Why does my toilet smell (and how do I fix it) (2023)

You open the bathroom door and you smell something coming from the toilet. Ew, what's that? You guess why your toilet stinks and mentally prepare to find a gift in the bowl.

There is nothing in the bowl but toilet water.

You're sure the smell is coming from the toilet, so you investigate. Why does my toilet smell?

A smelly toilet is something that thousands of households have to deal with every day. We are taught to flush the toilet after use and we hide the smell with matches, potpourri or spray.

After all, leaving a smell in the bathroom is embarrassing if someone is following you. Sometimes our toilets stink, even if they haven't been used for hours or days. It's up to us to find out the cause.

Working with toilets has given me insight into the many things that go wrong with toilets. Sometimes it's a result of our own doing, while sometimes there's a more serious problem going on.

In this article, we discuss 7 reasons why your toilet stinks and what you can do about it. Let's take a closer look at your toilet!

7 Reasons Why Your Toilet Stinks (And How To Fix It)

  1. Mold and mildew growth under the rim

You look in your bowl and it looks clean. So what could be causing the smell? There is a part of the bowl that you cannot see and it is below the rim.

To take a closer look, you need to use a hand mirror or put your head in the bowl. It may help to shut off the water to the bowl and flush the toilet (more headroom).

Under the rim you will see small "edge holes" where the water enters the bowl after a rinse. You may notice mold and mildew growing in this area.

These fungi are visible and unattractive. They have a distinct smell and are known to cause health problems as well.

(Video) Sewer Smell In Bathroom? How to Identify and Fix the Problem

It is in your best interest to clean it, especially if it is the source of the smell.Putting a wire in the holescan improve the power of your flush.

Why does my toilet smell (and how do I fix it) (1)

Fix it:

Even if you routinely clean your toilet bowl, you are probably missing the top rim of the bowl.

Cleaning the underside of the rim is a fairly easy task. You can use your trusty toilet brush and vinegar or bleach. If you use any of these liquids, be sure to wear gloves.

I suggest pouring a little vinegar or bleach into the bowl, then dipping the brush into the liquid and scrubbing around the top edge. Scrub around the rim of the bowl several times with 15-30 minutes between scrubbing.

If the mold and mildew are stubborn, a pumice stone or loofah may help.

  1. Low water in the bowl

If the water level in the bowl is low, air may be leaking from the pipes through your toilet.

Your toilet, sink, and shower use a "trap" that helps prevent gas, odor, and waste from getting out of your pipes. When the bowl is filled with water, air and gas cannot rise up the toilet because water blocks the airflow.

If you haven't used your toilet for a long time, the water in the bowl can evaporate and a sewer smell can form in your bathroom.

Fix it:

Evaporation of toilet water only occurs when a toilet has not been used for a long time and the problem should be resolved when the toilet has been flushed and the bowl refilled. You may find it in cabins, beach houses, and vacation homes where toilets go unused for months.

  1. Blocked vent line (in the wall)

Most people don't realize that a toilet has a vent pipe. The vent pipe allows gas to leave the pipes and provides an air pressure neutral environment in the pipes.


The vent pipe runs vertically behind the toilet (in the wall) and exits through the roof. It's unusual, but a vent pipe can become clogged and cause gas to creep up the toilet.

The result is a sewage smell that permeates the bathroom and it is not pleasant.

Fix it:

Unfortunately, it is difficult to access the vent yourself. Since it's inside the wall, it's best to look into the tube from the roof, where leaves, twigs, and even rodents can get stuck.

If you suspect your problem is the toilet vent, I suggest calling a plumber to take a closer look. Instead of removing part of the wall, your plumber can insert a small camera into the vent pipe without major damage.

  1. Leaking washer

Have you ever heard of a wax ring? Most toilets have them, but you're unlikely to ever see them.

The wax ring sits on the floor and creates a seal between the toilet and the pipe in the floor. The wax ring is made of real wax and can last for decades, but can also wear out (especially at high temperatures, the wax can melt).

