Asked on Jul 26, 2013

Unloved Bathroom - HELP!

by Jean
We are making some budget-friendly improvements to an old unloved bathroom. We are not replacing the floor at this time. There is a terrible odor around the toilet. We are repainting, putting up wainscoting, and planning to replace the vanity. Any suggestions for super-powered cleaning products to help reduce the odor until we're ready to replace the ceramic tiling and the toilet? It's just not possible to redo the entire area at this time, although that's what it truly needs.
q unloved bathroom help, bathroom ideas, cleaning tips, diy, flooring, home improvement, home maintenance repairs, tile flooring, tiling, We re in the middle of patching and painting Just looking for suggestions to reduce the odor
We're in the middle of patching and painting. Just looking for suggestions to reduce the odor.
  35 answers
  • Susan Stetzel Susan Stetzel on Jul 26, 2013
    use a steam cleaner (like a shark) to blow steam in all the seams around that toilet. it will clean out caked in urine that you didn't even know was there.

  • Phyllis Mulford Phyllis Mulford on Jul 26, 2013
    Susan, I use a spray bottle and make a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda. I don't dilute it because I want it to soak in and it seems to work wonders. I also scrub it with an old discarded battery operated tooth bush. I have a 4 yr old Grand Son that sometimes misses. Sometimes you may have to paint the wood to repel future accidents before you finish the floor. Good Luck

  • Sherrie Sherrie on Jul 26, 2013
    If the toilet's wax ring has crumbled or worn away the smell is in the floor board not the tile . Replace the ring first if it has seeped into the floor board you will either have to replace it, or seal it. You sound like your very clean I am wondering if it has leaked? You need to know or your floor will deteriorate from the water leakage.

  • KMS Woodworks KMS Woodworks on Jul 26, 2013
    A new wax ring is a pretty small getting the toilet up just for a peek will give you an idea if there is any water damage to the sub floor.

  • Judy Judy on Jul 26, 2013
    For odor removal, I have found that a product called OdoBan works wonders. We used it in a house where the cats used the corner for a litter reeked!!! We had to apply the product a few times, then sealed the wood, but it has no odor now.

  • Cheryl Schmidt Cheryl Schmidt on Jul 26, 2013
    To be honest, to add paint and wainscotting etc but not investigate the cause of the smell is kind of like putting lipstick on a pig. As previously mentioned, most likely your toilet is leaking which will eventually ruin your sub floor and even wick up your wood wainscotting and then you are looking at a total bathroom gut. Sorry, my DH is a contractor and deals with this daily. Best of luck!

  • Sherrie Sherrie on Jul 26, 2013
    Cheryl Schmidt I laughed at the way you answered it! Blunt and straight forward and I love those kinds of answers! I love little ditty's anyway. Shine Don't Whine, (my grandmother's favorite when she was alive is " The More you Stir Sh^t the more it stinks! My grandma was ver proper it had a wicked tounge!

  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Jul 26, 2013
    @Jean there are a couple of things you could try. They do have odor removers for pet spots, that may help. We always used viniger with baking soda to remove pet odors - pour viniger then sprinkle baking soda on top and let sit for a while (30-90 minutes or more) Then wipe up. You could also try the scrubbing bubbles with bleach foam - works great on all kinds of issues - usually my first stop. I agree with trying to find out the problem as well. We had a toilet with a flange that was too short for the height of the toilet - saw some water on the floor from the basement. We fixed that and no more problems. Let us know what works for you so we can all be enlightened :) Thanks for posting.

  • Jean Jean on Jul 27, 2013
    Thank you all for the great suggestions. We plan to eventually completely redo the bathroom. Three boys were raised in this house and the odor is likely related to this fact. Also, the upkeep was likely poor. There's no sign of leakage on the surface. We have uncovered areas where residual odor was hidden, likely to urine buildup over many years. Prior to painting, etc, we're just hoping to do a deep cleaning for the time being. From work yesterday, I was forawarding all of your responses to my husband who had taken the day off to work on the bathroom. I called to check on him at one point. He said, "I'm putting lipstick on the pig!" Anyway, Phyllis, he tried your concoction which seemed to make a huge difference. I've been cleaning this bathroom on the surface for over 2 years (since I moved in) and have kept it reasonably clean. We realize the toilet needs to be investigated for leaks beneath. That part of this project will have to wait a few weeks. We're hosting a family reunion with 25 people in 2 weeks and can't risk uncovering a major project. My husband states he realizes the ring is likely an issue, but fears he'll have to get into a major project if he lifts the toilet and we can't get into that prior to the party. I'll post updates on this project. We certainly have a lot of great suggestions to try. Thank you so much! Jean

    • Carol Oswald Carol Oswald on Jan 24, 2015
      @Jean I second the Odo-ban recommendation after looking under the toilet. Treating the grout specifically with the product is very important and a steam cleaner would be next after that. Good luck!

