Toilet is Clean but it Stinks

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Toilet stinks sometimes!

Aug 2014

Thank goodness this is an anonymous forum! My toilet stinks some of the time (and I'm not talking about after someone poops). My husband doesn't seem to notice the smell, but I do and don't like it. Luckily, the smell is only noticeable in the toilet area. The toilet is cleaned weekly (alternatively by me and cleaners). When I clean I wash both the inside (with Bon Ami) and outside (with 7th generation All Purpose cleaner), and sometimes the floor around it too. The bowl generally looks clean but the inside rim seems to have poop stains. The stains are only noticeable when crouching down and looking inside the bowl. I work hard to scrub that area with the toilet brush, but don't seem to be making progress. I'd rather not use a scrub brush without a handle since there might be back spray, and I don't want that in my face! I know that I could try to clean it more frequently, but with two small children it just seems unlikely. Any ideas as to how can I get that inside rim cleaned? Any other suggestions? Thanks! senstive nose seeking fresh scent

We just went through this and it turned out there was sewer gas leaking from the wax seal under the toilet. It can also happen if the water level is too low. Get it looked at soon as it's not great to be breathing in all the time. Here's an article: Best wishes! Kate

You should consider the possibility that there is a small leak in the wax seal between the toilet and the floor underneath it, and what you are really smelling is the result of the leak. The wide base of the toilet covers this was seal, which is only about 6 or 8'' wide, so these small leaks can remain completely hidden for a long time. Alas, the only good way to check is to have the plumber (or a handy friend) come in and lift the toilet and replace the seal. Might be an opportunity to have your toilet replaced with a low- or lower-flow one, or one that flushes better. Good luck! Old House Mom

It sounds like you might have a leak in your toilet that is causing soiled water to leak out and sit somewhere inside the porcelain casing, which will really stink. Might be time for a new toilet. hyper sensitive nose too

Chances are the wax seal under your toilet is gone, washed away by years of use. Call a plumber to re-set your toilet. Careful Property Owner

Our toilet smells like a porta-potty

Sept 2013

Somehow, our toilet recently began smelling like a porta-potty and is getting worse. I don't think it is a cleanliness issue - we're quite regular in our cleanings of it, and despite a 'fresh' smell of cleaner, you can still smell the odor of rankness coming through. To put it mildly. We're wondering maybe if there is a plumbing problem... but before I call and pay for one to come to the house, I wanted to know if there might be some other simple explanation that we could manage on our own. Advice? Suggestions? Recommendations? We'll take them all. Plugged Nose

I think that warrants calling the plumber. We had that happen one time, and it turned out that the toilet needed a new wax gasket. Good luck!

I know how to fix this! Our new (2 year old) toilet was REEKING over the past 6 months or so (we have an 8 year old son who ''misses'' and hits the back of the seat/hinge area sometimes.) You need to DISASSEMBLE & clean the seat. The screws usually have plastic caps that pop off with a flat screwdriver wedged under them. Then unscrew the bolt (you may have to hold the nut under the porcelain while unscrewing the bolt from the top). Take off the seat and thoroughly clean the whole thing, especially in the back where it's hinged, (I did ours in the bathtub) with an old toothbrush and some Comet or other cleanser. Also clean the bolts, any other washers or parts, and the holes in the porcelain on the toilet. Dry, reassemble, and the smell should be gone!

I just experienced a similar issue. It could be the 'P' trap, (could be clogged or broken), or something clogging the main sewer line. In my situation, it was a combo of the two.Roots clogged the old pipe, and the P trap was beyond old and needed to be replaced. The new P trap, was $50.00, and the pipe cleaning was $175.00. No longer smells

check that nothing is blocking your plumbing vent for that toilet. this vent is a 2'' vertical pipe near your toilet... likely protrudes through roof oren

The water in the toilet bowl is there as a barrier between the drain odors and the air of the room, so if the toilet is not visibly cracked and leaking it is possible that the seal between the toilet and the drain has failed and the floor beneath the toilet is wet and causing the smell. it is also possible that there is a break in the drain pipe below the toilet and the smell is coming up from underneath the house. Yes - call a plumber or if you are a DIY-er pull the toilet out to investigate and do it soon since a major flooring repair could be necessary if you let this mystery go unsolved. Jim

Dear Nose, Your toilet - most any toilet in the US - is sealed to a waste line by a wax ring. Most likely, over time, that wax ring has been worn away by passing water, cleaning products, etc. Unless you've successfully replaced this simple wax ring before, it's easier to get a plumber to do it. Easy Peasy! Careful Property Owner

