Why Your Toilet Smells Like Sewage And What To Do About It

A bathroom that smells putrid even when you clean your toilet often could have an easy DIY fix, or it might point to a serious problem that requires help from a professional. There are several different reasons that your toilet might start to smell like sewage, and it's crucial to determine what is causing the odor in order to fix it and ensure your home is safe and clean. Your toilet itself or one of its components could be the source of the smell, such as the P-trap or the seal around the bottom of the pedestal. Otherwise, the awful scent might have something to do with your plumbing vent, the sewer line, or your septic system.

Sewer fumes often contain harsh compounds, such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, methane, sulfur dioxide, and other gasses. These can sometimes be toxic (causing nausea, dizziness, and headaches) or flammable, which can leave you, your family, and your home itself at risk. This is why it is important to solve the issue of sewage-smelling toilets swiftly. By getting to the source of the sewage odor, you can fix the problem and keep your bathroom smelling fresh.

A dry P-trap or broken seal could cause your toilet to smell like sewage

To discover why your toilet smells so stinking bad, take a good look at it. If you notice that the caulk or wax seal between the base of the toilet and the floor isn't tight, this could be the reason why your toilet constantly smells bad. A messed up seal may also make your toilet move a little when you sit on it. While a broken seal might seem like an easy fix, it could require taking off your entire toilet, readjusting it, and forming a new seal. For this job, it's typically best to call a plumber to ensure you don't damage your toilet further.

If you have a bathroom that isn't used very often, the stinky sewage smell could be due to a dry P-trap in your toilet. This is the pipe that is shaped like a U, and it typically stores a little water in the bend to prevent sewer gasses from coming up the toilet. If the toilet hasn't been flushed in a long time, the P-trap might be empty. Flushing the toilet a couple of times should refill the P-trap and stop the smell. This is one of the most straightforward issues that causes a sewage smell and likely the easiest to fix. In other cases, physical damage to your toilet, like cracks in the porcelain, could also create leaks that prevent the P-trap from filling. A professional will likely need to assist in this situation.

Sewer backups and blocked vents can also make your toilet smell

If you have a gross smell in your bathroom and the toilet is also making strange noises, this can indicate that the sewer line is backing up. Backups are common after extensive rainfall, which floods the sewers, but might lead to serious issues if more than gasses start to come up your pipes. It's a good idea to have your toilet serviced by a plumber in this case. Having a backflow valve installed on your toilet can also help ensure that no sewer water or gases can make their way up and out of your toilet if there's another backup. For those that aren't hooked up to a municipal sewage line, there's a chance the smell is indicating that it's time to pump your septic system.

Another common issue is the plumbing vent on your roof becoming clogged. This vent lets sewer gasses escape and brings fresh air into your pipes. When it gets filled up with gunk like leaves or other debris, the sewer gas may have nowhere to go but out your toilet. You can check the vent yourself and attempt to remove the clog, but if it's deep in the pipe you may need a professional. If you're still struggling to figure out why your toilet has an odor, check your pipes for any damage and try clearing them of any partial clogs that could be creating the scent. Some of best ways to really unclog your toilet include using a plunger or plumbing snake.