How To Fix Sewer Smell In Bathroom

If you’ve ever wondered “Why does my bathroom smell like sewage?,” we’re here to help! 

After decades of dealing with sewer gas and related leaks, we’ve seen it all. In this blog, we’re diving deep into the causes of bad odors in your bathroom.

Common reasons for a sewer gas smell in the bathroom include a dried out P-trap, a broken toilet seal, a burst or cracked pipe, or a damaged sewer or main drain. The smell of sewer gas is not just unpleasant, it can be very harmful to your health. You and your family may experience headaches, nausea, drowsiness, shortness of breath, and sometimes even heart palpitations from sewer gas inhalation. 

While a minor leak or clog is not difficult to repair or remove, major breaks in your pipes, sewer, or main drain should be handled by a professional. HRS Restoration Services, with decades of experience and a team trained to remove and clean up sewage, can help. 

HRS Restoration Services should be your first call for Denver sewage clean up and removal. If you attempt to fix a major sewage problem yourself, you may risk your health and that of your family. Simply put, the answer to “Can sewer gas make you sick?” is a resounding YES. 

Why Bathrooms Can Smell Like Sewage

At a minimum, there are usually three main places in your bathroom that could be the source of sewer smells, or in the case of a sewer break, all three places will emit a sewage smell in bathrooms. 

The first is the bathroom sink, the second is the toilet, and the third is the tub or shower drain. Any or all of these can be the source of what causes a bad smell in bathrooms.

A sewage smell is your stinky clue that your pipes are clogged, leaking, or otherwise damaged. Over time, pipes can corrode or nearby roots, thirsty for water, break through and damage your underground pipes. Anytime sewage is obstructed, the sewage smell has no other escape route except back up through your bathroom drains. 

The easiest problem to fix is when a drain or toilet goes unused and the P-trap underneath dries out. But, a major sewage situation requires expert help. After all, do you know all the signs of collapsed sewer lines? Sewer gas is not something you want to expose yourself or your family to. 

Dangers Of Sewer Gas Exposure

Sewer gas is a complex stew of chemicals that can make you sick, including ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide.

Symptoms of sewer gas exposure include tiredness, eye irritation, irritation of the nose and throat, coughing, nausea, shortness of breath, headaches, irritability, memory issues, and dizziness. If your health is already compromised, the effects could be even more threatening. 

Top Causes For Sewer Smell In Bathroom

If you are already thinking “my bathroom smells like sewer gas” and wondering what causes a sewer smell in the bathroom, we’ll narrow it down for you.  First, it could be that the seal around the base of your toilet is broken and letting in the smell. A sewage smell could also be the result of a dry P-trap, or maybe you have a burst pipe. Sewage smells may originate in shower drains that take in soap and shampoo scum and a healthy dose of hair.  Other sewage smells come from jacuzzi tubs, bathroom sinks, a collapsed sewer line, or a clogged plumbing vent. Finally, if bacteria has built up in your water heater or your septic tank is full, a sewage smell is inevitable.

Broken Seal Around Toilet

Your toilet attaches to the drain with seals. If they are broken or loose, they will allow sewer gases into the home. If the seals are leaking water around the toilet, bacteria grows and creates a yucky smell.

The wax ring seals the toilet to the pipes, so if it is broken or missing, this can cause foul odors and is important to fix. You can do it yourself, but it is a good idea to contact a professional, as it involves removing the entire toilet. 

Dry P-Trap Piping

One common reason your drain smells bad is a dried P-trap. A dried P-trap will result in a sewer odor emitting from a sink that hasn’t been used in a while. 

The P-trap is designed to use water to block sewer gases from leaking up the drain. If a sink’s P-trap dries out, this can result in a bad smelling drain. 

To alleviate this problem, pour hot water down the drain to restore the water barrier in the P-trap. To prevent a drain that smells bad in the future, run water down the drain regularly as part of your routine plumbing maintenance.

Burst Pipe

If you can smell sewer gas in or around your home or building, this is a tell-tale symptom of a crack somewhere in your sewer system. A sanitary sewer should be airtight everywhere, with the exception of vent stacks on your roof which allow the sewage smell to move up and away from your home. 

Shower Drain

Smells in a shower drain can be caused by odor-causing bacteria that feed on debris in the pipe. Some of these anaerobic bacteria live in fetid water in the P-trap and produce hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells like sewage. 

When we shower, it is to clean the dirt off our bodies. However, did you know that the products we use can cause a biofilm to form?  Do you see an orange or pink film? If yes, this could be causing the shower drain to make the bathroom smell like sewage. Cleaning this biofilm is important as it is bacteria. 

Other odors can also be caused by the debris itself, like hair, or soap scum build-up. Mold can also grow on the soap and give the drain a musty odor. One easy way to eliminate odors is by thoroughly cleaning the drain.  

Jacuzzi Tubs

If you have a Jacuzzi tub, you may notice black flakes coming out of it. This could also be due to biofilm, just like you find in the shower as mentioned above. 


In bathrooms, a smelly sink is often caused by stray hairs that become lodged in soap scum lining the drain. Bits of bar soap and even a buildup of liquid hand soap can lead to a clog over time. 

Collapsed Sewer Line 

Do you live in an older home? In the past, pipes were made of cast iron or clay piping, which didn’t last very long. Aging sewage systems can break down and crack, causing sewage backups and flooded basements. Plastic sewer lines, usually referred to as PVC piping, are now the standard for sewer lines, as they require minimal maintenance. 