I have two little boys and have had this problem. Here's what I did: 1. Cleaned really well in the crevice between the tank and back of the bowl. This requires a very thin rag shimmied into the crack. Errant pee drops go in here to die. 2. Rolled up an old washcloth to put on the back of the toilet behind the hinges to catch spray. This also prevents drops from dripping down the bolt holes that hold the seat on the toilet. Stuff drips down here and dries on the underside where you are unlikely to see or clean it. 3. Cleaned really well where the toilet meets the floor. When it was dry, I caulked it well, preventing drips from sliding into that space. This solved my problem. Good luck! Stinky No More

This happened one or two times at our circa 1910 house back in the early days of our ownership in the 1990s. Each time it was because roots had invaded the outside sewer pipe and blocked the line. The gases get trapped and come back up the pipe, hence the smell. The first time we had a roto-rooter type company just root out the line, and it worked for a while. The second time, they found the original clay sewer pipe had cracked/broken, and the whole thing had to be replaced. However, our homeowner's insurance covered the replacement since it was due to tree roots. Not sure if they still cover that today. In any case, you can try snaking out the line, but the blockage could be way across your yard (ours was) and the snake might not reach it. Might be easiest to have one of the rooter companies come in and do a diagnosis. Stinky no more

Perpetually Smelly Potty

Sept 2011

As water-conscious Californians, our household rule regarding potty use has always been ''if it's yellow, let it mellow''. That's worked just fine (in terms of a lack of smell) for the previous 2 places where we've lived. But now we have a situation where one of our potties stinks ALL the time. (The other one in the house is just fine in the smell department.) Short of reverting to flushing with every use, or scrubbing it every few days, what can we do? I do sprinkle borax powder (when I remember!) and that helps somewhat, but not even close to 100% of smell removal. Has anyone else ever encountered this before? What worked for you? Hoping to Smell Less

We had the same prolonged awful stinky problem with our toilet and it stemmed from leaving yellow over time. Do you have a low-flow toilet? What was happening in our case is that the bacteria from the urine was starting to create a stinky mold in the inner-under part of the toilet. Our toilet has a rim around the entire top where water flows down to flush. There is a lip that can't be reached by a normal toilet brush, but it is exposed to air. I tried everything, even spraying in the rim and leaving bleach in the bowl which I try not to use. So, it got so bad that I put my gloves on grabbed a toothbrush and really got up in the rim. I pulled out chunks of moldy black stuff. It was completely disgusting, BUT now it's fine and I just do regular maintenance cleaning

Do you have some males using this potty, by any chance? The hinge area where the seat attaches to the bowl is notorious for trapping wayward urine - and stinking up the place. Try removing the seat and see if there is tons of yellow crud in there. Clean that well and see if that helps. If it's an ongoing problem, consider getting one of the quick-release seats now available - it's helped at our house! R.K.

We had a stinky toilet one time in an old house we rented and it turned out the smell was sewer gas coming up from the sewer line because of a floor drain in the basement that had dried out. The water that sits in drains and traps under the sink and toilet prevent sewer gas from coming back in, so if there's no water, you get the stink. A plumber came out and just poured a bucket of water down the drain in the basement and that solved the problem. Does your toilet smell like an outhouse? If so, sewer gas fumes could be your problem. Google 'sewer gas' and you'll learn a lot about it! G.

Our perpetually smelly potty was due to my son peeing all over the place as he was learning to use the ''big potty''. Despite cleaning the floor tiles around the toilet, the men's urinal smell did not ever go away. I guess the pee was absorbed by the grout... Anyway I bought a steam cleaner and really gave the tiles a good scrub and steam. The smell disappeared. My son now has better aim. The stink has gone! Good luck. steam it

It could be that you have a very slow small leak. I have reseated a toilet, it's not that hard. Just go out and buy a new wax seal, flush first and turn the water off at the wall right after it goes down and before it fills back up again, and bail out the extra water. Undo the bolts that hold the toilet down (the big ones on either side) unscrew the water hoses, remove any old sealant where it meets the floor, lift the toilet off (might need 2 people, it can be stuck hard and toilets are heavy) place it on an old piece of cardboard next to the old spot while you clean up the old wax seal, put down the fresh one following directions on the package, place the toilet back down on it, tighten the bolts, and turn your water back on and you should be good to go. Hope this helps. Bonnie

I had this problem once, and being the mother of 2 boys, finally discovered that the urine smell seeped through the vinyl floor/toilet seam. Really gross. No amount of cleaning did any good. It went away when we replaced the vinyl. Deb