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Why does my toilet smell?

Do you think your toilet smells, but you’re not sure why?

Toilets are often blighted by lingering smells and sometimes it’s really quite hard to get to the bottom of why. The toilet may be regularly cleaned and freshened, yet still there’s a smell there that doesn’t seem to shift.

However, there is always a reason why your toilet smells! Here we look at some of the less obvious causes, as well as giving you some advice on how to banish these lingering smells forever, and make sure your loo smells great every day.

What is causing my toilet to smell?

There are three causes of a smell coming from your toilet that we will look at in this article. All three are common causes of toilet smells, but also areas that are frequently overlooked when cleaning.

  1. Mould and deposits under your toilet fixtures associated with urine
  2. Algae in your toilet’s cistern
  3. Leaking gas from the sewer

1. How to get rid of a urine smell

Urine smells often linger around a toilet, only half noticed. Often they don’t smell that pungent. Nonetheless, it always creates a bad feeling to enter a loo that smells this way. Urine smells are so prevalent because they can come from places that we don’t clean so regularly. Even if your toilet bowl is spotless and your cistern shines, urine smells can linger. The reason is that these smelly deposits are often hiding away in less obvious areas, under your toilet seat or under the rim of the toilet bowl. The solution is the removal and thorough cleaning of the seat. Removing the toilet seat should not be a big job. Usually, it just requires the unscrewing of two wing nuts at the back of the system. If your toilet is in good order, you can probably do this by hand.

Once the seat is removed you will be able to give the whole thing a thorough clean. Most importantly, you will be able to clean the porcelain pan where the hinges usually sit, and clean the fixtures of the seat. These are two areas that never get cleaned unless you remove the seat, and are likely to contain urine deposits that smell.

Use a toothbrush with a firm bristle to get right into the nooks and crannies and ensure that every possible source of the smell is tackled. Another good tip is to run the toilet seat and fixtures under very hot water, soaking the detachable parts where this is possible.

2. How to get rid of algae in your toilet’s cistern

Many cisterns get a bit of algae growth inside them after a while and this is not usually a problem. However, if the toilet has been left a long time without being flushed, or it has been a very long time since your cistern was cleaned or disinfected, a musty smell may start to emanate from within. If you think that your cistern is suffering from excessive algae then you can tackle this with a thorough clean out. First, empty the tank by turning off the supply of water and then flushing. Once the tank is empty, apply a standard toilet cleaner and scrub clean with a long-handled brush (but not the same one as you use inside your toilet bowl – it is best to keep these areas of your toilet entirely separate). Once you have scrubbed the cistern clean, it is a good idea to use an in-tank toilet tablet with chlorine. This will not only keep algae at bay in your cistern, but keep the rest of your toilet fresh and clean too.

Top tip: There is one very common cause of a musty smell in your bathroom that is often overlooked and may not have anything to do with your toilet at all. If you have toothbrushes stored in a sealed cup or pot, the bottom of this holder tends to get damp and smelly over time. It’s a smell that many assume comes from their toilet and consequently misdiagnose.

3. Why does my toilet smell like a sewer?

If your toilet is smelling like a sewer then something has gone badly wrong. The modern toilet is designed to keep all such sewage smells at bay, using a water trap to seal the restroom from the smells of the sewage system and a soil stack (air vent) to make sure that any noxious gasses are safely released. If this is not working then there are three probable causes:

  1. If you haven’t used the toilet in a long while then the water at the bottom may just have evaporated, leaving a gap where air from the sewer can escape. If this is the case, then the solution is very easy: just flush the loo!
  2. If there is a crack in your soil stack or the soil stack is blocked, then it is possible that the smell from the sewer will permeate through your home. If it is just blocked you may be able to access the top of the pipe and solve this problem yourself. Otherwise, it is a job for a professional plumber.
  3. Finally, sewage smells may be to do with cracks in the waste pipes behind your toilet, or with broken seals between these pipes and the toilet. In such cases, unless you are very proficient at DIY, it is best to get a professional plumber in to solve the problem.

How to keep your toilet smelling fresh

Once you have got your toilet fresh and clean smelling, do take steps to make sure that it stays that way! Throw a Bref Duo Cube into your cistern and watch the toilet flush blue for the next 800 flushes. Every flush not just cleaning the tank and toilet bowl, but also working to keep the whole mechanism algae and limescale free.

For those who don’t have a toilet with an easily accessible cistern, another solution that tackles most of the problems we have looked at in this article, as well as more everyday smells, is the use of a rim block. Hang a Bref Blue Aktiv rim block from the side of your toilet pan and watch the toilet flush blue for the next 250 flushes. Every flush not just cleaning the toilet bowl, but also working to keep it limescale free.

Does your toilet smell but you don’t know why? – We have the answers. The most common causes of mysterious toilet smells + how to beat them!

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