As the owner of an older home, I researched this plumbing problem and successfully rid my home of it without the need to call a pro.
If you smell a noxious sewer-like odor inside your home, chances are it is sewer gas escaping from the drainage system. Not only does it smell gross, but the methane and bacteria it contains can be dangerous to your health, causing headaches or even more serious ailments. Even scarier, high concentrations of methane gas are combustible, which can cause an explosion. If you notice this distinctive, foul odor, do not ignore it.
Possible Causes for the Sewer Smell:
- sewer back-up
- leaks from rotted or cracked drain pipes
- a clogged drain
- loose-fitting pipe connections
- a stopped-up or too-short vent pipe
- toilet's wax ring is old
- a dry trap
Before you call the plumber, however, there are some simple DIY actions that may eliminate the problem quickly at little or no cost. Below, you'll find out how to get rid of the smell of sewer gas emitting from a shower drain due to a dry trap or a mild clog.
Plumbing fixtures and their connecting systems that are correctly designed and installed are normally odorless. However, even the best plumbing may sometimes allow sewer gas into your home due to a simple problem that can be easily checked and simply solved. If the problem persists, then it’s time to call in the professional—a plumber.
How to Get Rid of Sewer Gas Smell
DIY Shower Drain Sewer Smell Removal
- Pour 1/4 cup of baking soda into the drain.
- Follow with one cup of white vinegar.
- Let that sit for two hours with the bathroom door closed.
- Slowly pour a gallon of hot water down the drain.
- After 15 minutes, run cold water for 10 minutes to thoroughly rinse the vinegar down. This step is very important, so don't skip it.
- Pour 1/2 cup chlorine bleach into the drain and let it sit for another two hours with the bathroom door closed.
- Rinse with another gallon of hot water poured slowly.
- Let cool water run for 10 minutes. By now, ample water should be standing in the “U” curve of the P-trap.
- The last step is to pour four ounces of mineral oil (plain cooking oil will work in a pinch) into the drain. The oil floats on the water in the trap and slows evaporation.
- Optional: Use a screwdriver to remove the trap if you want to replace it. You can also remove the trap to clean it out.
Warning: Never mix bleach and vinegar, or you will create toxic chlorine and chloramine gas. Step #6 is crucial to avoid this danger.
How Does Sewer Gas Get Inside Your Home?
Every drain in your home’s sewer system should have a “p”-shaped trap that is properly vented. These drains trap water, creating a seal or barrier that will keep sewer gas out of your home. If one of these drains is rarely used, such as in a guest bathroom, the water creating the protective seal will eventually evaporate. This is a formula for trouble that can allow stinky sewer gas to seep into your home. Simply running the water might solve this problem.
P-Traps, Vents, and Drains—How They Work
Let’s consider how the plumbing for this stand-alone shower in my home operates. Water from the city water system enters through the shower head while faucets control the water pressure and supply. When water drains from the shower, it goes into the city sewer system.
My shower, indeed every plumbing fixture in my home, should have two items working together to keep sewer gas out:
- A p-trap that holds water in a “U” shape of the pipe and forms a seal.
- A vent system that allows air in to equalize pressure and let sewer gases escape up the stack to the outside.
In short, the properly-vented p-trap prevents back pressure from letting sewer gas into my home. The vent is a critical component of this system because the pressure in sewer lines may fluctuate.
What Is a Dry Trap?
My research led me to believe that my stinky problem might be the easiest type to resolve: A dry trap. Since my guest shower had remained unused for a long time, the trap under the basin wasn't holding enough water to prevent sewer fumes from seeping up into the room. Often, simply running the water can resolve this issue.
Is It Okay to Pour Boiling Water Down the Drain?
While I advocate pouring hot water down the drain, what about boiling water? Is it likely that boiling water in the drain might crack a pipe? I asked an engineer about this issue, and he told me that boiling water won't damage metal pipes. Even if your home's plumbing includes PVC pipes and joints, using very hot water shouldn't hurt them, but don't let the water boil.
PVC pipes don't need regular dousing with water over 175 degrees Fahrenheit (and water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit), or the joints might melt. If you aren't certain whether or not your plumbing system includes PVC pipes and joints (or even rubber fittings), don't let the water heat to boiling or even the about-to-boil stage. If the water is hot (less than 175 degrees F.), it should do the trick.
What If This Simple Solution Doesn't Work?
If the odor had persisted after the vinegar-baking soda-bleach-hot water-mineral oil technique I used, the sewer gas invasion might have been caused by something other than a dry p-trap.
Leaks, rotted or cracked drain pipes, clogs in the drain, or a stopped-up vent pipe are other potential stink-makers. Had I still smelled that nasty odor when I opened the bathroom door the next morning, stronger measures would have been in order.
I don't have the DIY expertise to test or resolve more difficult issues, so it would have been time to call in the professional—a licensed, bonded, and insured plumber. I already have the phone numbers of two such plumbers on my speed dial (see next paragraph), but anyone searching for a trustworthy plumber should use an Internet search engine for a national or local directory of plumbers who are licensed, bonded, and insured. You don't want to take a chance on someone who may charge cheaper rates, but can't be held accountable for work, including any damages to your property.
My Experience With Sewer Gas
I didn’t know anything about p-traps or their function until a recent unpleasant incident forced me to do some hurried research. Here’s the background. There are three showers in my home. Two of them are regularly used, but the third is rarely used at all. In fact, it had not been used for months at the time this situation occurred.
When that shower was suddenly used after remaining dry for such a long period, the resulting odor emanating from the drain after the water stopped was dreadful. It smelled like…yes, a sewer! Eau de sewer is definitely not the fragrance I wanted wafting throughout my home, so getting rid of it was a top priority, requiring immediate action.
