There’s nothing like a pervasive bad smell to drive you out of a room. When that room is the bathroom, though, you have no choice but to go in there from time to time.
What can you do when a foul bathroom scent becomes a serious problem? Determining the cause of the issue is just the beginning. Fortunately, you have numerous options when it comes to bathroom odor eliminators—in both the short and long term.
What’s Causing The Odors In The Bathroom?
If there’s a foul odor emanating from your bathroom, your first order of business is to detect the root cause.
There are several areas that might be at fault. If your bathroom has a floor drain, there could be a blockage or another issue that’s causing the stench. The toilet bowl and sink are two other obvious possibilities, but there are a few others that might surprise you.
Some people install floor drains in their bathrooms in case the toilet, sink, or tub should overflow. While this might seem like a practical step to take, bathroom drain smells could be the root cause of your problem.
If the trap dries up, it could send sewer gas smells wafting through the air. That’s why it’s important to keep the trap supplied with about a quart of water on a regular basis—at least once a month.
To determine whether you’re dealing with a drain smell, try covering it up for a day or two. Inexpensive drain covers are available through online retailers, or you can use the base of a plant pot or something similar.
If the drain is causing odor issues on a regular basis, consider having it sealed permanently.
Similarly, you can test whether the smells are coming from the toilet by covering any other drains—floor, sink, tub, or shower—to see if there’s any improvement. If not, then the toilet is likely to blame.
Assuming you clean your bathroom regularly, the best way to combat this problem is to invest in an odor-free rubber gasket for your toilet. This is an affordable and simple solution, and it could resolve your smelly toilet bowl issues for good.
A foul-smelling sink is usually caused by a clogged sewer vent. You’ll be able to tell if this is the case if the sink is also having trouble draining properly. Plumbing errors; mold, mildew, bacteria growth; or high sulfate levels in the water may also be the culprits.
Depending on the cause, one of the DIY solutions we’ve listed below might solve the issue. If the problem persists, it might require professional help.
The bowl isn’t the only part of the unit that might cause a bad toilet odor. A dirty toilet tank can trap urine and sewage odors, too.
To solve this problem, pour a generous measure of white vinegar into the tank. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before scrubbing the walls of the tank with vinegar using a toilet brush. Then flush the toilet 2-3 times. The smell should disappear.
The bathroom smells coming from the heat vents and/or ducts are usually caused by mold and mildew. In these cases, regular swabs with disinfecting cloths could be a sufficient cure.
Of course, the smell could have other root causes. A small animal could have gotten trapped in the ductwork and passed away, or a backed-up sewer line could be right next to the ducts. You might even be dealing with a gas leak. If the smell reminds you of sulfur or rotten eggs, call the gas company for help.
Tub or Shower
A blocked tub or shower drain could create a stinky atmosphere for the same reasons that a floor or sink drain would. Once you’ve ruled out all other possibilities, try treating the shower drain using the same method you would use if the smell was coming from the sink instead.
20 Easy Ways to Make Your Bathroom Smell Good
1. Lemon, Lemon, Lemon
Lemon is great for neutralizing bad smells and leaving a clean, fresh aroma in its wake. It also has natural acidity, making it an effective cleaning agent as well.
Once you’ve cleaned the bathroom using your regular detergent, cut a lemon in half and rub the cut sides all over your bathroom’s surfaces. The powerful scent will linger in the air for days, and the juices will act as a natural disinfectant.
2. Use Coffee Beans as Camouflage
Did you know that coffee beans can absorb odors? That’s right—and like lemons, they can keep the bathroom smelling good, too.
Try pouring about 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh coffee beans in an open container. Set the container on a bathroom shelf or in the medicine cabinet. Within a day or so, you should notice a marked improvement in the way your bathroom smells.
3. Pour Salt into Toilet
Salt is a kitchen staple. But did you know it can also be used as a smelly toilet remedy?
