How To Clean And Deodorize A Smelly Shower Drain – Best Methods Explained

The most common reason for odors in the bathroom is mildew or sewer-like smell emanating from the shower drain. It can start stinking due to various reasons, but luckily such issues are easy to fix. Explaining the causes behind such smells along with cleaning tips, let’s find the best shower drain odor remedy!

Why does my shower drain smell bad?

When you notice a musty or sewage-like smell in the bathroom, probably the shower drain smells bad because it got clogged with gunk and hair, mold started to grow in it or errors in the drainage system allow smelly gases to enter back into your living space.

modern bathroom with shower

This process usually takes a while to start in most modern bathrooms, but if you understand the common reasons why your shower drain stinks, it will help you understand what factors to pay attention to in order to avoid such odor issues and how to clean it if the problem already exists.

Sewage backup

If your shower drain smells like sewage, then the P-trap must be clogged up in such a way that prevents sewer gases from escaping out of the drainage system. This blockage usually occurs when you allow excessive soap scum or debris to build up inside your shower drain’s trap.

drain in the shower

However, a sewer smell from the shower drain can also be a sign of more serious plumbing problems, so if cleaning and deodorizing it doesn’t help get rid of the sewage smell, be sure to ask a plumber for advice.

Hair clogs

It’s easy for hair to clog your shower drain because dead hair follicles often fall off while we are showering. You might also experience this problem if you shave regularly while showering.

hair falling out in the shower might clog the drain

When the shower drain is clogged with hair, sulfur-like smells form because human hair contains naturally occurring sulfuric compounds that stink like ammonia when they are trapped in the drain. This smell becomes even musty when soap scum also builds up inside the drain.

Thankfully, this horrible odor usually goes away when the hair clogs are removed; you can do it by hand or with a tweezer, or if the blockage is deep in the pipe where you can’t reach it, use a drain cleaning brush.

Sink Snake Cleaner

FlexiSnake Drain Weasel Sink Snake Cleaner

  • 360-degree rotation instant clog remover to effectively tackle your biggest clogs
  • with incredible patented micro-hooks, which lock into hair, filth, and grime without damaging your pipes or catching on drain parts
  • ultra-think and extra-long, designed for hard-to-reach clogged sinks

Biofilm build-up

Biofilm is an orange or pink-colored goo that is composed of soap scum, clogged hair, and microorganisms. It causes a foul-smelling ammonia odor when it starts building up inside your shower drain’s which gets worse the longer it hangs around your bathroom. It’s important to remove this goo right away because it quickly spreads deep inside the pipes.

Drain Clog Dissolver

Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver

  • dissolves hair, soap, personal care wipes, and other organic matter that may be causing clogs within your pipes
  • simple and highly effective, safe for septic systems, and non-corrosive to pipes, does not contain bleach or sodium hydroxide
  • uses powerful biodegradable surfactants that are environmentally friendly

When removing biofilm from the drain, make sure to clean the drain walls as well as the cover properly. To disinfect and deodorize, use the solutions outlined below or pour drain cleaner into the drain to dissolve the residue.

Mold growth

The bathroom’s humid environment is ideal for mold spores to begin to grow causing black spots on the shower curtain, on the grout lines, on the walls as well as making the shower drains smells musty. When mold starts to grow inside the wet, dark pipes, it emits gases while it grows and spreads.

black mold in bathroom

Mildew smell in the bathroom can become quite nasty if it is not removed in time and causes health problems including allergic reactions and irritations. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting should stop this problem, but if mold grows deeper within the drainage system, professional maintenance might be needed.

How to clean a smelly shower drain?

Numerous methods can help you stop the shower drain from stinking and make your bathroom smell good, but in the first place, the most important is to determine what is causing the odor.

shower drain

If there is a clog or residue build-up, make sure to remove those: if the drain’s cover is easily removable, bigger particles can be removed by hand wearing protective gloves, by wiping the inside of the drain with a cloth or by brushing with an old toothbrush. If you can’t remove the cover, use a sink snake.

When you are done with this, start treating the odors following one of the methods I explain right below. But remember that you should contact a professional plumber if your drain is still not draining or smelling normal after using these methods.

Disinfect with vinegar

Vinegar is a natural acid that can aid in the breakdown of bacteria, mold, and other residues that can cause odors, therefore is one of the best remedies for a stinky shower drain. It is safe to use on most surfaces (except granite or marble) and will not cause any damage to your pipes or drains.

Follow these steps to use this cleaning agent:

  • Pour 2 cups of white vinegar down the drain
  • Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour
  • Rinse with hot water
  • Repeat if necessary

As you see, cleaning a smelly shower drain using vinegar is very simple. Make sure to add this quick disinfecting method to your bathroom cleaning checklist! For the best results, use concentrated cleaning vinegar!

Deodorize with baking soda

Sodium bicarbonate is another effective natural shower drain cleaner and deodorizer for bathrooms. It’s a mild alkaline cleaner that helps loosen grease and dirt when mixed with water. It is non-toxic and safe for septic tanks so a perfect shower drain odor remedy.

Baking Soda

Baking Soda (1 Gallon)

  • Pure sodium Bicarbonate is food grade; great for cooking, baking, and cleaning
  • excellent deodorizer and freshens air in refrigerators, microwaves, and pantries
  • aluminum-free; can be used to make DIY bath bombs or use to whiten laundry

To clean the shower drain with baking soda, act like this:

  • Pour 1/2 a cup of baking soda into the drain
  • Top it off with 1 cup of white vinegar (the fizzy mixture will loosen the bad stuff and do the cleaning)
  • Cover the drain for approximately 20 minutes, or until the mixture stops fizzing
  • Finally, pour hot water down the drain
  • If necessary, repeat this method until your drain is fresh smelling, and freely flowing.

Author’s Tip: Read my How to use vinegar and baking soda to clean the bathroom post too!

Sanitize with bleach

If vinegar or baking soda haven’t removed the smell from your shower drain, you can try bleach. It is a fantastic disinfectant and does a fantastic job of killing odor-causing bacteria as well viruses. Although it is not a cleaner, it won’t remove dirt and residue, but if you clean the drain first then apply a bleach solution it helps get rid of unwanted smells and remove mildew and mold.

How to clean a shower drain with bleach:

  • Pour 1/2 cup bleach down the drain
  • Wait at least an hour (the best is if you leave it for overnight)
  • Pour a pot of water down the drain (cold or room temperate water)

Note that skin contact with bleach can be harmful so always wear gloves and protective glasses if you have them. Also keep in mind that bleach mixed with hot water can release chlorine gas so dilute or wash it off it with cold water only.

Use a drain cleaner

Many people prefer using a natural shower drain odor remedy and refuse to use harsh chemicals, but sometimes it is the only way to solve such issues without calling a plumber.

There are many types of commercial drain cleaners and odor eliminators with an extra level of effectiveness that are formulated especially for rough clogs and to solve smelly drains. If the situation is that bad that the water is not going down the drain, choose a gel solution that will be able to penetrate through standing water directly to the clog to dissolve it. My favorite is Drano, it really works!

Clog Remover

Drano Max Gel Clog Remover

  • thickened formula to cut right through standing water, clinging to the clog to blast it fast
  • removes hair, soap scum, and other rough clogs
  • safe on PVC, metal pipes, garbage disposals, and septic systems

Keep in mind not to mix such cleaners with other chemicals because their reaction can cause toxic fumes. Always use it as instructed on the label and wear protective equipment!

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