What Is Causing Those Shower Drain Smells?

Have you ever looked forward to a nice relaxing shower only to find an unpleasant odor escaping from the drain? If so, you’ve come to the right place for advice. Luckily, shower drain smells are typically an easy problem to identify and fix. 

Sometimes you can’t find the source of the smell, or the water isn’t draining. In that case, you could have an issue with your sewer lines that require professional attention from a nearby plumber.  

This article will explore the possible reasons behind your smelly drain and what you should do to resolve the issue. Keep in mind that not all plumbing problems have a DIY solution. When you’re uncertain about the situation, seek advice from a local Memphis, TN, professional.

Finding and Addressing Shower Drain Smells 

If your shower drain smells a little more rancid than usual, the first thing you should do is try to identify the unfavorable smell. This will help you locate the source and lead you to the solution. 

Clogged Drains 

A clogged drain is something that occurs every day in homes across Memphis, TN. This is always a possibility when a strange smell comes from your shower drain. If your shower drain is moving slower than normal or not at all, you may have a clog caused by buildup in your drain.

Many things can lead to a buildup in your drain, including:

  • Sand or dirt 
  • Soap scum 
  • Loose hairs 
  • Minerals
  • Small lost items like jewelry

The average clog is a combination of several of these items. Minor clogs may be removed with a cup plunger and a little elbow grease. However, you will need a professional drain cleaning for the kind of severe clog that can cause your drain to smell. 

If the clog is in the sewer line, you should never attempt to repair this issue on your own. It is difficult and requires the skills, tools, and expertise of a trained plumber. 

Dry or Dirty P-Trap

Dry or dirty what? P-trap. This plumbing part is shaped like the letter U and connects the waste pipe to the septic tank or sewer system. Its main job is to prevent sewer gasses from reaching your bathroom. But if it is dry or overly dirty, it won’t do its job correctly. This is probably the culprit if your shower drain smells like the sewer.  

The p-trap is designed to hold a small amount of water which acts as a barrier to sewer gasses. If you’ve been away and haven’t used your shower in a few days, the water may have evaporated from the p-trap. This can be remedied by running water in the shower for a few minutes. The p-trap should refill, and the smell should begin to fade.  

If the p-trap is dirty or covered with biofilm, a quick cleaning could reduce the smell. However, if it does not solve the problem, your p-trap should be inspected by a qualified nearby plumber. They can determine if it is clogged and can be repaired or whether it is broken and will need to be replaced. 

Biofilm Buildup 

Biofilm is the slime you find in and around your drain. It is another common reason leading to shower drain smells. It can accumulate in your shower and inside the drain making your nose wrinkle in its presence. Luckily, resolving this issue is not complicated. 

To remove biofilm from your shower, you need a brush or similar tool to break up the muck and wipe it away. Once it is broken up, spray the surface with an antimicrobial disinfectant. Repeating this process every week will help stop it from forming again. However, if the biofilm is in your drain, cleaning the floors and walls will not be enough.   

Biofilm can be a health hazard, so you must clean your shower drain regularly. If your drain still smells even though you’ve repeatedly cleaned it, you might need to ask for help. For a complete drain cleaning to remove biofilm from your shower drain, it’s best to contact a professional plumber. 

Leaky Pipes 

Sometimes, bathroom odors are brought on by serious issues that cannot be resolved independently. A leaky pipe is one of those circumstances. When there is a leaky pipe in your bathroom wall or under the shower, sewer gasses will escape. That’s why you may notice your shower drain smells like rotten eggs or sewage.  

The only solution for a leaking pipe is to call a nearby plumber with experience in this kind of repair. A leaking pipe could be the first clue that your plumbing system has a bigger issue. How this issue is addressed depends on what kind of materials your pipes are made from. For example, if they are old iron pipes, they may need to be replaced entirely.

Cracked Drain Pipes 

Any crack in the drainpipe can cause sewer gasses to climb back up through the drain. Gasses can escape before the water if the crack is near the surface. The smell may be the first indication that the drainpipe is cracked.

A plumber can inspect your drain line for any holes or cracks that are creating an opening for sewer gasses to escape. Once they identify the issue, the repair can be made, and your shower will return to normal. 

Professional Drain Cleaning Tools for Shower Drain Smells 

A local Memphis plumber will have various professional solutions to remove that awful smell from your shower drain. Depending on what’s causing the smell, your plumber may use one of the following to provide relief:   


This tool is more commonly known as a snake cleaner. A long, flexible cable is attached to a motor or hand-powered device. One end contains a corkscrew-like tip that is placed into the opening of the clog. 

As it is driven into the pipe, the tool will break up the clog, allowing it to be extracted. Chemical drain cleaning can’t break up clogs in the same way, making this a valuable tool to deal with stubborn blockages. 

Air Burst Cleaners 

An air-burst drain cleaner uses air, carbon dioxide, or other gasses to eliminate the clog. Pressurized gas is sent into the piping, forcing itself through the standing water until it reaches the clog. 

One of the main advantages of air-burst cleaners is how quickly they can remove the blockage, especially when compared to chemical cleaners that can take hours. One drawback to air-burst cleaners is that they may be less effective when used in dry piping.    

Hydro Jetting 

Hydro jetting is a method of drain cleaning that uses high-pressure water streams. A hosepipe with a nozzle is fed into the drain, and water is pumped through the hose at up to 35,000 psi. In addition to removing the clog, hydro jetting can remove grease and oils from the pipe’s interior. 

How to Prevent Shower Drain Smells 

There are a few proactive steps you can take to avoid dealing with a rancid shower drain.

  • Use mesh drain screens 
  • Flush the drain regularly 

Although neither of these is the perfect solution, it should slow down the accumulation of clog-forming debris and reduce the odor in your shower drain.

Need Help Resolving Shower Drain Smells?  

Many homeowners are embarrassed by their shower drain smells. Although we understand that feeling, it’s a common problem and nothing to fret over. With a simple telephone call to Nance Services in Memphis, TN, your shower can begin smelling better. 

Call our friendly and professional team today. We’ll answer all of your questions about shower drain smells and how to fix them!   

Nance Services is a full-service HVAC & Plumbing Company based in Memphis, TN. Follow our blog for valuable homeowner tips, and updates from your favorite team of plumbing and HVAC professionals.