Asked on Mar 15, 2015

Natural stone shower stall smells like rotten eggs

by Tom
We put in this travertine shower stall 6 years ago. About 6 months ago a rotten egg smell developed. It is not the drain trap. The odor starts about the time we end our showers - after about 8-10 minutes. I believe it starts just as water is starting to evaporate. I looked on the 'net for similar problems and I came across a contractor on some website that described an identical odor and said that he discovered that it was something in the grout.
The shower got sealed and sealed and sealed some more before we started using it six years ago. I'm starting to believe that the sealer is gone and that yes something in the grout is causing this. When we come home from work and the shower is dry the odor is not there. And doesn't come back until 8-10 minutes into our showers.
Anyone have a similar experience?
  31 answers
  • Holly Hodgkins Holly Hodgkins on Mar 15, 2015
    It sounds like your smelling sulfur , I may be in your water . Perhaps the stone has something to do with it as well . You should call someone about having your water tested . Perhaps too , a mold has developed under the grout which would be really unhealthy . I think both should be checked but that's just my opinion .
  • T.hatfield T.hatfield on Mar 15, 2015
    Sounds like sulfer in the water to me too. May be disipating in the hot water tank and as the shower runs and fresh water runs into the tank you can smell the sulfer..... try shorter showers😀
  • @Tom .......It could be the sulfur in the water ...; but my boyfriend said it is not the grout. .I asked my boyfriend, he does tile and also has installed showers, showers pans, all that. He stated that it could also possibly be a leak running down behind the tile, and getting into the shower pan ,where its collecting ...and then more and more water will get into the shower pan and then the smell will come up, due to it being stagnant water, underneath the tile.. SO, when its ' dried' , the smell will go away. He also stated it could be this ..: Sounds like the" weep holes" around the drain flange are clogged or have some kind of issue where its not letting the water drain out of the pan. I hope this helps, he said if the drain isnt installed properly to start with, it will create this problem .
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    • @Tom ....I will check with him, I do know he knows of products that will clean your traverine, its made especially for of them is called " Revitalizer" , and the sealer is called ' Bullet -Proof...these products are from Stone Tech. These products are for professionals , but come with directions for use. I hope this helps .
  • Tom Tom on Mar 15, 2015
    Thanks for all the replies. I'll check with the County about the water but we have an excellent water system. It's about the best thing the County does for us.
    • See 3 previous
    • Linda 4 Real Linda 4 Real on Mar 17, 2015
      Sorry for over comments....we also don't know if the shower pan (floor under tile) was done correctly
  • Megan Lillich Megan Lillich on Mar 16, 2015
    Grout needs to be revealed ever 5 or so years. The sealant wares off over time
  • Arthur English Arthur English on Mar 16, 2015
    You might check you hot water heater as well. Sure sounds like the water to me.
  • Trudy Chuoke-LeSage Trudy Chuoke-LeSage on Mar 16, 2015
    It's the anoid rod in the water heater
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    • Linda 4 Real Linda 4 Real on Mar 17, 2015
      @tom @shelbybella. On sale for $30 is a multifunction occilating tool. You will need the grout bit separate but it is so easy to use and that tool pays for its self. I bought one recently and have used it with my current bath remodel for so many it. Great tool to have. You would be shocked at the things we have seen. My moms bathroom was just remodeled and when the vanity was removed there was nothing but dirt. OMG no subfloor or concrete. Shelby ask your boyfriend if he has ever seen that. A first for me
  • Diane Wickham Diane Wickham on Mar 16, 2015
    It may be sewer gas! You can try putting a cup of Clorox to a gallon of water down the drain. Let it alone for a couple hours before running shower.
  • Lana Smith Lemons Lana Smith Lemons on Mar 16, 2015
    I agree with Diane! It sounds more like sewer gas. We are in the plumbing business and that is the first thing to check. If the bleach doesn't help try locating a good plumber and let them find the problem. Try America Leak Detection if you have one close!
    • See 1 previous
    • Denise Kramme Denise Kramme on Mar 17, 2015
      @Tom Is it possible that all your drains aren't vented the same way? We have one shower that has a mild odor like this, exactly what you describe, but it's not anywhere else in the house. Our shower is a built in stall, no tile or grout. I keep thinking maybe the drain for this shower has a venting issue.
  • Irene Irene on Mar 16, 2015
    Well, clean the grout well. Then resell. If it's the grout the smell should gone.
  • Irene Irene on Mar 16, 2015
    That should be reseal not resell!
  • Jacquie van der bijl Jacquie van der bijl on Mar 16, 2015