It was evening when the odor materialized, and I realized it might not be possible to get a licensed plumber to my house after regular business hours. Even if I were successful in locating a plumber who would show up before the next day, the overtime rates charged would not be healthy for my budget. Perhaps there was something I could do before then. DIY is not my forte, but I can sometimes handle an easy fix. You never know until you try.
The odor in the bathroom had to be contained, so closing off the drain holes temporarily was the first thing I did. I quickly dried the floor of the shower stall with paper towels and covered the drain tightly with good old all-purpose duct tape. I then opened the bathroom window for ventilation. Closing the door of that bathroom, I rolled up a towel and pushed it against the outside bottom of the door to prevent sewer gas from escaping that room into another part of the house.
Now that the odor was restricted, I headed for the computer and accessed Google. It took me only a few minutes to find several articles that explained how p-traps, vents (those pipes protruding from the top of the house), and a home’s plumbing drains are supposed to work, as well as what sometimes goes wrong to cause drain odors.
Since the sewer gas that invaded my home was due to a dry trap, it's up to me to keep it from happening again. I now ensure there is a water barrier in the p-trap of that little-used shower with some easy weekly maintenance. Every week, I pour a cup of white vinegar down the drain, then turn on the water and let it run for about ten minutes. This method can be used for any drain, not just the one in a shower.
If any plumbing fixture in your home gets infrequent use, try regular "preventive maintenance" by running water or flushing at least weekly to keep all the p-traps working properly. You won't be sorry for the effort to keep nasty sewer gas at bay.
When I first bought this vintage ‘60s house more than a decade ago, major plumbing problems seemed to crop up every few months. For quite some time, I had the phone number of my plumber of choice available to call quickly when emergencies arose. Finally, the big issues were resolved (and please don’t remind me how much money that cost), so visits from the plumber have been rare in recent years. (Knock on wood!) Still, I realize that letting a not-so-large problem go unrepaired often means it morphs into something much worse. All the years of plumbing problems gave me a healthy respect for those brave souls who successfully ply the trade. If a plumber is needed, at least I know a couple of good ones!
Disclaimer: I am not a plumber, building contractor, or expert in either of these fields, only a homeowner who did some research and tried the methods suggested to correct the acute issue and continue to follow it up with preventive maintenance. I hope these suggestions help you get rid of the yucky odor (and potential safety problem) of sewer gas. If they don't, you should call a professional plumber for help. Good luck!
Have you ever had to cope with sewer gas smell?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: The smell of sewer gas does not come from inside my house; it is coming from the roof ventilation. Do I have to treat the smell the same way?
Answer: The roof vent probably has a blockage--debris the wind blew in, a bird's nest, etc. A handy DIY-er with a steady ladder may be able to unstop it. That should stop sewer gas from backing up into the house. However, there may be another problem with your roof vent that may require a plumber.
Question: If the sewer flows into a septic tank, can I use vinegar or bleach to relieve sewer gas?
Answer: Pouring vinegar in your toilets won't harm the septic tank, nor will it kill the beneficial bacteria as chemicals would.
Question: What is the estimated cost for a plumber to resolve sewer gas?
Answer: Plumbing charges vary according to where you live, but most plumbers have a base charge for going to your home to make a diagnosis, with additional charges for labor and parts. Total cost is going to depend on how difficult and time-consuming the problem is to solve (which, in turn, depends on the reason.) The best way to get a ballpark estimate in your area is to call at least three local plumbing companies, describe the issue, and ask about their prices.
Question: I have just moved into a new apartment, and the smells from my bathroom drain are unbearable and have even caused health issues such as coughing, wheezing, and breathing difficulties. Will this cleaning method also work for my shower drain?
Answer: It should work, and it won't hurt to try it. If the sewer smell does not abate, it's time to call in a pro because sewer gas can be harmful.
Question: If I don't have white vinegar, can I use apple cider vinegar to relieve sewer gas?
Answer: Yes. Both white and apple cider vinegar have essentially the same acidity. The only difference is that apple cider vinegar has a more pleasant smell.
Question: If a dry P-trap caused the odor, why did it only become an issue after running the shower after adding water to the trap? It seems like it should have been noticeable before use, rather than after.
Answer: Was your shower not in use for some time, as in a guest bathroom only used occasionally? It may require several of the DIY treatments I mention in my article to keep the trap properly wet. If the smell continues after using the tips for a dry trap (including 4 ounces of mineral oil to hold the moisture in the trap), it may be caused by something else that should be diagnosed by a plumber.
Question: My toilets have overflowed more than once, and now my house smells like poop. What can I do?
Answer: This is not a DIY issue except for floor cleanup and disinfecting. You need a plumber to determine what is causing repeated overflows and repair it. There may be a blockage in your system.
Question: I tried the DIY tactic to eliminate the sewer smell, and it came back. Should I repeat this method?
Answer: It make take two or three times for the trap to stay wet and eradicate the sewer gas smell. Don't forget to add the four ounces of mineral oil, which will help keep the trap wet.
© 2011 Jaye Denman
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on August 19, 2020:
Sorry my reply is late, but I hope your problem has been resolved--either by trying this method in the drains or by a licensed plumber. Good luck in your new home.
kerma89 on July 29, 2020:
My and my husband bought a house this month, and we are moving there partially (few boxes each time). Yesterday when we were there and the toilet was used for the first time, we did smell sewage under the house, in the kitchen/dining room (close to the used toilet). We went outside and the smell was not coming from there. The house is from 2019 and has it's own sewage system near the house. Also the house wasn't used from may this year.
Do you think trying this method in all drains could work or maybe we should call the plumber right away?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on June 04, 2020:
I'm so glad that you determined the smell was leaking gas and stopped it. That was indeed very dangerous. Thanks for reading the article.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on December 16, 2019:
Thanks for providing this information for readers who live in Colorado, USA.
