Asked on Jul 08, 2014

What to do about a stinky apartment toilet

Lisa Ochoa
by Lisa Ochoa
We just moved to San Antonio and we were blessed with a wonderful apartment, but the upgrades are still going on throughout the complex. We on the other hand have a toilet that apart from being for kids under 10 it really smells bad (as if the urine was imbedded into the toilet). I have bought numerous cleaners including CLR (since we have some of the hardest water, but there is staining where the water comes out). It is so nauseating. What can I do? I don't want to keep bugging the office as we already made the report and we know the changes are coming. In the mea time can anyone help?
the blue is toilet cleaner hung in the tank.
  60 answers
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Jul 08, 2014
    I've used a flat blade to scrape away stains, and poured a good amount of bleach right into the tank. Other things to put in the tank would be some water softener, baking soda, denture tablets. What you are smelling might be sewer gas - not good. I'd get them in to check it out after all the efforts you've made.without success.
  • Adrianne C Adrianne C on Jul 09, 2014
    The Works for toilets is great for stains, the wax ring may be failing and the smell may be coming from under the toilet. It may have spilled onto the floor under it. I recommend if you replace the wax ring, use the extra wax one that's larger.
  • Cindy Carley Cindy Carley on Jul 09, 2014
    Can't help you with the "nasty smell".........but definitely would be reporting it to the management of the apartment complex.....something needs to be fixed...ASAP!!! But, for the "hard water" stains...........we use what they call a "pumice stone" and it can be purchased at any hardware store or big chain store. You will have to use rubber gloves and scrub the stains for quite awhile to get them all removed..........BUT IT DOES DO THE TRICK!!! ~~~ GOOD LUCK!! :)
  • Kay cook Kay cook on Jul 09, 2014
    Our toilet does this at work. the best thing that works is the "WORKS" toilet bowl cleaner. its the cheapest and best cleaner i have used. we have bought it at all stores and they even sell it at the Dollar store.
  • 163130 163130 on Jul 09, 2014
    Oh boy do I know this one to the heart, won't say where I lived but the hardest water on earth and every week came the scrubbing due to hard water and our problem was black rings. I used plain old powdered comet or whatever cheap powdered version there was and instead of a scrub brush I used drywall sandpaper which is a mesh type of screen as opposed to what you think sandpaper really looks like. It never hurt or scratched the porcelain. But the problem is always the hard water! Bought a new toilet and the problem always reappeared. Hate bugging landlords. Bottom line was I moved as I done the research and talked to neighbors but no one wanted to admit nasty rings in toilet as it looked like they never cleaned it. 6 years later I left that town and have had no problems since.
  • Kat Davis-Moran Kat Davis-Moran on Jul 09, 2014
    I would not use a blade or scraping my ow personal opinion, I use commercial strengths zeppelin, from Home Depot, I smells goods and works awesome, I use to have a cleaning company n this is what I use to swear by,
  • Shar Shar on Jul 09, 2014
    Our home has a nasty smell from our water as well. We use Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner with a lime and Rust remover. It is sold in a black bottle. Make sure you wear gloves as I believe it contains hydrochloric acid. It works wonders and the fragrance is fresh and clean. Hoping this product is sold in California as I know there are alot of restrictions
  • Joan White Joan White on Jul 09, 2014
    I drain the water out of the toilet bowl and fill it full of vinegar and leave it overnight. It usually cleans everything.
  • Luz Melendez Luz Melendez on Jul 09, 2014
    Follow @Adrianne C ideas for the smell. Use #100 sandpaper for the stain.
  • Carolyn rogers Carolyn rogers on Jul 09, 2014
    Gloves and a pumice stone, keep stone and area you are scrubbing wet at all times,
  • Evonne Kruger Evonne Kruger on Jul 09, 2014
    I got the finest sandpaper and sanded the lime off and cleaned out the tank and put in Clorox Blocks in tank, did this for a neighbor and after a few months washed the tank out again when blocks are used up. And works wonderful.
