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Two Easy Ways to Fix a Smelly Shower Drain

Fix smelly shower drain

Two Easy Ways to Fix a Smelly Shower Drain

Dealing with a smelly shower drain can be an unpleasant and frustrating experience. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to encounter this issue due to the buildup of hair, soap scum, and bacteria. The good news is that fixing a smelly shower drain doesn’t have to be a challenging task. In this article, we’ll introduce you to two easy methods you can use to get rid of this unpleasant problem.

Understanding the Smelly Shower Drain Problem

Having a smelly shower drain is a common problem that can cause frustration and discomfort in the bathroom. The odor can be caused by various factors, including trapped hair, soap scum, and bacterial growth. When left untreated, these factors can lead to health risks and an overall unpleasant bathroom environment.

Trapped hair is a frequent cause of smelly shower drains. As hair accumulates in the shower drain, it can attract dirt, soap scum, and bacteria leading to the formation of a clog. Soap scum, which is a mixture of soap, dirt, and skin cells, can also contribute to the problem. The mixture can accumulate in the shower drain, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and resulting in unpleasant odors. Bacterial growth can also thrive in a moist environment, such as a shower drain. The bacteria can produce a sulfur-like odor, making the shower drain smell unpleasant.

The good news is that there are solutions for smelly shower drains. By understanding the cause of the odor, you can eliminate it and prevent it from recurring in the future.

Method 1: Vinegar and Baking Soda

If you prefer natural solutions, vinegar and baking soda are highly effective in eliminating shower drain odor. Both ingredients are readily available and affordable, making this method a go-to for many homeowners.

Step-by-Step Guide:

1. Begin by pouring a pot of hot water down the shower drain to loosen any buildup or debris.

2. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain.

3. Follow up with 1/2 cup of vinegar.

4. Cover the drain with a plug or a cloth to prevent the mixture from escaping out of the drain.

5. Wait for 10-15 minutes to allow the mixture to fizz and break down any buildup in the drain.

6. Pour another pot of hot water down the drain to rinse away the mixture and any remaining debris.

It is important to note that this method should not be used if you have already tried a commercial drain cleaner, as the two substances can react with each other and cause dangerous chemical reactions.

Method 2: Bleach

If vinegar and baking soda do not eliminate the smell, using bleach can be an effective alternative. Bleach is a powerful disinfectant that can kill bacteria and remove odor-causing substances from the drain. However, it is important to handle bleach with caution as it can be harmful if not used properly.

Before using bleach, make sure to wear gloves and goggles to protect your skin and eyes. Open any windows or doors to ensure proper ventilation. Mix half a cup of bleach with half a cup of water in a container. Slowly pour the solution down the shower drain, making sure it reaches any buildup or bacteria within the pipes. Let the bleach solution sit in the drain for at least 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, turn on the hot water and flush the drain thoroughly. This will help to rinse away any remaining bleach and bacteria. Repeat this process once a month to maintain a clean and odor-free shower drain.

Maintenance Tips to Prevent Smelly Shower Drains

Preventing smelly shower drains requires consistent effort and attention to detail. Here are some practical tips to maintain a clean and odor-free shower drain:

  • Regular cleaning: Clean the drain at least once a month to prevent buildup of hair, soap scum, and other debris. Use a drain cleaner or a combination of vinegar and baking soda to break down buildup and eliminate bacteria.
  • Hair strainers: Use hair strainers to trap hair and prevent it from going down the drain. This will prevent hair blockage and buildup that can lead to odors.
  • Soap scum prevention: Avoid using bar soap as it can leave behind soap scum that can clog the drain and produce odor. Instead, use liquid soap or body wash to prevent soap scum buildup.
  • Flush with hot water: After every shower, flush the drain with hot water for a few minutes. This will help melt any buildup and prevent clogs that can lead to odors.
  • Baking soda and vinegar: Regularly use a combination of baking soda and vinegar to keep the drain clean and odor-free. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar down the drain. Allow the mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes before flushing with hot water.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even with the right methods and regular maintenance, smelly shower drain problems can persist in some cases. Here are some common issues that may arise:

Persistent Odor

If the unpleasant odor persists even after using the vinegar and baking soda or bleach methods, there may be a deeper issue that requires professional help. Consider calling a plumber to inspect the drain and identify any potential blockages or damage.

Slow Drainage

If the shower drain is draining slowly, it may be due to a buildup of hair or debris. Try using a drain snake or plunger to remove any blockages and improve the water flow. Avoid using harsh chemicals or tools that may cause damage to the pipes.

Recurring Smells

If the shower drain odor keeps coming back, it is important to identify the root cause of the problem. Consider checking the P-trap, a curved pipe under the sink that traps water to prevent sewer gases from entering the room. If the P-trap is dry or damaged, it may allow unpleasant odors to enter the room. Additionally, regular cleaning and maintenance can help prevent recurring smells.

Professional Help: When to Call a Plumber

If you have tried the methods provided in this article and are still experiencing persistent odor or drainage issues with your shower, it may be time to seek professional assistance. A licensed plumber can provide a thorough inspection of your plumbing system and identify any underlying issues that may be causing the problem.

Plumbers have the necessary tools and expertise to handle complex plumbing problems and can offer effective solutions that may be beyond the scope of DIY methods. Additionally, a plumber can help prevent future issues with your drains and provide maintenance tips to avoid similar problems from arising in the future.