Andrew Batson on December 04, 2019:
I'm a home builder and it's actually surprising how often sewer vent issues can occur. It's usually pretty obvious with a drain is leaking water, but sewer gas leaks are really hard to pinpoint. We had one house where a sewer vent pipe was run through the roof (properly), but then when the framers added a dormer the pipe vented into the dormer. The only way we found the leak was with a smoke test like the ones described here https://sewerodor.com
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on July 15, 2019:
Thanks, Marlene. Hope they worked for you! Jaye
Marlene Bertrand from USA on July 01, 2019:
I have a rotten egg smell in my toilet area and will try your solutions. So grateful to have found your article.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 22, 2019:
I'm not actually a plumber. My article is about how to DIY getting rid of sewer gas, but your problem is out of my sphere of influence. I would call the plumber too, in your situation! Good luck!
Enyawmaharg on May 22, 2019:
I actually own it. I will keep you informed if I manage to solve the problem. Just thought domine here may know a trick Im missing;)
Enyawmaharg on May 21, 2019:
I own it actually. Have called in the plumbers next week. Will report back!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 20, 2019:
If you rent your apartment rather than own it, the apartment building's management should troubleshoot and repair any problems with the plumbing. That is the best thing about renting. Repair is not your responsibility. Since this only began recently, perhaps some of your neighbors are experiencing the same sound of drainage.
Enyawmaharg on May 17, 2019:
Hi friendly people.
I live on 1st floor of 6floor apartment building. Recently the drainage has become so loud from the other apartments above. We have a central stack that runs through the bathrooms but I hear it coming through my showers drain, like a hollow gurgling at first then hissy then the obvious draining away of water. I use the shower all the time so I don't think it would be a dry P trap..? I tried to research the stack plumbing type we have which led me here but I'm not au fait with this level of plumbing. Any suggestions would be appreciated
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on July 23, 2018:
I'm glad you got it resolved. Apparently the problem was under the sink. Jaye
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on July 23, 2018:
If you were renting, you could just move out if management did not look into and solve the problem. However, since you own your condo and pay condo fees for maintenance, it's terrible that they aren't doing anything about what may possibly be sewer gas that you smell. Something stopping up the roof vent is often the culprit, and it's not a difficult fix. I don't know how your contract with the condo management reads regarding their responsibilities, so it's difficult to make suggestions about what you can do to make them act. Rather than take chances with your health and that of the disabled person who lives with you, it may be necessary for you to pay for a plumber. Depending on where you live and the local summer temperature levels, getting your A/C running should also be a priority. Life is too short to live it in constant stress or an unsafe environment. Get those two problems resolved--with or without the condo management--and sell your condo. If you're not a DIY-er, renting is often better than being a homeowner. Good luck! Jaye
jainey on July 03, 2018:
I own a condo, the management did nothing would not send someone out so they could smell it when it was extremely potent. I contacted the health dept which didn't do much either, but said the smell is probably from the roof vent and recommended to condo management look into it. When I wrote management about more smells and what are you going to do about it, he said "can't do anything" because investigator found nothing. Meanwhile it's happened several times, I've never smelled this odor before until last month. It's coming from the back of the house where dryer vents are, maybe it's someone's dryer vent turned toward my window? It always happens when the people are home downstairs. It's hard to describe but it's a powerful sweet overwhelming smell, I consider it a chemical smell, that I taste in my mouth for hours and leaves it dry and my lips are tingling/numb. So I have to close my windows in this sweltering heat, a/c doesn't work. I have no idea what I'm inhaling, have no recourse since the Health Dept. can't do anything but make recommendations. I don't know what to do, I'm stumped and stressed, have a disabled living with me. It's not like having a landlord, if you withhold condo fees they can put a lien on home or make your life difficult, which I'm sure will happen to me by bringing it up many times and copying upper management including the president. Condo Board together with management are horrible and don't do anything except take care of their favorites, then sit on their cushy butts. Can't believe I'm helpless at this point. Will welcome suggestions, although I'd rather not call the police as management suggested I do in my first request.
Senaida on June 26, 2018:
I did go on the roof. Nothing clogged. The vent has a wire cap over it, I guess to keep bugs and things out. There are no trees near the roof thank god. I replaced the vent check under the sink. And no more bad smell.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on June 25, 2018:
A clogged vent is a big possibility, as it may be stopped up with leaves, pine straw, other storm debris, dead birds and rodents, etc. I am not, however, suggesting that you climb up on your roof with and attempt to determine if the vent is clogged and clean it out yourself. It seems simple, but may not be a DIY job. It should only be done by someone who is experienced at working up high on a ladder and knows all the safety measures to follow. A broken back would be much worse than a clogged sewer drain!
Senaida on June 21, 2018:
Hello, I moved in a home with all brand new pipes. I noticed 2 months later a rotten egg smell under my kitchen sink. I have done the bleach, vinegar w/ baking soda, 2 days later I open the door under the sink, the smell is back. All of my pipes drain perfect and nothing backs up. I do not have any other smells anywhere. Do you think my vent on the roof could be clogged?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on March 28, 2018:
Hi, Ben - Sorry this response is belated, but your comment didn't show up timely in my notifications, so I just read it. Therefore,you may have already addressed the smelly problem, but with only one vent stack for upstairs and basement bath plumbing, there could be either some blockage between the two, or loose vent pipes. To be on the safe side, I'd suggest you have a licensed plumber check the plumbing vent system thoroughly, especially if your new basement bath was a DIY project. Good luck! Jaye
Ben Ferguson on March 11, 2018:
We just did a new drain and bathroom at the back half our basement. All fixtures are in and all traps have water in them. There is an intermittent methane smell from the stack area - usually when someone is showering or fixtures being used upstairs. It's not all the time and it's not strong. Quite mild.
