Experts reveal the secret to having a nice-smelling shower drain

Incorporate these steps into your bathroom cleaning routine to banish odors and add a pleasant aroma to your shower drain

Experts reveal the secret to having a nice smelling shower drain
(Image credit: Stephen Kent Johnson / Future/Alicia Taylor / Laurel Joliet/Assembledge and Susan Mitnick Design Studio)

Transforming your shower room extends beyond great water pressure and luxurious soaps. You can create a relaxing and refreshing environment with these tips to banish any unpleasant odors emanating from your drain.

Although odors coming from your shower drain may appear to be an enduring issue, there are plenty of simple things, including cleaning tips, you can do at home to guarantee a delightfully fragrant drain and improve the atmosphere of your shower room as a whole.

Our plumbing experts have explained the seven steps people with nice-smelling bathrooms always do to help maintain a fresh, fragrant shower drain.

The secret to having a nice-smelling shower drain

'A nice-smelling shower drain is a sign of a clean and well-maintained bathroom. By understanding the common causes of drain odors and employing these expert tips, you can ensure your shower remains a rejuvenating and inviting space,' says Josh Mitchell, owner of Plumbing Lab

Josh Mitchell
Josh Mitchell

Josh Mitchell is, a plumbing expert and HVAC technician and the owner of Air Conditioner Lab and Plumbing Lab

1. Clean the drain regularly

White shower with seat, red lap, wooden cabinet

(Image credit: Mary Wandsworth/Mary Weaver)

The most straightforward and effective method for a nice-smelling shower drain is regular cleaning. 

'Remove hair and debris from the drain cover regularly,' advises Josh Mitchell. 'For a deeper clean, use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. Pour half a cup of baking soda, followed by half a cup of white vinegar, down the drain. Let it fizz for about 10 minutes, then flush with hot water. This natural solution helps break down organic matter and neutralizes odors.'

Alternatively, Andrew Hancock, president of Gilman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing suggests: 'To combat odors and grime in your shower drain, consider an unconventional yet effective duo: Alka-Seltzer and vinegar. 

'Begin by dropping a couple of Alka-Seltzer tablets into the drain, then follow with a cup of vinegar. The combination creates a vigorous fizzing action that works to break up the grime and deodorize your drain. 

'After letting it work its magic for a few minutes, flush the area with boiling water to wash away the residue, leaving your drain fresh and clean.' You can find these Alka-Seltzer tablets at Walmart.

Andrew Hancock
Andrew Hancock

Since 2013, Andrew has been at the helm of Gilman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, a respected company in Virginia known for its century-long history in home comfort services. Under Andrew's leadership, Gilman has continued to thrive, offering industry-leading and energy-efficient air quality products.

2. Do a hot water flush

midcentury bathroom with large mirror over the sink

(Image credit: Laurel Joliet, Courtesy of Assembledge and Susan Mitnick Design Studio)

'Make it a habit, especially after showering, to run an extra minute of hot water down the drain,' recommends Andrew Hancock. 'This practice helps to ensure that all soap, hair, and other particles are fully flushed through your pipes rather than accumulating and causing potential blockages or odors. It's an easy yet powerful routine to keep your drain smelling fresh and working efficiently.' 

Additionally, once a week, Josh Mitchell recommends: 'Pour boiling water down the drain to help dissolve any buildup of soap scum, hair, and other debris. 

'It's a simple yet effective method to prevent clogs and keep the drain smelling fresh.' It's also a great way to fix a slow-draining sink, so you can use this technique throughout your home. 

3. Use a plunger

Wet room ideas

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

If the source of odors in your shower drain is a clog that cannot be removed using the techniques above, it may be time to get out the plunger.

Using a plunger to unclog a shower drain can be highly effective depending on the type of obstruction in the pipe, the location of the clog, and the design of your shower drain. 

