Stinky smell from bathroom

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My husband and I bought an older home 8 years ago. Each fall we have a horrible smell that comes from the bathroom area but drifts all throughout the house. It smells of a combination of mildew and rotten eggs. We have had the septic tank cleaned. We've had a mold check done (there was a minimum bit and we had that treated). Flushing the toilet or running the shower doesn't make the smell better or worse. Any ideas what we can check? Someone mentioned it might be because we have old iron pipes????
  51 answers
  • Marla Jones Marla Jones on Oct 19, 2015
    Check the overflow drain in your sink. I spray bleach water in the hole and try to wipe it out. Good luck!

  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Oct 19, 2015
    I recently came across the same situation and it turned out to be inside the top of the toilet tank. Put bleach inside and leave awhile then flush.

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    • All377999 All377999 on Oct 20, 2015
      They do make crawlspace dehumidifiers.Perhaps a sump pump is needed?Also if its dirt floors/sides you can line the area with plastic.

  • Do not use bleach! You have a septic tank and bleach kills. Have you cleaned the drains? I know I have that smell when hair builds up in my shower drain and the smell of rotting hair is gross! I would also check the flooring around the toilet to make sure there is no rotting wood. Sometimes when toilets leak around the base they can cause smells too. Good luck on finding the source

    • See 1 previous
    • @Diane There are several natural products you can buy online for septic tanks to keep the septic tank healthy and clean out drains. You do not want to use any drano or other chemicals in your septic tank. I know that by removing the hair in my shower drain it darn near eliminated the problem. ON very hot and humid days the drain will smell. In our house the previous owners flushed all kinds of stuff and the drains were slow to drain and smelled awful. It took snaking the drains and lines to get rid of the smell. I have a ZIP IT tool for hair removal in the bathrooms. It was less than $3 at Home Depot and boy was it gross! I pulled up a wig! LOL Good luck (oh using a flashlight is probably the best way)

  • Marilyn Marilyn on Oct 20, 2015
    Could be septic tank or it could be wax ring in toilet drain is depleted...

  • Pamela Greco Pamela Greco on Oct 20, 2015
    We have the same problem. Not toilet rings. We don't have septic tank anymore. Thought it was washing machine and drain hose. Thought it was roof vent. Nope. Still looking. The odor comes and goes, its awful. I'll be hoping someone figures this out.

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    • Pamela Greco Pamela Greco on Oct 20, 2015
      We did flush the vent pipe on roof, i pour boiling watet down all drains every week ot 2 to prevent clogs without poison. We use alot of hot water. Hubby saw article about washing machine sucking water out of sink traps or something. Thats not it. Thought it has to do with the fall. Its not kust our house as we can smell it around the neighborhood. So annoying because it smells awful.

  • Kathi May Kathi May on Oct 20, 2015
    Check and see if it's coming from the overflow in the sink. You can google how to get rid of the smell if that's where it's coming from. The overflow drain (especially with older houses and older sinks) have a tendency to smell from mold/mildew.

  • Jan1872551 Jan1872551 on Oct 20, 2015
    Mine was from the old pipes.

  • Shelley Shelley on Oct 20, 2015
    sounds like time for a pipe clean out.....stagnant water will smell....

  • Diane Diane on Oct 20, 2015
    How do I check? I don't really smell anything when I sniff near the sink drain.

  • Shelley Shelley on Oct 20, 2015
    if you have a septic system then google that....I don't so I know what I do 4 times a year....I pour a box of baking soda in each sink, tub or shower...add just a bit of water and let sit at least 30 minutes....then rinse well...Borax works well also....found in the laundry isle...

  • Rebekka Rebekka on Oct 20, 2015
    Is there a floor drain anywhere near where the smell is coming from (check laundry area, water heater area, etc.)? The water in a rarely used drain trap can dry out and sewer gas can then come into the house. If so, just pouring water down the drain to fill the trap will fix the problem.

    • Diane Diane on Oct 20, 2015
      @Rebekka The only floor drain would be the bath tub (which is not really a floor drain). Our laundry room with the hot water heater is in our carport outside (which I hate lol). But, I've heard sewer gas mentioned before.