You don’t even have to use an exact quantity. Just pour a generous measure of salt (regular table salt works fine, but feel free to use kosher if you have more of it on hand) into the toilet and let it sit overnight. Be sure not to use this particular toilet at any point in the interim, or it will negate the effects.
In the morning, flush the toilet once. The foul odor should disappear in no time.
4. Finish With Vinegar
After you’ve cleaned the bathroom, combine equal parts of white vinegar and water. Use a washcloth to lightly apply this solution to any potentially smelly areas in the bathroom—sinks, toilets, heat vents, vanities.
Allow the vinegar solution to dry without rinsing. The area will smell fresher than ever before.
5. Orange Peel
Orange is another citrus fruit, and as such, it has many of the same sanitizing and deodorizing properties as the lemon.
The next time you peel an orange, use the rind to scrub out the inside of your toilet tank. It might sound weird, but it will act as both a disinfectant and deodorizer for the toilet, keeping the bathroom sanitary and smelling great.
You can also add baking soda to a large chunk of orange peel, treating the peel as a kind of makeshift bowl. Set this in the trash can to keep the garbage from stinking up the bathroom. This works in the kitchen, too.
6. Try a DIY Toilet Bomb
Many toilet cleaners are filled with toxic chemicals that can be dangerous to keep around pets and small children. DIY toilet bombs can be made with all-natural ingredients, and their effects are often superior.
To make a simple toilet bomb, mix 1 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup of citric acid together in a large bowl. Stir well.
Add any essential oils you prefer. Eucalyptus, wild orange, and lavender are all good choices, but this is a matter of personal taste.
Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap to a spray bottle. Lightly mist the baking soda solution until it just holds together.
Press the solution into a silicone or bath bomb mold and let it dry overnight until hardened. Once it’s dry, you can store it in an airtight container until you need it.
7. Use a Softener
This approach will ensure that your bathroom towels always smell lovely, even the ones that get used most frequently (such as hand towels).
Choose your favorite scent of concentrated fabric softener. Mix it with water and add the solution to a spray bottle. Use the bottle to apply the mixture to your towels. For good measure, go ahead and spray it all around the bathroom.
8. Discover Baking Soda
Have you ever placed an open container of baking soda in your fridge to keep odors to a minimum? The same principles apply to bathroom appliances.
Combine baking soda with boiling water and allow the mixture to cool slightly. Pour the solution on any surface that needs cleaning—the inside of the tub, the toilet seat, the bowl of the sink. Let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it away with a damp cloth.
9. Experiment With Charcoal
Activated charcoal can absorb odors, but it loses its ability to do so over time, so this technique might not be the best long-term solution. Also, be aware that regular charcoal won’t be as effective, as it contains more impurities than the activated kind.
To use this method, place a small amount of activated charcoal in a porous fabric bag. Set the bag in the bathroom closet, or in the trash can if you think that’s appropriate. The charcoal will slowly absorb any lingering foul scents in the air.
10. Keep Towels Clean and Dry
When towels sit on the shelf for a long time, they can start to give off a moldy smell. To avoid this, wash all your towels at least once per month, regardless of whether you’ve used them or not during this time.
As a caveat, be sure that the towels are completely dry before folding and returning them to the shelf. Otherwise, the trapped moisture will bring you right back where you started.
11. Invest In Potpourri
In addition to masking unwanted smells, potpourri lends a bright and festive touch to your bathroom. It typically consists of dried leaves and flowers in various combinations, so you can easily make your own.
Start by picking petals and leaves off your favorite outdoor plants. Place these in a glass jar and add a few drops of essential oil. Seal the jar, give it a good shake, then keep it closed for a week. At this point, your homemade potpourri will be ready to grace your bathroom shelves.
12. Try a Diffuser
If you want to try using a scent diffuser, the bathroom is an excellent place to start. Most of the surfaces there will be oil-resistant, so you don’t need to worry about causing long-term damage, even if you use a reed diffuser.
Aroma diffusers rely on electricity to spread their scent around. All you need is a supply of essential oil, access to an electrical outlet, and the diffuser itself.
