Weird damp smell coming from toilet in new apartment. How to fix it?
September 12, 2011 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Weird damp smell coming from toilet in new apartment. How to fix it?

I moved into a newly built apartment building in NYC about a week ago and there is a strange, musky damp smell from the toilet area. I told the super about it and he came by my apartment and just left a note saying he didn't smell anything. The smell is stronger at certain times of day but it is certainly noticeable even when I just walk past the bathroom.

Any idea what could be causing this and what I can specifically ask to be fixed? And how I can get them to fix it without just shrugging and saying they don't smell anything?
posted by pravit to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
I had the same problem, and our maintenance guy suggested putting bleach in the water tank. It worked!
posted by la petite marie at 6:20 PM on September 12, 2011

Does it smell like human waste - with a dash of mold? Is it strongest in the morning, and an hour after dinner (times when people in the building would be using their toilets)?

It could be a broken (leaking) plumbing waste line. Most of the waste manages to go down the pipe. The little bit that leaks out with every flush is diluted by the flush water. But, with every flush, a bit of waste water gets out, and splashes on the inside of your wall. All that water would create mold, and you would smell the diluted waste.

There is nothing to detect for human waste smell. And, you do not want to pay a plumber to pressure test the waste line for a leak (that is expensive). But you can test for mold, and if you get a positive test, you might be able to force your land-lord to remediate.
posted by Flood at 6:25 PM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Along the lines of la petite marie's advice, I had something similar happening and put one of those bleach drop-in tablets in the tank. I generally don't use them, they're crap for the environment and probably not fantastic for the tank workings - I definitely wouldn't use them over and over - but the month or so it lasted was enough of a soaking to nuke whatever was going funky in the tank.

Is there a shower or tub in that bathroom? You might get up close and personal and sniff the drain. If the funk is coming from there, and a glug of bleach (do it when the drain's as dry as it reasonably gets, and let it sit overnight or all day while you're at work) might fix the problem.

If neither of those things work, you may have a larger moisture problem. You might also want to check very carefully around your tub or shower enclosure to make sure water there isn't going somewhere it shouldn't.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:18 PM on September 12, 2011

there is a strange, musky damp smell from the toilet area.

In my bathroom, the source of that odor turned out to be my cheap-ass Target rug, which stinks when it gets damp despite being a bath mat.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:17 AM on September 13, 2011

IF the toilet is old it could be the tank of the toilet. Take of the top and see if its all black and nasty.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:23 AM on September 13, 2011

Any fabric like rags, curtains, rugs, towels, washcloths should either be cleaned or tossed. Maybe even adjacent carpets?

Otherwise try cleaning the bathroom completely from floor to ceiling with heavy duty cleansers.

Another possibility is the wax ring on the toilet. If the toilet looks old maybe it needs some fixing. Tell the super you smell sewer gas and that a plumber friend told you that the wax ring needs a replacement.
posted by JJ86 at 5:41 AM on September 13, 2011

Leaky around the seal due to hasty/faulty installation, is my guess. New building in NYC, how cool is that? :-) Work the bugs out, I'm sure it's worth it.
posted by Goofyy at 6:56 AM on September 13, 2011

There are probably 1,000,001 different things that could be causing the issue. And you're not likely to get management to do much of anything until you can more clearly identify a problem.

To get started - the low hanging fruit is going to be the toilet tank and any drains (sink, tub, shower, etc.) Take the lid off the toilet tank and sniff in there. Get your face down in various basins and sniff the drains.

You need to get more specific with management before they have a chance at helping you out.
posted by thatguyjeff at 11:21 AM on September 13, 2011

Followup - the super did another caulk around the base of the toilet, which had looked somewhat loose w/ the floor. That did the trick - no more smell!
posted by pravit at 4:12 PM on September 17, 2011

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