It is important to remember that attempting to fix complicated plumbing issues without proper knowledge and training can be dangerous and potentially cause more harm than good. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for assistance if you are unsure of how to handle a situation.

Common Myths and Misconceptions

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding smelly shower drains. Here are some of the most common:

  • Myth: Pouring hot water down the drain will eliminate the odor.
  • Reality: While hot water can help loosen buildup and flush out debris, it will not eliminate the underlying cause of the odor.
  • Myth: Chemical drain cleaners are the best solution for smelly drains.
  • Reality: Chemical drain cleaners can be harmful to both the environment and your plumbing. They can also be ineffective in eliminating odor-causing bacteria.
  • Myth: Shower drain odor is always caused by a clog.
  • Reality: While clogs can contribute to smelly drains, it is not always the root cause. Bacteria and buildup can also cause unpleasant odors.
  • Myth: Once the odor is gone, there is no need for maintenance.
  • Reality: Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the drain and using hair strainers, can prevent future odor issues from occurring.

Additional myths and misconceptions:

Myth Reality
Shaving cream can eliminate drain odor This is false as shaving cream is not an effective odor-eliminating solution.
Odors only come from the shower drain Odors can also come from the sink and toilet drains if they are not properly maintained.
Oils and fats can be washed down the drain without consequence Oils and fats can solidify and cause a buildup in the drains, eventually leading to odor problems.

Environmental-Friendly Alternatives

For those who prefer eco-friendly solutions, there are natural methods to fix a smelly shower drain. These alternatives can be just as effective as chemical-based products, without harming the environment. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Baking soda and vinegar: Mix 1/3 cup of baking soda with 1/3 cup of vinegar. Pour the mixture down the drain and let it sit for at least an hour before flushing with hot water. This natural remedy reacts with the buildup in the drain, breaking it down and eliminating odor-causing bacteria.
  • Lemon juice: Squeeze fresh lemon juice down the drain and let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing with hot water. The acidity of the lemon juice can help break down buildup and eliminate odors.
  • Essential oils: Mix a few drops of your favorite essential oil with a carrier oil like almond or coconut. Apply a few drops of the mixture to the drain and let it sit for a few hours before flushing with hot water. Essential oils like tea tree, peppermint, and eucalyptus have natural antibacterial properties that can help eliminate odors and prevent bacterial growth.

Remember to always test these natural remedies on a small area first to ensure that they do not cause any damage or discoloration.

By using eco-friendly options, not only are you solving the smelly shower drain problem, but you are also doing your part in protecting the environment from harmful chemicals.

How to Maintain a Fresh-Smelling Bathroom

Eliminating shower drain odor is just one step towards a fresh-smelling bathroom. Here are some additional tips to keep your bathroom smelling clean and inviting:

  • Clean regularly: Set a regular cleaning routine to keep your bathroom free from dirt, grime, and bacteria. Use eco-friendly cleaning products to avoid harsh chemicals and toxins in the air.
  • Use proper ventilation: Proper ventilation helps remove moisture and prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Install a bathroom exhaust fan or leave a window open after showering to circulate fresh air.
  • Deodorize with natural scents: Use natural air fresheners such as essential oils, candles, or potpourri to add a pleasant scent to the bathroom. Avoid using synthetic fragrances that can cause allergies or headaches.
  • Keep surfaces dry: Wipe down wet surfaces such as counters, floors, and shower curtains to prevent moisture buildup and mold growth.
  • Invest in quality bath mats and towels: Use absorbent bath mats and towels to prevent water from spreading on the floor and causing mold or mildew growth.


In conclusion, a smelly shower drain can be a source of frustration and potential health risks. However, there are easy and effective methods to fix the problem. The use of vinegar and baking soda or bleach can eliminate odor-causing substances and bacteria. Regular maintenance is essential to prevent recurring smells. In complex situations, it is advisable to seek professional help. It is important to note that there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the issue of shower drain odor. Using eco-friendly alternatives and implementing a fresh-smelling bathroom routine can lead to a pleasant and inviting bathroom environment.

Frequently Asked Questions about Smelly Shower Drains

Have questions about getting rid of smelly shower drains? Check out these frequently asked questions for answers to common queries!

Q: What causes my shower drain to smell?

A: Smelly shower drains can be caused by a buildup of soap scum, hair, and other debris. Bacterial growth can also contribute to unpleasant odors.

Q: Are there any natural remedies for smelly shower drains?

A: Yes, vinegar and baking soda can be used as a natural remedy to eliminate shower drain odor. Bleach is also an effective alternative solution.

Q: How often should I clean my shower drain?

A: It is recommended to clean your shower drain once a week to prevent buildup and eliminate odor-causing bacteria.

Q: Can shower drain cleaners damage my plumbing system?

A: Harsh chemicals found in some shower drain cleaners can cause damage to pipes and plumbing systems over time. It is best to use natural remedies and eco-friendly options to avoid potential damage.

Q: What should I do if the odor persists after trying natural remedies?

A: If the smell persists, it may be a sign of a more serious plumbing issue. It is best to seek professional help from a plumber to diagnose and fix the problem.

Q: How can I prevent smelly shower drains from happening in the first place?

A: Regular cleaning, using hair strainers, and avoiding the buildup of soap scum are great preventive measures to keep your shower drain fresh and odor-free. Proper ventilation and avoiding the disposal of non-water-soluble items down the drain can also help prevent smelly shower drains.


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