Signs of a leaking wax ring are moisture and moisture coming from under the toilet. The floorboards can be wet and if the leak has been present for a long time, the floor can rot.

A leaking wax ring is a major problem and must be fixed immediately.

Fix it:

The good news is that most able-bodied people can install a new wax ring. You will need to loosen and remove the toilet to install a new wax ring.

A new wax ring only costs a few dollars, but it will take a do-it-yourselfer an hour or two to complete the project (read more about replacing the wax ring).

If you remove the toilet and notice that the floor is damp around the toilet, call an expert to assess the damage. The floor may need to be replaced and the leak may have spread to other areas below the house.

(Video) Finding A Sewer Odor In Your Bathroom

  1. Ordinary bunch

Even though you may not see any garbage in the bowl, there could be a clog lurking under the bowl. A blockage in the siphon can certainly cause a bad smell in the bathroom, but you may not realize there is a blockage until the next flush.

When I smell a funky toilet my first action is to flush the toilet and look at the water.

  • Is it a normal flush?
  • Has all the water gone down?

If there is a blockage, you will likely see a weak flush or water remaining in the bowl. If this is the source of the smell, then fixing it should be an easy task.

Fix it:

Grab a plunger (this is the right unblocker for a toilet) or a toilet hose. Operate the plunger a few times to loosen the clog orinsert the toilet hose into the bowland expand it all the way.

It shouldn't take much effort to clear a minor blockage in the pipes. Try rinsing again.

If the clog is stubborn, here are a few more ways to fix a clogged toilet.

  1. There's something in the tank

If your toilet smells bad, there may be residue left in the bowl. If so, a flush will take care of it.

If the bowl is empty, you may also want to check the tank. Water in the tank can smell if left unflushed for a long time. Mold and mildew can also grow in the tank and be a potential cause of health problems.

If you have young children, they may have hidden something in the tank and forgotten about it. Hopefully they didn't put their pet fish, Nemo, in the tank (that would definitely cause an odor).

Fix it:

If you notice the smell coming from the tank of the toilet, it is wise to turn off the water, empty the tank by flushing it and use a sponge or cloth to clean the tank with bleach, vinegar or baking soda.

After cleaning, allow the tank to dry before refilling.

(Video) How to fix bad smell in trailer | Dometic 300 issue

An additional step would be to add a few cups of vinegar to the tank once it's filled and let it sit for several hours. Vinegar is an excellent way to eat away stains, scum and bacteria and the best thing about vinegar is that it's completely natural.

  1. Bacteria Growth From The Sewer Pipes

During hot, humid summers, bacteria can thrive in your sewer pipes. If bacteria thrive in your pipes and toilet, it can lead to a foul odor, especially if the bathroom lacks adequate ventilation.

Fix it:

This is another easy solution. If you think the growth of bacteria is causing your toilet to smell bad, add a cup of bleach to the water in the tank and bowl.

Use the toilet brush to mix the bleach and scrub the toilet. Let sit for an hour and rinse.

I prefer to use vinegarif possible, but both options work for bacteria.

After rinsing, wait a few hours before rinsing a 2zdtime. Waiting allows the bleach or vinegar to do more work in the pipes under your toilet.

If you were to flush multiple times after the 1stflushing would dilute the bleach or vinegar and end up far from the house.


Why does your toilet smell? Well, it could be for a variety of reasons, but a little research will help you find the reason.

In this article, I have shared many reasons why your toilet might smell bad. The reasons ranged from the following:

  • Forgetful flusher
  • Hide
  • Low water level
  • Clogged vent line
  • Leaking washer
  • Bacteria
  • Tank
  • Toilet rim (mold and mildew

Finding the source of the smell shouldn't be difficult as the toilet is a fairly small device. I always flush the toilet to make sure there is no blockage. Once a blockage has been ruled out, there are other places to check.

Bleach and vinegar work great to remove bacteria, mold and mildew. I like vinegar because it is natural.

(Video) Why does my toilet smell?!