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jul 09, 2014
    The smell is probably not coming from the toilet but rather from seepage out of the bottom of the toilet because the wax seal is broken! Call your landlord and tell them that you need this fixed now! All kinds of "things" are getting out on your floor! In the meantime, use some Clorox Clean Up spray on the floor around the bottom of the toilet. Let it sit a while to seep underneath, then wipe it up with paper not use cloth and throw it the laundry! I tried and tried to get one of ours cleaned until I complained and my guy took up the toilet and cleaned the floor and put in a new seal. I could not stand to be in the house when this was done!
  • Sheri Ketarkus Sheri Ketarkus on Jul 09, 2014
    I agree with Jeanette. The smell isn't the toilet, porcelain isn't going to hold odors. Looks ugly but if you close the lid u don't see it. I would be the squeaky wheel with your landlord and get that toilet removed. Good luck
  • Wri366320 Wri366320 on Jul 09, 2014
    I've never tried it but they say one can of cocacola _and let it sit o er night will make any toilet lile brand new I don't know may be worth trying
  • Lynn Lynn on Jul 09, 2014
    Agree with Sheri and Jeanette. The staining (is it rough texture) can easily come off with pumice (like you use on feet) and wont' mar the porcelain. But the smell is another story. Venting might be bad...........the seal.............
  • Christina G Christina G on Jul 09, 2014
    Recycling A Badly Scratched Vintage Toilet We had a 1933-era vitreous porcelain toilet in our basement and decided to move it upstairs and reinstall in our main bathroom. It’s a wall-mounted model that isn’t made anymore and because the tank is wall-mounted and has a 5 gallon capacity, the toilet flushes really, REALLY well. The problem was it had been augered improperly several times in the past and the porcelain inside the bowl was scratched so badly as to be unuseable (it was a close call whether the bowl had more black or white on the inside). I tried everything—repeated scrubbings with cleansers of all kinds including Bar Keeper's Friend, letting bleach soak on the surface, reading vintage books looking for a solution, and spending hours searching online but nothing I tried worked at all. Then I read a post that also recommended using Bar Keeper's Friend but in an unusual way, and it worked like a charm. How To Do It : Flush the toilet, then immediately turn off the water valve so the tank doesn’t refill with water. Next, use a big sponge to sop up the water in the bowl until you can get the porcelain surface of the inside of the bowl bone dry. You may also need to follow up with paper towels to make sure the surface is completely dry. Mix a stiff paste using a little water and the Bar Keeper's Friend (you will probably need to use at least 1/3 of the can). With a household paint brush, brush a fairly thick coating completely covering the scratched areas and let it sit, undisturbed, overnight. I couldn’t believe my eyes the next morning when I washed off the paste—you would be truly amazed. If any of you other people out there have had to deal with this problem you understand what I’m talking about. So now we have a toilet that performs exceptionally well that also happens to be as cute as a button. One word of caution I have read that newer toilets have a different kind of glaze finish than the vintage toilets had and this technique can dull the porcelain on some new finishes, so test the mix on an area that isn’t visible first.
  • Arl254843 Arl254843 on Jul 09, 2014
    I agree with the others. You definitely need to have them replace the wax ring under the toilet. I have come across this numerous times and having a raised many generations of daycare children, I know whereof I speak.
  • Patti Nicholas Patti Nicholas on Jul 09, 2014
    As the owner of an eco-friendly cleaning company, I deal with this problem all the time. These are actually two different issues. The first being the staining on the porcelain. The quickest and safest way to deal with these stains is to thoroughly clean the toilet with Borax (found in the laundry aisle about $4 at that big box store I hate to mention) and a scrub brush, then take a wet pumice stone (from the cleaning aisle about $1.99 at that same big box store) and scrub at the stain, it will disappear like magic. Follow this with a once a week borax soak (put about a 1/4 cup in, swirl and leave for a few hours to overnight, swirl again and flush) and you won't get those stains or hard water rings either. AND just a note about the safety of is a naturally occurring mineral, that does not however, mean that it is harmless. Borax is poisonous if ingested so keep it in a sealed container away from kids and pets and close the lid on the toilet when soaking. Now for the smell, I suspect that the offensive odor is actually coming from the base of the toilet, probably from years of unmentionable liquids seeping under the toilet and into the floor. The caulk probably needs replacing around your toilet base and your wax ring (the seal that prevents leaking) may need replacing. Depending on the type of flooring you have this could be a quick and easy fix or a little more complicated, but that should solve your odor problem. While you wait for maintenance to solve that issue, take a towel soaked in white vinegar and wrap it as tightly as you can around the base, leave it sit for several hours to a full day, even until the towel dries if you want, this will deodorize the area and clean up whatever the vinegar can get to. I highly recommend you stay away from most commercial toilet cleaners as well as chlorine bleach, they tend to be corrosive to the pipes and porcelain and at best only mask the issue.
