We had our house built six years ago and have had a nagging problem with our Powder Room toilet.

Mike P
by Mike P
There has always been a slight smell like sewer gas coming from the inner ring of the bowl (not the outside). I have checked to make sure the toilet is good and secure to the floor and there are no leaks. We have cleaned the bowl and inner tank thoroughly. We have a septic tank system and had it emptied several weeks ago. The odor is still prevalent. Does anyone have any recommendations?
  14 answers
  • The Money Pit The Money Pit on Dec 06, 2011
    The odor is not likely from the inner bowl or the tank. It's probably one of two things: bio film or venting. Bio film happens when bacteria and organic goo form generally around the seal and can really stink up the place. Suggest you clean the area around the base of the toilet using a bleach-based cleaner like OxiClean. By the way, bio film is also common in sink or shower drains, so also take those apart and clean them thoroughly, perhaps using a bottle brush to scrub the inside of the drain thoroughly. The second possibility is a problem with the venting in the pluming system. If the pipes are not vented properly, sewage gas could be escaping into the bathroom space. This is a trickier problem and may take a plumber to diagnose because much of the venting is accessible.

  • Atlanta Plumbing Plus Atlanta Plumbing Plus on Dec 06, 2011
    I really don't have a clue about this one. It sounds as though the sewer gas is escaping through the trap, but if the toilet is holding water, that shouldn't be possible. I need to ask my plumbers what they think it could be and then get back to you.

  • Bob and RodMan S Bob and RodMan S on Dec 07, 2011
    Often the problem is related to a dry trap in a lavatory or bath/shower drain in an infrequently used bathroom. Sounds like you have pretty well localized the smell to the toilet, though. Is it possible to inspect beneath the toilet location to determine if there might be a micro leak at the wax seal? A small leak might not show up in the bath but might be visible through slight staining of the subfloor.

  • If the odor is coming from the inner ring inside the toilet bowl, I can be as Money Pit suggested a Bio Film. It can also be a defect with the toilet itself. The inside of the toilet is a trap. This trap prevents any gasses from the sewage side of the system from getting back into the room. As Bob stated if a trap dries out and often does in unused bathrooms odors come up from the drain. In your case the toilet is the culprit and we know there is water in the bowl, therefor the trap as well. But if there was a defect that created a air bypass in the casting of the toilet bowl itself this can be allowing the smell to bypass the trap all together and allowing it to exit out of the flushing holes around the ring of the toilet bowl. How does the toilet flush? Does the water that comes out of the ring area of the bowl seem to be fairly even, or does it appear that one side is flushing better then the other? If that is the case, then there is a build up of mold of sorts blocking the little holes in the ring that surrounds the bowl itself. This can be the source of the odor. Venting can be an issue, but based on your posting, I do not think this is the cause. If your on well water, my guess you could be getting bacteria build up inside the ring within the toilet bowl. (Bio Film) as well water quite often is not treated and can cause build ups of microbes to be created. Using bleaching tabs that you put into the tank may help rid you of this odor. Start by using some bleach or oxi-bleach in a spray and try to spray up under the bowl ring to get some of this chemical into the little holes that help wash the bowl clean when it flushes. Do not worry about the bleach tabs with the septic system. The amount of bleach that is released into the system overall is minor in quantity and will do nothing to effect the operation of the natural enzymes that digest the solids in the tank.

  • Have you tried replacing it,The trap in the toilet may have a problem,Though that is rare.

  • Frye that is exactly what I thought as well, But I have a suspicion that the odor is coming from the inside ring of the toilet as it may have some build up of bacteria causing this odor.

  • Atlanta Plumbing Plus Atlanta Plumbing Plus on Dec 08, 2011
    Well, it looks as though my plumbers agree with some of the answers here regarding the bacteria in the bowl. Here is the response from one of them: "If you are totally sure the smell is coming from the inside rim of the toilet bowl and not from the trap due to possible drop in level of water in the bowl allowing smell to come up, or a vent issue (and it has been completely disinfected from urine - even between the tank and bowl), then another common source of smells is caused by the organisms that normally reside in the sewer. They can get in to the house side of the toilet trap. They take up residence inside the rim of a toilet bowl (as well as the sink and tub overflows) and whenever the toilet is flushed, you will smell sewer gas. The problem most often occurs during hot and humid weather. The solution is to pour several cups of household bleach into the overflow pipe of the flush valve inside the tank. This will disinfect the rim of the bowl. Then, use a piece of metal coat hanger (as a plumber I would normally use a piece of solder) and stick a straight piece inside the "ports" inside the rim of the toilet to clean them out. It's very surprising how much black gunk and bacteria grow in there.

  • Mike P Mike P on Dec 09, 2011
    Thank you all for your suggestions. I will first try thoroughly cleaning the inner bowl water ports with bleach and piece of solder. I will also check the wax seal for leaks, although the water level remains constant.

  • You can use solder, pipe cleaners or any round soft type of probe that will fit into the holes. Do not use a hard object such as a nail as you risk cracking the finished surface should it go in crooked.

  • Mike P Mike P on Dec 14, 2011
    With a mirror I could see traces of bio film in the inner bowl rim. Tried pouring bleach down the overflow pipe but that didn't help. What I need is a specially shaped (hook shaped) brush to get in and over the inner rim. As far as I can see, this toilet (mfg. Crane) does not have small holes around the rim. It is open all the way around. Still working on the problem.

  • The overflow pipe is just that, overflow. It does not connect to the bowl. You need to put the bleach right into the tank. Try purchasing Glass Plus for dishwashers. Put it in tank and let it sit for a short while then flush. This chemical can help break down the film. Also using CRC liquid the stuff used to remove hard water will also help. For long term use, put chlorine tablets in the tank as that will destroy the film over time.

  • Donna McCrummen Donna McCrummen on Dec 14, 2011
    We had a BAD stink problem - the smell was really bad when the weather changed. It was outside, inside in the upstairs bathroom, downstairs laundry room, etc. Rarely in more than one area at a time. We had plumber after plumber march through here. Many of them admitted they didn't know what it was - some of them tried to get us to do this that and the other (for tons of dough). I only wish I had found Home Talk back then...after doing lots of research with no definitive answers we bought odor hog vent filters. Problem solved. Just saying. Good luck Mike P. stinky house is no fun......

  • Hughena M Hughena M on Dec 14, 2011
    I keep a bowl of charcoal in the bathroom, find it helps with odors. Just change it every three months or so.

  • I would suggest pulling the toilet, if that is an option for you. A good wax ring will cost you less than 10.00. (I suggest a weep number 3) When the toilet is pulled, you can inspect the ring to see if it is/was failing, and possibly see if the trap is either defective or clogged. The toilet would still hold water but would be a "hard flush" if the trap has become obstructed or clogged with something. I also have used CLR to help with a similar problem. (purchased at your local home improvement store)