Whether you use a natural cleaner or a chemical, make sure you soak it in the bowl or tank. After a while, flush once and let it sit in your pipes for a few more hours before flushing a second time.

I hope this article puts you on track to discover why your toilet stinks. The toilet is a smelly job, but Toilet Travel is always there to help. As always, thanks for reading and check out the blog for more handy toilet tips.


Why does my toilet smell (and how do I fix it)? ›

To fix a foul-smelling toilet, check the wax ring surrounding the toilet base. When the wax ring is not sealed properly to the toilet or floor, air from within your plumbing is allowed to seep out from beneath the toilet upon flushing. This is especially common when the main vent is clogged as well.

How do I get rid of a bad smell in my toilet? ›

White vinegar and baking soda in equal parts is a cost-efficient and effective means of getting rid odors in a toilet. Add them to the tank, mix them in and then use the toilet brush to gently scrub the tank. Let it sit for a few hours, scrub the tank again and flush.

Why is there a bad smell coming from my toilet? ›

Even the cleanest homeowners occasionally encounter this toilet problem – an obnoxious odour that leaves you asking, “why does my toilet smell?” These toilet smells can come from an unused toilet, bacteria, mold, clogged drain, broken toilet seals, blocked vent pipe or cracked toilet bowls.

Why does my toilet still smell after cleaning? ›

If the smell lingers despite proper cleaning and disinfection, there may be a problem with the vent. Check the part where the toilet vent pipe lets go of the sewer gases. If there's any debris, the gases could be causing the disgusting smell.

How do I stop my toilet from smelling like pee? ›

How to remove tough bathroom smells
  1. Scrub the toilet inside and out, top to bottom. ...
  2. Remove the toilet seat completely to really get the hinges clean.
  3. Use a store-bought toilet cleaner on the inside of the toilet and scrub. ...
  4. Finish up by sanitizing your throne.

How do you get rid of sewer smell? ›

You can also add a mixture of baking soda and vinegar along with hot water to help get rid of the odor. Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain followed by one cup of white vinegar. Let the mixture sit for about 10 to 15 mins and flush with hot water. After this you should have an odorless clean drain!

Why does toilet smell like sewer when flushed? ›

The wax seal is broken.

The wax seal helps to keep in water from the base of your toilet, as well as any odors. When the seal is broken, sewer smell from the drain pipe can come out when you flush. If the wax seal is broken badly, you run the risk of water damage.

How do you clean toilet pipes? ›

The main thing you can do for your plumbing system is to clean drains once a week. This can be done easily with a little baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Simply pour the two substances down the drain and let it foam up before flushing the toilet. This will clear out any small clogs forming in your system.

Can you put bleach in a toilet tank? ›

"The biggest don't when it comes to toilet tanks is bleach—do not use bleach or products containing bleach inside the tank, as it can corrode the internal parts of your toilet. If you are aiming to remove tough stains from the tank, I also recommend white vinegar diluted with water."

How can you deodorize the toilets and leave them with a fresh smell? ›

While vinegar has a strong smell, it also has very powerful deodorizing and sanitizing effect.To use vinegar as a deodorizer, pour one cup of white or apple cider vinegar into your toilet bowl. Let it sit for about an hour before flushing. For extra deodorizing power add some baking soda when you add the vinegar.

Does bleach remove urine smell? ›

Bleach, ammonia, vinegar baking soda, and peroxide – You might think that bleach would be your best bet to eliminate your pet odor problem, but it will not. Bleach is great at disinfecting, but not so great on eliminating odors. You'll be left with a clean, but still smelly problem.

Why does my bathroom smell like urine even after cleaning? ›

The smell of urine in your bathroom could be from a leaky seal in your toilet, poor hygiene, or bacteria build-up. If your bathroom smells like urine, it could be because of a leaky seal in your toilet. A leaking seal can cause water to seep out and create a wet environment, which will then attract bacteria.

Will sewer smell go away on its own? ›

When that smell reeks of the sewer, it may not go away on its own but instead, point to a serious problem that might require professional plumbing repair. The wastewater plumbing systems in your home are fairly simple. They rely on unblocked pipes, gravity and fresh air venting to drain.

