Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

The Hidden Reasons Why Your Shower Drain Smells

why your shower drain smells custom graphic

Few things are worse than copping a whiff of a noxious odour rising from your bathroom drains. The invasive smell is something that lingers, leaving you with no way to enjoy what should be a soul-warming hot shower after work.

A bad-smelling shower drain is certainly not something that you have to put up with. By addressing the hidden reasons why your shower drain has a bad smell, you can remove the harsh odour promptly.

There’s no need to panic at the first sight - or scent. Efficient drain cleaning and clearing is something that you can tackle on your own. Your regular maintenance can keep your bathroom drains healthy.

To better understand what might be causing that specific smell, we asked the team at Metropolitan Plumbing Sydney for some additional insight.

Common Causes of Bad Smelling Shower Drains

top view of soapy water running into a dirty shower drain

Soap and Grease

Looks can certainly be deceiving when it comes to liquids flowing down your drain. From the natural oils in our hair to sweat and everything else that gets caught up in soap or body wash, it all eventually ends up in the drain. And once it all cools down, it hardens.

You can basically think of soap and other greasy substances as the glue holding together blockages. And as everything sits in your drain for longer, the odours intensify.

There’s also a risk that a blockage will prevent water from flowing, leading to blocked drains and potentially even bathroom flooding.

To prevent this from occurring, vinegar and baking soda creates the perfect remedy for keeping your drains clean. Meanwhile, all minor blockages can easily be dealt with by a common sink plunger.

The vacuum created by the constant up and down movement will dislodge shallow blockages in your shower drain. This will either help the clog move out of your plumbing system, or it could bring it within reach for easy removal.

Dislodging a blockage may not solve your problem, though, and recurring issues mean you should contact a local plumber.

Mould and Bacteria

Drains are a breeding ground for stubborn bacteria, sadly. Just think of everything that’s washed down your shower drain, and then think about the melting pot of all those individual bacteria colonies.

Bacteria growth is promoted by the design of S-trap and P-trap drains. On one hand, these drains prevent sewer gases from rising into the bathroom, but on the other hand, that water is where mould and bacteria often develop.

Bacteria is then spread around through splashback while using the sink, shower or bath, and helped by a lack of regular cleaning. If the drain is left alone for too long, a seven day period could see bacteria growth spread out from a drain in the form of a biofilm.

Luckily, consistent cleaning kills off bacteria growth and keeps biofilm levels in check. Your drains will remain fresh, and the likelihood of mould growth greatly reduced.


If it was just hair travelling down the shower drain, you might not have too much to worry about. A few individual strands could easily slide through the pipes and out of sight, no problem. Sadly, there’s more to it.

Hair clings to the sticky surface residue formed by soap, oil and shampoo in your pipework. An odour of increasing intensity will develop as more hair clings to the pipework, and as more waste then catches onto the hair.

Clogs can also develop throughout your bathroom’s plumbing system, so there could be more than just shower water flowing through the build-up.

Thankfully hair can be removed with a simple wire coat hanger DIY hack. All you need to do is straighten out a wire coat hanger, forming a hook at one end and a handle at the other. This handle will allow you to twist the hanger while also preventing it from accidentally falling into a drain.

The hook can catch any shallow debris in the shower drain, preventing further clogs. It’s a short term solution, but one that’s especially helpful if long hairs regularly catch in your drain.

Alternatively, you can use a drain snake.

Clear Your Blockages with a Drain Snake

plumber using mechanical drain snake to unblock drain

The drain snake, or drain auger, is a helpful tool for anyone willing to get their hands dirty. It’s a long, flexible metal cable that can reach deep down into your drains to catch any resilient blockage.

The auger’s head essentially has a corkscrew, and as you twist and unwind the cable, it collects both loose debris and stubborn materials such as hair. It’s incredibly practical as you don’t have to take apart your plumbing, and can access parts of your pipes that are usually hard to reach.

You can successfully use a drain snake to clear your smelly shower drain by following these five easy steps:

  1. Remove the drain cover, which can often be done by unscrewing or using a flat object to pry it open. There should be no need to apply too much force.
  2. Place the head of the auger into the drain and begin turning the handle. As the cable moves down the drain, continue turning the handle until you encounter resistance or the cable bunches up.
  3. Continue to rotate the auger and press it up against the clog. It will latch onto the blockage thanks to the corkscrew design, helping to break it down or dislodge the offending matter.
  4. Once you feel the auger has done its job, retract the coil through the shower drain. It should also bring back some blockage, so be prepared for a potentially nasty surprise.
  5. Finish by flushing the system for a few minutes with running water. This will also help any leftover debris wash away or will indicate whether the clog is still there. If problems persist you can try again or contact a licensed plumber.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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