No one enjoys walking into a bathroom that smells bad, but not all odors can be knocked out with a quick spritz of air freshener. If your bathroom stinks of sewage or urine, or it has an overall musty or damp smell, there may be more at work. Fortunately, with a bit of investigation and some common cleaning supplies, you can fix the source of most bathroom smells yourself.
If the Smell Is Coming From the Sink
If your bathroom sink smells, it’s likely because of clogged or slow-flowing drains which can accumulate hair, soap residue, and other debris. These clogs create the perfect breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.
Clean the sink drain pipe
Clean your smelly drain by removing gunk in the sink drain trap. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners that can damage your pipes and harm the environment. Instead, try a combination of baking soda and vinegar or opt for manual drain cleaners. Don’t forget to clean the overflow hole too!
Address low water pressure
Low water pressure doesn’t rinse soap residue, hair, and other debris out of the p-trap, so it sits there breeding bacteria and creating a foul odor. Make sure your water supply valves under the sink are fully open, since items stored beneath the sink can bang the valve and partially close it. Then, when you’re cleaning the bathroom each week, open the faucets fully to flush out the drain trap and rinse away residue.
If it’s Coming From the Shower or Bathtub
Your shower or bathtub shouldn’t be a source of unpleasant smells. If you’re detecting a funky odor, it’s time to take action.
Treat shower drains
A common cause of shower or tub odors is buildup in the drain. Hair, soap residue, and other debris can accumulate and create a breeding ground for bacteria. To combat this, try the baking soda and vinegar method mentioned earlier. Additionally, using a hair catcher can prevent a clogged drain and protect your plumbing system.
Tackle mold and mildew
Mold and mildew thrive in damp environments, and your shower or bathtub can provide the perfect conditions. To eliminate the musty odor caused by these fungi, create a DIY mold-killing solution using 2 tablespoons of borax, 2 ounces of white vinegar, and 2 cups of hot water. Apply it to affected areas, scrub away the grime with an old toothbrush, and rinse thoroughly.
If it’s Coming From the Toilet
Toilet odors aren’t pleasant under any circumstance, but the type of odor can indicate the source. When your bathroom smells like urine, it’s usually a sign of problems with the toilet bowl and seat. A sewage smell means something more serious.
And it smells like pee
If your bathroom smells like pee, give the toilet a thorough scrub using baking soda and tea tree oil. These natural ingredients can deodorize and freshen up the bowl. After scrubbing, add vinegar to loosen biofilm and hard water deposits that may trap bacteria, scrub some more, and flush.
Old and stained toilet seats can make bathrooms smell bad, too. If your toilet seat is over 5 years old, it’s time for a new one. Look for easy care seats that slide off at the hinges so you can remove them to clean the entire toilet rim and seat. Many times, replacing a stained toilet seat and cleaning the grime around the hinges are enough to eliminate stubborn urine smells.
Or it smells like sewage
When your bathroom smells like sewage, the first place to check is the toilet’s wax ring seal. Signs of a failing wax ring moisture around the base of the toilet, a wobbly commode, or a mushy or bouncy floor. If the problem isn’t a broken seal, it may be broken or clogged vent pipes that run up to the roof to allow sewer gas to leave your home. Contact a professional plumber at once, since the buildup of sewer gases in your home poses many health and safety dangers.
If it Smells Musty and Damp
A musty and damp smell in your bathroom is a sign of poor air circulation and excess moisture. Besides a stale odor, other signs of poor bathroom ventilation include towels or bath mats that don’t dry out between uses and shower floors that are constantly damp.
Proper ventilation is key to combating musty bathroom smells. Run the exhaust fan during and after each shower to remove excess humidity. If you have a bathroom window, open it for at least 15 minutes daily to promote air circulation. Spread out towels when hanging them to allow for faster drying, and replace them with clean ones regularly. Shake shower curtains after use and leave them partially open, and leave shower doors open to either side to promote air circulation.
Prevent mold and mildew
Musty odors often indicate mold and mildew. Aside from cleaning affected areas, you need to be proactive to discourage their growth. Regularly inspect beneath your sinks and around the base of your toilet for signs of leaks or moisture buildup, and address any problems quickly before they cause serious damage to your home. And use a daily shower spray that kills mold and mildew spores after every shower to keep your shower fresh.
If You Just Can’t Find the Source
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, pinpointing the exact source of a bathroom smells can be challenging. In such cases, a thorough bathroom deep cleaning is your best bet. While you’re at it, wash all soft furnishings like bathroom mats, towels, and shower curtains to eliminate lingering odors. Then keep the odors at bay with an ongoing weekly cleaning routine.
Once you’ve tackled the source of your bathroom smells, add a pleasant scent by using a homemade air freshener after each use. You can even spray it on towels and other soft surfaces to banish odors and leave the bathroom smelling clean and fresh.