Any ideas? It seems like something isn't sealed properly but there are no leaks or anything. Could it be a clogged drain stack? Should I pour something into the drain from upstairs?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on January 13, 2018:
I apologize for the late reply, Kjanke. I've been ill for the past couple of weeks and am just now checking comments, emails, etc. I hope you and your family suffered no ill effects from the sewer gas and were able to get the problem corrected by a plumber.
The potential level of danger caused by sewer gases escaping inside a structure depend on the source and reason, which can be determined by testing. If there are any gas lines in the building that may be involved, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Regards, Jaye
Kjanke on December 30, 2017:
We are smelling sewer gas in our guest bathroom, and the smell has spread into adjacent closets that share a wall with the bathroom. Its not super strong, but noticeable when you walk into the bathroom or adjacent closets. Its the weekend, and a holiday on Monday - we would prefer to wait until Tuesday to call a plumber but how dangerous are the sewer gases? Just wondering if we need to pay extra to have someone look at it sooner.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on December 23, 2017:
Sorry for the slow reply--waves of holiday guests! If you checked the drain, tried the DIY tips and the sewer gas smell was (or is) still present, it's probably time to call the plumber. Escaping sewer gas can be dangerous if not remedied. Good luck!
rkj606 on December 15, 2017:
We are having the same issue from the laundry area. We have a sump pump in the basement and a floor drain. Outside the laundry room is the HVAC unit and the pool filter. I do not know where to check or what to do first. The home is 2 story.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on September 19, 2017:
Hokie - It's terrible you're having this problem after just moving into your newly built home. If you’ve checked the usual sources of sewer gas smell (and, as the general contractor of the new build, you should be familiar with the systems), it may be time to call in professional help to track down the odor’s origin. After all, sewer gas can be dangerous and cause illness or even an explosion. A licensed home inspector can use a gas detection instrument, while a plumber can carry out a pressure test of the drain vent system or even send a remote camera through the drains to determine if there is blockage. If they can’t detect the problem, there may be some flaw with the septic tank/system, and you’ll need a septic repair contractor. Any one (or all three) of these pros and their methods are likely to be expensive, but you want your family to be safe and enjoy your new home, so if you still haven’t found the problem, bite the bullet and pick up the phone. Good luck!
HokieFamily on September 19, 2017:
Sorry for the long post but I am out of ideas and really need some guidance. We recently moved in to our newly built home. I am a project manager for a national builder so was the GC for our own home. Thus, I managed the build process from the ground up. We are on a septic system. The day the movers came/we performed the final clean we smelled a very strong gas smell. We initially thought it was a propane leak but have since determined that it is a sewer gas smell. During construction we were in the house on a daily basis and the house was mostly closed up in the last couple of weeks while the painters were working. We never noticed the smell during any point of construction. We went from no smell to very strong concerning smell literally overnight.
I have checked all of the more obvious possibilities. All of the traps have water in them. Studor vent under the wetbar sink is working. (We even switched it out just in case) we have 2 sewer ejector crocks (one for wetbar, one for basement bath) smell is not noticeably stronger near either one. Lids/foam seal are installed completely. All pipes seem to be sealed tightly including check valves. I have run my nose along every inch of sewer pipe down there and cannot trace the smell to any particular area.
Please help!?!? Any suggestions are welcome. What could I possibly be missing???
Thank you in advance!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on June 16, 2017:
Debgeo - I am not a plumber, and this site only describes "home remedy" tips for eliminating sewer gas emanating from a shower drain (based on my own experience). I am not qualified to offer advice about the problem you suspect is caused by your AC condensation floor drain in your home's basement. However, I did some research and found a site which may answer your question or point you to a solution. It is: http://inspectapedia.com/plumbing/Floor_Drain_Odor... I wish you good luck in correcting this issue and eliminating your basement's sewer smell. Jaye
Debgeo on June 12, 2017:
We noticed a sewer smell coming from what we suspect is the AC condensation floor drain in our basement storage room. What can we do to fix this?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 12, 2017:
JPlunk - What a bummer it is to encounter such a problem in your brand new home! I wish that I could offer a "miracle" suggestion, but I'm not a plumbing expert. Since the builder's moved both the tub and toilet and has even gone so far as to break up the floor looking for a plumbing error, but hasn't found it, you may need to submit a claim under your new home warranty.
Many home warranties are backed by the builder, while others are purchased from an independent company and are part of your new home package. Usually, defects in the plumbing during construction are covered for at least two years. If I were you, I wouldn't want the builder to keep going with his "trial-and-error" method, which has not been effective.
Your new home is probably your greatest investment, and you deserve to have everything properly operable and safe--now. With a reputable builder, this should not present a problem. If it does, especially since you've only been in this newly built home for three months, you may need an attorney's assistance as much as you need that of an expert plumbing contractor. Good luck! I hope your builder ensures this issue is diagnosed and corrected right away.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 12, 2017:
KaraOkay - Great news on two levels--first, because you weren't overcome by toxic gas when you started to mix the bowl cleaner with bleach, and then that your "stinky" problem was resolved. It always makes me feel good when I read that these tips helped someone. Thanks for sharing!
KaraOkay on April 12, 2017:
Jaye, you rock! ~Story time~ (no need to respond)
I have had this smell for months and at first I thought there was a small leak in the pipes exiting the house to the sewer system. I figured it was the after effects of someone going #2.
It persisted when something (toilet, shower, laundry machine) was used and I thought there was some stinky gunk build-up in a pipe.
Initially I tried the vinegar and baking soda in the laundry deep sink, like I do every blue moon for the garbage disposal. It helped, but wasn't a cure.
Then I came across your words.
I did the thorough vinegar-baking soda-water-bleach-water-mineral oil drops with hours of wait time in between, following your steps exactly, in the deep sink.
I went to the guest bath and ran water in sink and shower and flushed toilet (and now do this at least weekly). One time I put 2 drops of mineral oil after a water run because I wouldn't be around for a week.
I poured some water in the drain near the furnace because there hadn't been any condensation run off in months. Added a few drops of mineral oil there also.