  • You really need to check out the floor underneath! From experience in a older home years ago we found that the floor was completely rotted and that is where the odor was from! If you have a crawl space then you see from underneath, if not, remove the toliet (wax rings are not over $5) and investigate the wood around the flange. If it is rotted wood from years of urinating and missing and/or a leak there are not products that will get rid of the smell. Good luck!

  • Put your knee next to the toilet bowl and apply slight pressure against it. IF the toilet rocks, you need to change out the wax ring. If you have access below do as Renee Fuller suggested. Look for leaks and rot. Very common. If it was as you said BOYS a cleaning of the surface using a bleach type of product would solve this issue fast. If that is not the case, then there is a leak coming from under the bowl that will need to be addressed.

  • Cynthia Stanko Cynthia Stanko on Jul 28, 2013
    Straight bleach or diluted

  • Peggy Rebernigg Peggy Rebernigg on Jul 28, 2013
    I definitely agree to check on the wax ring. It's rather easy to check and worth the time especially since you're investing other time to invest in other repairs. It will give a lot more time to the bathroom renovation as a whole. Then take a floor steamer or spot steamer as previously mentioned I believe and give the floor a good cleaning. You just may be surprised and find new love for the ceramic tiles as they are. (I cleaned a very nasty bathroom floor such as yours and it came out beautifully new looking again doing just that). For the final steam clean of the bathroom floor I added a bit of vanilla oil to the cleaning pad and it had a nice soft smell that even gave the disgusting bathroom from before the cleanup an actual relaxing spa feeling. It's amazing what a good cleaning and paint even can do, but definitely check the wax ring.

  • Sharon Crady Sharon Crady on Jul 28, 2013
    That looks like my bathroom, only I painted mine pink, with the dark green shower curtains with pink & darker pink flowers, a tall vase on floor next to sink with pink & green flowers & a little square basket of pink, green & white for toilet paper across from stool, have fun decorating yours !!

  • Donna Lauderbaugh Donna Lauderbaugh on Jul 28, 2013
    The way everything is placed is like my 2nd bathroom, it doesn't sit right where the toilet is, so when men, boys go, they're peeing from the side which usually hits the wall and goes down. Mine's not the wax ring, just not 'hitting the spot'.

  • Louise Louise on Jul 28, 2013
    If you can't fix it all at one time, why not start with the offensive odor by replacing the floor and making sure the toilet isn't leaking? Even replacing a toilet can be pretty cheap and you can get tiles for REALLY cheap if you have a Floor and Decor near you.

  • Christine Christine on Jul 28, 2013
    Definitely sounds like the wax ring to me. I've had this happen before and it is a god awful smell, or can be. Seems to kind of come and go, at times? Wax ring would be my bet.

  • Doris Collins Doris Collins on Jul 28, 2013
    Jean, I don't have any further ideas about the smell, but I had a bathroom like yours once and the best thing I ever did for it was have a piece of wood (or marble, or whatever you plan to use for your new vanity) cut the exact distance from the existing vanity to the wall (and the depth of the existing vanity, of course). Nail or screw brackets on the wall and the end of the current vanity and simply set the cut piece over the toilet. Yes, I have to lift it off if I need to remove the tank cover, but I seldom if ever have to do that. One thing I wish I'd checked before I had the piece cut: My husband didn't appreciate the fact that the lid and seat of the toilet didn't always stay up when he raised them. If I had cut the piece in by an inch or less, he wouldn't have had a problem. I loved the extra vanity space! Good luck with your makeover!

  • Tegma Tegma on Jul 28, 2013
    It's definitely under the toilet, so you need to unscrew the flanges and investigate or the floor will start coming up. Seepage is leaking underneath and is a health hazard! I am a 72 yr. old woman and I replaced my own toilet with a new one and it was simple. In your case, you may only need a wax ring.... get one at Lowes for about $5. I recommend a high one as the one you have may be too low for the floor. Replace that, clean up around it, put the toilet back on, and you should be good to go! It's less than a half hour job and anyone can do it! By the way, toilet's are not that expensive.... check those out at Lowe's, too!

