The last thing that you want when you’re taking a shower to get clean is a shower drain that smells bad. This can occur for a few different reasons. The shower drain strainer could be grimy, the p-trap could be failing, and sewer gas is rising in the drain line. There could even be mold or mildew that’s growing under the drain cover. Some of the causes of a bad smelling drain can be easy to fix if you have a little knowledge. In this article, we will look at some common causes and the know how to fix them.
Mold and Mildew Growth
The shower drain is the perfect environment for the growth of mold and/or mildew. It’s dark, wet, and warm, and the mold can grow out to any other location in your shower. Start by taking off the shower strainer and checking if it’s seated in the drain correctly. Then take a look for any gaps between the tube and drain cover or the tub and strainer. These gaps are common locations where mold and mildew can grow.
If you find any mold or mildew, remove the drain cover and the stopper and clean the surfaces with a mold and mildew remover. Spray down into the drain, clean the underside of the drain cover, and cover the ring that surrounds the drain. If you don’t want to use a store bought cleaner apply some white vinegar with a spray bottle. Once you’re finished, replace the drain cover and ensure that it fits tightly. If you can’t get the drain cover to fit snugly, it has become warped, and it needs to be replaced.
A Clogged Stopper or Strainer
Most showers are equipped with a stopper or strainer, which is built into or over the drain opening. These two fixtures are designed to stop soap scum, hair, and other material from entering the drain. Eventually, all of this material will buildup to the point that it may interfere with the draining of the water. This is also a common cause of a smelly drain where the shower drain has become clogged with grime and gunk.
Some stoppers can be removed by hand, but a strainer usually has a Phillips head screw that you need to remove first with a screwdriver. When you remove the strainer, you may notice the soap scum, grease, and hair buildup. Avoid touching this material with your hands; wear gloves, because it will contain bacteria. Washing strainer with a sponge and hot soapy water, and if there are hard deposits, clean them with a bristle brush. Then clean out any grime and scum that is left on the entrance to the drainpipe. Spraying the areas with white vinegar will kill any remaining germs, and you can replace the strainer.
A Dried Out P⁻trap
The P-trap is that part of the drain pipe that connects a plumbing fixture to the drain system. It’s curved in a “u” or more often a “p” shape, and this is why it’s commonly referred to as a p-trap. A p-trap is curved to collect and store a portion of the water that is drained. This collected water sits at the bottom of the p-trap curve, and its purpose is to prevent sewer gases from rising up through your pipes to create bad smells.
If you can smell an odor of “rotten eggs” or a general sewer type odor, the p-trap my have run dry. Take out the strainer and take a look in the drain with a flashlight. If you cannot see any water, there is a problem with the p-trap. This can be confirmed by pouring a couple of cups of water into the drain and then waiting an hour. If you notice that there is no water after an hour, then there may be a leak or some other kind of problem. At this point, it’s time to call out your local certified plumber to fix your p-trap for you.
Blocked or Clogged Vents
Another possible cause of the p-trap water disappearances could be a blocked shower vent. The shower is vented to ensure that the air that is pushed out when water is introduced to the drain has somewhere to go. If there is no venting, the suction action created in the pipe could force the water out of the p-trap. The vent connected to the p-trap is in turn, connected to a “vent stack.” Every pipe in your home with be connected to this vent stack, and if it becomes blocked, it can cause problems.
As the name might suggest, the vent stack vents the air outside the home. The most common causes of a blocked vent stack are a bird’s nest and materials that have fallen into the vent outlet. If you’re confident working at heights and you know where the vent stack is located, you can attempt to clear the blockage yourself. You may need a long ladder, some thick gloves, and a bucket or container to hold the collected materials.
Scoop out the material at the vent outlet, but if you cannot see anything, the blockage may be located further into the vent stack. A possible solution could be to run a hose into the stack outlet and turn on the water. This may clear out the vent system by water pressure along, but it is not a guaranteed fix. If you’re not confident working on ladders or you don’t know where the vent stack is located, it’s time to call your local certified plumber for expert help.
If you have a smelly drain, there is no need to put up with it, and in many cases, you can clean away the source of the foul odor yourself. Hopefully, our tips and tricks will help you to get your shower drain smelling neutral again. But, if you’ve attempted one or more of the solutions detailed above and the problem persists, call your local plumber
. They have the training, experience, and specialized tools to locate and fix the problem quickly.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.