How To Fix a Stinky Toilet

Updated: Feb. 16, 2024

Toilet smelling a little less than fresh? Here's what to do.

smelly toilet antoniodiaz/Shutterstock

The bathroom is a private place, and as such, most people feel best when their bathroom looks clean and smells fresh. A stinky bathroom, on the other hand, can be a nightmare. Often times, bathrooms get smelly because of mildew. That’s easy to clean and get rid of the mildew smell. However, if you’ve narrowed it down to the toilet as the source of the foul odor, here’s what could be causing the smell and what you can do to fix it.

What To Do If Your Toilet Stinks

No judgement, but the most likely culprit is that your toilet needs to be cleaned. That’s a fairly easy task, and you can clean a toilet in just five simple steps.  If that doesn’t do the trick, there could be something else wrong with your toilet that is causing it to smell somewhat less than fresh. Here are three more potential causes of a smelly toilet as well as how to take care of the problem.

Why Else Is Making Your Toilet Stink?

1. Wax Ring. The wax ring that’s between your toilet and the floor beneath could be the cause of the bad smell. Every toilet has a wax ring (yes, it’s really made of wax) and over time these rings can fail. If that’s the case, leaking water may be getting into your flooring and subflooring, causing smelly rot.

You can fix a leaky toilet yourself, but it’s important to address the problem as soon as possible, before it leads to bigger issues that will require more extensive and expensive repairs.

2. Water Jets. Under the rim of the toilet bowl are small holes that the water shoots out of to fill the toilet when flushing it, a basic element of how a toilet works. If these holes get clogged, even part way, stinky mildew can form. To check the jets, get a small mirror and a piece of coat hanger wire or a small screwdriver. Hold the mirror so you can see the jets and use the wire or screwdriver to clean out any debris.

3. Condensation. When the humidity is high, condensation may build up on the outside of the toilet and drip down onto the floor below. These drips can turn into a puddle that can go unnoticed, and that water can get smelly if it sits long enough. During periods of high humidity, place an absorbent towel on the floor under the toilet tank to catch condensation. Check the towel daily and replace when it feels damp.

No sign of any of these issues? It’s probably time to contact a professional!