Reed diffusers don’t require electricity, so they’re a good choice for areas that don’t have an outlet nearby. You’ll need a set of rattan reeds and an oil jar in addition to the essential oil themselves, and the reeds should be flipped regularly to keep the fragrance alive.
13. Use Bacteria Powder
Wastewater treatment bacteria powder can be used to treat toilet odors. Fill the bowl with the powder, wait a few minutes, then flush. Repeat this process weekly until the odor dissipates.
14. Keep Toilet Brush Clean
Your toilet brush is an essential tool for bathroom cleanliness, but it’s just as important to keep the brush itself clean.
After you’ve finished using the brush, heat a gallon of water until boiling. Carefully pour the water into a cleaning bucket, then set the bucket in the bathtub.
Put on a pair of rubber gloves and protective eyewear before adding 1 cup of liquid bleach to the water. Add the toilet brush and holder and let them soak for 1 hour.
Remove the brush and holder from the bleach solution and rinse under hot running water for at least 30 seconds. Let dry before putting them back into storage.
15. Use Essential Oils
You don’t have to use a diffuser or toilet bomb to take advantage of essential oils. Just add a few drops of your favorite scent to the bottom of the trash can, the toilet paper roll, or the toilet bowl as needed.
Plants are an attractive asset to any room, but they can also improve the air quality inside your bathroom. Even if the plant isn’t particularly fragrant itself, it will absorb unwanted smells and create a more pleasant environment.
17. Maintain a Clean Bathroom
Clean your bathroom at least once a week. This keeps foul odors at bay and promotes a healthier household. If you’d prefer not to use chemicals or toxins, you can adopt one or more of the all-natural hacks we’ve mentioned above.
18. Take Out The Trash
How often do you change the trash in your bathroom? You should do it at least as often as you clean, but it can be an easy task to overlook.
Make sure the garbage can is emptied on a weekly basis. While you’re changing the bags, wipe out the inside of the can with a disinfecting cloth or a mixture of vinegar and water.
19. Keep Drains Clear
As we’ve ascertained, clogged drains can contribute to unwanted bathroom smells. If there’s an excess of water sticking around in your sink or toilet longer than it should before draining, it might be time to contact a professional.
Keep any bathroom windows open as often as possible. The best way to keep bad smells from sticking around is to let them out before they can make themselves at home. If your bathroom has no windows, make sure there’s a high-quality fan installed.
Frequently Asked Questions
In the olden days, pine and lemon were just about the only options when it came to bathroom fragrances. Fortunately, there are a lot more options available nowadays.
Lavender, vanilla, and coconut are all enticing options. Fresh “ocean breeze” or “clean laundry” scents can also work. Try to steer clear of any strong floral fragrances, especially if the bathroom is small. If the scent is too intense, it can cause headaches and/or nausea.
Sprinkling a few drops of essential oil into the tub or shower stall before a hot shower will fill the room with a spa-like fragrance. You can also stock the room with an abundance of spa products, like essential oils, salt and sugar body scrubs, and scented candles.
Ruling out clogged drains and heat vents, there’s a possibility that you need to be more thorough in your methods. Try scrubbing out the toilet tank as we suggested earlier, and wash any linens that have been sitting on the shelf for a while.
First, apply toilet cleaner to the bowl and let it soak in while you clean the exterior. Wearing rubber gloves and protective eyewear, spray the toilet seat with disinfectant and scrub it clean using a sponge.
Use a toilet brush to scrub the inside of the bowl, then flush. Be sure not to neglect the area just beneath the lip of the bowl, where the water pours out. Finish by swiping the seat and bowl with a few strips of orange peel.
Yellow markings on a toilet seat can be due to urine stains, chemicals in cleaning supplies, hard water—even sunlight.
To remove these stains, take off the seat and soak it in a solution of 1-gallon water mixed with 1 cup of bleach. After about 5 minutes, scrub the stains until they disappear, then rinse the seat under hot running water and dry thoroughly. Reinstall the seat, taking care to ensure that it’s secure.