Funky Shower Drain Smells? 2 Causes and the Simple Solutions

By Mengning Heil

December 31, 2021

Drain Cleaning Tips

Reading Time: 3 minutes

For most of us, taking a shower is a time of relaxation and cleansing. However, when there’s an unsettling odor, taking a shower is anything but! Have you noticed that your shower drain smells funky lately? Don’t fear – below we’ll address common odor causes and some easy solutions for dealing with the unpleasant stench.

Common Causes of Shower Drain Smells

In order to stop a shower drain from smelling, we must first address what is causing the odor. There are two main issues that cause a foul-smelling drain: debris build-up and a dry P-trap.

Cause #1: Hair, soap scum, and dirt o my!

Shower drain clogs are very common. Over time, a buildup of hair, soap scum, and dirt can occur in your drain. Microbes like bacteria love to feast on this type of debris in the wet environment of the drain. The longer this debris is allowed to build up, the more bacteria begin to colonize. As the debris decomposes it gives off an awful stench. If enough bacteria grows, it can begin to coat the drain with a slimy “sludge” and will eventually cause a blockage.

The first step to getting rid of the smell is to get rid of all the organic material that’s feeding the microbes. Your first instinct may be to grab a liquid drain cleaner such as Draino, but this can actually harm your plumbing system. If your plumbing system is old or sensitive or made of PVC plastic, harsh chemicals may corrode the pipes and worsen the issue. Moreover, chemicals will not get rid of large debris like hair. Instead, you’ll want to manually pull out the debris.

Hair, Soap Scum, and Dirt

How to Remove Shower Drain Build-up

  1. Get your hands on the only tool you need for this job: a drain auger or even a small drain tool
  2. Snake your auger down into your drain, feeling around for debris.
  3. Once you feel the auger catch the debris slowly pull it up.
  4. You may need to repeat this a few times if there is a large buildup.
  5. If the auger alone is unable to achieve the thorough drain cleaning you need, we recommended that you get a professional to remove your clog. Heil Plumbing DMV has heavy duty drain cleaning machines that can tackle stubborn clogs.

Next, you can do a deeper clean by scrubbing away the microbial slime. 

  1. First break up any visible biofilm on the shower walls or basin using a scrub brush and then wipe or rinse clean.
  2. Next spray an antimicrobial cleaner to disinfect the area. You can also use vinegar for a more natural approach. 
  3. To remove biofilm from the actual drain, dip a paint roller in the same antimicrobial solution and rub it on the walls of the drain. Doing this regularly will prevent the biofilm from reemerging.
shower drain smells

Lastly, if the problem returns, follow up with regular treatments of an enzyme drain cleaner. Enzyme drain cleaners are liquid mixtures of enzymes and “good” bacteria that literally eat up the debris and residue. The “good” bacteria prevail over the smelly bacteria and keep the stench at bay.

Cause #2: Dry p-trap

But what if the reeking shower is the shower that is seldom used? Perhaps your guest bathroom or basement bathroom is mostly neglected but mysteriously emitting a stench? A dry P-trap is probably the culprit. A P-trap is a u-shaped pipe that connects the bottom of your shower drain to the main drain flowing out to the sewer. A P-trap is meant to hold water at all times. The water prevents gases from traveling from the sewer up into the house. If you do not use a particular shower very often, this barrier reservoir of water can evaporate.

The dry p-trap fix

Most often, you can fix the issue by simply running water. If this does not remedy the issue, you may have a dirty P-trap, which fortunately is also a fairly easy cleaning job!

  1. First pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down your drain.
  2. Follow this up with 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar and allow it to bubble a bit before rinsing.

If after trying all the above, your shower drain smells still, the issue may need to be addressed by a professional plumber. If you need sewer line repair in Jessup or hydro jetting in Jessup and are looking for a trustworthy plumber in Baltimore County or the surrounding areas, contact Heil Plumbing today.

Heil Plumbing is a family-run company owned by a third-generation master plumber. We can help you with a full range of plumbing services, including toilet installation and repair, leak detection and pipe repair, faucet repair and installation, drain cleaning, and water heater repair in Baltimore County and the surrounding areas.