Funky Bathroom Smell

Updated on July 21, 2011
H.D. asks from Allen, TX
18 answers

Hi all,

My daughters bathroom in her room has a horrible smell coming from it. At first we thought it was maybe a septic tank issue so we called out the septic company and no issues with that. Then we thought it just needed a better cleaning under the rim of the toilet bowl, nope not that either. So, I ended up buying a toilet bowl cleaner that hangs on the side of the bowl, and that smell just mixes w/the nasty one already in there. So, I finally contacted a plumber, two in fact. First guy shows up and chalks it up to a dirty toilet (this is NOT the issue) and leaves. Second guy says it smells like a bacteria growth and to get some bleach, pour it down the bathtub and the sink, wait 15 minutes then turn the water on scalding hot for 5 minutes. Ok, this bleach thing works for about a week and the smell creeps back up. No other bathroom in the house is like this, just hers. And the most annoying thing is that the smell is worse at some points in the day to the point that even through a closed bathroom door, the smell will seep into the hallway. Two plumbers down, septic system guy down and still no one can tell me what the problem is. Anyone here have an idea??


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So What Happened?

My home is fairly new, built at the end of 2007. My daughters bathroom has tile flooring. None of the tiles are cracked and the grout still looks great, no stains, no cracking etc... I did the bleach thing again last night because the smell was so bad and this morning it smells great, normal. I love everyones help on this, I'm wondering if contacting a home inspector may be my best option at this point.

Featured Answers



answers from Dallas on

Try pulling out the tub stopper, if you have one that pops up snd down. Often hair gets stuck in there... We had this issue once and i pulled out the stopper and found a gob of tangled hair about the thickness of the drain and about a foot long. It REEKED. Removed that and the smell disappeared. Good luck...

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answers from Eugene on

It is mold. Vinegar and baking soda is a good answer. You can put it on the shower doors, windows and around the grout. Often the shower is the culprit and so you need to repeat it.
I have tried bleach but found vinegar is the best mold killer around. One cup to a quart.

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answers from Boston on

If it really is coming from the plumbing it could be that the "trap" (the bend in the pipe underneath the drain) is not sufficient to block the air from the septic coming back up. That will give you that septic smell. there is also venting of all pipes and if that is not done correctly (or the vent got blocked) the air will not have an escape path and come back in. Here is an explanation:
I have also found that plumbers in general will just want to come in and out and replace easy parts but not really spend time diagnosing what could be wrong. Perhaps go talk to a home inspector at town hall and explain the septic smell since they are trained to see if plumbing is done correctly. Either that or a good builder since they deal with subcontracter plumbers all the time and will know which ones are good and which ones are bad.
But it sounds like your vent may have gotten blocked.

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answers from Dallas on

I take the pipe apart under the sink and clean it. It is disgusting, especially my husbands sink from shaving!!!! But, it gets rid of the smell. If the pipes are plastic, its easy. If they are metal, you may need help getting them apart. Have a bucket or pan underneath for any drips. Clean the pipe and replace. If she has long hair, or even if she doesn't take a wire hanger, pull it apart by untwisting it. Use a pair of pliers to make a little hook on the end and go fishing in her tub drain. You may be shocked at what you find. It WILL stink!!! Good luck!

Added: The plumbers sound pretty worthless. I would cross them out in the phone book so you know not to call them in the future!!

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answers from Norfolk on

My bathroom smelled rather funky and the sink was slow to drain, so I poured about a half a bottle of Liquid Plummer down, followed the instructions and it is much better now. Could be that the bleach only removed the smell from the outermost layer of crud and then the use of the sink brought it back.

Good luck.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

It sounds like you have done a lot of work researching this issue. My guess is if the bleach in the drain fixes the problem even if only temporarily that the drain is the source of the problem. Vinegar is a wonderful odor killer and is a safe product to use as well. Maybe mix up a batch of vinegar and water to pour in the drain on alternate days that you use the bleach? Baking soda is a good smell absorber, maybe keep small cups of baking soda in different area's of the bathroom to help keep the smell down? I agree with the poster that said contact a home inspector, if plumbers are of no help the inspector will find out the source of that smell.

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answers from Washington DC on

baking soda and lemon juice down the drains - all of them...then flush with HOT water...

You can go to Home Depot and purchase a bacterio-stat - I don't know the name of it but if you tell them you need something for the smell in your bathroom - they should be able to help you.

I would reclean the toilets - make sure there is no black coming out from UNDER the rim....

The weep hole - in the sink - it's hard to get to - but put either bleach or baking soda and lemon juice down that as well - it gets moisture in there too and its dark - great breeding ground for bacteria!!

