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Bathroom Smells Like Ammonia: Causes and Solutions

Have you ever wondered why there’s a lingering smell in your bathroom that’s similar to ammonia? Urine is arguably the most common reason your bathroom smells like ammonia. When urine mixes with waste products, the smell of the mixture is similar to ammonia. Sewer gasses, too, contain ammonia. The odor lingers in the air and stays on surfaces.

So, what can we do about it? Let’s explore a few options.

Bathroom Smells Like Ammonia

Causes and Solutions of Bathroom Ammonia Smell

Your bathroom should be clean and free of odors to enhance comfortability. If your bathroom smells like ammonia, you have an underlying problem (if you’re dealing with another kind of smell, see our post ‘Bathroom Smells Like Poop‘). Here are eight reasons for the odors and how to solve each.

Damaged Toilet Seal

The wax ring around your toilet provides a water-tight seal that prevents the escape of fluids and bacteria. Unfortunately, the seal becomes less effective due to loose components, old age, and cracks. A damaged seal between the bathroom floor and the toilet is an escape path for sewer gasses.

Toilet seal repair is a DIY job unless you are not handy or prefer to let a plumber take the task. If the only issue is the seal, all you need to do is remove the damaged ring and install a new one. Great caution is crucial to prevent the transfer of bacteria that could cause other health hazards.

Clogged Vents and Drains

Vents supply air to the drain system and maintain normal pressure. If your ducts have a blockage, your bathroom will retain ammonia odors. Fresh air will also not get inside. Debris is one thing that can clog your bathroom drains.

Use a clog remover or a drain cleaner to remove drainage clogs. You will have to climb to your roof to identify and remove debris from the vent. If the task seems risky for you, let a plumber unclog the ducts.

Dry Drain Traps

The dry trap has a curve that traps water to block sewer gasses. Nonetheless, if you fail to use your toilet for long, the water evaporates, and the curve dries. Then, sewage gasses pass through to your bathroom.

Dry drain traps often happen when you go away for a long time or if you have a toilet you rarely use. Even if you don’t use a toilet, always flush to ensure the drain trap has water.

Dirty Mats or Garbage Cans

Cloth-like material around your toilet’s vicinity easily harbors the odor of ammonia. In most cases, the reason behind the smell is urine splash. You may not notice the splashes, mainly if your toilet accommodates multiple users (find out how to deal with toilet water splashes here). With time, if you don’t change the mats, the smell builds up and discharges to the nearby air.

Dirty trash cans are also a common source of ammonia smell. The only way to remove the odor is to remove the mats and garbage cans. Then, wash the items with a rug deodorizer or disinfectant. You could also use other home products like white vinegar and bleach to remove the smell.

Garbage Can

Sewer Bacteria

If you leave your bathroom dry for a long time, sewer organisms may crawl in and inhabit your toilet bowl. Sewer microorganisms reside below the toilet rim, where water flows every time you flush. As the water runs over the bacteria, odors waft along.

The ideal way to remove the odor is to eliminate the sewer microorganisms. A toilet brush and cleaner don’t remove sewer microorganisms. So, you will need to pour bleach into your toilet drain pipe to kill the organisms and smell.

Dirty Toilets

Sometimes, toilet accidents happen, especially from children and pets. Urine splashes around toilet areas like the floor and under the seat cause the ammonia smell in your bathroom (if you’re dealing with a different kind of smell, see our post ‘Bathroom Smells Like Poop’). Also, mineral and grime build-up clogs the toilet rim jet if you neglect your toilet.

Thorough cleanup and disinfection clear the smell of your bathroom. If you notice that your pet messed up the bathroom, clean the entire floor, not the affected spot. If the odor is stubborn, use a strong deodorizing toilet soak. For instance, you could use a DIY mix of vinegar and borax to neutralize the ammonia smell.

Leaky Toilet

Various other toilet areas besides the wax seal could leak. Toilet leaks are unsanitary and cause ammonia odors. Besides, if you don’t fix the problem in good time, you give room for mold and mildew growth. Such fungal growth provides an additional favorable ground to harbor an ammonia smell.

You must first identify the source of the leak to determine the viable solution. Don’t hesitate to call a plumber if you can’t find or handle the root cause.

Poor Ventilation

If your bathroom is clean and free of plumbing issues, the culprit behind the smell could be poor ventilation. Small windows and lack of fans allow urine smell to linger. In most cases, the smell may go away and come back, so you end up with recurrent episodes.

The only solution to poor ventilation is to turn the tables. But, window expansion could be an expensive project. So, install an exhaust fan that will remove the ammonia smells.

Poor Ventilation

Natural Cleanup Solutions That Neutralize Ammonia Smell

Toilet sanitation eliminates and prevents bathroom odors. Nonetheless, harsh chemical products usually don’t sit well with your toilet and sewer system. So you may want to get eco-friendly or natural solutions. If your bathroom or shower drain smells like ammonia, here are a few natural products to consider.

Lemon juice

Lemon juice is a three-in-one deodorizer, degreaser, and stain remover. With antibacterial properties and a low pH, lemon is ideal for most bathroom surfaces. But, test on a small spot before using the product on entire surfaces. Also, don’t use lemon juice on marble as you can etch the surface.

Essential Oils

Many essential oils are highly concentrated, so you only need a few drops. Typical potent oils that eliminate ammonia smells are lavender and peppermint essential oils. What you need to do is to put a few drops of essential oil in a spray bottle. Then, spray directly on the smelly spot.

Hydrogen Peroxide

You will need to dilute hydrogen peroxide with water in the ratio of 1:2. Then, peroxide neutralizes the ammonia smell. So, first, dampen a piece of cloth in the diluted peroxide. Then, blot the bathroom surfaces and floor for some seconds. After you remove the odor, use water only to rinse off the surfaces.


Vinegar has acetic acid, which neutralizes ammonia and removes the smell. To remove the ammonia smell:

  • Spray or blot your bathroom with undiluted white vinegar.
  • Allow the vinegar to dry on the surface.
  • Reapply as needed until you can no longer feel the odor.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is an all-natural, versatile, and inexpensive powder. You can use the product on surfaces and bathroom mats. Cover the fibers with a thin layer of baking soda to remove the smell from carpets and rugs. The baking soda absorbs the ammonia smell and other lingering odors the fabric has trapped.


Here are the most commonly asked questions regarding ammonia smells.

What if My Whole House Smells Like Ammonia?

Typical bathroom issues rarely cause ammonia smell to spread to the whole house. So, if you suddenly smell ammonia in all of your home, the problem could be worse, like a sewer gas leak. In such a situation, evacuate the space and call a professional for a detailed inspection.

Can I Use Bleach To Remove Ammonia Smell?

If you think the source of the smell is ammonia itself – an ammonia cleaning solution, for example – make sure to never neutralize ammonia or the associated odor with bleach. A mixture of bleach and ammonia creates notorious fumes, which cause health problems. For instance, the fumes cause headaches and airway blockage.


Now you know what causes your bathroom to smell like ammonia and what to do in different scenarios. So, don’t let the ammonia smell destroy your peace of mind. Instead, follow the tips above to solve any problem. Also, use the natural products recommended above to keep your bathroom odor-free.

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