Finally today, I had a 'duh' moment. The powder room next to the laundry room had a busted line at the toilet last year (the line from the water to the tank) and it pseudo flooded the bathroom. I had the water off in that room since then. .....the duh moment was when I realized that usually toilets don't emit that sewer gas...when they are operable! Duh. After cleaning out some construction debris, I poured a half gallon of water in the toilet bowl. Then a small glug of bleach (seriously, just tipped the bottle quick). Then another half gallon of water. I started to hear some water moving and the bowl water went down a little, so I knew it had to flow some to the pipes. Yay.
**okay, here's my stupid moment (among many). I wanted to clean the toilet while I had water in it so that dirt from construction didn't stay/stain. I grabbed the bowl cleaner and brush and cleaned. Then realized my potential stupidity and read the bowl cleaner label. Do not mix with bleach...yada yada. So I run and grab an empty bottled water from the recycle bin, cut it just so, grab a bucket, cover my mouth and nose, and scoop out as much liquid as possible. Then pour in another gallon or more of water and open a window.
The good news is that this may work once and for all with the sewer gas/smell. The other good news is that I didn't die from toxic gases when cleaning up. lol
Thank you (and all the commenters because I read them ALL).
Jplunk on March 26, 2017:
We moved into a new build three months ago. The house has two bathroom, one which has a separate tub and shower. Shortly after moving into the house, I noticed a terrible smell coming from the drain of my claw foot soaker tub. Then I noticed a brown liquid around the drain. I can dry up the liquid, and in 5 minutes it is back again. Also, randomly when draining the tub, the toilet gurgles and bubbles wildly.
The builder has been back twice to check out the situation. He has removed the toilet both times and snaked it. The last time he came, he removed the tub and busted out the concrete to see if his plumber had installed the correct drain pipe. He also snaked that drain but found nothing.
I have no odor or liquid in the shower drain in the same bathroom or in the second bath. The only problem is the tub drain. Any suggestions?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on February 25, 2017:
To Germfree: Please accept my apology for the late response. I suspect that the camera procedure was needed to find your problem. Certain types of tree roots sometimes infiltrate underground plumbing and cause blockage, so sending a camera through the pipes is the only way to diagnose the problem. Then the specific pipes can be cleaned out. (You may want to remove the tree causing the problem. If not, there are products that you can flush through your drains on a regular basis that dissolve young tree roots before they can grow large enough to block the pipes again.) Good luck! Jaye
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on February 25, 2017:
So sorry that I didn't see your comment until today, idcullen, but I hope the DIY tips helped clear up the "rotten egg" smell emanating from your unused shower. If you ran plenty of water after using the baking soda and vinegar, the smell should have been gone by the next day . . . that is, if a dry trap was your only problem. The backup of water while doing laundry points to another possibility (or maybe more--I'm not a plumber). Years ago, the same thing happened at my house while doing laundry on a rainy day and was caused by a blockage in the vent that goes through the roof. Hope all is well, now. Regards, Jaye
ldcullen on January 29, 2017:
Live in a ranch style home, thought I had a clogged bathroom drain as water was slow draining in the tub. After doing a load of laundry I found water had backed up into the shower in the other bathroom shower into the floor and out under the floor in the hall. That shower hasn't been used for probably a year now I have the string rotten egg smell. Its 1:00am so not able to call a plummer. I just tried the baking soda, vinegar and water. How long should it take for the smell to subside if the dry drain is the problem.
Germfree on January 14, 2017:
I have sewer gas coming up from my kitchen sink. I have had several plumbers out, and none of them could pinpoint the cause. The last one said that I should get someone out to put a camera down into the pipes. That will cost at least a couple of hundred dollars, with no guarantee of a solution. Any suggestions?
Zzz3 on January 03, 2017:
Mark or Dmaio,
I am hoping you can share what you learned on this site - or regarding the issues you were have that you commented on in this article. I have a similar problem with a mysterious sewer smell coming from my toilet. I just replaced the Wax ring -twice - and the toilet flange. I replaced the ring the second time because of the smell. There are no leaks either - but the smell of sewer gas. Originally, the tank spontaneously cracked and leaked on the floor, so I replaced the toilet.
You guys had similar mysteries - wondered if you resolved it?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on January 02, 2017:
Thanks, Sydney Plumber! I appreciate the thumbs up! Jaye
SydneyPlumber on December 23, 2016:
For someone who isn't a plumber, you sure do have the knowledge of one! You're doing a great job helping out every homeowner who reads this by simply writing this post. I've been in the plumbing industry for 10+ years at Canterburyplumbingservices.com.au .. And i must say well done.
Two thumbs up mate!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on December 19, 2016:
Sometimes when a toilet wax seal is installed, the toilet isn't placed (re-seated) accurately, which allows some sewer gas to escape. If the plumbing was capped when the bathtub was removed, I don't know how it could be related to a new "off" smell unless something came loose inside the wall. I'm not a plumber, of course, so this is a guess on my part. You may need to have a plumber check it out if you aren't a handy DIY-er (or have a friend who is). Good luck getting rid of that smell!
DeMaio on November 20, 2016:
Just had a new toilet wax seal installed and the smell started. Should I just replace the new seal? About a year ago, I had a bathtub removed and covered, could that be related?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on September 06, 2016:
Hi, StinkySinky - I'm so glad some of these tips were helpful to you. Sometimes just wetting the p-trap with water will be enough if that's the only problem. Good luck!
stinkysinky on September 05, 2016:
Hi! This page has really helped me so far. I just moved into a new apartment and after a couple weeks there was suddenly a strong smell in my bathroom of sewer gas. i had been away and not used the shower/tub for a week or so. The smell was coming out of the tub drain, tub faucet and overflow drain. i follewed your steps minus the bleach and mineral oil. The smell is about 80% better. But there was still a faint smell of sewer gas that dissapeared when I plugged the drain and put tape and plastic over the faucet and overflow drain. so i just repeated the protocol minus the bleach and minteral oil hopefully it works!!!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on August 13, 2016:
Diane - Bleach is best saved for city water and sewer systems, but vinegar and baking soda produce foaming action that help clean and freshen the drain. However, to stop sewer gas from seeping into your home, it's important to (1) make sure the sewer vent isn't stopped up, and (2) pour water down the drain to wet the trap and leave enough water standing to seal it. The short answer to your question is: yes--you can dispense with bleach and use vinegar and soda.
