Why Does Shower Drain Smell Like A Sewer? (Here's A Fix!)

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

Have you ever stepped into your bathroom and wondered why there’s an awful smell? You may have searched everywhere and discovered the smell is coming from the shower drain, but what is making the shower drain smell like a sewer? It’s hard to feel clean when your shower drain stinks, so what should you do?

If your shower drain smells like a sewer, there could be built-up residue, clogged drains, a dirty p-trap, failed plumbing, or a sewer issue. Begin by pulling out any debris and residue in your drain with a strainer. Next, pour baking soda and vinegar down the drain. If the smell persists, clean your pipes or call a plumber.

Luckily, there are multiple fixes to help prevent and de-stink a smelly shower drain, but cleaning and preventing shower drain smells can be tricky. We’ve taken the time to list out all methods. Below is a list of all the things that can make the shower drain smell like a sewer and how to fix them.

Do You Need to Hire a Plumber?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Are You Sure The Shower Drain Smells Like A Sewer?

A bathroom can have multiple issues that cause a foul smell. To ensure that your bathroom drain is the problem, you should first identify the source of the scent. Cleaning the inside of the tub and the shower curtains can help you determine if the drain is the problem.

Common places in a bathroom to check are the faucet, pipes, and the toilet. Other areas to check that may contribute to a foul smell are under the sink, wet towels, or laundry lying around.

To identify if the drain is a problem, you will want to look for water slowly draining or water not draining at all. Drains that have been clogged for an extended period end up producing odor. So, check to see if there is a foul odor and if the drain isn’t functioning correctly.

Another sign of a clogged drain is debris sticking out of the gutter. However, clogs can also happen in the p-trap. A p-trap is a U-shaped pipe that helps prevent sewage gasses from escaping into your shower.

When there’s a buildup of debris, dirt, and grime, the pipe will start to produce a foul smell. You won’t be able to see the clog due to it being further down in the piping. So, the best method is to rule out other possibilities.

After confirming the smell is coming from the shower drain, you can start working on fixing it. There are a few different fixes that work for reducing odor from shower drains. These are what we’ve found to be the most effective.

Top Reason Your Shower Drain Smells Like A Sewer: Clogged Drain

There are a bunch of factors that can cause a clog. Some of the most common ones are soap residue, hair and mineral deposits, or a combo of these items. However, you may also find that sand, dirt, and even small objects may fall into the drain after a shower over an extended period.

In rare cases, clogs can also occur from failed plumbing. If this happens, it’s best to call a plumber to help you quote the damage. Additionally, pipelines can fail, and sewage might get pushed up into the drain. The only way to tell if these situations are happening is to observe the water and the drain.

If the water comes out dirty, then there’s likely a problem with the pipes. On the other hand, if the water comes up from the drain, then there’s an issue with the sewer. Either way, it’s best to call a professional in these cases than to attempt to fix it yourself. If you live in a mobile home, the process is a bit different, so check out how to unclog pipes in a mobile home.

Unless you can see the object causing the clog and can reach it by hand, you’ll need to utilize other methods to free the clog. If you suspect the object is pretty close to the drain, you could also use a plunger. Try plunging the drain and see if you can bring the object up within reach or free the clog.

If your attempts are unsuccessful, it’s time to move on to other options.

Try Snaking The Clogged Drain If The Shower Drain Smells Like A Sewer

The most common problem with foul odors in shower drains is clogs. A shower drain can quickly become clogged if you don’t have a shower stopper to prevent hair or small particles from falling down the drain. Luckily, this is an easy fix and doesn’t require extensive plumbing knowledge — snaking the drain.

There are multiple methods of how you can unclog a drain, but the most popular is snaking a drain. Snaking a drain doesn’t use any harsh chemicals and can prevent damage to your drainage system.

To snake a drain, you will need to use a drain snake or hand auger. Some people recommend making a DIY snake with a clothes hanger, but we suggest avoiding this. The reason is that DIY snakes can end up causing damage to your pipes.

Be sure to purchase one that is at least ¼ or 5/16 inches so that it’s thin and flexible enough to go into the pipes and through the curves. Use the snake and put it down your shower drain.

Just keep in mind that you can damage your pipes if snaking incorrectly. To ensure this doesn’t happen, you can call a plumber. A professional will know how to snake your drain without causing any damage.

Once you feel the weight of the clog on the end of the snake, pull it back up. The snake should have whatever is clogging your sink attached to it. If it doesn’t, you may need to use a chemical solution to clear out the drain.

Use Vinegar And Baking Soda To Unclog The Drain

You can attempt to pour boiling water down the drain first to see if it will dislodge the obstruction. Alternatively, you can create your natural de-clogger.

Natural cloggers will do less damage to your pipes over time. To create one, use a one-to-one ratio of vinegar to baking soda. Mix it before pouring it down the drain. Afterward, you’ll need to use boiling water to wash the cleaner away.

Use Chemicals To Unclog The Drain

Using a chemical solution should only be done if you’ve tried everything else. Any strong chemical can damage your pipes over time. If you’re consistently having to unclog your drain using chemical de-cloggers, then you’re going to see the damage.

Therefore, to avoid damaging your pipes, we recommend finding a natural alternative. However, if you can’t get the clog out, then it’s your best option.

You’ll need to purchase a shower drain unclogger solution. Some popular brands are Drano, Green Gobbler, and Zep.

Once you have a chemical cleaner, read the instructions located on the package. You’ll want to follow the exact measurements to avoid damaging your drain. Each chemical solution will have different instructions, so be sure to follow them correctly.

After you’ve measured out the chemical solution, pour it down the drain. You’ll need to wait a few minutes until the chemical has broken down the debris in the drain.

