Home Life: Drains and Sinks in Korea

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Wondering how to deal with our drains and sinks in while living in Korea? You came to the right spot.

Home Maintenance Surprises

When we first moved to Korea, there were a few daily housing concerns that required adjustment. For example, a language barrier can exist between yourself and your appliances. Simple things we may take for granted, but a simple translation app like Papago or Google Translate can help.

Other apartment and home issues such as drains, smells, and sink cleaning can be a daily frustration. If you search Google or YouTube you can find many new arrivals in Korea struggling with how to maintain their homes. Especially the plumbing and drains.


Korea’s plumbing infrastructure has a few challenges, which may be greater in different regions. For example, if you haven’t noticed already, you may see signs in certain public restrooms, designating trash receptacles, NOT the toilet, for soiled toilet paper. It’s important to pay attention to these signs because failing to do so may be embarrassing for you but also costly for business owners. I’ve even stayed in hotels with these plumbing challenges, so translate those bathroom signs as well.

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How does plumbing infrastructure affect home life? Most commonly, the floor drains and the kitchen sink may smell when not maintained correctly. Again, you may also stay in hotel rooms with odorous floor drains. Here are my tips for keeping such smells under control.

What to do about drains smells?

Korean houses often have floor drains in bath and laundry rooms. Likewise hotels will have floor drains in the bathroom. Some apartments, houses, and hotel rooms will have a removable shower head above the bathroom sink. Essentially these drains catch excess water and allow to spray the entire room down for cleaning.

To prevent slipping, you may pick up bathroom slippers in Korean stores. I find a floor squigee works well. I also pack one while traveling around Korea. Sometimes you may not even notice the floor drain in your day-to-day life, except for an annoying odor.

Suggestions for Managing Drain Smells

  • Our realtor recommended that we just pour water down the drain when it smells but that hasn’t really worked for us because the scent eventually returns.
  • Similar recommendations include pouring bleach or vinegar and hot water down the drain once a month.
  • You could also consider negotiating for a one-way valve and / or plumbing maintenance prior to moving into a home if you notice a smell during your visit with your realtor.

Our Chosen Solution for Managing the Drain Smell

We purchased drain covers instead, which you may find at Daisos, Panda Marts, including the small Panda Mart in the PX at Camp Humphreys. My husband once used duct tape to cover the drain in the laundry room. We cover every floor drain in the house and we haven’t noticed a scent in over a year.

Drain Flooding

If you notice flooding from your drains and you live in the countryside, then you may have an issue with your septic tank, which may need to be pumped. Contact your realtors as soon as situations arise both for documentation and to resolve the problem.

Drain Bugs and Flies

If you have drain flies, removing the cover of the drain and placing a dryer sheet underneath is the best hack that I’ve seen. If you live in a rural area this may be a more common problem than in the cities.

What’s the best way to clean my kitchen sink?

Kitchen sinks in Korea have a catch basket that prevents non-liquids from entering the plumbing. Again, think about plumbing infrastructure efficiency. Thes traps preventing clogs benefit everyone since you don’t need expensive plumbers.

Kitchen Sink Basket Maintenance

Kitchen sink basket contents may be entered directly into your food waste trash bags as long as the contents meet food waste trash requirements. We keep used trash bags in the freezer and transfer them to the trash collection location on the morning of trash day to prevent animals from shredding the bags and making a mess. You may also purchase sheer filter bags that may be wrapped around the sink basket and disposed of when it’s full. These bags may also be purchased at Daiso and Panda Mart.

Mesh bags make emptying the sink container easy.

Kitchen Sink Odors

As for sink scents, you may purchase drain cleaners in either powdered or liquid form from Korean marts, such as Panda and E-Marts, including grocery stores that carry cleaning supplies. I’ve noticed the powdered ones have an overwhelming ammonia smell so I prefer to just go with old-fashioned baking soda and vinegar. I let the mixture sit for a bit, then I return to rinse and scrub everything with a long handle brush.

Managing Mold

Additionally, you may want to check out this South of Seoul blog about managing mold in Korea. The issue goes hand-in-hand with sinks and drains in Korea.

Additional Information

Hopefully, this post helped you better understand your drains and sinks while living in Korea. If you’re interested in understanding more about Korea’s plumbing infrastructure, here’s a 2019 analysis of water infrastructure management in Korea https://iwaponline.com/wp/article/21/5/934/68120/Challenges-for-water-infrastructure-asset.