If that doesn't solve it - find out where the vent pipe is for your plumbing - if it's above her bathroom - then you might be able to get that cleaned.

If it is coming only from the bathroom - and the bleach works - I'm wondering if it's mold in the bathroom - the worst - as you would have to tear up the floor and surround to get it out...urgh...


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answers from Dallas on

If the problem is not in the plumbing maybe it is the user. Have you considered having your daughter use a different bathroom and see if the smell follows her? When my daughter was dealing with bulimia her bathroom would smell awful, this may be a symptom of something going on. I truly hope it is just bad pipes. Good luck!



answers from Joplin on

When my downstairs bathroom back at our old duplex smelled and it was just a half bath/ so just a sink and a toilet...the bad smell ended up being an issue with the pipes under the sink. It had been slow draining and I had done all the home remedies and even used draino but it wasn't until I took the pipes under the sink off and cleaned them out that I got rid of the cause of the smell, there was a lot of hair in the bend part of the drain and it was black and yucky...lord the smell when I took them apart...bad...but after I cleaned them out, the smell was gone and no more slow draining sink. I actually used an old bottle brush to help clean out the pipes. If it is your tub, I do not know what to tell you, I was able to take the drain fixture off mine and dig hair out of it at the old place, at our new house I cannot do that and have already had a slow draining tub and had to resort to draino. I am less than thrilled with having to use the chemical laden stuff, I am a big fan of peroxide and baking soda. I might if I were you try baking soda and peroxide once a week, and also keep a box of opened baking soda to help absorb some of the odor...I intensely dislike bad smells too...I hope you find a solution soon! Good luck...



answers from Dallas on

Dead rat in the sewer drain?
Mold behind the walls in the shower or tub surround?
Mold under the sink cabinet?
Dead mouse in the ceiling vent?

You've got to start sniffing around with greater precision. Isolate the location and go from there.



answers from San Francisco on

If it weren't for the temporary bleach remedy I would have suggested that perhaps a mouse or rat died within the wall. Guess I would just keep using the bleach.




answers from Dallas on

What can of floor do you have? It makes me wonder if you have mold coming from the floor like maybe the carpet got wet and has molded.



answers from Minneapolis on

did you ever find out what the smell was? if so could you PM me? we are having a similar problem. i am going to make my hubby take off the toilet and investigate this weekend. thanks!



answers from Kansas City on

We used to have a similiar situation. But it was with the bathroom in our basement, which no one ever used. We had to do the bleach thing too. This was why we had our problem. Since the toilet was in the basement, we had a toilet where the plumbing was in the wall, since the plumbing couldn't be in the floor, since it was the basement. If the toilet was not flushed frequently, sewer smell collected in the line, thus making the nasty smell. It only happened to us if we did not flush frequently. So we usually went down there a few times a week just to flush to toilet. We still had it occasionally but it did help to flush. Hope this might help.



answers from Philadelphia on

Check your faucets. We have a Jacuzzi Tub in the master bath that we never use. I only turn the faucet on occasionally to clean the dust out of the tub. It turned out that there was mold growing up inside the faucet. My husband just sprayed mildew remover and turned on the faucet. Problem was solved but it did smell really bad.



answers from Seattle on

My husband's bathroom was like that when we were dating. It made the whole house smell disgusting (he was also the guy who always left the shades drawn and never opened windows for fresh air.) (?!). Anyway - the folks who lived in the house before he bought it had two dogs they would lock in the bathroom during the workday, and I'm sure the dogs peed in there and the urine seeped under the linoleum into the subflooring below. Or something died in the wall and we couldn't get to it. It just about made me crazy. (And wouldn't you know that the bathroom doesn't have a window in it?) Our solution (still going strong 6 years later) after trying all the things you have tried, is to keep the ceiling fan running 24/7 and the door closed. At least the odor is being drawn up into the venting and is not creeping out under the door. It HAS gotten better in the last few years, but when we turn the fan off when we're on vacation, it still greets us when we come home. *sigh*



answers from Portland on

I have had a bad smell before that had nothing to do with sink or tub inards before cause those are deep down and wouldnt be as bad as what was hiding just under the sides of the floor all the way around the bathroom! I tore up the floor and it was rotted and wet and mildewed and stunk! The person who had done the floor before years ago didnt even lay the linolium all the way to the wall. the sideboards just came off so easily and under that was soo disgusting! Maybe its the floor? Just a different idea for ya to think about. Hope it helps.


answers from Redding on

Did anyone check the vent pipe that goes up to the roof to vent gasses and allow for the water to drain down the sewage pipes? A bird or squirrell may have found its way into the vent and died.

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