Bathroom Smells Like Poop: What Can I Do?

It is estimated that an average person spends about two years of their life in the bathroom; hence, having a clean and fresh-smelling space is critical. Unfortunately, some bathrooms develop foul odors regardless of the number of times they get cleaned.

Finding out why a bathroom smells like poop can be challenging because there are many causes of such odors. We look at some of them and how to address the problems.

Plumbing issues are the most common reasons a bathroom smells like poop. Some drain pipes could be clogged and need to be unblocked to allow poop and other debris to flow smoothly. The cleanout plug may be missing, or the shower drains may have blockages from soap scum, hair, and shower gels.

1. Plumbing Issues

Clogged vents and drain pipes can cause a bathroom to smell foul. The water barely flows through when the pipes are clogged to eliminate the nasty odors. The clogs may result from dirt, soap scum, or hair dirt buildup. It could also be:

  • Underground pipes have cracked and allowed tree root growth. Once inside the pipes, the roots grow larger, preventing water flow and causing pipe damage
  • You’ve flushed inappropriate items (e.g. diapers, sanitary towels, hygiene products) down the toilet
  • The seal is broken and needs to be replaced with an air-tight sealable lid

A telltale sign that the toilet is blocked is an unusual gurgling sound every time you flush the toilet. A few DIY hacks like pouring hot water followed by baking soda or a cup of white vinegar could remove the clogs, but it’s best to engage a plumbing professional.

They flush out the pipes while finding the main reason for blockages or leaks in the piping system. The plumber may use a clamp to remove debris and buildup inside the pipe. The piping system may need an overhaul if the foul smell lingers after repairing leaks and unclogging the pipes.

2. Dry P-Trap

Sewer gas and backup may also cause a bathroom to smell like poop. This problem is particularly common in homes with U-shaped pipes under the drains or bathroom sinks. The pipes trap water beneath the drain, preventing sewer smells from spreading to the bathroom.

If you hardly use bathroom sinks, the water in the P-trap dries out, causing sewer gasses to flow freely into the bathroom. The gasses will likely smell like rotten eggs or a sewer. Fixing this problem is pretty straightforward.

Simply pour water into the sink for a minute or use mineral oil to keep the p-trap moist. You may also add baking soda into the drains to reduce the risk of clogging.

Another reason your bathroom develops a sewer smell is sewer backup. During heavy rains, excess runoff water mounts pressure on the city water system, causing sewer backflow into individual lines.

The backflow causes the sewage to back up into homes, pushing sewer gasses trapped in the lines back into the house.

You could wait for the excess water to drain or engage a professional. They will install a backflow valve in the sewer lines to prevent sewer water from backing up into your pipe system in the future.

3. Low Water Pressure

Typically, a single flush should eliminate all the poop and debris in a toilet. However, some toilets have such low water pressure that they don’t remove all the poop in a single flush.

The remaining poop can develop a foul smell if ignored. It would help if you talked to a plumber to determine the best way to boost the toilet’s flushing power.

4. Full Septic Tank

Some homes use septic tanks where solid waste drains and disintegrates. You might notice a sewer smell in your bathroom when the septic tank is full. The toilet may also drain waste slowly, develop gurgling sounds, or waste may back up into the toilet or tub drains.

The best way to address this problem is to call a plumber to drain the septic tank. They use long hoses to pump out the tank creating space for new waste. It would also help to check the septic tank levels regularly to avoid getting caught up.

5. Mold and Bacteria Build-Up

Bathrooms are the perfect breeding grounds for harmful bacteria and mold, which can cause foul smells. It’s especially the case during the hot season when bacteria multiply rapidly.

Mold growth may result from too much humidity, leaks under the sinks, dirty surfaces, poor ventilation, and toilet flange issues.

The bathroom may reek of sewer gasses or a poop-like smell if all such problems aren’t addressed quickly. The best way to do it is to clean the surfaces with bleach or a disinfecting cleaner.

Chlorine bleach is an excellent example of a bathroom disinfectant because it only kills bad bacteria and doesn’t leave strong odors.

Simply mix it with water in the ratio of 1:3 in a bottle and spray it all over surfaces where the smell is strongest. Then spray an air freshener while waiting for the bleach to work on the surfaces. You could also regularly change the shower curtains, linens, and towels and clean the wooden furniture in the bathroom until the smell tapers off.

6. Leaking Wax Ring Seal

Toilets have wax rings that hold them in place and prevent mold buildup. However, the rings wear out over time, causing water and waste to leak out from under the toilet and cause a foul smell.

