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The Clean But Smelly Toilet

Escaping Sewer Gas

Question: What causes my toilet to give off the odor of sewer gas when the toilet is flushed even though my bathroom and toilet are clean?

A.There can be several reasons for this problem. It can be caused by the water level in the toilet bowl dropping too low and allowing sewer gas from the system to enter through the toilet.

Dog drinking from toilet bowl.


Toilets are fascinating to pets. Your pet may be drinking from the bowl or just entertaining themselves; the solution is to keep the the bathroom door closed. In addition to possibly being the root cause of smells, a pet can really run up a water bill. If you can't imagine how a pet could be responsible for an outrageous water bill take a look at this video ... . It will make a believer of you.

Water Will Evaporate

The water can also evaporate from the bowl of an unused toilet, such as in a basement or guest room. In this case, the solution is to regularly flush a toilet that is not used often.

Damaged Wax Sealing Ring

A damaged wax sealing ring under the toilet can allow sewer gas to seep out into the bathroom. If your toilet rocks or moves, this may be the cause of smells.

Sewer Organisms

Another common source of smells is caused by the organisms that normally reside in the sewer; they can get 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.

Clogged Vent

Smells in a bathroom can also be caused when the drains in a bathroom are not properly vented, or the vent is clogged. A vent can become clogged with a bird's nest, body of a bird, etc. Also, in extremely cold climates an undersized vent can close up due to frost forming on the inside of the vent walls from warm humid air from washing machines, dishwashers, showers, etc. In addition, a vent can become clogged at the fixture connections with grease, soap scum, etc. A clogged vent requires running a snake down through the vent pipe from the roof. Climbing around on a roof is tricky and best left to a professional plumber who has the proper equipment and experience.

Illustration of escaping sewer gas.

Cracked Toilet

Another possibility is if there is an internal crack in the toilet bowl that allows water to slowly leak into the drain, the water level will gradually drop after the toilet is flushed and allow sewer gas to enter the bathroom. Snaking out a toilet bowl too aggressively can be the cause of such a crack.

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