Everybody farts. While prowess in volume, frequency or pungency is not likely to make you the most popular member of your friendship group, there’s no point in claiming you never do them. In fact, most people let rip between 10 and 20 times a day, and that’s perfectly normal.
Passing wind might also not be the best topic of conversation to bring up in polite society, but do you sometimes occupy sleepless nights contemplating the mysteries of the dark art of the fart? If so, maybe you’ve occasionally wondered why those done in the shower always seem to be the most evil.
For anyone who has ever spent time pondering this question – as well as for those who have never given it even a moment’s thought – here are 6 (possible) reasons why your farts smell worse in the shower.
1. You’re naked
One of the most obvious reasons for the increased potency of your emissions while performing your daily ablutions is your lack of clothing.
Generally speaking, people tend not to walk around naked most of the time, and the fact that you are wearing underwear and maybe a pair of jeans means that the gas that comes out of your rear end is not released directly into the environment.
Some of the odor molecules will be absorbed by your clothing while others take longer to penetrate your garments, creating a kind of slow-release mechanism, a bit like an aromatherapy diffuser (but somewhat less pleasant).
This may mean the fragrance you have just created lingers since its discharge into the atmosphere is more gradual, but because the whole volume of gas is not let out in one powerful burst, the effect is less intense.
However, in the shower, there is no such barrier, and when you let one go, the whole fart escapes at once, creating a much more concentrated pong. Could this be the answer we’re looking for? It certainly must contribute.
2. You’re in an enclosed space
Coupled with the sudden and unrestrained explosion of noxious gas into the environment that comes with letting rip when you’re naked is the fact that when you close the shower door, you are in an enclosed space.
If you let one go in the great outdoors, the smell will soon dissipate into the air like the ephemeral whiff of an expensive perfume.
If there is a breeze, this will quickly carry away the evidence of your crime, and even if other people are present, they may remain blissfully unaware of your transgression.
However, in the shower, there’s nowhere for the fart to go, and you will find yourself trapped in the cubicle engulfed in a vile miasma of your own creation.
Technically, this doesn’t mean the fart smells worse, it just means you are feeling the full force of what has just escaped from your innards, but this could be another reason you may think it smells worse.
The good news, though, is that nobody else is there to experience it with you (unless you are having a romantic double shower with your significant other, in which case the best policy is probably to hold it in).
However, next time you are in a crowded elevator, you’ll probably want to squeeze your cheeks rather than letting it out – otherwise, you will be unleashing a similar fate on a group of unfortunate people who had no desire to share and who have no means of escape.
3. Hot air rising
What do vultures, hot air balloons and farts in showers all have in common? It’s that they all rely on the principle that hot air rises – and they all use it to hitch a lift.
Vultures soar effortlessly high in the skies without the need to flap their wings because they are floating on thermal currents moving upwards.
When you fill a balloon with hot air, the same effect causes it to float up and drift serenely above the landscape.
And when you fart in the shower, the air, heated by the water falling from your luxurious rain shower head, causes your fart to waft up more quickly than would otherwise be the case, giving you a sudden blast of your own gas right in the nose.
Does this make it smell worse? Possibly not, but combined with the other factors we’ve already mentioned, it could play a part in creating the impression that a fart in a shower is smellier than a fart produced just about anywhere else.
4. Water vapor enhances your sense of smell
Here’s the really interesting one – and also one that’s backed up by some solid science too. Among the most important reasons for the increased putridity of your flatulence when under the shower has to do with the water vapor in the air.
Although scientists didn’t specifically set out to gauge the smell of farts in showers in order to answer our central question, an experiment was conducted to test our sense of smell in varying levels of humidity.
As it turns out, higher humidity enables us to detect odors at much smaller concentrations. Currently, science doesn’t have an answer for why this is the case, but a couple of theories have been posited.
The first is that the water particles in the air help the receptors in your nose react more effectively with the odor molecules that reach them. Dogs have moist noses and are famous for their keen sense of smell, so perhaps something similar happens in humans.
Another idea is that the gas molecules are able to somehow bond with the water vapor, allowing the air to hold more of the smell than it could in drier conditions. This may, in turn, help more of the odor molecules reach our noses.
In any case, for our purposes, the mechanism is perhaps less significant than the effect.
The important point is that humid conditions improve our sense of smell, so a hot and steamy shower is among the most perfect places to appreciate the full bouquet of your fart in all its glory.
If you’re fascinated by this possibility, here’s a video that will tell you more.
5. Heat causes gas to expand
Have you ever wondered why you fart more when you’re soaking in a bathtub? One reason could be that the hot water causes the gas inside you to expand, thus forcing it out.
A similar effect is also seen on airplanes, although for a different reason. Cabin pressure is usually equivalent to that at around 6000-8000ft, significantly lower than the pressure at sea level.
This also causes our internal gases to expand, resulting in what has become known as HAFE – High Altitude Flatus Explosion, an increase in in-flight flatulence (the researchers responsible for this acronym weren’t being entirely serious when they coined the term).
Could it be that the hot water of your shower is having a similar effect? If taking a hot shower causes the gas in your intestines to expand, could it result in a higher volume of fart being expelled? And could this higher volume lead to a perception of increased smelliness?
Or for you, does the increased volume lead to more noise rather than worse smells? That might also be the real reason they invented waterproof shower speakers…
Admittedly the science behind this one is one is tenuous at best, but it could also be part of the story.
6. Not the shower’s fault at all
Another possibility is that it’s nothing to do with the shower at all – instead, it might just come down to what you’ve been eating.
Why do farts smell the way they do? Why do they smell so bad some days while others they are practically odorless?
Why is it that sometimes we can get away with letting one go in the office with nobody noticing but on others, what comes out of our backside could almost be bottled up and used for chemical warfare?
Fart smells come from what we eat and drink being broken down in our gut. For example, if you consume lots of carbohydrates – so potatoes, bread and so on – the bacteria in your gut will break them down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. No problem.
If you eat lots of cabbage, on the other hand, this is likely to produce more hydrogen sulfide – and if you let this gas out in company, you are likely to lose friends fast as this is what causes the infamous rotten egg smell.
So being in the shower isn’t the only reason your farts might be overpowering, it’s about your diet, too.
However, as we have seen, being in the shower enhances the effect, so letting one go in the shower the morning after a big night out is probably not going to be the best way for you to start the day.
It might not always be an appropriate topic of conversation, but farts in showers might be something that’s been occupying your thoughts from time to time. If so, we hope we’ve helped you find all the answers you’ve been looking for!