Diane on August 13, 2016:
We have a water well so cannot use Bleach because it kills the good bacteria so I'm told.
Would the vinegar and soda help without the bleach step?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on August 09, 2016:
AR - The best thing about living in an apartment building is that the apartment management has responsibility for ensuring that everything in the apartment (other than the tenant's personal property) is both workable and safe. Call your building's maintenance supervisor or the manager and explain about the sewer gas smell. It's up to the apartment ownership/management to troubleshoot anything wrong with plumbing, sewer venting, drains, or any issue that could allow sewer gas into your apartment or others. If there's any hesitancy, be firm and remind the person to whom you speak that sewer gas can cause illness and is also volatile. That should get a maintenance repair person scheduled to track down the trouble soon! Good luck....Jaye
AR on August 09, 2016:
What if you live in an apartment building?
I occasionally (but frequently enough to be gross) notice a sewer smell in the bathroom. I can't pinpoint if it's the shower drain or the drain on the bathroom floor. I've lived in the apartment for a month now. I don't notice any effects on myself such as headache, and it's not constant, but I'm worried it could be more serious. Any thoughts on this? Thank you in advance.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on July 30, 2016:
ANDREW - Sorry about the typo (missing "w" at end of your name). I noticed it after a time elapse, so it was too late to edit my original response. Jaye
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on July 30, 2016:
Linda Marie – How long have you noticed the sewer gas odor coming from the toilet? Sometimes when a new toilet is installed or new flooring in a bathroom requires moving an existing toilet, the toilet bowl gasket won’t be sealed properly—not only if it’s a DIY project, but also some rookie plumbers may not get it right. There are several places that allow air to seep through with an improperly sealed gasket (not only air, but sewer gas, water, even vermin), so it’s worth paying an experienced plumber to ensure it’s done (or re-done) correctly. Good luck! Jaye
Adasha - Oh, my goodness—what a terrible experience! And, as we say in the Deep South, “Bless your heart!” I do hope you’ve completely recovered from weeks of sewer gas inhalation. It can really be dangerous to your health, especially (as you mentioned) when someone has a compromised immune system, and it seems that your liver was working overtime. Sewer gas can also cause fire or an explosion, so I’m very glad your daughter realized what was wrong, you did some fast research, and that you promptly flushed the drains and closed the tanks. Take care…Jaye
Andre – Thanks so much for joining the discussion and adding another suggestion relative to septic roof vents. Also, thanks for sharing the link. Regards, Jaye
Andrew C McGibbon from West Milford, New Jersey on July 30, 2016:
If the smell is originating outside the house, the odor can be emanating from the septic vent on the roof of your house. If your home is situated against a hill or a line of trees, wind vortexes can be created that bring that odor close to the ground. There is a website, http://IndustrialOdorControl.com that has the Wolverine Brand Activated Carbon Vent Filter that will solve this problem. Remember though, you will need one for each vent on the roof.
Adasha Knight on July 24, 2016:
You just saved my life literally. Living in an RV full time and not knowing about this issue, had my drain tanks open full time to the sewer line. Been steadily getting sicker and sicker until being bedridden after two weeks of not leaving home. Last night my daughter walked in and smelled the smell I was immune to. I read another article and then this one and immediately ran water in all drains and closed my tanks. I hope the damage isn't done and this reverses. I'm dizzy, lethargic, can't think, have fever, hurt all over. I had pre-op labs done this week and they called me that my liver labs were over the top. I assume that's from it trying to filter out the toxins?
This is very dangerous, especially for people with compromised immune systems.
Thank you so much for your information and saving my life.
LindaMarie1221 on July 20, 2016:
I too have dreadful sewer gas smell, but it comes from the toiler, not the sink or the shower. I have not seen any resolutions for the toilet smell. I don't think that they use the same pipe. Help me!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on July 11, 2016:
Thanks to everyone who's left a comment lately. I'm glad these tips have been helpful to you and appreciate what everyone added to the discussion.
Thanks so much! on July 01, 2016:
Thank you so much, this totally worked! We had the issue in our bathtub...Just a note for the bathtub issues-take off the overflow cap in there and do some of the baking soda/vinegar/water/mineral oil in there as well...
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on June 27, 2016:
Beenthere - It seems very likely that your roof vents are blocked by debris. If you're good at DIY, you can check them yourself; otherwise, it's time for the plumber. Good luck!
Beenthere on June 24, 2016:
Once lived on ground floor of 3 story newer building, complaints of sewer gas to management company ignored so I reported it to Health Dept. This whole process took several weeks. Turned out the pipes in the crawl space below the building were broken and weeks of sewage from all 3 floors were under my apartment!
Now live in 1 story condo, slow drains for 3 years in both bathrooms, have been doing DIY for 3 years to keep them flowing, now notice sewer gas smell but it is just at edge of building.when i am outside. From reading up, i think air vents on roof are blocking up.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 03, 2016:
Dwight – You didn’t say whether the vanity installation was DIY or whether a plumber did the work. If it was recently performed by a plumber, you should call the pro and report the smell. However, licensed and bonded plumbers are accustomed to meeting building codes, so a plumbing mistake is unlikely.