Can a plumber get rid of sewer smell? ›

Loose connections along the vent pipe or sewer line can also let pungent gases into your home. These will most typically be inside a wall or in the ceiling, so you'll need the help of an experienced plumber to correct this issue.

Can I leave vinegar in toilet overnight? ›

You can use straight or a diluted vinegar cleaning solution for the bathroom to clean bacteria, especially around the toilet. Cleaning with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar in the bathroom can work really well. To clean your toilet with vinegar, pour a cup of vinegar in the toilet bowl and let sit overnight.

Can I leave vinegar and baking soda in toilet overnight? ›

For extra-stubborn clogs, you can let the fizz mixture sit overnight or combine this method with plunging. If your toilet remains clogged or continues to get clogged, this may be an indication of plumbing problems such as mineral buildup or pressure issues.

Can vinegar damage toilet? ›

Vinegar will not damage your toilet in any way if it's left in your toilet overnight. Regardless of your toilet's material, the vinegar is not strong enough to damage the toilet or the toilet's plumbing. So, you can leave the vinegar in your toilets overnight without worry.

What happens when wax seal on toilet goes bad? ›

A damaged wax ring doesn't seal the connection between the toilet and sewer line. This causes water to leak out and pool around your toilet. If you catch this issue quickly, then it may not damage your subfloor and require additional repairs. Some leaks are constant, while others only occur when you flush the toilet.

How often should toilet be replaced? ›

Most plumbers agree that an average toilet can last around 50 years. However, this is only when the toilet is well maintained and gently used. If it was improperly installed or frequently misused, it may not last as long.

How do you get rid of poop smell in toilet fast? ›

  1. Open a window. “The solution to pollution is dilution,” quips Bill Carroll Jr., an adjunct professor of chemistry at Indiana University. ...
  2. Try a courtesy flush. ...
  3. Spray the air. ...
  4. Spray the toilet. ...
  5. Light a match. ...
  6. Use baking soda. ...
  7. Give your toilet a deep clean.
Feb 21, 2022

Why does my toilet smell like sewage when I flush? ›

Toilets have a wax seal ring that sits between them and a sewer line. If this ring becomes worn, it can break the seal that keeps smells of sewage from entering a home. Signs of a broken wax seal include a toilet that rocks or water gathering around the base of a toilet.

What is the best bathroom deodorizer? ›

The 17 best odor eliminators for every gross smell, from cat pee...
  • Ozium Air Sanitizer Spray. ...
  • Lysol Disinfectant Spray. ...
  • DampRid Moisture Absorber With Activated Charcoal. ...
  • DampRid Fresh Scent Hanging Moisture Absorber, 3-Pack. ...
  • Harris Cleaning Vinegar. ...
  • Zero Odor Laundry Odor Eliminator.
Feb 3, 2023


1. Musty Toilet Smell : Plumbing Tips
2. SMELL SEWER GAS don’t call a plumber (EASY FIX)
(Live Free)
3. Why Do I Have a Sewer Smell in My Bathroom? 3 Potential Reasons. Seattle Best Plumbing (206)633-1700
(Best Plumbing)
4. THIS Simple Trick Makes Your Bathroom & Toilet SMELL AMAZING!
(Andrea Jean Cleaning)
(Andrea Jean Cleaning)
6. How to Get Rid of Sewer Smell or Bad Smell in Your Bathroom
(What Ilearned)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Chrissy Homenick

Last Updated: 10/14/2023

Views: 6133

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Chrissy Homenick

Birthday: 2001-10-22

Address: 611 Kuhn Oval, Feltonbury, NY 02783-3818

Phone: +96619177651654

Job: Mining Representative

Hobby: amateur radio, Sculling, Knife making, Gardening, Watching movies, Gunsmithing, Video gaming

Introduction: My name is Chrissy Homenick, I am a tender, funny, determined, tender, glorious, fancy, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.