Easy hacks to keep your toilet looking and smelling clean & fresh
Suffering from the annoyance and embarrassment of a stinky toilet?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone! No matter how often you clean your toilets – trying everything from natural solutions to harsh bleaches – sometimes there’s a pungent drainy smell that simply won’t budge (or certain members of your family who just can’t keep it clean!! )
It’s important to first identify WHY does my toilet smell.
Once we’ve found the source, we’ll jump into our favourite cleaning hacks for your toilet.
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What can cause toilet smell?
There are a number of different causes for toilet smell, some within your control, others you may need the help of a plumber to resolve. These can include:
- A dirty area surrounding your toilet – most of us give the toilet bowl itself a good scrub, not what about the other areas in and around the toilet?
- Bad aim – this mostly, though not exclusively, refers to little boys urine accidents
- Toilet has been unused – this most likely occurs after you’ve been on vacation and the water in the bowl has not been flushed for some time.
- You have a structural issue – either broken seals or worse, your vent pipe is clogged. We’ll go through some troubleshooting before you get to the expense of calling a plumber in.
Once you’ve identified the root cause of the smell in your toilet, you can then work on tackling the smell.
How to thoroughly clean a toilet
We’re assuming you are already cleaning your toilet regularly throughout the week with a toilet cleaner, or at the very least scrubbing away the worst offending stains as you see them with either antibacterial wipes or a toilet scrubbing brush.
To thoroughly clean your toilet you will need:
- A bristle toilet scrubbing brush
- A pair of rubber gloves
- Scotch-Brite Scrub Sponges (or similar)
- Bleach (regular household variety)
- Toilet Bowl Cleaner With Bleach
- Disinfecting wipes of your choice
- Lysol Power Bathroom Cleaner
Step 1 – Toilet scrubbing
Get those rubber gloves on and get set for a serious scrub. Apply toilet cleaner under the rim and leave for at least 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, with your scrubbing brush and scourer, clean in and around not just the bowl and seat but all surrounding surfaces – walls, skirt boards and floor tiles.
Those hard to reach areas might need more scrubbing, try a bleach pen or small scrubbing brush (it is a serious eww job, we know!)
Step 2 – Floor cleaning
Any bathroom floor rugs will also need a good wash and airing.
If the smell is still there, you need to widen your perimeter search, even the carpet and surfaces as you first enter the bathroom (I’d have never thought this was possible until having my own boys…)
We also regularly get the steam mop around the bathroom and toilet floor.
Step 3 – Tank cleaning
Another place we clean every few months is the tank. Lift the lid and pour some straight white vinegar into the tank and clean the whole area with a brush. Replace the lid and flush to finish.
Natural cleaners or chemical?
Natural cleaners, whilst better for the environment and great for everyday bathroom cleaning are probably not strong enough for a deep cleanse, especially if you’re working on eliminating a stench. Every now and then a regular household bleach will be needed to help eliminate strong odours. This can have the converse effect of them leaving you with a strong bleach smell. To counteract this, we leave some natural scent solutions in the bathroom too (more below!).
You can leave bleach to sit for a little while, but be sure not to leave it too long and be sure to wipe off all the bleach with warm water after cleaning (watch out for any splashback on colored surfaces like walls and towels, bleach should be used with the utmost of care).
Top Tip: Regularly replace your toilet brush too. You don’t want to know whats lurking in those bristles even if you are disinfecting it after each use.
Step 4 – That fresh-lasting bathroom smell
We love to use essential oils to keep that long-lasting fresh smell. Peppermint, lemon and tea tree are all much more pleasant bathroom smells. We use a simple refillable diffuser.
PSSTT and there’s no reason this HAS to be mamas job either! We say YOU in a very open way! We won’t be shy in saying we’ve hired professional cleaning services for this deep clean job in the past. Or at least other adults in your house can alternate this deep clean job with you every time.
Possible solution to urine smell in your bathroom
This one is especially common if you have some young gents in your house, or even the older ones, trust us! Without even going into the detail of what they might be up to in there, the root cause of this problem is most likely poor aim rather than a problem with the toilet itself.
Good news, it should be a less expensive fix. Bad news, even once you’ve solved the problem, it can recur!
Here are some ways we can work on resolving this problem:
Put a peeing target in the toilet – I’ll be honest we’ve had mixed success with this. But certainly worth a shot (pardon the pun) if you think a direct aim is the cause of the issue, rather than simple laziness. Check them out here on Amazon >>
Use a nightlight – Nighttime peeing where kids are sleepy and not fully paying attention can be a big cause of bathroom accidents. A small sensor light in your bathroom or in an adjacent hallway may shed more light on what they are doing, without the need for harsh overhead lighting.
Make the kids clean the toilet themselves – Ok probably not a permanent solution unless you have the most amenable kids in the world! But even one round of them having to don the rubber gloves and get down there and dirty, maybe they will see the consequences of their actions. This is unlikely to be a helpful solution with your smaller tots, but is a pretty effective lesson for the bigger one.
Drain Smells from your toilet
Ok so it’s clean and we’ve been training the worst culprits in the house and still, that rotten smell persists. Before we call in the plumber just a few more steps we can look at ourselves:
No water in your P-Trap
This is most likely to occur if the toilet has not been used in some time. I know post-vacation one of the first jobs I do (amongst the many!) around the house is get the water flowing again, a few flushes of each toilet should resolve this issue, though it may take 24 hours for the smell to dissipate completely.
Bacteria build up
This is probably the most likely culprit that you can look to tackle next. Those who live in hot climates are probably quite familiar with that rotten egg smell, it seems particularly prevalent on those humid days. Let’s get into a deeper tank cleanse for this one.
- Place the lid to one side (avoiding your nice bathroom mats)
- Lift the floater out of the way before flushing (this will make the toilet think its already full and you’ll be left with just a small amount of water to work with).
- Add 1 cup vinegar with 1/2 a cup of baking soda
- Swish this around in the tank and then scrub down the sides and bottom with a long handled brush
- Leave this in the tank for at least 30 minutes before scrubbing again
- Replace the floater then flush a couple of times
- Run a scourer all around the lid to the tank and let dry before replacing
Still not worked? It is time to look again at bleach. Try 1 part bleach to 10 parts water and repeat the above process in the tanks. It’s recommend you wear a face covering while working with bleach and keep the room well-ventilated.
If you have broken seals in your toilet, urine and bacteria can collect, which is not only unpleasant smell but also quite unsanitary. You will need to look at resealing this with caulk.
Toilet is clogged
The smell could well be coming from a clog. Time to grab your plunger, ewww. I know. You will need a proper toilet plunger or flange plunger for this job, it needs to fit your toilet bowl with a good seal.
- Completely submerge the plunger cup in the toilet water, avoid any trapped air in making a seal
- Firmly depress the plunger cup as far as you can into the bowl
- Forcefully pull the plunger back up, without breaking the seal
- Repeat this pressure movement 5 or 6 times – creating rapid pressure and suction
- On the last pull remove completely, breaking the seal
- Repeat the process until the toilet starts to drain
If this has not cleared the drain, or water is still seeping out very slowly, it’s time to call in a pro.
Vent pipe clogged
Perhaps it’s not the toilet itself that smells but a vent pipe. This can be time to call in a professional plumber who can identify the exact problem and repair and replace broken parts.
We hope these steps will help you elimated some of the most nasty and embarrassing odors from your bathroom.