Does Your Bathroom Smell Like Sewage? Here Are Some Reasons for the Offensive Odor

There are many hardy plants that you can safely keep in your bathroom to assist in odor management.

Jamie Bichelman - Author

May 10 2024, Published 10:49 a.m. ET

A woman wears yellow rubber gloves while brushing a toilet bowl clean and holding her nose with her other hand.
Source: iStock

If you're doing your thing in the bathroom and suddenly smell an offensive odor like sewage, don't panic. If you checked TikTok and tried tossing salt in your toilet, decorated your bathroom like a greenhouse with plants that absorb odor and moisture, and employed other housekeeping tips to maintain a pleasant-smelling home, but you still smell sewage, you'll want to keep reading.

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Below, we explore the reasons for the smell of sewage in your home, what you can do about it, and how to prevent the smell of sewage from reappearing in the future.

A woman wears yellow rubber gloves while holding a grey rag above a toilet and places her wrist below her nose.
Source: iStock
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Why does my bathroom smell like sewage?

According to the Mr. Rooter plumbing company, there are several potential causes for the smell of sewage in your bathroom, some of which can be resolved without hiring a plumber.

One common cause for the smell of sewage in your bathroom is a clogged shower drain. This is due to hair and other debris that gets washed away during your shower getting backed up and leading to bacteria growth.

Similarly, if the curved water trap in your bathroom drains is damaged or dirty, you can bet the smell of sewage will follow.

If you live in a humid environment where it rains frequently, the sewer nearest to your home may get backed up, and sewage odors find their way into your home, per Mr. Rooter.

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Additionally, per the Pennsylvania-based Lancaster Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical, if the wax seal around your toilet is damaged, the sewer smell can seep through to the rest of the bathroom. In this scenario, a plumber is probably needed to ensure the rest of your toilet doesn't break.

A plumber inspects the drains beneath a customer's sink in their bathroom.
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Here's how to get rid of the smell of sewage.

Commercially available chemicals intended to unclog your drain can be very dangerous due to their corrosive nature, which may damage your drain even further, according to the Ohio-based Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling & Plumbing service. For a more environmentally friendly alternative, they recommend utilizing a drain snake, plunger, or the time-tested power combo of baking soda and vinegar.

Cummings Plumbing, Heating & Cooling in Arizona also recommends ensuring the ventilation in your bathroom is in working order. If you live in an older home and you don't have an exhaust fan in your bathroom, you likely have a window instead that can aid in airflow.

As for that pesky U-shaped P-trap under the sink or shower drain, Cummings Plumbing recommends ensuring it is free of damage, rust, or other buildup and that sufficient water is in place to trap sewage smells.

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If urine has collected around the toilet and is causing an offensive smell, American Home Water & Air in Arizona suggests making an eco-friendly paste from baking soda and lemon juice to clean the base of the toilet. Once the mixture has had time to work its magic for about 10 minutes, spray the area with white vinegar to create a foam that can then be safely cleaned away with a wet cloth.

Finally, if you have deodorized the toilet bowl or flushed the S-bend with white vinegar, some aromatherapy may be in order. The antifungal and antimicrobial nature of essential oils like clove, cedar, and lavender may support the mitigation of future offensive odors thanks to a few drops inside the toilet bowl sitting for a few minutes before flushing.

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