Without a proper seal, the toilet also gets wobbly, and there’s a good chance that the flange is compromised.

Homeowners with basic plumbing skills may replace the wax ring without calling a plumber, but it’s best to engage a professional. Replacing the wax ring requires toilet removal from its position — if not handled properly, it could break.

7. Clogged Shower or Tub Drains

Shower gel, pieces of soap, soap scum, dead skin, and other debris can clog drains and develop a foul smell. A telltale sign of clogged drains is minor flooding when taking a shower. As the material accumulates, it creates a clog that prevents water from flowing.

A drain cleaner can unclog the drain, but if you want to go an extra mile, unscrew the shower drain and pour in a mixture of hot water and vinegar. Then add a cup of baking soda and allow it to sit for one to two hours.

The mixture loosens the deposits, removing any clogs in the drain. Then pour clean water to drain them and screw the drain cover in place.

8. Foul Smell from the Toilet Bowl

Sometimes poop buildup in the toilet bowl, causing a foul odor and the toilet not flushing properly. It could also be that a dead animal is decomposing in the crawlspace. Simple DIY hacks go a long way in getting rid of the stench from the toilet bowl:

  • Boil a mixture of vinegar and baking soda for 20 minutes
  • Spray air fresheners in the bathroom
  • Sprinkle coffee grounds near sewer drain pipes
  • Pour the hot mixture into the drain
  • Pour boiling water in empty pipes if they’re clogged

9. Cracked Toilet

Old toilet bowls are prone to cracking if not replaced. This problem is common in homes experiencing vast temperature differences between the air outside and the water in the toilet bowl. It could also be you or your family members are mishandling the toilet bowl.

They may be sitting down hard or leaning on the toilet, causing it to shift and develop cracks. Consequently, water seeps through the cracks causing a foul-smelling odor to spread in the bathroom. Small cracks can be repaired, but if they’re large, it’s best to replace the toilet bowl.

10. Poorly Installed Vent Pipe

A clogged vent pipe causes sewer gasses to back up to the toilet and sink, causing the bathroom to stink. You may hear a bubbling sound from the toilet as the sewer gas forces its way to the bathroom.

A common reason for blockages in vent pipes is poorly designed or installed vent pipes. It could also be that solid objects found their way into the vents. You can inspect the vent pipes for blockages and remove them or hire a professional.

11. Missing Cleanout Plug

A cleanout plug is a lid or cap that closes off a drain cleanout pipe preventing sewer gasses from backing up into the bathroom. The plug also keeps the wastewater from entering the cleanout; instead, it flows directly to the standard sewage pipe.

The plug may go missing, allowing sewer gas into the bathroom. A drain with a missing cleanout plug indicates problems with a home’s overall sewer system.

The drain could be clogged and the plug removed to allow waste to drain through the cleanout. However, if the drain is functional and the cap is missing, it’s a sign that the plumbers removed the cap and forgot to replace it. It’s best to hire a professional to identify the problem and replace the plug.

Other Ways To Keep a Bathroom Smelling Fresh

If the bathroom still smells like poop, you may need to go an extra mile by:

Keeping the Bathroom Well-Ventilated

Sometimes poor ventilation may be causing the bathroom to stink even after cleaning. You can install a vent fan to improve ventilation, and you must clean it regularly (every six months).

Light a Scented Candle

Scented candles won’t eliminate the odor but mask the smell. The heat and smoke can reduce the stench significantly. 

Consistent Flushing

If the toilet has low water pressure, consider flushing it more than once. It reduces the stench and eliminates any poop floating around the toilet bowl.

Improve Your Cleaning Regimen

Consider doing it weekly if you’ve been cleaning your bathroom once or twice a month. If there are more users, such as kids who use bathrooms frequently, clean the bathroom twice a week. Be sure to pay attention to hard-to-reach areas and spots where sludge from wastewater collects.

Use Odor Eliminators

Some cleaning solutions for bathrooms also act as odor eliminators. You can also place chlorine tabs in the toilet tank to mask odors. Every time the toilet is flushed, a bit of chlorine water flows into the toilet, eliminating the odor.

So, Why Does Your Bathroom Smell Like Poop?

It could be that your bathroom has plumbing problems like blockages or a missing cleanout plug. The pressure might be too low to flush out poop, or there could be bacteria buildup in the sewer system.

A few DIY hacks may solve the problem, but it’s best to hire a professional to address the issue. They have the expertise and the right equipment to deal with any plumbing problem.

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