    Try cleaning it with a paste made of baking soda and vinegar. It will fizz up but will stop. Put on and leave for a few hours or overnight. Wash down with water. Good luck
    • Ricardo Martinez Ramos Ricardo Martinez Ramos on Mar 17, 2015
      Hi. Mixing soda (sodium bicarbonate) with vinegar is a waste of time. One is an alkali the other an acid. Mixing then only causes a chemical reaction that delivers water, co2 and sodium. You might as well just use a paste of salt with a little water instead and rub it on to the grout. Besides, vinegar may damage travertine stone, stain it or discolour it. I would probably try bleach but eventually replacing the grout sounds like the only option. I would speak to the people who fitted it. They're likely to have encountered this problem before.
  • Pete Wells Pete Wells on Mar 16, 2015
    Trudy is right, it's the anode rod in your water heater...NOT sewer gas, which does not smell like sulfur...try running only the cold water the length of time it takes for the odor to develop, if no odor develops, you have your answer!
    • Tom Tom on Mar 17, 2015
      @Pete Wells Thank you. That is something that has some possibilities.
  • Vel Morrison Orsborn Vel Morrison Orsborn on Mar 16, 2015
    Had the same problem at our church (sounds like anyway). We found that the temp wasn't high enough to keep bacteria from growing in the warm water. We turned up the temp and it solved the problem. It wasn't instant, enough water had to pass to wash smell out. Saved buying 2 water heaters
  • Vel Morrison Orsborn Vel Morrison Orsborn on Mar 16, 2015
    And clean and reseal grout. Needs to be done every 2 or 3 years
  • Janet Groskreutz Janet Groskreutz on Mar 16, 2015
    We had that problem in our basement bathroom. Turns out we just needed to keep water in the drain. When it was dry, the sewer/rotten egg smell, would be there. Keeping water in the drain totally eliminated the odor.
  • Lana Smith Lemons Lana Smith Lemons on Mar 16, 2015
    Yes I did read all of your post, hoever as much as we have seen we have never come across a type of tile or sealer that was causing the problem..But good luck and hope you find the problem!
    • Tom Tom on Mar 17, 2015
      @Lana Smith Lemons I'm almost 99.9% sure it's not the trap.Among other things, I've tried and considered, I've even plugged up the drain 7 minutes into my shower, before it starts to smell, and the odor still came on a few minutes later.
  • LaQuita Logan LaQuita Logan on Mar 16, 2015
    I had that problem with my outside washer. I was told to run hot water, but eventually, the anode rod had to be replaced in the water heater. I think I was told to run hot water, I see another poster said cold water, well. It's either one or the other.
  • Janet Brandon Janet Brandon on Mar 16, 2015
    Water with too much sulphur also smells like rotten eggs.
    • Tom Tom on Mar 17, 2015
      @Janet Brandon I know this is confounding to most of us and I'm sure there's a reason but we have real good water here. A good friend of mine who is a wastewater engineer (he designs municipal treatment systems around the southeast) says it's highly unlikely the sulfur content in our water is high. A rhetorical question here: why is it that this odor only occurs in this shower whereas we have two other showers plus three sinks that regularly draw hot water and no odor whatsoever and we've been in this house for 23 years and my water heater is only four years old.
  • Shirley Shirley on Mar 16, 2015
    I agree with Arthur and Trudy, sounds like the hot water. Check with your hardware store and/or plumber and see if they can give you some advise. I have had same problem with hot water due to well water. Good luck
  • Diane Basile Diane Basile on Mar 16, 2015
    We have a similar smell in the bathroom at work. It only begins when the Town changes over from Well water to Reservoir water, twice a year.
  • Carol Tomlin Carol Tomlin on Mar 18, 2015
    I have the sulfur smell in only one of my bathrooms for 17 years, now. It is not used as frequently as the others. Now that I have a brand new hot water heater, I'll have to see if I still have the problem.
  • Tom Tom on Mar 18, 2015
    Thank you to everyone who has tried to help. I'll report back later with an update. :-)
  • Janice Victoria Hart Janice Victoria Hart on Mar 18, 2015
    Does the water heater sevice all your showers and sinks or are they individually heated?
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    • Janice Victoria Hart Janice Victoria Hart on Mar 19, 2015
      @Tom Have you tried running the water cold to rule out the anode rod. As you only have the one heater and that it is only one shower smelling then it has got to be something in that particular bathroom
  • Janie Janie on Mar 19, 2015
    Tom, have you carefully checked for any cracks or loose grout? Hairline cracks are extremely difficult to find. They contract and expand. When the shower tiles and grout heat up during the shower the crack would expand and perhaps the area behind it is rotting. Or possibly is the smell from sewer odor? Shower and toilet have each their own lines?
  • Tom Tom on Apr 21, 2015
    Update: I found this website with a post about a similar problem as mine:
  • Jennifer Plona Mayotte Jennifer Plona Mayotte on Jun 29, 2020

