I rent in a highrise apartment building. It can take upward of a year when asking the landlord to check for obstructions in the ventilation and/or clean the conduit, e.g., as might be prompted by lots of condensation after showering, leading to mold.

I have a sewagy smell in the bathroom, especiallly pronounced when I've kept the bathroom door closed. I fear that it might be the bathtub P-trap, as the sink P-trap was recently cleared of obstruction (after years of slow drainage -- I usually try to find work arounds for as long as possible before imposing on the landlord for servicing). Perhaps there is a leak in the bathtub P-trap, or there is a strand of something that wicks water out. I did not imagine that it would be trivial to pull up the bathtub to inspect this, and shining a flashlight down reveals that the drain pipe immediately dekes horizontally. If online images are any indication, it likely meets a vertical pipe for the overflow, and then curls into a P-trap.

Since I anticipate much resistance and delay to a nontrivial request to check the bathtub P-trap, I considered renting a drainage camera to look myself. They're quite expensive, with limited options in my city. Two offerings I found were for $220 and $150 per day. I also found that a hardware chain with continental presence (Canadian Tire) sells a cheap camera for $300 ("MAXIMUM Inspection Camera"). So I might just buy one at twice the cost of renting, which gives me the freedom to re-inspect if necessary.

Can such cameras typically see whether the P-trap is water filled, or is there an large uncertainty in their effectiveness? I don't want to blow $300 on a course of action for which there is (say) 50% chance of being able to see the water with some degree of certainty. I found a youtube video alluding to seeing reflection off the water in a P-trap, but frankly, I couldn't make anything out of it. If it takes a highly experienced eye to recognize such a reflection, or otherwise discern whether sufficient water is present, then that reduces the chances of effectiveness of this "solution" for me.

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    if the bathtub P-trap becomes dry, then you will hear the sound of toilets flushing from the drain, because there is no water to block the sound .... is that what you observe? ..... otherwise, plug the tub drain and partially fill the tub with water and tape the overflow shut, then see if the smell still occurs .... do the same with the sink – jsotola May 21 '18 at 20:37
  • @jsotola exactly what I was going to suggest but OP may have heart set on getting a camera rather than just diagnosing the cause of the smell. – Kris May 21 '18 at 20:59
  • @Jsotola: Thanks. That's valuable information. – user2153235 May 21 '18 at 21:38
  • @Kris: You ascribed a lot of intent to my question, though it has no basis in the post itself. I'm at a loss as to why. – user2153235 May 21 '18 at 21:56
  • @user2153235 because I would really like to have one of them cameras too. There is a running joke about DIY folks loving the latest tools of the trade. And in my case having a spouse who makes good natured fun of my tool purchases . It was a n attempt at humor. – Kris May 21 '18 at 22:19

Yes, they should get you the answer you seek. It should be plainly apparent whether there's water standing or not.

You can buy cameras that do what you need for much less. Note that there is variety in the type and rigidity of the cables, so read carefully.

  • Thanks. I did a search for "plumbing camera" (without quotes) on the amazon.ca site. That's an order of magnitude less pricey than simply googling the same term along with my home town. This is going to be an adventure. I'm really curious as to how the video will word with the PC, whether it's live video, etc. – user2153235 May 21 '18 at 20:42
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    You have surprising little faith in what's fairly simple tech these days for someone who uses "order of magnitude" in casual writing. :P Good luck. – isherwood May 21 '18 at 21:08
  • It's only simple if you work in this area. To me, plumbing is mostly new, and using electronics for it is completely high tech. As for "order of magnitude", it is casual writing for me. I guess I didn't adopt a filtered approach to composition because the Stack Exchange of today is like the Usenet of yesterdecade, and I assumed that the crowd would somewhat technical leanings. What did you mean by having little faith? – user2153235 May 21 '18 at 21:46
  • BTW, things can get pretty gross down in the drain. What's normal practice for cleaning a snake? Buy bottles of rubbing alcohol, fill a pail, and immerse the snake and camera? Wondering if that can be added to the answer for other plumbing newbies. – user2153235 May 21 '18 at 21:48
  • The usual procedure is to hold a rag around the snake while retracting it, wiping any sludge off. – Matthew Gauthier May 22 '18 at 1:18

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