What's the most effective way to make my tiny bathroom stop smelling?
September 11, 2020 11:51 AM   Subscribe

In my 130-year-old house, there's a small bathroom under the stairs in the main entranceway. It's the only downstairs basement, so it gets a fair bit of use. I suspect that someone doing work on the house last year urinated around the toilet. Not sure if it was intentional, but over the past few months, that room has become unbearable. It smells like an outhouse.

The floors are hardwood. Walls are plaster, and baseboards are wood.

I have read about using hydrogen-peroxide-soaked towels, but I'm concerned about warping the wood in there. What other solutions/products exist that might help me keep my tiny bathroom from smelling like a saloon?
posted by yellowcandy to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Visit the local janitorial supply and seek their advice.
posted by Freedomboy at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2020

Nature's Miracle makes some hard floor stain/smell removers that you might try.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:02 PM on September 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry to say so, but it really sounds like your toilet has a leak, and probably on the blackwater (uh... post-flush) side if it smells like an outhouse instead of just musty / mildewy. A bit of months-old pee on the floor is not going to keep smelling like that, that's an indicator of continuing leakage.

When's the last time you had a plumber look at it? If you have cast iron pipes, which a lot of old places do, one of them could have cracked at a very inopportune spot. You definitely at least need to have the plumbing checked out rather than just trying to cover up this odor.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:05 PM on September 11, 2020 [55 favorites]

One event of someone pissing on the floor a year ago wouldn't wait 10 months and then start getting worse. That is not how piss works. You probably have a problem with seepage under the toilet that needs to be fixed.
posted by fritley at 12:05 PM on September 11, 2020 [30 favorites]

Yeah, you definitely need a plumber to check this out. It sounds like maybe the wax gasket (the seal between the toilet outlet and the sewage outlet pipe) is wearing out. The "outhouse" smell getting stronger is a clue that something is probably leaking, and you definitely don't want to let that go, as over time it can lead to much more complicated and expensive damage.
posted by aecorwin at 12:23 PM on September 11, 2020 [10 favorites]

I had this happen. The gasket was leaking. It was a horrible smell that got worse over time, and required someone to come over, take the toilet off the base, remove the old parts, and replace them. It can happen when the toilet is, um, moved from repeated use, and that breaks the seal.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 12:54 PM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fix the problem then vinegar, as many pans as will fit. Leave out over night or if you're away for a few days.
posted by sammyo at 1:02 PM on September 11, 2020

It can happen when the toilet is, um, moved from repeated use, and that breaks the seal.

True. It can also happen if your joists or sub-floor are getting spongey and allowing movement of the toilet at the base. If it feels at all "springy" around the toilet then that really points to a water issue.
posted by amanda at 1:07 PM on September 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

Do you have a basement or crawl space where you can get underneath the bathroom and look for evidence of a leaky seal?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:59 PM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

The seals on the base of toilets need to be replaced periodically. There could be water damage occurring under the toilet where you can't see it.

It doesn't have to be moved in some sort of drastic way, simply the weight of people sitting and getting up over time slowly causes the seal to fail.

There are some newer types of seals that some people think last longer than the wax rings.

It's pretty straightforward to replace the seals if you are comfortable with basic plumbing. Probably easier than replacing a sink faucet, though it will be more stinky. A second person to help with moving the toilet around can be helpful. Or if you want to hire a plumber, it should be a fairly quick job - and having an old house you probably know this next part - as long as there's not damage to the floor underneath.
posted by yohko at 2:47 PM on September 11, 2020

This can also be a problem with your sewer vent (that sticks out of the roof, in most places) being clogged (birds' nests can be an issue, among other things) and not properly venting the toilet and/or sink trap. I'd get a plumber in to do a general once-over.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:53 PM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I had a toilet nearly collapse through the floor due to a leak that was inundating the subfloor (which was hidden under linoleum. Definitely needs a professional diagnosis. Hopefully it’s not a broken outflow pipe under the house ... I had that happen too and someone had to saw a huge trench through the concrete slab. Are there any drain flies about? These are small flies that make a dark charcoal smear when you whack them.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:38 PM on September 11, 2020

Nthing that this is probably a more serious problem than getting rid of the odor. Get a plumber.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:56 PM on September 11, 2020

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