    Tom, I see that this post is from five years ago, but I sure hope you still check this forum. We have the same issue in our tiled shower. THREE plumbers have looked at the shower, and we still don't have a solution. I know it isn't the water or the hot water heater because I can shower in the other bathroom and the smell never occurs. Plumber said it isn't sewer gas because our trap looks good and you can always see water in the trap. As with your issue, the smell ONLY occurs when the water has been running for about 8 minutes. We just bought the house and it looks like the previous owner tiles over tile and the grout isn't the best, but I SWEAR the smell is coming from the drain. Any updates? This is driving us crazy!

    • See 1 previous
    • Jennifer Plona Mayotte Jennifer Plona Mayotte on Jul 15, 2020

      Nikki, We have not figured it out entirely. After reading about bacteria on liquid latex and bacteria that could get behind cracks in grout, we tried pouring bleach and water down the drain and in the entire floor of the shower stall after a shower. I know it isn’t good for the grout, but we have to regroup anyway, I wanted to see if this was the problem first. It worked, but only for 2 days. Next I tried the bleach just down the drain and that worked, again just for a few showers. So frustrating! The three plumbers that assessed the situation for us couldn’t figure out why the smell only starts after 7 minutes of running water. Everything they said usually causes that smell would still have a smell even when things are dry. We just bought the house in January and are thinking we need to rip out the entire tile shower and start from scratch.

  • Pauli Pauli on Aug 15, 2020

    Hello Tom,

    Did you find out with certainty and solve the smell issue at your travertine shower?


  • Eliseg Eliseg on Sep 27, 2020

    Did you find the problem? It is definitely something with the shower floor. I too have small tiles in the shower. Need to get it fixed, can't handle the smell any longer. Makes the whole house smell after we shower

  • Tim Tim on Oct 14, 2020

    Hi guys. We have this problem. We have a travertine floor and walls in our small wet room. The shower is rarely used but when it is, the smell appears for a few hours as it dries. I'd describe the smell as pungent but aromatic, like a very strong herb. I'm 99% certain it is not the drain as the smell is no stronger when my nose is 2cm from the drain! And the smell is not like a sewer. My theory is that the smell comes from bacteria or mould sitting it the porous top part of the travertine. The tiles have not been re-sealed for a few years. My plan to fix it is to loosen the stuff in the tavertine by keeping the surface damp for a few days, then use a pressure spayer to blast it away, then apply something to kill the bacteria/ fungus/etc, let that dry then apply sealant. I'll let you know how it goes!

  • Tim Tim on Nov 30, 2020

    Okay. Just to follow up on this...

    I started my plan of dampening the tiles every day for 5 days. I did this by running hot water from the shower for 10 mins all over the travertine walls and floor. On the first day the smell came back as the water dried. On the second day it did the same but less strong. By the 4th day there was no more smell. So I didn't get as far as pressure spraying it or re-sealing it.

    My current theory is that the smell came from a combination of strong smelling shampoo/soap my guests had used and water that dries slowly in the Travertine tiles. The tiles are not porous but they are pitted so some water sits in them close to the surface. This water can become stagnant before drying. The rinsing I was doing ensures that any dirty water and shampoo from people using the shower is fully removed.

    If anything else happens I'll post it here.