece. This is the part that sits beneath the strainer and stopper in the drain and extends down the P-trap.
Mold exposure can also cause a host of allergy symptoms, like watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, itching, wheezing, headaches, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. The severity of the reaction depends on the person’s sensitivity and the severity of the mold spore concentration. If you notice a sudden onset of these symptoms and there isn’t an explainable reason, mold might be the culprit.
How To Get Rid Of Mold In Your Sink Drain
Ridding your sink drain of mold isn’t a tricky task. Once you remove the current mold, maintenance, and daily cleaning prevent more from taking hold comes down to maintenance and daily cleaning. But, first things first, let’s get rid of the mold.
While you could use a chemical cleaner, some cleaners can be hard on plumbing, so it might not be the best idea. Instead, consider the following methods.
Scrub Away The Mold
If you’re up to it, you can physically scrub away the mold. This is usually the best idea for scenarios where mold is built up on and around the drain itself. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Rubber cleaning gloves
- Dish detergent
- Wrench or pliers
- Washing container (as needed)
There are two ways you can do this – by removing the strainer and stopper or the tailpiece. It’s easier to remove the strainer and stopper to access the drain, but if you can’t, you’ll need to remove the tailpiece. Below, we explain the steps for removing the tailpiece. If you could remove the strainer and stopper, skip to the bottom of this section, where we explain the cleaning process.
Start by turning off the water to the sink in question. Use the shut-off valve beneath the sink. Sometimes, you might need to turn off the water to the entire home. If that’s the case, make sure you have a container to wash the tailpiece in, along with water to wash with and fresh water for rinsing.
Remove the drain tailpiece from the plumbing. This is the straight section of the pipe that connects the sink to the P-trap. To remove it, loosen the nut securing the tailpiece to the drain body on the underside of the sink.
Next, unscrew the tailpiece using a wrench or pliers. Pull down on the pipe to remove it.
Now, clean the pipe with a bottle brush, dish soap, and water. Scrub it vigorously to remove any mold, then rinse it clean with fresh water. If you take the drain tailpiece off, it doesn’t hurt to scrub out the trap while you’re at it. Mold can’t grow in the water in the trap, but a bit of cleaning doesn’t hurt.
Use A Natural Cleaner
In some cases, removing the strainer or disassembling the P-trap might not be feasible. So, in these scenarios, use a natural cleaner instead. You don’t need any caustic chemical cleaners to get rid of the mold, as natural cleaners should do the trick.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
- Hot water
Pour about half a cup of baking soda down the offending drain. Next, pour half a cup of white vinegar down the drain. Cover the drain to keep the science experiment confined to the pipe. It will bubble and foam, working to kill the unwanted houseguest.
Allow the mixture to work for ten minutes. While you wait, mix half a cup of salt into a gallon of hot tap water. If you have metal pipes, you can use boiling water, but only use hot tap water if you have plastic plumbing (PVC, CPVC, PEX).
After the ten minutes are up, pour the salt water down the drain to rinse everything away.
Killing Mold In A Garbage Disposal
The cleaning process looks slightly different if you have a garbage disposal with a mold problem. Here’s what you’ll need:
- White vinegar
- Cold water
Fill the garbage disposal with ice, then pour a half cup of vinegar in. Turn on the cold water, then turn on the disposal. Allow the cold water to run while the disposal works, keeping it on until all the ice is gone. Last, add a half cup of salt to the disposal, then run cold water and turn on the disposal.
For regular maintenance and preventing mold colonies, fill the sink with hot, soapy water, then drain it into the garbage disposal while it’s running. Additionally, you can toss in a few chopped-up lemons in the disposal, allowing those to grind. Doing this once or twice a week is an excellent preventative practice that helps keep the disposal smelling fresh.
Keep The Drain Clean
Once the mold is taken care of, you’re good to go. However, without the proper maintenance, it’ll probably reappear again. So, make sure you regularly clean the drain. The baking soda and vinegar method is a great way to keep the drain clean. Cut the measurements in half for regular maintenance instead of using the full amount we mentioned earlier.
Alternatively, use a mixture of borax, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide to prevent mold. It works similarly to baking soda and vinegar and will foam in the drain when you add water. Baking soda will actually kill mold and deodorize the drain all by itself, so you can also use it alone.
To use baking soda by itself, simply sprinkle it in and around the drain, then allow it to sit for an hour or two. Then, flush it away with hot water.