There are few rooms in a home that can attract foul smells like a bathroom, but usually, that’s a problem after you use the facilities. Once in a while, you’ll find a bathroom that smells like a sewer before you actually use the toilet.
Why does your bathroom smell like a sewer? How do you fix that “sewer smell” in your bathroom? Our guide will help you figure out why your bathroom smells so downright odiferous—and give you the fix.
Why Your Bathroom Smells Like Sewage
To figure out how to fix this issue, we need to figure out what causes this issue. Here are the most common causes of a sewage smell in your bathroom.
1. A Dry P-Trap
Your P-trap is a pipe that helps divide the plumbing of the rest of your house from the plumbing in your bathroom. Your P-trap is under the sink, and yes, it’s shaped like a P. You also may have a P-trap in your toilet, though they are more often shaped like an S.
When it’s properly wet, the water in the P-trap keeps sewer gasses in your pipeline in the pipeline rather than disseminating them through your home. This is actually a fairly easy fix. All you have to do is flush water down your drains at least once a week in most cases.
2. Poor Bathroom Cleaning
Bathrooms are places where fecal matter is sent out of the house. You would be surprised at how much bacteria can build up in a place like that. If you aren’t cleaning your bathroom well, that bacteria will start to build up and even grow.
Even if you can’t see a bacterial slime on your walls or pipes, that doesn’t mean it can’t harm you. That bacterial spread smells terrible. The best way to make sure that this doesn’t happen in your house is to keep things clean.
3. Shower/Sink Drain Clogs
Depending on what you had fall down your shower drain, a clog in your drain can start to smell like sewer gas. This is because you might have rotten skin, hair, or even fecal matter fall down the drain. When it’s clogged, that stench rises up through the drain into your bathroom.
4. A Broken Toilet
Intuitively, the first place most people will check for a sewer smell is the toilet. We’ve already explained how a dry P-trap or low water levels in an S-trap can cause a sewer smell to emanate through your bathroom, but there is another culprit here, too.
Take a look at the wax ring that surrounds the bottom of your toilet’s plumbing near the floor. If it looks loose or leaky, then gas could be leaking out from under the wax ring. The best move is to replace the ring.
5. A Full Septic Tank
Homes with septic tanks are more likely to experience a sewage smell than any other type of homes. This is because the odor from your septic tank can seep into your home when it get too full.
If you have a septic tank that is backed up, this might not always be so easy. Backups often mean that there is a problem with your tank, or worse, that there are things that don’t belong in your tank clogging up the plumbing.
In the event of a tank backup, odor might also become the least of your problems. You may actually start to see brown or black water push up through your sink or toilet.
6. Bad Ventilation
Stinky air needs a reliable way to escape a room in order for the room to not smell awful. A clogged air vent, poor filtering, or a bad build can leave sewer gasses stuck in your home—often in places where we don’t want them.
Clogged air vents are more common than you think. If you haven’t cleaned out your air vents in a while, it may be a good time to revisit that part of your home maintenance. With that said, sewer gasses can also start to leak if your vents are broken.
How To Get Rid Of Sewage Smells In Your Bathroom
Now that we’ve explained the most common reasons for a bathroom to start smelling like a sewer, it’s time to troubleshoot the reason why your bathroom reeks.
- Start by flushing your toilets and running water through your sink. This will increase the water levels in your P-traps, and that often fixes the issue. Wait a couple of hours and open a window to see if the smell dissipates.
- If you have a septic tank, check for signs of a backup or of a filled tank. Your septic tank will naturally decrease its levels as long as you don’t flush the toilet, wash your clothes, or run your sink. If you’ve been using a lot of water lately, just wait it out. If you have been experiencing backups on a regular basis, it’s time to call a septic company to figure out what’s wrong.
- Then, work on unclogging your sink and shower drain. You can use vinegar and baking soda to do this, or you can use a chemical unclogger like Drano. If you have drain flies, then you should use an enzymatic cleaner. Regardless, you should start to unclog every drain you have in your bathroom. Wait a while to see if the smell dissipates after you clean out those clogs.
- Give your bathroom a full scrubdown. If you haven’t done so in a while, give your bathroom a full deep cleaning. Bleach the tiles, disinfect the tub and sink, and wipe down the mirror. If you can, clean the walls, too.
- Check your vents. If you haven’t already, turn your bathroom vents on to let the air out. If that doesn’t work, check to see if your vents need to have an air filter replacement or a quick clean-out. A professional can help you with this if you are not sure what to do.
- Call a plumber. Finally, if nothing has worked so far, there may be a plumbing cause (like a wax ring in need of replacement) that you should look into.
Is This A Serious Issue?
A sewage smell in your bathroom might not seem like a big deal, but it is. It’s embarrassing for the homeowner and distasteful for the guests. However, that’s not all that this odor can cause. The smell of sewage means that you’ve got a lot of bacteria in the air—and that’s bacteria that can cause serious illness in people in your home.
When Should You Call A Professional For A Sewer Smell In A Bathroom?
Sewer smells are awfully stinky, but in many cases, you can solve the problem on your own. This doesn’t always work out well, though. If any of the following points are true for you, call a professional:
- You’re a renter. This is something that you should call a landlord for.
- It doesn’t quite smell like sewage. If you smell gas, it could be a gas leak. Leave your home, take kids and pets with you, and call 911 to confirm that your home is safe to reenter. This could be deadly.
- You have tried to narrow down the reason for the sewage smell, but you can’t. Everyone has their own limitations. If you have tried to find the smell source without much success, call a plumber and/or an HVAC professional to figure out what’s going on.
- The fix that you need to do is beyond your skill set. This most often happens when you have a broken wax ring, a bad P-trap, or vents that stopped working. There’s nothing wrong with calling a pro to fix things up when you can’t do it yourself.
- There are signs of a sewage backup or a flood. Sewage backups and sewage floods are not something that you should try to fix on your own. This is a biohazard and can get you seriously ill. Moreover, your insurance company may need to have a hand in this if the backup was caused by something out of your control.
- Your home is having other plumbing issues aside from the sewage smell. Sometimes, a sewer smell isn’t just a sewer smell. If you notice that your water suddenly has color to it or that your front lawn is flooded, then you may have bigger problems than a typical sewer stink.
Relax, It’s Usually An Easy Fix
If you are worried that the sewer smell that’s oozing out of your plumbing is going to be a tough fix, don’t be. Most sewage smells can be fixed with careful cleaning and a little bit of extra ventilation. However, if it is a more unique situation, typical fixes still won’t take more than a week.
Like with all things related to plumbing, the most important thing to do is to keep an eye on your plumbing maintenance and cleanliness. An ounce of prevention (or maintenance) is worth a pound of cure.