  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Jul 28, 2013
    @Jean I completely understand not being able to take on what could be a huge job, and good to know you are going to look into it after your event - I would likely do the same. In the mean time to make it more presentable at low cost, I would focus on the asthetics. Paint and accessories, no doubt you will be trying some of the suggestions above for the odour. The day before a good once over scrub around the toilet will help. To help on the day of, I have found that the febreeze wall stick ons works great - have a relative with an incontinince problem and it has worked in the laundry basket area and the bedroom. Just a thought as a second defensive mechanism. I wish you a very happy and enjoyable family reunion :)

  • Karen Smith Karen Smith on Jul 28, 2013
    I am with Sherrie on this one, sounds like you need to replace the toilet wax seal. It is the most important thing you can do.

  • Melissa Gutilla Melissa Gutilla on Jul 28, 2013
    You also are supposed to put clear caulking around your toilet now -- except for a 3 in space in the back. It is supposed to help make it more sanitary.

  • What the caulk is for is to prevent water or poor aims from getting under the toilet. It should be sealed all the way around however. If your using bleach, partly diluted is fine for sanitizing. Straight bleach will simply give off to many fumes making it harder to deal with up close.

  • Chris aka monkey Chris aka monkey on Jul 28, 2013
    make a paste of baking soda and bleach smear it around toilet base pressing it into base as much as you can let sit until dry brush up the baking soda and wipe i did this on mine and odor was gone the man in the house would not put his glasses on at night to pp lol xx

  • Gill Gill on Jul 29, 2013
    consider just taking off the toilet seat and cleaning all the nooks and crannies. You'll be surprised at what you find in the screw on thingys. It's old dried up urine.

  • Pam Pam on Jul 29, 2013

  • Wanda sinnema Wanda sinnema on Jul 29, 2013
    I have not seen this mentioned.....what about the seat and lid, many are laminated particle board.... sometimes little boys don't lift the seat,,,, if there is a fine crack or pin sized flaw or seam in the coating it can get into the board repeated use it could also reeeeek. also at the hinge area,,if they do miss aim along the back..This may not be the main issue but would check out or change along with the redo..

  • Shelly Giorgis Shelly Giorgis on Jul 30, 2013
    Take a hand mirror and take a good look under the rim of the toilet. If it is black then you have either mold or hard water calcium buildup with urine which will require removing the toilet and chipping the stuff off. Lime Away or vinegar removes the odor temporarily.

  • Teresa A Teresa A on Jul 30, 2013
    I had a similar problem in the house I bought a couple years ago. I thought the wax seal was leaking. I discovered when we pulled the toilet that urine/ moisture from toilet condensation had seeped via the grout lines of the flooring to under the toilet base. There was an accumulation of yellow smelly gunk. Some of it was crystallized on the floor. I scraped the floor with a putty knife and it came right up. We also cleaned under the edges of the base of the toilet when we tipped it to remove the old wax seal before putting it back down. I wiped it up the area and the inside of the toilet base with Clorox Clean-Up. Our old seal was OK, the floor was OK. The clean up worked. We have no more smell.

  • Cleaning Angels Services Cleaning Angels Services on Jul 30, 2013
    Hire a home cleaning specialist for suggestion, they might solved many cases like this one. For odor you can use baking soda, it will absorb the odors.

  • The most common source of bad odor here that I see is from a poor seal. It is easy to remove the toilet and redo the wax seal. However, it is also common to find that it was allowed to leak for too long and there is rotted subfloor that needs to be treated or replaced. So don't delay.

    • Christi Littlefield Christi Littlefield on Feb 08, 2015
      This was my thought also. I have a friend who had lovely flooring but also had the odor problem, which was solved when they removed the toilet, removed the old seal and cleaned the area thoroughly and replaced the seal.. seals are pretty inexpensive and some of the cleaning solutions suggested by others in this post

  • Hello If you look at my website I have a complete kit on there for $19.95 that will eliminate any orders within the grout and you can change or match the color of your existing grout and make that floor look new again #groutshield look at these before and after

  • Jean Jean on Aug 13, 2013
    Thank you to all of you for the wonderful suggestions! The reunion was a success and the bathroom smelled clean. We will be removing the toilet to see what's happening under there. But meanwhile, the vinegar/lemon juice/baking soda mixture was great! The shark steamer did a miraculous job on the tile floor! And we replaced the vanity which was literally falling apart as it was carried out of the house - likely a big source of the stench. So, thanks again, for the great response and all the help.

  • Rita giordano Rita giordano on Aug 15, 2015

  • Vjt1355579 Vjt1355579 on Aug 23, 2015
    That happen to our bathroom. It needed a new wax gasket under the toilet. Easy and not expensive.