  • Barbara Barbara on Oct 20, 2015
    You can try a vinegar and baking soda approach. I pour 1/2 box of baking soda and let it sit for 15-20 minutes and flush it down with a cup of cheap vinegar that I get at the 99 cent store. The next day I grate a few tablespoons of lemon peel and just sprinkle it in the drain. The lemon grating goes down the next time I rinse or clean out the sink. Problem solved. It could be a iron pipe issue but if it's a bathroom that gets frequent use and it only happens in the fall??? weird. I'd have the pipes checked to make sure you don't have any leakage.

  • Deebs Deebs on Oct 20, 2015
    I had the same problem in my old house, for a couple of years, then one day the bathtub started draining slow. I put baking soda, then vinegar down it and then followed that with two large pots of boiling water. Finally, I poured bleach down the drain, let sit for 15 minutes, and flushed with hot tap water. Oddly enough it not only solvedy mu clog problem, but I never had that odd smell wafting out of my bathroom again.

  • Debbie Lamont Debbie Lamont on Oct 20, 2015
    Check your stink stack on the roof .It s probably plugged .Thats what was causing the foul smell at my home . The previous owner had put screen on it to keep critters or leaves or ? out .It has to be open.

  • Kristy Williams Tillman Kristy Williams Tillman on Oct 20, 2015
    Get a drain stick to try cleaning the drains. (mine get stinky and that really helped) Maybe hair and stuff are stuck down there. (you can get these zip its or something at WalMart or most store with a hardware/bathroom section for about $2). then take a bucket of water and pour it into your toilet bowl. That will get all the water out. Add vinegar up to the regular water level and leave overnight. If that doesn't help, at least your toilet will be clean. :) If that doesn't help, turn the water off to the sink and put a container under the pipes. Take the elbow part off. Ours had a bunch of nastiness stuck in there and it smelled awful. This fixed that. I had tried vinegar/baking soda on that drain several times, but it was just stuck. Hope this helps! Mine gets to stinking too and these things fix it. We thought it was our septic too. Oh, also taking a plunger to the tub and sink can unclog stuff too. That works wonders here.

  • Lori Johansen Lori Johansen on Oct 20, 2015
    We have a cabin in the Georgia mountains. We have this problem when not running a lot of hot water. Ours is a hot water heater problem. I guess it builds up bacteria when stagnate. Normally, just running the hot water completely out solves the problem. Can take 1-3 times for it to go away though.

    • Diane Diane on Oct 20, 2015
      @Lori Johansen Being an older home we only have the one bathroom so it gets used many times per day. Our hot water heater is only a few years old so hopefully this is not the problem.

  • Melissa Melissa on Oct 20, 2015
    FIRST......I'm so curious to know where your water heater is located???? My husband is a plumber & gets a lot of calls about a "rotten egg smell"! You'll be SHOCKED what could be causing the smell! There is a rod in your water heater that is made of aluminium, it's called a anode rod, it needs to be changed out to a magnesium zinc rod!!!! And yes, it WILL cause that egg smell tthroughout your home! He usually gets calls from people with this problem about once a month. His customers are shocked when they find this out! After he changes the rods out, we NEVER hear another complaint about a smell & ALWAYS get a return call to do more work! I live in NC & the cost for a rod is about $100.00. With the cost of labor & material it's usually about $250.00. Please keep me posted. Curious to know the outcome. Melissa.Pittman05@gmail.com

  • Melissa Melissa on Oct 20, 2015
    BTW, all of the answers about the baking soda & vinegar are only a temporary fix. It just fixes the symptoms to the problem!

  • Kat Kat on Oct 20, 2015
    Also it might be something as simple as animals under your home getting together for a party if you know what I mean. That happens where I live and they dont have the same hygiene practices as we do... :)

    • Diane Diane on Oct 20, 2015
      @Kat LOL...too funny but I am still going to check this out too!

  • Camillee Camillee on Oct 20, 2015
    Could be a dead rat in the walls, sorry, but it does happen.

    • Diane Diane on Oct 20, 2015
      @Camillee yes it does happen but surely it wouldn't linger for three years???

  • Diane Diane on Oct 20, 2015
    My hot water heater is really in my carport. Being an older home the laundry room is in the carport (which I hate because you have to freeze to death to go put clothes in the washer/dryer since there is no inside door way) and the water heater is in there. The water heater is only about 5 years old. It was leaking and rusted so we just replaced. Over the past 3 years since the problem has become noticeable, we've had 3 different plumbers that has told us 3 different things. One said it was leaking around the toilet. We had him put in a new toilet only find out that there were no water marks, wood damage, or water damage. The next plumber said it was old iron pipes and all of the pipes needed replaced. We replaced everything except drain pipes with pex pipes. The third plumber told us to have our septic tank cleaned out so we did. It didn't phase the problem. We own a Gutter/vinyl siding/metal roofing company and my husband has been in the construction business all of his life, so we are at a loss of what else to do or try. Please realize that every comment that everyone is posting....I'm trying!!

