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Why Does My Shower Drain Smell?

By November 18, 2020December 14th, 2020Home Maintenance
Why does my shower drain smell

When we step into our shower, we anticipate a nice and clean smell.  The shampoo you use smells nice and the bar of soap has a great scent.  However, we don’t realize that the hair and soap scum that comes off our bodies doesn’t always go all the way down the drain. 

Why does my shower drain smell?  Hair and soap scum build-up and can produce mold in the shower.  The debris in the pipes allows the bacteria to feed off of it, thus causing it to smell. However, it can also be other issues.

Let’s take a look at the causes, how to fix this issue, and maintenance information that may help you avoid this problem in the future.

Causes of Shower Drain Smells

As mentioned above, hair and soap scum can be culprits in drain smells.  However, sand, dirt, mineral deposits, and small items can also contribute. Sometimes it can even be other issues like pipes that leak.

1. P-Trap Is Dirty

The P-Trap is the U shaped pipe that you see under a sink.  However, there is one also in the shower drain, but you can’t see it as it is hidden underneath.  It is supposed to hold enough water so the hydrogen sulfide gases don’t escape through the shower, but sometimes it does not.  When this happens, the gases escape and cause the sewer smell. 

2. P- Trap is Missing

Sometimes in older homes or homes that did a remodel without a professional, a P-trap may be missing. When this happens, you will smell the sewage! Contact a professional to make a diagnosis, as this is a necessity.

3. Sewer Odors Related to the Vent

If you are finding a bad odor after flushing the toilet or using the washing machine, this could be an indicator that the vents to the plumbing may be blocked.  Check the roof vent to see if it is clogged. 

Not sure where to find the plumbing vent?  It is on the roofline and allows the foul odors from the waste to escape the home.  However, like with anything, it maintenance is essential.  Sometimes, the clogging can be due to bird nests, dead rodents, or even things like a tennis ball.  Consult a professional to check this out if you think it is clogged.

4. Leaky Pipes

Leaky pipes can also be a cause of foul odors.  A leak in a pipe can happen because of perforations in the pipes or loose fittings that don’t fit correctly.  Unfortunately, you can’t see this through the wall so calling a professional to do a sewer scope inspection is a great idea.

5. Biofilm Can Cause the Shower Drain to Smell

Have you noticed pink or orange film in the shower? This is a bacteria called Serratia Marcescens and needs to be cleaned. To clean the biofilm in the drain, you can take a paint roller cover and put it in hot water and then in disinfectant.  Stick it in to the drain and spin it around to get the disinfectant on the drain walls. Continue to spin the paint roller cover around. 

How to Fix the Issue of a Shower Drain Smell

1. Remove the Drain Strain

Take a look at the type of drain strainer you have in your shower.  Does the drain have a place for a screwdriver to go in?  Most do, so if yes, unscrew the screw.  Then, lift it up. If there is no screw, you can usually pop out the drain strainer or pry it open with the bottom of a screwdriver.

Use rubber gloves to do this as you will notice the smell but also a lot of hair and guck that comes out with the drain strainer.

Use warm water and a sponge to clean the drain strainer.  Then, put your hands in the drain and pull out as much hair and guck as you can.  Other ways to do this are by using an old toothbrush or even a tool that has teeth on it and push the clog out.

2. Use a Drain Snake

Purchase a drain snake that has a ¼ or 5/16 inch cable to it is flexible inside the drain.  You can also make one with a wire coat hanger by straightening it out and making a hook at the end. 

Put the hook into the drain and feel around with it until you feel the clog and lift it out.  If after trying these different ways and there are still issues, call a professional to help.

P-Trap is dirty
This is an example of a P-Trap under a sink. It looks the same under a shower.

3. Clean the P-Trap

Here is a great way to clean this:

1. Pour one cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by 1 cup of white vinegar.

2. Cover the drain so the mixture will fizz.

3. Run hot water through the drain to clean it out and the not so pleasant smell hopefully disappears.

4. If it does not clear it up, then call a professional as there may be more going on in the drain than what a homeowner can fix.

4. Boiling Water Once a Week to Avoid Shower Drain Smells

Pour boiling water down the drain once a week if you are finding clogging issues, however, make sure you don’t have PVC pipes if you do this.  The boiling water can cause the pipes to crack.  You can use hot water from the tap and a drain cleaner for frequent clogs.

5. Clean the Biofilm in the Shower

Use a brush on the shower tiles where you see the biofilm to remove it.  Then, use a disinfectant to clean it further. 

Do this each week to keep it from coming back.  The biofilm can lead to health issues, along with a mildew smell.

Pull the cover out, clean it off, dip it in the hot water and disinfectant, and stick it back in again until you don’t see anymore biofilm. Here is a great video to show you how it is done.

Other Causes of Foul Odors: Leaky Pipes
Broken and cracked pipes

6. Fix Leaky Pipes

Hire a licensed professional to do this as it is not something a homeowner should tackle.  The professional will also be able to tell you what type of pipes you have: PVC, metal, or even cast-iron pipes.


There are many reasons why your shower drain smells so it may take some investigating and trying different things to figure out the culprit.  Hopefully, it is something you can fix with the ideas above.  However, if you cannot or need a professional, please reach out to us and we are here to help!  If you have other ideas for fixing a shower drain smell, leave us a note below!