  • Slgibbs1 Slgibbs1 on Jul 09, 2014
    I too, think it's the wax seal. I would never use anything abrasive on porcelain. I use the "Magic Eraser" on my limescale deposits and maybe some lime scale removal liquid. But the smell is coming from the wax seal. they are only a few dollars.
  • Kathy Cerwin Kathy Cerwin on Jul 09, 2014
    Vinegar and baking soda works wonders.
  • Carmen Carmen on Jul 09, 2014
    Get RUBBER GLOVES, 2-4 gallons of white vinegar, papertowels, a good toilet brush (preferably new), old toothbrush, rag, a toilet pumicestone (ACE hardware usually has these), and about 1.5 hours of elbow grease. Open windows and or put on the exhaust fan.You are going to get the floor wet so sweep before you start. 1. Shut the watervalue , and flush the toilet, empty out as much water as you can from the tankand toilet bowl. 2. Fill toilettank with white vinegar. 3. Soak paper towels in white vinegar, roll and place around the inner rim of the towel. Itwon’t be easy getting them to stay put, but it is doable. 4. While that is working, remove the toiletseat. Use a rag soaked in equal parts white vinegar and water, clean the toiletseat and cover. Use the old toothbrush to clean the hinge and that rubber gasketthat is a spacer for the commode. Use the toothbrush and rag to clean thescrews. Now clean all the commode, pay special attention to where the tank and commodemeet, underneath where the toilet seat screw where, and the place where the commodeis anchored to the floor. Scrub thesesame areas with the old tooth brush.. 5. Scrub with the wet rag the floor around thetoilet. 6. Remove the paper from the toilet rim. Soak your pumice stone in the vinegar andwater solution and scrub the rim. Thepumice stone should not damage the toilet finish, especially if you keep itsemi moist. This is the most timeconsuming part of this job! Keep working at this until you remove that awfulstain by wetting the stone and scrubbing under the rim, where the water comesfrom. 7. Using thetoilet brush scrub the inside of the tank, be careful that isn’t water, butwhite vinegar. Clean the tank cover all over, pay special attention to the inside with the rag, and if needed use the brush or pumice stone. Flush the toilet,and scrub the bowl with the brush working again under the rim. If needed use the pumice stone again underthe rim and for any water rings in the bowl. 8. Open the watervalue; when full flush again. Clean all the outside of the toilet and toiletseat once again with clear water. Put back the seat. Mop the floor. The vinegar smell will go away and so will the stinky odor!
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jul 09, 2014
    P.S. If you can stand it, be around when they take up the toilet. If the "mess" is out on the subfloor or on concrete, it can't be removed. You have to replace wooden subflooring and sanitize the concrete and seal it. Just putting in a new toilet will not do!
  • Jill Jill on Jul 09, 2014
    It most likely is the wax ring seal that smells. In the mean time, I've had decent luck with a fistful of polident tablets for removing stains. You'll have to keep swishing the solution up onto the stain and leave it sit for as long as you can. If you can manage a way to temporarily plug the toilet and get the water level higher, that would help the stain soak. Also, you may have to get up under the rim and clean where the water comes out. That may also be the source of some of the smell. Bleach is also helpful there.
  • John J John J on Jul 09, 2014
    Numerous methods - from Flat Cola to Bicarbonated Soda Paste overnight .... or try repair enamel paint patch kits or somthing similar. As to the smell then it sounds like what the other comments have raised a new seal required.... try bathroom sealeant around the joints of the w.c. to see if that stops the smell.. smelling ya l8r lol ;D Good Luck
  • JENGLAND JENGLAND on Jul 09, 2014
    "The Works" get it at Walmart or Dollar Store. Will take out any stain on porcelain immediately-pour- swish around-flush.