  • Cwhenson Cwhenson on Oct 20, 2015
    Rotten egg smell is usually associated with a natural gas leak. Have any gas appliances or fireplace?

  • Ktg311722 Ktg311722 on Oct 20, 2015
    Are you on county/city water system or on a well? On a well system, rotten egg smell usually means sulphur in the water. If on a city system, you may have a sewer exhaust pipe that is cracked or not correctly vented out of the house. Sometimes a faulty P trap will let gas back into the house. You need to make sure other owners didnt cut corners in the bathroom if they made changes. I hope you get it figured out.

  • Madame G. Madame G. on Oct 20, 2015
    Have you checked to see if the vent pipe from your bathroom is blocked or even that it's long enough to take the odour away. Here in rural France we also get that unpleasant bathroom smell in the winter and it's because our vent pipe is not above roof level and bad weather [anything from fog or heavy rain to snow] acts as a damper, keeping the odour in the pipe.

  • Diane Diane on Oct 20, 2015
    Nope. We are total electric.

  • Diane Diane on Oct 20, 2015
    No, I have not checked but I am really thinking this could be the problem! As soon as I get home from work today, my husband and I will get up there and check out the problem!! Thanks for this tip!

  • Lori Johansen Lori Johansen on Oct 20, 2015
    If an older home then, it's likely the pipes/plumbing. Hope you can find a resolution! :)

  • Patricia Denapole Patricia Denapole on Oct 20, 2015
    I have had the same problem off and on for 5 years. My house is on a concrete slab with the septic tank under black top 3 feet away from the house. Septic has been pumped and is working properly. 3 different plumbers also, no answers. One told me it may just be the way the wind blows! All summer, no odor what so ever. 2 weeks ago it was back. Frustrating as the dickens!!!

    • Diane Diane on Oct 21, 2015
      @Patricia Denapole Yes!!! I'm right there with you!

  • 9530106 9530106 on Oct 20, 2015
    Try plugging your sink and allowing it to fill with hot water, watching the overflow hole. The overflow may either be clogged, or just have a buildup. It really can smell up a room! The hot water will help to clean it out.

  • Toynette Toynette on Oct 20, 2015
    Wonder if snaking your line would help. Rotten eggs is a sulfur base. Clean the pea trap of your sink. I lived in an old boarding house in my youth; no smell that I remember. My daughter & son-in-law bought an older home. The public bathroom has an displeasing oder they battle since purchase in June.

  • Mai991992 Mai991992 on Oct 20, 2015
    Check to see if vent stack is blocked or broken in the wall. Is it any different on windy days or the same?

    • Diane Diane on Oct 21, 2015
      @Maintman1997 Not really noticed. I have noticed it is worse on damp days....heavy fog, frost, rain, snow

  • Jan1872551 Jan1872551 on Oct 20, 2015
    Actually had plumber out today who replaced old pipes. They were plugged like arteries with lots of rot. So nice now.

    • Diane Diane on Oct 21, 2015
      @Janetsexton That's probably what we need to do but been putting it off because we only have the one bathroom.

  • Claudia Claudia on Oct 20, 2015
    Check the seal that your toilet sits on, it maybe broken. We had that issue had the plumber come and that wax ring was broken and the gases from the sewer was leaking through. Problem was solved. Hope this will help somebody.

  • Diane Diane on Oct 21, 2015
    Just had the toilet replaced thinking that would help but it didn't.

  • Jan1872551 Jan1872551 on Oct 21, 2015
    Good luck. It's a relief to have it done. I very happy

  • Pj Halfbreed Pj Halfbreed on Oct 21, 2015
    Is your water stinky? Theres a mineral pipe in the water heater that can cause a rotten egg smell. Especially if your water is high in sulpher.

  • Diane Diane on Oct 21, 2015
    No, thank goodness! The water is not stinky!