Since the smell is only noticeable the first time you turn the water on in the morning, you may have a high concentration of dissolved sulfides (if your water supply is municipal) or hydrogen sulfide gas if you have a well. These gasses rise to the highest point in the supply side of the plumbing, such as the valves of faucets and linger as concentrate. The smell lasts briefly when released and isn’t likely to be at every faucet in the house. Factors affecting the amount of sulfides gathered at any place in your plumbing may include: the way the water line was run; pipe size; and style.
Your local Chamber of Commerce can likely advise you of an agency that can test a sample of the water from that faucet, probably for free. The test will show if the water contains sulfides and, if so, if the amount is harmless. In the latter instance, you may want to put a filter on that faucet.
On the other hand, if it’s above the recommended level, you will need professional help. Municipal water treatment plants test water for acceptable levels of all sorts of minerals and other materials. Notify your water department if your sulfide level is over the safe level.
If you get your water from a well, here’s a link where you can get advice: http://www.wellowner.org/water-quality/hydrogen-su...
dugoutwhirl from USA on March 30, 2016:
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on March 16, 2016:
roob - Thanks for adding to the discussion. You're right about bad-smelling water. I once lived in a town that had tea-colored water with a sulfur odor. The municipal water department insisted it was safe and actually healthy (due to minerals, I think), but it did smell bad and stained white clothing in the laundry.
Ruby from United States on March 16, 2016:
being a plumber if there is a smell what we recommend is taking the drain cover or pop up off plug off then using a hacksaw blade or hanger to get hair that may be trapped & causing the smell. Next if still smells pour bleach down the drain with some baking soda. Remember people, your water also can have a sort of rotten smell to it as well!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on February 27, 2016:
Vanessa - I'm so glad my tips were helpful to you! It's a pleasure to learn when someone used these DIY suggestions with good results. Regards, Jaye
The Reminder - Happy to be of help to you in Canada. Sometimes the simple remedies work well. Take care . . . Jaye
Peter S - I'm delighted my tips got rid of your guest bathroom odor. Regular flushing all the drains should keep the traps wet and non-smelly now. Best wishes, Jaye
The Reminder from Canada on February 21, 2016:
Very good and informative hub. Thanks for the info!
klewis0906 on December 17, 2015:
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!! I have spent literally thousands of dollars over the years trying to get rid of that smell. Just recently I had my entire sewer line replaced. I was told that was the problem. Cracks in the sewer line. Although the smell temporarily dissapeared, it recently came back with a vengeance. I wanted to cry. I called the gas company this week to see if I had a gas leak. No gas leak. Last year I had DWP come and flush the sewer line from the street. All out of options, I finally googled (which I could kick myself for not doing this first) and found this article. I did the DIY solution yesterday, and I'm happy to find this morning that the smell is gone. Sending a big virtual HUG to you!!!!
vanessa wellington on December 06, 2015:
My plumbing was causing a lot of smell in my kitchen and bathroom. Thank God I came across your post. Life savior!
goingrich on December 04, 2015:
nice info to share...
Jonah Engler from New York, NY on December 02, 2015:
Never thought of this - will give it a try next this it happens to me :D
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on November 29, 2015:
Monis Mas - You're very welcome! I hope the tips in my article prove helpful to you. Thanks for your comment. Regards,
Agnes on November 20, 2015:
Thanks for the advice
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on November 18, 2015:
Adrian - Thanks for the reminder about PVC (plastic) pipes. After I published this Hub, someone mentioned in the comments section that boiling water poured down the drain might crack a pipe. I asked an engineer about this issue and was advised that PVC (plastic) pipes should not be hurt by a little very hot or just-about-to-boil water. However, PVC pipes don't need regular dousing with water over 175 degrees Fahrenheit (and water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit), or the joints might melt. (He didn’t mention rubber fittings, but I know heat can damage rubber.) Anyone who isn’t certain whether or not a plumbing system includes any PVC pipes, PVC joints, or rubber fittings should not let the water boil. If it's just very hot water (in moderation), it should still do the trick. After all, some people take very hot showers.
m - Monthly maintenance of your drains to clean them and prevent clogging is a good idea. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this tip. Jaye
argdraw - Keeping the trap wet is, as you pointed out, a must to prevent sewer gas. Guest baths are often forgotten for periods of time if no one uses them but occasional visitors. I've developed the habit of running water in my guest bath weekly to keep the traps wet. If you need a reminder to do this, put a note or colored sticker on your calendar to jog your memory until it becomes natural to do it regularly. We certainly don't want sewer gas smell to welcome our house guests, do we?
argdraw from London on November 18, 2015:
Your method, is a good way to clean the pipes, even clear a minor blockage, but the gas smell, is sewer air coming out of the pipe, because the water has dried out of the trap, running some water, into the trap will refill it, stopping the smell, little used pipework is unlikely to need cleaning just a cup of water.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on November 15, 2015:
greatstuff - Thanks for adding to the discussion. I'm glad your cat's "sewer system" got fixed. Regards, Jaye
Mazlan A from Malaysia on November 04, 2015:
Our cat's house has it's own 'sewage system' (I don't use cat litter anymore..used to) and connected to the washing machine drain pipe (that goes to the sewer line). Unfortunately, the plumber didn't add in the so called trap and it gave out the 'cat poo odor smell' :-(
Now that it is fixed, we can all breathe easier now :-)
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on November 03, 2015:
peachpurple - Thanks so much. By the way, you are fortunate to have a hubby with DIY abilities in plumbing! Regards, Jaye
Linda - Thanks for your kind comments and the follow. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub and hope these tips will save you money. Regards, Jaye
Linda Robinson from Cicero, New York on October 28, 2015:
Hi Jaye just wanted to say so nice meeting you, and that I really enjoyed and got so much important information and easy to comprehend and so many outstanding tips do-it-yourself repairs before calling the plumber that will save you hundreds. Great hub. Happy to be following you. Linda
peachy from Home Sweet Home on October 25, 2015:
these tips, I gonna bookmark for my hubby, he is the plumber of the house
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on October 24, 2015:
Sam - Sorry I missed your comment, and I hope you got the problem corrected. The amount of vinegar and soda doesn't have to be measured; just dump some in from a home-size bottle and box.