4. Add fragrance

tiled bathroom in pale pink tiling

(Image credit: Kirsten Francis)

'Post-cleaning, adding a few drops of essential oils such as tea tree, lavender, or eucalyptus directly down your drain can transform your bathroom into a spa-like oasis,' suggests Andrew Hancock. 'Not only do these oils emit a delightful aroma, but they also boast natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. 

'After adding essential oils to your drain, it's typically best to let them sit without immediately flushing them with water. This allows the oils to coat the inside of the pipe, where they can exert their antibacterial and antifungal properties and allow the scent to permeate the area. 

'Generally, a few hours or even overnight is beneficial, especially if you're trying to combat odors or minor bacterial growth.'

We recommend this Pure Essential kit from Amazon, which includes eucalyptus, lavender, lemon grass, orange, peppermint, and tea tree oils.

5. Utilize bio-enzymatic cleaners

Decorative bathroom with mirrored wall

(Image credit: Stephen Kent Johnson)

'For long-term drain health, incorporate the use of a bio-enzymatic drain maintainer into your routine,' recommends Andrew Hancock. Natural Elements Enzyme Drainer Cleaner from Amazon is a good product to try.

'These innovative solutions utilize natural bacteria and enzymes to methodically break down organic matter within your pipes. By doing so, they help prevent the buildup that typically leads to unpleasant odors, ensuring your drain stays fresh and functional.'

6. Maintain the P-trap

Bathroom tile with blue and green metro tiles

(Image credit: Christopher Dibble)

'Ensure your P-trap is always filled with water,' recommends Josh Mitchell. 'If you're going away for an extended period, pour a cup of mineral oil down the drain before you leave. The oil will slow the evaporation of water in the P-trap.'

This will prevent odors and gasses from entering your home.

7. Incorporate preventive measures

An example of shower tile ideas showing a bathroom with a marble-clad walk-in shower and a white standalone tub

(Image credit: Future/Alicia Taylor)

Preventing issues before they start can ensure your shower drain remains nice smelling. 

'Use drain covers or strainers to catch hair and other debris before they enter the drain,' recommends Shlomo Cherniak, the owner of Cherniak Handyman Services. You can find these drain covers at Amazon.

'After each use, scrub the shower drain cover with a sponge scourer or soft-bristle brush to keep the top surface clean and prevent buildup,' continues Shlomo Cherniak. 'Additionally, avoid pouring grease, oil, or large amounts of soap down the drain, as they can contribute to clogs.' Where possible, consider minimizing the use of oil-based products that contribute to this buildup.


What causes bad odors in shower drains?

'Before exploring the solutions, it's essential to understand what causes unpleasant odors in shower drains,' says Josh Mitchell, plumbing expert and the owner of Plumbing Lab. 'The most common culprits include: 

'Bacterial growth: The combination of warmth, moisture, and organic matter (like hair and soap scum) in your drain creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which can produce foul odors. 

'Clogs and blockages: Accumulated debris can lead to clogs, trapping odors, and sometimes even leading to sewer smells seeping up into your bathroom. 

'Dry P-trap: The P-trap is designed to hold water and block sewer gases from rising into your home. If it dries out, those gases can escape into your bathroom.'

Sewer gases: 'Sometimes, the smell may not be coming from the drain itself but from sewer gases,' explains Shlomo Cherniak, the owner of Cherniak Handyman Services. 'If you don't have a slow drain but still smell unpleasant odors, it could indicate problems in your drainage system. In such cases, it's best to consult a professional plumber to identify and fix the underlying issues.'

By understanding the common causes of drain odors and employing these expert tips, you can ensure your shower remains a fresh and inviting space. However, if home remedies aren't working, this could indicate a deeper issue with your plumbing system, in which case it might be time to call a professional plumber for a thorough drain cleaning. They will have the tools and expertise to remove stubborn blockages and buildup.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past six years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including practical household advice, recipe articles, and product reviews, working closely with experts in their fields to cover everything from heating to home organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.