  • Deb Martin Knaff Deb Martin Knaff on Oct 21, 2015
    When I was younger, we had that same smell, then all of us in the family broke out in a rash and had bad headaches. The plumber discovered that the sewer pipes (for lack of the technical term), that went out the roof became plugged with fallen leaves. Once that was cleaned out, we were healthy again and he said it was very dangerous. Maybe that would be something to check?

  • Cheryl Post Cheryl Post on Oct 21, 2015
    Have you had your air ducts cleaned? Sometimes a mouse can get in air ducts and die. Then it has an awful smell.

  • Foley Mountain Foley Mountain on Oct 22, 2015
    Here goes nothing, we bought a 150 yr old home, and had the same problem in the fall every year. We ripped out the bathroom and found remains of small rodents, and ones that had not decomposed, it was suggested that in the fall these small rodents search out warmer places to live, and that as they rot, they smell. The other things we did was put a small filter between our pump and our incoming water, this has completely eliminated the come and go odors, and when they arrive we know we waited to long to change the filter.

  • Debbie Lamont Debbie Lamont on Oct 23, 2015
    Yes I agree with Deb Knaff stink stack on the roof plugged

  • Johnchip Johnchip on Oct 24, 2015
    As this is seasonal, it is likely the stack. Once cleaned out, make sure you cap it with a mesh topper so it is not an annual chore. If it is rodent, the smell would not be septic, it would be the 'sweet and sour' odor of flesh rot.

  • We had a similar smell in ours for the whole time we lived here! Replaced old hardwood floors, vent fan, repainted - nothing worked. We did a kitchen/bathroom remodel this year and needed to do some drywall repair, so my husband opened the ceiling. He found that the vent hose(I guess in the business they refer to it as the fart fan or something like that) to the outside was torn. We replaced it and the smell is gone! It only took us 7 years!! Good luck!

  • Becky Becky on Oct 24, 2015
    You can try filling your bathroom sinks with water and then put bleach down the overflow hole. Let this sit for a while and then let the water go. Sometimes crud grows in the overflow and the bleach kills it. We have to do this for all of the sinks upstairs for whatever reason. When the smell comes back, do it again, works great.

    • 9530106 9530106 on Oct 24, 2015
      @Becky That is pretty much what I recommended, minus the bleach, Since they have a septic system, some people try to avoid bleach. :) But, I doubt whether a small amount would hurt too much!

  • Pamela Greco Pamela Greco on Oct 25, 2015
    Hello again, we have the door outside as well. Last night it was outside, cleared , then was inside. It was not in connected garage but in laundry room, 1/2 bath area. We have city sewer and water. All electric service, New water heater and live in raised ranch. So far we've done all suggestions that could apply to us. Really think it has to do with sewer or water . Possibly ground water? It is weird and stinky. I'll keep following, hope someone will figure it out for us.

  • Diane Diane on Oct 26, 2015
    We have a septic and have done everything with that to keep it at bay. I am really thinking it is the vent pipe after reading all of these comments but we have not had a chance to check that out.

  • Sylvia Sipes Sylvia Sipes on Oct 27, 2015
    Those smells do come from pipes... The hardest part is figuring out which one Also maybe an old carpet or covered floor covering, which I doubt will be your situation with the makeovers ;)

  • Mary Jennings Meffe Mary Jennings Meffe on Oct 27, 2015
    Inside the hot water heater there is an anode rod. It protects the hot water tank from corrosion. In a home with a water softener that rod corrodes and causes the sulphur smell. We ended up just removing the rod. My husband loosed the nut on top of the tank, pulled the rod out, sawed off the anode part and replaced the nut. Smell was gone.

  • Crystal Crystal on Oct 27, 2015
    it may be coming from the toilet tank which can grow mold and mildew. we have a smell every once in a while and have to take the top off and pour a little bleach in

  • Rita O'Neill Rita O'Neill on Feb 28, 2016
    Is your plumbing vented through thr roof? it should be.

  • Nancy Spencer Carlson Nancy Spencer Carlson on Mar 09, 2016
    Hey @Diane I have this saved in my 'answer' file, but I can't find my previous comment. On some post I suggested that my house tends to smell that was sometimes, and I was going to seal the access panel in the closet behind the tub water pipes and put an air purifier in the crawl space to see if it helped. I didn't check the access panel, but did put the air purifier under the house for a few days and also re-caulked around the bottom of the tub/floor. Problem solved.