  • Jor369541 Jor369541 on Jul 09, 2014
    hydrogen peroxide.. will do the trick..garontee!
  • Ginger Ginger on Jul 09, 2014
    I agree with the others about it being the wax ring which can leave a nasty smell when broken. But as for the husband and I rented an office building to recover aircraft and the office bathroom toilet had a disgusting stain that they thought they would need to replace the toilet. It didn't have any water in it when I started cleaning it and I am sure that the stain surface being dry is very important. I poured Lime-Away (same as CLR) on the dry stain & let it set for about 15 minutes...used a pumice stone and the whole toilet came out looking like it was brand new again!! I have never been able to get the stain out while it is wet so scoop a few disposable drink cups of the water out before you start. Hope it helps!
  • Melinda Edwards Melinda Edwards on Jul 09, 2014
    Many, many good ideas. If you can't replace the thing soon, I personally would try anything. We had a toilet once, in a new house, that wasn't vented properly, nasty smelling! Even though many people do not like the chemical bleach, it will kill about any smell, imbedded or not. I used to be a teacher, had an 8 year old boy who would only pee on the floor, smell was appalling. I would use bleach, in schools you can't and they used some kind of professional enzyme, not effective. I also put a bleach tablet in the tank once a month, keeps it pretty fresh all the time. Hard water is the worst! Best of luck.
    • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jul 09, 2014
      @Melinda Edwards I agree that a lot of people are anti-bleach, but sometimes, you have no choice. Some things are just too nasty to take a chance...and this is one of those times!
  • Kelley M Kelley M on Jul 09, 2014
  • Gary Leeman Gary Leeman on Jul 09, 2014
    I use to work doing private cleaning jobs. Two reasons I have found for a really stinky toilet after the bowl has been scrubbed. Is either the toilet seat itself urine will build up around the hinged part of the seat the easiest fix is to buy a new seat secondly also from over or under spray settles around the base of the toilet. If you have a steamer that works really well to remove the build up and then a good scrub job with your favorite cleaner and brush. Good luck
  • Marlene Wilson Marlene Wilson on Jul 09, 2014
    I cleaned my toilet withPeroxide and white vinigar.It really looked a lot better.
  • Julie Julie on Jul 10, 2014
    use wet pumice stone..only thing i have found to get rid of build up. Keep the pumice stone wet, it will not harm the porcelain.
  • Bonnie Spielman Bonnie Spielman on Jul 10, 2014
    All the cleaning in the world is not going to help it is in the wax ring and the floor. I know you don't want to bug them but you are after all paying rent. Ask them to come smell it and see if they can't move you to the top of the list.
  • Also try "Zud" brand cleanser. Takes the iron/rust stains off beautifully. Hope the management fixes the smelling issue very soon!!
  • Sharon B Sharon B on Jul 10, 2014
    If it smells like sulfur or rotten eggs it's the seal.
  • Sandra Whittier Sandra Whittier on Jul 10, 2014
    A small waste/trash can full of water will empty the bowl of all water then spray vinegar all over the inside of the bowl and sprinkle in baking soda and watch the bubbles. The longer you leave it on the more it cleans. The soda will hold the vinegar onto the bowl and eats the lime as well as the soda acting as a pumice stone without harming the finish. If that don't work--move!!
  • Melissa Gutilla Melissa Gutilla on Jul 10, 2014
    A wax ring only costs a few dollars. We had to replace one upstairs in out bathroom. Your toilet should also have a seal(caulk) around the base at the floor. The only place that should stay open is a few inches in the back of it. If the toilet overflows or people pee on the floor around the toilet it will run underneath and stink it up. I bet that is where the smell comes from. It took my brother who is a carpenter about 5 minutes to replace it. we drained the toilet he pulled it up a little. Stuck the new one in and sit it back down.
  • Norma Norma on Jul 10, 2014
    Go to the hardware store and get a pumice, and take the water out of the toilet, and the pumice is a mild abrasive, and will scrub the stains. Though, those are iron stains. Mine were calcium stains. Good luck!
