Shower Drain Smells Like Sewer? (How To Clean A Shower Clog)

Shower Drain Smells Like Sewer

Have you ever stepped into your bathroom and wondered why there’s an awful smell? You may have searched everywhere and can’t find the source of the scent. In most cases, the cause of the odor is coming from the shower drain.

Cleaning and preventing shower drain smells can be tricky. To clean a shower drain, you will need to snake, disinfect, and clean the drain pipes. If there are any clogs, you’ll need to remove all debris that may be lurking in the drain canal—after that, using disinfectants such as vinegar and baking soda or commercial drain disinfectants.

Luckily, there are multiple fixes to help prevent and de-stink a smelly shower drain. We’ve taken the time to list out all methods. Below is a list of all the causes of a stinky shower drain and how to fix them.

What Causes Clogs?

There are a bunch of factors in what can cause a clog. Some of the most common ones are soap residue, hair, and mineral deposits. 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.

Identify Where the Smell is Coming From

A bathroom can have multiple issues that cause a foul smell. To ensure that your bathroom drain is the problem, you should 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.

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;

Snaking Clogged Drain

The most common problem with foul odors in shower drains is from 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.

Step 1: Check for odor & overflowing water

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.

Step 2: Identify Stuck Debris

Other signs 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.

Step 3: Purchase a Snake

There are multiple methods of how you can unclog a drain. 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 their DIY snake, 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 inch so that it’s thin enough to go into the shower. 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.

Step 4: Snake Your Drain

Once you feel the weight of the clog on the ends, 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 Chemicals to Unclog Drain

Using a chemical solution should only be done if you’ve tried everything else. Chemicals can be damaging to your drains, which is why they should be avoided. However, if you can’t get the clog out, then it’s your best option.

Step 1: Purchase a De-clogger

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

Step 2: Measure Out Declogger

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.

Step 3: Pour Chemicals Down Drain

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.

Step 4: Rinse Drain Out

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.

Clean 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.

Step 1: Create a Cleaning Solution

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

Step 2: Pour Solution Down the Drain

Once you mix these two components, you can pour the solution down the drain. You want to coat the entire p-trap with the solution, so pour slowly.

Step 3: Allow Chemicals to Sit

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.

Step 4: Rinse With Water

After you’ve allowed the chemicals 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.

Remove Biofilm

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.

Step 1: Mix Solution

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

Step 2: Pour Over Drain & in Drain

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.

Step 3: Clean Inside Drain

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.

Step 4: Rinse

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.

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 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 harmful is it to use chemical de-cloggers?

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. To avoid damaging your pipes, we recommend finding a natural alternative.

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

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We are a team of homeowners and home improvement enthusiasts who enjoy sharing decorating, gardening, home improvement, and housekeeping tips with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for advice on furnishing your living room or the next outdoor DIY project, we've got you covered.

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