Plumbing smells are among the worst smells to fill your nostrils. Odors can be caused from a variety of sources, including dirty bathrooms, clogged drains, and damaged plumbing lines. Recognizing these causes and identifying the problem is half the battle; once you know where your odor is coming from, you can take steps to eradicate it and prevent it from offending your olfactory senses in the future.

Cleaning Solutions

For most plumbing odors, the solutions are pretty simple. Dirty or stained sinks, tubs, and toilets are the main reasons for a consistently stinky bathroom (other than the obvious bad plate of chili cheese fries). To eliminate these odors, here are a few quick tricks:

  1. Clean surfaces with a deodorizing cleanerODOREZE® Natural Drain & Plumbing Odor Remover Spray is a concentrate that cleans and deodorizes simultaneously. Dilute it (only ¼ oz./gallon water) and spray it on any hard surface. Wipe down the sink, tile, tubs, and even mirrors with the solution to clean off grime, residue, and other odor sources. This is a totally odorless product that will eliminate the plumbing stink without covering it up.
  2. Scrub with a slightly abrasive cleaning powderAnother cleaning option is to use SMELLEZE® General Purpose Cleaning Powder. It works as a scouring scrub to remove grime and buildup on surfaces in your bathroom, and effectively eliminates odors. Just add water to create a paste and scrub it over your bathroom surfaces. To prevent future odor buildup, leave a SMELLEZE® Reusable Bathroom Smell Elimination Pouch behind the toilet or on a shelf. It will absorb unwanted smells, keeping your bathroom smelling fresh for years. Simply rejuvenate the pouch in sunlight for a day after a month or two as needed and reuse.
  3. Remove drapes and curtainsBathrooms are moist and humid areas, which can be breeding grounds for smelly mold and mildew. As you clean out your bathroom, remove drapes and curtains for a good wash. Odors from mildew and mold can linger on the fabric stinking up your room, regardless of how thoroughly you cleaned. Use ODOREZE® Laundry Smell Neutralization Additive with your detergent when doing your wash to remove particularly nasty stench from washable items.
  4. Add plantsFinally, a simple trick that not only prevents odors but gives aesthetic appeal to your bathroom is to add plants. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, converting it into oxygen. This eliminates odors and keeps your bathroom smelling (and looking) fresh. Use plants that love humidity (bathrooms are moist areas) and make sure they have natural light.

Plumbing Solutions

Unfortunately, not all plumbing odors are the result of a dirty bathroom. Sometimes the source goes a little deeper into the actual plumbing lines of your home. Odors can be caused by a number of problems including a clogged drain, faulty traps, and poor ventilation.

  1. Clogged drainA clogged or obstructed drain is a typical cause for plumbing odors. The best way to eliminate and prevent odors is to clear out the drain with a plumbing snake and add a filter. Filters will catch a lot of the waste and solid materials that go down the drain, preventing the buildup of crud and gunk in the pipes. Just remember to clean this out regularly because the solid particles will begin to smell over time. However, if your drain smells like sewage, the problem is most likely related to poor ventilation or a dry trap and you will need to take a different approach.
  2. Faulty trapsTraps are used to collect water in the drain. This water acts as a seal or buffer to the sewer gases that run through the pipeline. However, if the traps are dry or your plumber didn’t install one, pungent sewer gas may be leaking into your home through the drain. Check your pipes to ensure you have a trap; if the trap is missing you will need to hire a plumber to install one.Another possible cause for malfunctioning traps is poor or broken seals on your pipes. If the seals aren’t working, air may be leaking into the pipes and drying out the water trap. When the water in the trap evaporates there is no longer a barrier to prevent sewer gas from entering your house through the drain. To prevent this, check all seals and pour water into your drains. Adding water to the drains, especially ones that are rarely used (like a basement drain) will fill the water traps, blocking off odorous gases.
  3. Poor ventilationLeaks or obstructions to the plumbing vents will also cause sewer odors. The vent stack provides a source of air into the pipe system. If it is blocked from an obstruction or there are holes in the piping, a vacuum can develop pulling water from the traps and allowing sewer gases into the house. You can spot a faulty (or missing) vent by listening to the drain. If the fixture or drain makes noises or gurgles, that can indicate a poorly ventilated system.To prevent these odors, check your ventilation system. Listen for leaks and check the vent for blockage. The vents exit through the roof of the house; if you are brave, you can check the vent top yourself. Sometimes the lid will shut or, in winter, snow and other debris can block the opening. However, if the smell persists, you will want to contact a professional plumber to inspect your piping.


Plumbing smells are among the more pungent and revolting odors that occur in your home. To prevent this onslaught on your nostrils, maintain a clean bathroom and drainage system. For more serious sewer gas leakages, check your traps and vents. If the problem persists, you may want to hire a plumber to correct any pipe or ventilation issues. When that smell evaporates, you’ll be glad you did.

Author Byline:
Nina Hiatt has worked with clients to find balance and beauty in their personal space through landscape and interior design. With the help of professionals from all across the country, from plumbers in Salt Lake City to architects in Miami, she can fulfill all of your home improvement needs.