Why Does My Bathroom Smell?

Is there a rotten egg smell coming from your bathroom? I bet it has happened to you at least once! That is the room from where this lousy odour comes from and affects the whole house’s atmosphere. Even if you have a bathroom extractor fan, have cleaned the entire bathroom and have cleaned the toilet, it could keep smelling terrible; and unfortunately, the rest of your house may have the same foul odour that no air freshener can cover.   

Plumber at work in a bathroom.

Have you ever wondered why this might be happening? Why does your bathroom have that musty smell? The only certain fact is that whenever a bathroom smells is a problem sign. 

It might be something very simple that you can fix all by yourself with materials you’ve already got on hand. But, there might be a more serious problem that only a plumber can tackle. Here are some of the common causes of why a bathroom might smell. 

Why does my bathroom smell?

Portrait of woman cleaning toilet with brush.

Problems in the pipings

If you have a bathroom you don’t use very often, then water in the pipes dries out, allowing gases to escape into the bathroom and as a result into the rest of your house. The next thing you should check involving the piping is the hair build-up, or other debris stuck inside the drains, clogging them and creating a breeding ground for bacteria and germs to grow. This environment feeds the bacteria emitting a foul smell. What’s more, bathroom water traps have vents that allow air to pass into the system, ensuring the traps’ proper function. When the ducts are blocked, the p-traps empty and emit a sewage smell.

Toilet bowl

A common reason for bathroom odour is problems with the toilet bowl. It might be cracked, so sewer gases and liquid find a way out, creating this nasty and smelly atmosphere in the bathroom.  

Also, if the seal in the caulk or the wax ring around the toilet is broken, then urine and water come out through the crack resulting in the growth of bacteria, causing a musty smell. 

A roof vent blocked

In some cases, the problem might not come from the bathroom itself. If there’s a roof vent, you better check if something is blocking it like a bird’s nest, leaves or snow. A blocked roof vent prevents fresh air from passing through the plumbing system, and thus, the sewage system doesn’t function properly.

Problem with the vent pipe

Another source of bad odour might be the vent pipes. A mistake in the installation, a cut or a crack may lead to the emission of sewer smell throughout the entire house. However, it might be a bit hard for you to discover which vent pipe has the problem. A plumber though can track down where the problem is much easier. 

Water smell 

You couldn’t see that coming, right? In some cases, water is the main reason for that nasty,  sulfur smell due to the hydrogen sulfide it consists of. And it could be the most dangerous of all. Even if stink isn’t permanent, but instead comes and goes, it’s still something that needs further testing in a lab. Any of these can cause the sewer smell to cover the entire house and not only your bathroom.

How to remove the bad smell?

The first thing you should do is to identify the problem. Once you’ve found the root of the bad smell, then things are much easier. There’s a great chance to tackle the problem on your own, with the materials and tools you have in your possession. Or you can choose to call the plumber to deal with it. Before you ask for help from a professional, though, give it a try with some DIY methods. They might work out and save you tons of money.

DIY methods to eliminate sewer smell 

1. Water the P-trap

If the problem comes from a dry P-trap in the sink drain or the shower drain, the solution is easy. Just: 

  1. Turn on the faucet on the bathroom sink and the shower.
  2.  Let the water run for a few minutes.

That’s how long it takes for the p-trap to refill.

2. Unclog the pipes

If pipes in the washbasin or the shower drain are clogged, then take vinegar and baking soda to clean them out. It’s important to unblock your bathroom’s sink the minute you notice the problem, and never leave it for later. The same applies to the shower drain: unblock your shower drain as soon as possible.

Hand of Plumber holding joints and connections of sink in a bathroom, clearing a clogged sink.

What you’ll need:

  • A screwdriver
  • A bottle brush, a drain brush or a toothbrush
  • Hot water
  • A cup of vinegar
  • ½ cup of baking soda

Steps to follow:

  1. If you don’t have a push-dull drain, remove the shower drain with a screwdriver.
  2. Boil water, let it cool until it reaches 150 degrees F ( 65o C) and starts by pouring a small amount of water into the drain. Next, pour the vinegar and right after the baking soda.
  3. Let the mixture work for 2 hours and then pour water into the drain.
  4. Remove any leftovers with the brush.

Note: Be careful with the boiled water. It has to be up to 150 degrees F. Otherwise, it can damage the piping, especially if you have PVC piping.

3. Clean the toilet tank

A foul smell, mainly a urine one, can come from the toilet tank, especially if you neglect to clean it as often as you should. Fixing it is an easy process, though. 

A closeup to a toilet tank and rubber gloves.

Here is what you’ll need:

  •  ½ cup of white vinegar
  • Rubber gloves
  • A scrub brush

Once you’ve got everything you need, do as follows:

  1. Put on the rubber gloves.
  2. Pour the half cup of vinegar into the tank.
  3. Rub the sides inside the tank with the brush.
  4. Flash the toilet.

If it’s necessary, repeat the same procedure. 

4. Remove mould

One of the commonest causes of bad smell is the mould that builds up in bathrooms due to high humidity levels and bad ventilation. Thus, to get rid of mould, you’re going to need:

  • 2 tablespoons of Borax
  • ¼ cup of white vinegar
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • Rubber gloves
  • A scrub brush or a toothbrush
  • A towel

Then, follow the steps below:

  1. Put on the rubber gloves.
  2. Mix Borax, white vinegar and warm water together.
  3. Pour the solution (or you can spray it as well) onto the area covered with mould.
  4. Rub mould with the brush. 
  5. Use a towel to dry the spot. 

Kill those bacteria in the water heater

There’s also a chance to notice a strange odour when you use hot water. If you do so, then there’s probably something wrong with your water heater. 

If you have turned off your heater for an extended period or if the temperature is too low, then bacteria colonies should have grown up inside. That’s why your house smells like a rotten egg. This one is an easy fix too, though, and you don’t have to address it to professionals. 

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Increase the heater’s temperature for about 24 hours. 
  2. Run the water taps to wash out bacteria.

Note: You should be really careful while using hot water as you might get burnt. 

Tips on Keeping your bathroom smell good

  1. Always clean the toilet bowl inside and out.
  2. Clean the drains and remove anything that may cause a blockage.
  3. Look out for mould signs and clean them every time you notice some. 
  4. Keep the toilet lid closed before flashing. This will keep any foul odours out of the bathroom air. 
  5. Take out the trash every day. Waste can affect the foul smell.
  6. Don’t keep damp towels in your bathroom. Dry them first before you put them back.
  7. Stop using air fresheners as they just cover the smell. Opt for products indicated odour eliminator, which eliminates νeutralise stench, like bathroom extractor fans.
  8. Keep a cleaning routine for your bathroom. To keep it at bay, disinfect the toilet and the bathroom sink at least once a week and your bathtub every couple of weeks, depending on the frequency you take a shower.
  9. Don’t neglect to clean the shower glass and curtain once a week to prevent mildew. 

Extra Tip: Use essential oils when cleaning your sink and toilet bowl. They will provide a pleasant and fresh odour to your bathroom. Use oregano, thyme or lavender oils which smell nice and also have antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

How can I understand that it’s time to call the plumber?

Plumber with tool belt standing in bathroom.

If you tried the above methods and the smell insists, then the plumbing problem is more severe and it’s time to call a plumber. Professionals will inspect your bathroom and will be able to recommend the most suitable repairing process or a sewer line replacement.

There are plenty of plumbing issues causing bathroom odours. Most of the time, they have easy fixes and homeowners can just grab a plunger and tackle the problem with the drain pipes or sewer odours. However, if you keep smelling sewage gases, then it’s time to call plumbing services.

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