  • Gloria Zuendel Gloria Zuendel on Jul 11, 2014
    White out for toilets will take that right out
  • Anna P Anna P on Jul 12, 2014
    "Bar Keepers Friend" in liquid/gel is my BEST friend in cleaning for EVERYTHING , kitchen, bath, toilets especially !!! try it, it costs only 2.dollars and change a bottle.
  • Shirley Palmer Shirley Palmer on Jul 13, 2014
    I have cats and use a product called "Nature's Miracle" What I do is clean the floor around the toilet, let it dry, then spray with Nature's Miracle. You can also spray the hinges of the seat & lid. This is a temporary fix if the wax ring is shot.
  • Marilyn Nerren Marilyn Nerren on Jul 15, 2014
    If the toilet is porcelain, you might try muriatic acid as used in swimming pool. Will take stains off and should help with smell. Only use if the toilet porcelain. Will harm any other types. Use a about half of a cup first to try.
  • Shelly Giorgis Shelly Giorgis on Jul 15, 2014
    you have hard water stains under the rim of the porcelain bowl. Use a hand mirror to look. Spray with Lime Away and let sit for an hour, scrub, then repeat this process until all the buildup is dissolved.
  • Gail lichtsinn Gail lichtsinn on Aug 01, 2014
    those are rust stains..Under the rim where you cant see them there is a series of little holes where the refill water comes in..Get a mirror..Those holes fill up with calcium and sometimes rust..Cut a piece of clothes hanger wire and clean those holes out..You can use zud or vinegar remove the rust and they are right a pumice stone or powder kept wet wont hurt your toilet..The stain has soaked into the porcelin so you may need to make a paste of your rust remover and let it sit..Peroxide and baking soda made into a paste is a mild bleaching agent
  • Sherrie Sherrie on Aug 01, 2014
    The Works has muriatic acid in it. Empty the water out and keep spraying the works on it. If that doesn't help you can use a old paint brush and muriatic acid. You need a window open, a the bathroom fan on and a face mask. Paint it on let sit a few minutes and rinse. I always use this as a last resort. Sometimes you can't fix it. I wouldn't hesitate to call the apartment manger and make him aware of it. If it is smelling. They might be doing repairs but some things are necessity and the smell sounds like a wax ring where it has leeched out on to the floor.
  • Darla Darla on Aug 01, 2014
    Put the acidic cleaner in the *tank* not the bowl, and flush it with the lid closed. If you use muriatic acid for this, keep windows open and leave the room and close the door after you've flushed it.
  • Shelly Giorgis Shelly Giorgis on Aug 02, 2014
    Also you can try Polident tablets in the tank and the bowl. I'd put at least two or more in each.
  • Bernice H Bernice H on Aug 02, 2014
    My in-laws toilet bowls were TOTALLY rust all around like this. So gross. We hired a professional cleaning company to come in and do the whole house for selling, I was worried we were going to have to replace the toilets. No she said, we will get it clean, I wish I had taken before and after pictures, they look like new! What you ask did they use? Pumice stone and lots of elbow grease. Just keep the pumice stone wet as you scrub. however I tend to agree the smell is from under the floor, tile, vinyl flooring, whatever.
  • Karen Karen on Aug 02, 2014
    We just bought a condo for our children to live in while in college. There are three toilets and they all had stains like the one in your photo. They are iron stains from iron in the water supply. I tried using pumice, CLR, etc...nothing worked. After looking on the internet for answers, I found one blog which suggested using oxalic acid. OA is one of the ingredients in Bar Keepers Friend. It comes in both powder and liquid and can be found at Home Depot, Lowe's, Walmart, etc. However, I decided to use Zud. It is also a liquid cleaner with OA but I think it has a higher content of OA. The only downside is that I had to order it wasn't expensive but you have to wait on delivery!. Anyway, I squirted it on the stains and under the rim and it disappeared in a matter of SECONDS with no scrubbing...amazing! Also, the stains will reappear unless you take care of the stains (which I suspect you have) in the tank. (Take the top off of your should be able to tell immediately if you have an iron problem because the tank shouldn't be covered in red stain.) I took the top off of my tank, turned off the valve to the water supply, flushed the toilet (this will take most of the water out of the tank). I squirted the Zud all around the inside of the tank and used my hand (the bottle said to use gloves but I didn't and didn't have any problems with irritation to my hand and remember the water in the tank is CLEAN water!) to smear the Zud onto all of the surface of the inside of the tank. I waited a few minutes and watched the iron stains disappear. You can use paper towels to wipe some of the Zud off at this point or not. Turn the water back on. You may have to flush the toilet several times to get the soapy Zud out of the tank. If was easy and didn't require any scrubbing. Also, Zud can be used all around the house! If you don't want to order Zud, I'd use Bar Keeper's Friend in the liquid to see if you get the same results. Also, I would definitely change the wax ring under the toilet to get rid of the smell. Just turn off the water supply, emptying the toilet and tank of water (you can use paper towels, a bath towel whatever of get all of the water out of the tank), unbolt the toilet from the floor, unscrew the water line and lift the toilet off of the floor (place it on a flattened box or tarp). Replace the wax ring and voila! You can find good youtube vids for this online! Sorry for the long reply....Good luck!