Once you’ve let the solution sit, pour hot water down the drain. This will help wash away any leftover chemical residue and prevent damage to your drain.

The Second Reason Your Shower Drain Smells Like A Sewer: Dirty P-Trap

Another common cause of odors is a dirty p-trap. What a p-trap does is prevent sewer gases from coming up into your bathroom. If this section is damaged, it can cause a foul smell even if there’s no clog or the area’s been cleaned.

The p-trap is a pipe that has a U-shaped design. Its location is right beneath your shower drain line. An excellent example of a p-trap is if you look under your bathroom sink. The U-shaped pipe is a p-trap and is identical to the one inside your shower drain.

The p-trap is supposed to hold on to enough water to form a seal that blocks sewer gasses from entering your home. There is a chance that your P-trap might just be dry.

Is The P-Trap Just Dry?

If you don’t use the shower frequently, for example, maybe it’s in a guest bath bathroom, then there’s a chance the water in the p-trap evaporated. If there’s no water in the trap, that means there’s no seal to block the sewer gasses, so you will smell the odor coming from the drain.

If this is the case, simply running the water for a bit should restore water to the p-trap and get rid of the odor. Afterward, make sure to run the water in the shower every now and then if no one is using it frequently.

However, if you do use the shower regularly and there’s still an issue, the p-trap could be dirty or damaged. Sometimes, you might confuse a sewer sell with other odors. If there is grime and build-up in the p-trap, this can also lead to nasty smells.

Clean The P-Trap With Baking Soda And Vinegar

A damaged p-trap will need to be replaced, but a clogged or dirty p-trap can be fixed easily. To unclog the pipe, you’ll need to use ½ cup baking soda and ½ parts distilled vinegar.

Pour the baking soda down the drain, followed by the vinegar. You want to coat the entire p-trap with the solution, so pour slowly. The solution will start to fizz, cleaning the p-trap.

Allow it to sit for a few minutes and cover the drain with a stopper or a plate. The p-trap should become unclogged after that. Rinse the drain thoroughly to ensure it’s working again.

The vinegar solution may not be strong enough to break down the residue. If this is the case, then you can use other cleaners such as bleach. However, harsh cleaners can damage your pipes if you use them too frequently.

After you’ve allowed the solution to sit for a few minutes, rinse the drain. Rinsing the drain helps prevent the chemicals from damaging your drain. You want to rinse with warm water for a few minutes before checking to see if the odor is gone.

Biofilm Buildup Can Make Your Shower Drain Smell Like A Sewer

Biofilm is another common reason for foul odors in your shower. The buildup generally happens in your shower or the drain. A good indication that biofilm will be in your drain is when your shower smells of mildew.

Biofilm is a slimy goo material that builds up in drains. You usually won’t know you have one until it’s too late. The only way to get rid of this bacteria is to disinfect your shower drains regularly.

Get Rid Of Biofilm Buildup In The Shower Drain

Create a one-to-one ratio of white distilled vinegar mixed with baking soda. Mix the solution together until it’s fully combined.

You’ll want to take the solution and pour it over the drain and into the drain. This is because biofilm can build up both inside and outside your shower. You’ll also want to remove the shower drain if possible to clean behind it.

Using a toothbrush or cleaning brush, reach down and begin scrubbing the inside of the drain. If there is any biofilm, you will be able to see it. From there, you’ll want to scrub until there is no more residue on the brush.

After scrubbing the drain, take hot water and rinse the tub. You may need to repeat these steps multiple times until there is no biofilm left. If the smell still persists, then it may be a problem with the pipes.

Do You Need to Hire a Plumber?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Leaky Pipes Can Make The Shower Drain Smell Like A Sewer

Unfortunately, not all problems that can cause a sewer smell coming from your shower drain are easy DIY fixes. Failed plumbing issues, like leaky pipes, can also cause sewer gasses to leak into your home, and these leaky pipes can be hidden within walls or in the floor, etc.

Many things can cause leaky pipes, from corrosion, age, cracks, loose fittings, poor installation, and more. If the leak is in the main drain line, you will most definitely smell sewer smells in your bathroom. Even clogs that sit in your pipes over time can eventually eat through pipes, causing leaks.

Call A Plumber To Inspect Leaky Pipes

Your best bet if you’re dealing with leaky pipes is to call a plumber to assess the situation. Often, leaky pipes are just the first sign of a much larger issue, and better to catch it sooner than later.

You might also discover that the issue is with the main sewer line, in which case, you’ll most certainly want a plumber’s expertise. No matter what, many things can cause the shower drain to smell like a sewer, and you need to address the issue immediately.

The problem won’t likely go away on its own, and in the meantime, you’re exposed to harmful gasses. So, if you’re unsure of what to do, don’t hesitate, call a pro.

Related Questions

Why does my shower drain smell like rotten eggs?

A rotten egg smell is typical if you have a buildup of biofilm in your shower. Disinfecting the drain can help loosen the clog and prevent the smell.If your p-trap is damaged, it can also produce a smell. If there’s still smell after disinfecting/unclogging your drain, you’ll have to contact a plumber or property management.

Why does my bathroom smell like sewer only after a shower?

If your shower only smells like sewer after a shower, then it’s likely that there is leftover debris in the p-trap pipe. Odors come from hair, soap scum buildup, and bacteria.Sometimes we find that switching out your body wash and shampoo can prevent buildup. Avoid overly sudsy body washes or ones that have more of a gel-like consistency.

How often should I clean my shower drain?

Try and clean out your shower drain at least once a month. Doing so will prevent a buildup of bacteria and prevent odors.Also, place a hair stopper in the gutter to catch any debris or hair from going into the drain. If there is a shower drain cover, you may need to learn how to remove it

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

More by Upgraded Home Team