Mexico Smells Like Sh!t

I just got a whiff of sewer gas, it came in the windows. Normally I don’t smell sewer from my home. But for some reason a few minutes ago I smelled sewer. Thankfully that’s over now. I hope it doesn’t come back. But the stink inspired me to finally write a post I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

Mexico often smells like shit. In Cancun I sometimes smell shit when I’m in the hotel zone, near the posh houses and big hotels. And sometimes you smell it when you are in the nice parts of downtown. And it goes without saying that you smell it when you go to the poorest neighborhoods.

It makes sense that in a 3rd world country there will be problems with the public sewer system. They don’t have the money here to keep the roads properly repaired and they don’t have the money to pick up the garbage that’s strewn around the city, so why should the sewer system work perfectly? It shouldn’t. But actually that’s not why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing because in Mexico it’s common for the inside of people’s houses to smell like shit. This is because it’s very common here for drains to be put in without water traps. A water trap is a device that works by keeping an amount of water between the room and the sewer, so the sewer gas can’t escape. A water trap for a floor drain or a sink costs less than $50 MXP (under $5 USD). There is no reason on earth not to put one in every drain in the house.

And yet I have wealthy friends in Cancun whose answer to having a stinky sewer gas filled bathroom is to keep the door shut. Instead of solving the shit smell problem with a $5 USD part they opt to keep the door shut? Does this make sense? Not to me it doesn’t. I don’t know how people can justify not fixing this, unless they secretly LIKE the smell. Ick!

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13 Responses to “Mexico Smells Like Sh!t”

  1. RiverGirl
    May 27th, 2008 17:03

    I swear when I posted this that I hadn’t seen Mexico Way’s almost simultaneous post on the same subject: MMmmmmm

    Great minds think alike or maybe
    there’s just something in the air right now…

  2. Steve Jones
    May 28th, 2008 05:33

    I hear that! I swear it takes weeks after my return from Cancun to lose that “smell”. I think my nose gets contaminated. I notice the smell when the afternoon rains come and the streets flood (no drainage). It is a unique smell, indeed.

    Steve (getting ready for 15 days in Cancun starting 6/3! Bring on the smells and cool tropical breezes (but no hurricanes, please)

  3. RiverGirl
    May 28th, 2008 10:54

    When my husband was getting his degree in architecture in Mexico City he was taught all about how Cancun had a new type of sewer system and how great it was…well, 20 years later it’s not that great!

    It’s too bad that there’s any smell here ever, in public or in private homes. It’s all preventable. People shouldn’t remember sewer smells when they leave Cancun, that’s not right.

  4. Scott Bulger Photography
    May 28th, 2008 14:23

    Not only does not having a drain trap stink, the fumes can be dangerous.

  5. RiverGirl
    May 28th, 2008 14:36

    Oh and I didn’t even get into the whole COCKROACH thing! Cockroaches mostly live in the sewer here. So if you see one here guess where it came from?

    The only time I ever see roaches near my house is when a neighbor sprays for them and they leave the property to escape.

    There is no excuse here for not having sewer traps!

  6. Lynda
    June 3rd, 2008 13:47

    Are these traps easy to put in? Is it something I could do myself if I have the basic tools and am moderately adept at these things?

  7. RiverGirl
    June 3rd, 2008 14:19

    Lynda – I’m no plumber but I’ve seen this done several times. It’s not hard, but it can be stinky work. The one that’s usually missing is the shower trap. And it would mean making the trap fit just below your drain, so you might have to knock away enough concrete for it to fit in there. And you need a good fit.

    The water traps that go under a sink are those elbow-y shaped ones and you are more likely to have those already (and they are easier to install).

    My hubby can walk you through all of this, he’s good with stinky things. But make sure to get the right size shower trap for your drain.

  8. Malcolm
    June 3rd, 2008 16:41

    You’re awesome.

  9. RiverGirl
    June 3rd, 2008 17:37

    Well Malcolm I wouldn’t go that far, more like I’m a raving bitch who can touch type.

  10. K. C.
    June 20th, 2008 07:35

    It is dangerous, the fumes can hurt you. I think it’s probably methane or a cocktail of that and whatever else. Anyway, it can make you really sick.

    Another good option for people not wanting to tear out their floor is just to buy a rubber drain cover at Wal-Mart or just about any local ferreteria and slap it over your most offending drains, usually the showers.

    This will keep the “smell” out most of the time, unless the barometric pressure changes rapidly, in front or behind a storm, or when there are dropping winds swooping down any other vents you might have.

    Anyhow, you can always just set an old conch shell on the rubber thing if that happens and you have an air leak.

    Also, heat rises and that area is warm.

    When you start your shower, the first cold water that goes down will pull the gas in the pipes down with it, so maybe your shower will be stink free 😀

  11. Jan
    October 22nd, 2008 09:25

    My husband and I just returned from Cancun. As we flew in, I looked at those huge resorts side by side on that narrow peninsula and commented, “Where do you suppose the effluent goes when thousands of tourists flush all those toilets each day? When we smelled and saw the water on the bay side, we feared we had our answer: brown, murky, stinky water. Please tell me the effluent goes to some nice processing facility to protect the environment.

  12. RiverGirl
    October 22nd, 2008 14:08

    Jan – Well I think there is a sewage treatment plant in the Hotel Zone. But I also think that some hotels have their own treatment on site…and some of those may not work properly…

    Yes, the lagoon is stinky…it’s an environmental disaster.

  13. Pablo
    November 10th, 2008 13:20

    I’m afraid the problem is a little more complicated than a simple drain fix. This video takes a while to watch but is extremely informative


    In short, when you go swimming in the ocean up or down the Riviera Maya, you’re literally swimming in shit.

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