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cdoug55 02-25-2009 02:37 PM

Smell from Toilet
Hey guys, sorry to post about this. I did a search and read some similar posts but just wanted to get a fresh opinion on my issue.

I bought my house in August and there has always been a strange smell coming from the toilet in the downstairs bathroom. The tank water smells fine and looks very clean and I smelled around the base of the toilet and there is no smell. But if I smell the water in the bowl I get a strange odor, guess it could be a sewer smell. It was pretty bad for about a month (maybe in Dec/Jan), but has sort of tapered off. I also noticed that the level of water in the bowl tends to fluctuate. Sometimes it is full up to the indentation line you see on most toilets and then sometimes it seems to reduce in amount. Today for the heck of it I poured some extra water in there and the level definitely went down over time.

Can someone just give me some ideas with basic explanations. I have to admit this is my first home and I am not exactly familiar with everything. Im learning things, but don't have a ton of background knowledge. Thanks everyone.

majakdragon 02-25-2009 06:29 PM

Possible you have a crack inside the bowl and the water is leaking into the drain pipe (leaving no sign of a leak). If so, you are correct about it being a sewer gas smell. Unless the trap is full, there is no water seal to block out the gas.

inspectorD 02-26-2009 06:33 AM

If you live in Upstate NY you could have just a sulfer problem. There are many sulfer smelling wells in the finger lakes areas. My cousins live in Watkins glenn area and their water had to be treated with an Air raider water treatment system for radon in the water. Have your water tested from a water company or your area health dept.
Let us know what you find out.

jdougn 02-26-2009 07:07 AM

The water level flucuation in the bowl is probably pretty normal. Atmospheric pressure and wind will cause it to vary considerably. The water in the bowl prevents sewer gases from coming back into the house. If there is only a very very small amount of water in the bottom of the bowl there could be a venting problem. Flush another toilet in the house and listen for gurgling from the downstairs toilet or rapid water loss. Also, the toilet sits on a wax seal that prevent gasses from escaping the drain line so it may need replacing.
hth, Doug

cdoug55 02-26-2009 10:26 AM

Thanks for the responses guys. I have not had the water tested, but I will look into it. The smell fluctuates from day to day as well. You know some days its pretty prevalent and others not so much.

I flushed the upstairs toilet and there wasn't any signs of gurgling in the downstairs toilet.

If the wax seal is bad wouldn't I be able to smell the odor at the base of the toilet by the floor?

inspectorD 02-26-2009 03:19 PM

If the wax seal is bad you would have water on the floor or in the area below.
Sometimes if the smell is intermittent, the cause is just something dying in a wall. And as it gets warmer, the smell gets worse. Have you set any poison out lately?
And I also have young kids....sometimes it just needs a really good cleaning.:eek::D

glennjanie 02-26-2009 08:52 PM

Hello CDoug:
A basement toilet would probably be the last fixture entering the stack and is affected by rushes of water from above. Sometimes those rushes will vacum some water from the bottom fixture and, in extreme cases, they add water or allow bubbles from the vent. I know you said it doesn't gurgle but it could sometimes, like with the flushing of two toilets on the higher levels.
Evaporation also has lots to do with the water level, if it is left for several days at a time.
How does the water smell in the other toilets in the house? or in the shower? If it is the same source of water it should all smell the same.

cdoug55 03-25-2009 03:24 PM

This toilet is on our main floor. The smell only comes from this toilet. The toilet on my second floor is fine and the shower and vanity water are all fine. When the toilet is flushed it smells fine, but sort of develops the smell as time goes on. I have one of those bleach tablets in the tank, so when I flush the toilet, it smells like bleach. Only after a bit does it start to smell again.

Nestor_Kelebay 03-30-2009 12:28 AM


I would clean the toilet well and then pour straight bleach into the bowl.

(Mark or measure the maximum water level in the toilet bowl before cleaning it. Do that by pouring water into the bowl SLOWLY until it doesn't get any higher in the bowl. That will be the maximum water level in the bowl, and any excess water will simply spill into the siphon channel of the toilet bowl. Mark or measure that water level.)

Pour the bleach in until you get to that same water level, and go watch TV for a while.

Now, scoop the bleach out of the bowl with an empty soup can or cup or something and save that bleach for the next toilet cleaning.

The idea here is to kill any bacteria in the bowl that feed on urine and feces that may be causing the smell.

KMC1245 11-29-2013 01:51 PM


I have exactly the same kind of smell problem as you have except the smell does not fluctuate as you described on my first floor toilet (all other 3 toilets in my house are fine including another one on the 1st floor). I thought it could be a leak from the wax ring so I have Lowe's to install a brand new Kohler toilet, the installer even put in two wax ring on it but smell still there. I really need an expert opinion on this issue. Is it possible coming from loose pipe/flange connection? Lowe's installer does not caulk the base of toilet seat, my next step would be caulking the base to see if can ease the problem.


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