Alekdo - I don't suggest that anyone try DIY plumbing repairs, only remedies using household products that may work but won't harm the plumbing even if they don't. And...if they don't, it's time to call the plumber.
Thanks for reading, all....Jaye
Aleksey Donets from Cherkassy, Ukraine on October 20, 2015:
The hub is really helpful, but I think that if a person lacks experience and knowledge in DIY repairs, it is still better to call the plumber! Don't you think so?
GreenMind Guides from USA on October 10, 2015:
Nicely done -- This is a great hub about a great topic -- I love helpful ideas and suggestions like this one. Thanks and well done!
Sam on October 09, 2015:
Hi Jaye, I have a commercial building. there's 2 bathrooms, men and women but the men bathroom is constantly having the sewerage gas smell. I think its coming from the urinal. I called in the plumber and the guy charged me $50 dollars for advice, which is to pour a bottle of bleach down the urinal. It worked temporary but 2 days later the smell came back again. If i use your method, how much vinegar and baking soda along with bleach should i pour?
Gestor TI on July 20, 2015:
Thanks! Great tip!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on June 18, 2015:
Jana - The heat may worsen the smell, but should not be the cause of it. Your vent to the outside may be stopped up with debris or you may have a dry trap in your plumbing, such as a guest room shower that's not used frequently. Unstopping a vent may not be DIY for everyone, but the dry trap is an easy "fix" using the tips in my article. If that doesn't work, it's time to call the plumber. Good luck...Jaye
jana on June 16, 2015:
Hi i have lived in my house for 2 years and have never had this problem before. Could the temp outside being 110 have anything to do with the sewer smell?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on June 15, 2015:
Thanks for your comment, bnayr. I'm glad your landlord took care of the problem, but now you have some DIY tips for the future. Regards, Jaye
Ryan from Manchester on June 14, 2015:
Thanks for sharing this great guide. I had a recent problem with this, but fortunately my landlord called someone in. At least for the future I'm now well informed. Cheers.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 10, 2015:
Cajun - Thanks for the credit and for using a link that takes the reader (and traffic) back to my HubPages article.
Kevin Hussey from Baton Rouge LA on May 10, 2015:
I have shared your article Jaye - but I have given you full credit.
See our FB page if you'd like to verify. Thx - KH
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 10, 2015:
Thanks, Cajun - And I'm confident you aren't going to do like numerous other plumbing professionals and "borrow" my article for your business blog, are you?
; ) Best wishes with your Baton Rouge business. I'm from the Deep South myself.
I have the utmost respect for plumbers and plumbing contractors, and have spent a small fortune using their services since I bought an older house years ago. However, I managed to avoid it with this situation, save a bit, with good results.
Kevin Hussey from Baton Rouge LA on May 10, 2015:
This was a great article - thanks for taking the time to post!!
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on May 06, 2015:
Hi, Avery - I'm not a plumber or professional contractor--just a homeowner who found a way to rid my bathroom of sewer gas coming through the shower drain. You may be able to get that information for free simply by phoning a plumbing and plumbing equipment business. Good luck!
Avery on May 06, 2015:
I am looking for that low pro-drain for my shower what is the brand name of that one
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on April 24, 2015:
Thanks, Cynthia - "Useful" was the word I hoped would be most used for this hub.
Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on April 23, 2015:
Well-written, useful hub! I will certainly share this broadly! ~Cynthia
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on February 24, 2015:
Thanks, Shyron. I have to "remind" myself to do the same. Blessings and hubs right back to you on this cold and icy Tuesday. Jaye
Shyron E Shenko from Texas on February 23, 2015:
Jaye, thank you for this very useful information. we have two bath rooms that are seldom used and I need to go make sure they have water in the J-Traps.
Thank you for the reminder.
Blessings and Hugs dear friend
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on February 13, 2015:
Thanks for your comment, Scott. I only know what worked for my situation. However, simply running water regularly in a shower used infrequently (such as a guest bathroom) will keep the trap from drying out.
Scott lyons on February 12, 2015:
A shower trap holds about two cups of water. That's all you need to pour into a dry trap. No need for bleach, vinegar or baking soda.
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on December 22, 2014:
Mark - Your vent pipe may be clogged with debris or even a "critter's" nest if the bad smell is recent. If it's an ongoing problem, the vent pipe may be improperly installed.
If it's a clog and you're the DIY type (and can safely gain access to the pipe), you may be able to flush out any clog. Otherwise, you will need to call a plumber for the job. You'll also need a plumber if the pipe is improperly installed.
These are just my opinions, of course. I'm neither a plumber or an expert, but have personally experienced enough plumbing issues living in an older house to both spend a small fortune on plumbers and also learn some simple DIY methods for correcting non-critical problems, such as those described in this article.
Good luck! Jaye
Mark on December 21, 2014:
Our foul sewer smell is coming out of the bathroom area. We dont suspect its the drains, it smells like its coming from the toilet. I dont think its the wax seal because there is no water around the base of the toilet. Someone told me to check the stink pipe...Any advice?
Jaye Denman (author) from Deep South, USA on December 05, 2014:
You're very welcome, Morgan, and I'm glad your landlord finally responded to your request for repair. I hope everything goes well. Thanks for returning with an update. Jaye
Morgan on December 05, 2014:
Thank you so much for your kind reply. The problem finally got bad enough that we were able to insist the landlord do something about it. A plumber is going to come with a camera and check everything. Our township inspector was here, and his guess is that we have a crack in one of our pipes or a clogged vent. Either way, he said the problem has to be addressed.