How to Prevent and Remove Bathtub Drain Odor

An old, worn bathtub drain.
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-20
What You'll Need
Hot water
Baking soda
Distilled vinegar
Mouth mask
Dry towels
Professional grade products

Taking a bath can be a relaxing pastime, but what happens when there is a bathtub drain odor? You cannot relax if you start to smell something foul. That's because it is not uncommon for a bathtub to form an ugly and smelly buildup of soaps, shampoo, and hair due to daily use. Sometimes, these items gather and form a puddle of gunk that sticks to the pipes and the drain, causing an unsightly odor if not removed. Usually, it either smells like strong sulfur, rotten eggs or even a nasty mildew.

Keeping it Clean

Nonetheless, by keeping the bathtub drain and its pipes clean, whether it’s with a few items found in your kitchen pantry or purchased at a home improvement store, you can keep the odors under control. Be sure you find out what kinds of pipes you have before applying any form of chemical or even simple kitchen products. Certain pipes, like copper or plastic, cannot handle harsh chemicals.

Here are a few easy methods to help you keep the bathtub drain from smelling like yesterday’s egg salad sandwich or wet laundry.

Step 1 - Start With Baking Soda, Vinegar, and Hot Water

Place about two cups of cold water in a deep pot on the stove and let it come to a boil. In the meantime, unscrew the bathtub drain cover, or simply unscrew the stopper if that is the type you have, and pour one cup of dry baking soda down the drain, waiting about one minute.

Proceed by adding two cups of distilled vinegar, having a rag handy to stop the fizz from coming up. There will be a chemical reaction between the baking soda and the vinegar that will cause the solution to fizz and bubble. It is not harmful, but do not breathe in the fumes. Wear a mouth mask if you have one, or place a towel over your mouth. Put the dry rag or cloth over the bathtub drain to cover the hole, and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

baking soda and vinegar with sponges, lemon and lime

Take the pot of boiling water from the stove top, handling it carefully with an oven mitt. Remove the rag and then slowly pour the pot of hot water down the bathtub drain. Be careful not to scald yourself when pouring the boiling water. Use the dry towels to soak up any excess water or solution that may have spilled during the process. You might have to repeat these steps depending on how strong the odor is. If your odor is still there the next day, or even a few hours later, try repeating this step once more.

Step 2 - Try a Bleach Option

If this method doesn’t work or appeal to you, try using one cup of straight bleach by pouring it down the drain instead. You might also even consider a scented bleach if the smell of the bleach itself is just as undesirable.

Step 3 - Resort to Professional Products

If all else fails, home improvement stores sell specific drain cleaners with enzymes to fight through hair, soap scum, and other types of drain buildup. Be sure to open windows and have kids and pets out of the area before using any chemicals. Also, protect your own hands and face from chemical odors before applying.