  • Joli Joli on Aug 05, 2014
    Make sure as much of the water is out of the bowl - shut the water off - flush the toilet then plunge the rest out then get the cheapest 3 liter coke product you can buy and fill up the bowl and let it sit for a good time at least a half hour or longer! If you can pour some coke in the tank but I wouldn't let it sit in there too long because it will eat the rubber of the stopper. I've used this method before and it worked wonders and by the way I don't drink coke because it scares me becasue of how well it eat the lime, rust and stains. It was very easy!!!
  • Louise Louise on Jan 05, 2015
    Cleaner 2oz. Dawn Dishwashing liquid 4oz. Lemon Juice 8oz. White Vinegar 10oz. Water *Pleasetest it first before using on delicate surfaces. This is powerfulstuff! If your shower has a bad build-up of soap scum and crud it maytake a time or two to get that shine. Spray the toilet with the spray during the day everytime you thing of it, then spray with Oxyclean spray just before you go to bed. It will probably need no hand cleaning after than. The Vinegar will remove even pet odors so it should also penetrate the bowl and kill your odors. (Also tell you boys not to aim for that spot as it has been damaged with the old urine and will reappear. They can aim for the water and play making bubbles instead! lol
  • D Nielsen D Nielsen on Jan 10, 2015
    CLR or Iron Out in the Tank -- here is how -- flush and let refill - remove tank lid, pour in Iron Out -- let soak overnight - flush in the morning -- by taking the rust out of the tank, will help with the bowl as well
  • Judy Judy on Sep 14, 2016
    I have just heard about using efferdent tablets....apparently only need half of one....about to go to store and purchase it to try....thought I would share....idea came from a professional cleaner.
  • Cherie Cherie on Sep 14, 2016
    Use Whink. Found in most grocery store. Squirt some under the rim & walk away. When you come back you can squirt any remaining stains. Worked in a gas station with a NASTY toilet. Got a raise just for fixing it :)
  • Mar12848477 Mar12848477 on Oct 19, 2016
    Barkeepers Friend (powder not liquid) works very well on porcelain bowls and tubs in removing stains.
  • Julia Luis Julia Luis on Oct 21, 2016
    Vinegar and baking soda will clear that stain up in a heartbeat.
  • Janet Morrissey Janet Morrissey on Oct 29, 2016
    Use a pumice stick little elbow grease
  • Ali Kay Ali Kay on Oct 29, 2016
    The smell might not be the toilet itself. The renters before you might Ave had kids under 10 with bad aim. LOl. I would use some vinegar heavily around the base of the toilet and underneath. IT may have even soaked into the floor. HAve the apt. Manager come take a whiff...they may need to replace flooring and baseboards.
  • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Apr 04, 2021

    Hi Lisa, we throw a chlorine pool tablet in the toilet tank. It works for us and it keeps the toilet smelly fresh too.

  • Deb K Deb K on Oct 15, 2022

    Hi Lisa, hope this helps you out. Sounds like the toilet needs some deep cleaning.

    Start by cleaning the bowl, under the rim and the toilet seat/lid.

    you may also want to out some beach into the toilet tank to clean that out. Or you can use vinegar instead, which will work on any hardwater deposits in there as well.