Your shower is supposed to be the place where you freshen up and smell better, but sometimes, the shower drain doesn't get the memo. If your shower drain smells, there's likely an underlying cause that you need to fix. Until you fix it, the smell will likely return no matter what you pour down your drain to deodorize it. Doing a little troubleshooting should help you determine the issue and lead you to the correct repair.
Clear Shower Drain Clogs
Does the water in your shower drain slowly, or does it back up significantly when you shower? You likely have a shower drain clog blocking the way. They usually happen when gunk like hair, dirt, and soap scum clump together and narrow or block the drain pipe. The debris in the clog can start to smell as it sits in the drain.
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If you suspect a clog, remove the tub stopper and shine a light down the drain to investigate. You might be able to see the blockage to pull it out of the drain. Using a Zip-It drain cleaner can help you pull up the gunk from the drain. You push it down the drain, move it around, and pull it back up.
You can also use a plumber's snake, which has a long cable that you thread down the drain. When you find the clog, you turn the handle to shake the end and break through the clog. If you can't break up the clog using these methods, hire a plumber to help. Avoid using chemical drain cleaners, which are caustic chemicals that can damage plumbing and hurt you.
Use Vinegar and Baking Soda
Sometimes, your bathroom drain might have a layer of biofilm, which can look pink or orange. It can cause a musty smell in your shower. Hot water and a cleaning brush can help you remove some of the biofilm.
You can also use baking soda and vinegar to create a bubbling reaction to help clean away the biofilm. Put about 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain. Pour the same amount of vinegar down the drain to create the bubbling effect. Once it dies down, run hot water down the drain to help clear it.
Fill the P-Trap
Just like your sinks, your shower has a P-trap, or a curved section of pipe that should be filled with water. That water keeps sewer gases from coming back up the drain and causing gross sewer smells in your bathroom. If the water empties, it could be the cause of the odor. This is most likely to happen in a shower that doesn't get used often because the water can evaporate. Running the water in the shower periodically should be enough to fill the P-trap and remedy the odors.
Fix the Vent Stack
Your home has a plumbing vent system that balances the pressure and keeps things draining correctly. If it's blocked, damaged, or not installed correctly, it can cause issues in your shower drain. When it doesn't work correctly, it can cause a vacuum situation that drains your P-trap. Having a licensed plumber inspect the system and make repairs to the vent stack is the best solution for this situation.
Check for Leaky Pipes
A more involved issue is a leaky pipe somewhere in the plumbing. When a drainpipe leaks, it can allow sewer gases to also leak out of the pipes. This can create a smell in your bathroom. Look for signs of water damage and listen for dripping sounds if you suspect a leak.
It can be difficult to find a leak yourself if it's behind the walls, so hiring a plumber makes the task easier. The plumber can handle the leaky pipe repairs as well to ensure they're done correctly.