There’s nothing that can ruin a good shower than a smelly shower drain. The bacteria that feed on biological waste and debris in the shower drainpipe produce an odor when it starts to build up.
Other odors can be due to the debris and gunk itself. Mold and mildew will also thrive in the shower drain due to food sources from dirt and water, resulting in a musty smell.
The best solution is cleaning the smelly shower drain with baking soda and vinegar. However, sometimes, there could be an issue in the sewer lines that requires a professional plumber.
Luckily, most shower drain odor and clogging problems are easy to fix and the help of some standard household products. To that effect, we have provided a guide to help you eliminate the foul shower drain odor.
Why is there a smell coming from my shower drain?
There are several causes behind shower drain odor, but you need to identify its smell first.
- A musty smell from the shower drain is due to mold growth. Mold grows underneath the shower drain cover due to moisture and cellulose from hair, body oils, and soap scum. This creates an environment for mold and mildew to grow and thrive.
- If your shower drain smells like rotten eggs are due to biofilm clogging the shower drain, or sewer gases are coming back up from the sewer lines and through the drain. Biofilm consists of organic matter (like skin cells and hair), bacteria, and other microorganisms. This biological waste decomposes and forms a sticky substance that clogs the drain and produces an odor.
- If your shower smells like poop, there could be sewer gas back up due to a dry p-trap or from blocked plumbing vents.
- Drain clogs and debris can also produce a smell from the drain. Hair gets caught in soap scum, bacteria, and debris and clogs the drain. While the blockage sits in the shower drain strainer, it develops a foul odor.
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How to get rid of the smell in my shower drain
The best way to ensure you get rid of the smell from the shower drain is to address the source of the issue.
1. Musty smell
Follow the guide below to learn how to clean a smelly shower drain and remove the musty odor.
Things you’ll need
- Baking soda
- White distilled vinegar
- Boiling water
- Old toothbrush
- Mold and mildew remover(optional)
- Depending on the style cover of your shower drain, use a screwdriver or turn the cover counterclockwise, then lift it to remove the cover to expose the shower drain pipe.
- Wear some rubber gloves and remove any clogs in the drain by hand.
- Mix baking soda and water in equal parts to form a paste.
- Apply the paste over and around the shower using the toothbrush.
- Wait 10 to 20 minutes, then use the toothbrush to scrub the entire shower drain thoroughly. Repeat as many times as necessary to loosen any mold around the shower drain.
- Use the same solution to clean the shower drain cover too.
- Boil a pot of water, wait for it to cool, and pour it slowly down the drain. Water approximately 140-150 degrees is hot enough to kill mold and mildew. Boiling water(212 degrees F) can damage PVC piping. Slowly a cup of white vinegar down the shower drain.
- Then pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain to deodorize the pipes.
- Alternatively, you can remove the shower drain cover, spray the drainpipe, and its drain cover with a commercial mold and mildew remover, then clean the pipe per the manufacturer’s instructions. Finally, rinse the pipe and replace the drain cover.
- If the smell persists after cleaning, replace the shower drain cover.
2. Sewage smell
If your shower drain is not clogged, you’re probably smelling sewer gases from a dry P-trap, a damaged P-trap, or a sewer backup. Unfortunately, you can only fix this issue with the help of a professional plumber. They have to first identify the source of the problem by performing a sewer inspection then stop the shower drain from smelling like poop.
Check the P-trap
The P-trap is a U-shaped pipe underneath the shower drain that always holds a small amount of water to block sewage gases from coming back up the pipe and into your bathroom. If this tube is dry or not there, the sewer gases can easily back up through the shower drain.
The water in the P-trap evaporates when you haven’t used your shower in a while. So pour two cups of water down the drain and wait an hour.
If the issue persists even after a shower, it indicates a leak in the P-trap, and the pipe needs changing.
Clogged sewer line
If the P-trap is okay, you most likely have a clog in the sewer that requires an expert plumber. The blockage in the lines prevents the sewage waste from flowing through; therefore, it sits in the pipes and smells through the shower drain. Unclogging the sewer lines immediately is necessary to avoid the danger of sewage spilling into your bathroom.
What to do when your shower drain smells like rotten eggs?
As earlier mentioned, a rotten smell in the shower drain indicates biofilm clogging the drain. You can clean off the biofilm using the steps below.
Things you’ll need
- Drain brush cleaner
- Boiling water
- Baking soda
- White distilled vinegar or bleach
- Remove the shower drain with the screwdriver, or you can unscrew the drain by turning it counterclockwise.
- Boil one or two gallons of water and let it cool to 150 degrees F. Then pour it slowly down the drain.
- Pour one cup of vinegar or bleach down the drain.
- Then immediately after, pour a half cup of baking soda.
- Wait about two hours, then pour a gallon of hot water down the shower drain.
- Scrub the drain with a drain brush to remove any leftover debris. This also helps loosen and remove the biofilm’s sticky residue.
- If the problem continues, there is a clogged pipe or leaky pipes beyond the shower drain pipe. You have to contact a professional plumber to find the issue and remove the clogs or replace the necessary pipe.
How to prevent my shower drain from getting smelly again
After you stop the shower drain from smelling, you need regular maintenance to keep your bathroom fresh throughout. You can apply several prevention tips to avoid mold growth or biofilm build-up and maintain freshness in your shower in the future.
- Install a hair catcher. Trapped hair is a significant cause of shower drain clogs. Try brushing your hair out of the shower. You can also replace your shower drain cover with a hair catcher that prevents hair clog problems in the long run.
- Clean your shower drain regularly- no less than once a week for a shower used daily by multiple people.
- Flush the shower drain regularly to prevent clogs and refill the P-trap.
- Use a plunger on your shower drain to release hair blockages.
- Use liquid products in the shower rather than bar soap from reducing the potential build-up down the drain. Bar soaps leave significantly more soap scum behind than liquid soaps.
- Do not pour boiling water into your shower drain. The heat will cause the PVC piping to break and cause a leak.
- Use a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar to help break up the build-up of dirt, soap scum, bacteria, and body oil. Baking soda is also a natural deodorizer.
When cleaning your shower drain isn’t enough to remove the foul smell, call a professional plumber for diagnosis and a solution. Baking soda and white vinegar are effective homemade cleaning solutions for a smelly shower drain.
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But you should consult with a professional plumber if your shower smells like sewage due to clogged pipes and drain or sewage backup. Lastly, after fixing the problem, have a regular maintenance schedule the prevent the issue from recurring.