Clogged Plumbing Vent

Could you have dust, debris, or leaves clogging your plumbing vent? As water passes through plumbing pipes, it creates a vacuum. For the water to keep moving, it needs air to push it and replace the vacuum it creates. 

The plumbing vent acts as an air pressure regulator letting air into the plumbing system, which then pushes water throughout the pipes. It also gets rid of gasses and odors that wastewater can leave behind.

A clogged vent won’t let air through and into the pipes, so the water remains in the plumbing system. Stagnant water builds up in the pipes until the pipes can no longer handle it, resulting in the water flowing back up and out of drains and a sewage smell becomes overwhelming.

Bacteria Build-Up In Water Heater

Bacteria growing in the water heater can lead to a rotten egg or sewage-like smell. If hot water is not used, the water heater is turned off for a long period of time, or if the thermostat on the heater is set too low, you may end up with this smelly bacteria. 

Full Septic Tank

A septic tank should be emptied every one to two years. This is a good rule of thumb, but your particular schedule will depend on the tank’s size, the size of your family and your family’s needs. Regular maintenance could make it possible to go longer periods before you need to empty the tank.

Sewer Backups

Usually the source of a toilet clog, which ends up backing up the sewer, is from packing the toilet with too much toilet paper or something that should not be flushed. If all the toilets or bathtubs in your home are backflowed, there may be a clog in the main sewer line or the sump pump failed. Clogs can consist of hair, grease, or other solid materials that end up in the drains.

Hydrogen Sulfide In Water

Bacteria feed on small amounts of sulfur in the water and thrive in the low oxygen environments present in groundwater wells and plumbing systems. Although sulfur-reducing bacteria can impart taste and odor in the water, they do not cause health concerns for humans. 

Hydrogen sulfide problems are most common in wells drilled into acidic bedrock like shale and sandstone. Hydrogen sulfide can be removed from water with treatment processes. 

The most efficient and cost-effective treatment option depends on the concentration of hydrogen sulfide. Most treatment processes are designed to treat all of the water entering the home since hydrogen sulfide is an aesthetic odor problem.

How To Remove Sewer Smell In Bathroom

If your drains or toilet are clogged, you’ll need to remove it. If a leak is what’s causing your sewer smell, you’ll need the tools to tighten or patch the affected area. If your toilet has lost its seal, get ready to remove and reseal it. You may also need to service your water heater if you want to get rid of the sewage smell.

Remove Clogs

Remove the clog by hand, using a drain snake, a plunger, a hot pot of water, natural drain cleaner, or remove and clean the drain trap. If using hot water, pour it down the drain first, followed by baking soda, then vinegar, followed by more hot water after you’ve let the mixture sit in the drain for 10-15 minutes.

Fix Leaks 

If water is leaking from beneath the toilet, you might be able to stop it by simply tightening the bolts securing the toilet to the floor. Use a putty knife or slotted screwdriver to pry off the caps covering the bolts. Then use a wrench to alternately tighten each bolt, a little at a time. Be careful not to apply too much pressure or you’ll crack the toilet’s base. 

If it is your bathroom sink that is leaking you’ll need to find the leak. We recommend reassembling your bathroom sink to find the source of the leak. 

Replace / Reseal Toilet

Replacing and resealing your toilet is more involved for a homeowner. You need to empty the toilet, detach the toilet, move it out of the way, remove the old wax seal, replace toilet flange bolts, attach the wax ring, position the toilet, and finally bolt it to the floor. 

Service Water Heater

Tank water heaters have a protective component called a sacrificial anode rod. The purpose of the anode rod is to draw corrosive minerals to it so that the rod corrodes instead of the inner lining of the tank.

Many anode rods are made of magnesium or aluminum. When these rods corrode, the metals react with the sulfates in the water, turning the sulfate into stinky hydrogen sulfide.

The water heater tank needs to be flushed and disinfected. Doing so will remove the bacteria and particles causing hydrogen sulfide. 

During a water heater flush, you may need a plumber to replace your anode rod if it is corroded to prevent the smell in the future.

When To Call A Professional

Thankfully, if you have a minor clog in your bathroom, odds are that you can fix it with a combination of hot water, vinegar, a drain snake, drainage chemical, and a little elbow grease. Similarly, if the sewage smell is caused by a minor leak, you may be able to tighten or patch the offending pipe.

Some sewage smells are caused by situations best handled by professionals. These include a collapsed sewer line, a sewage spill, or a major malfunction of your septic system. 

When the inspection and repairs involve underground inspection or septic tank knowledge, it’s best to call a professional sewage removal company like HRS Restoration. 

Your exposure to sewage is minimal when you’re removing a clog or patching a leak, but when digging equipment is used, your risk of harmful sewage exposure is increased exponentially. 

Why Choose HRS Restoration Services

HRS Restoration is your one-stop-shop for anything and everything that is causing a sewer smell in your home. You won’t need to call one company for plumbing, another for cleanup, and another still for your septic tank. 

We handle all sewer gas related issues, no matter the source. We are Denver sewage cleanup and removal experts.

Our experienced team understands how important it is to eliminate sewer gas from your home. Our customers appreciate our attention to detail and our decades of customer service as seen in our glowing Google reviews. 

Our Process

HRS follows a sewage cleanup and removal process for best results. First, we stop the breach in your sewer line.; Next, we remove water and any waste in the affected area(s); and finally, we clean up and restore the sewage affected area.

Stopping The Breach

A breach in your sewer line is a serious issue that can affect your entire property. You can usually spot a sewer breach because the disgusting smell produced by one will appear in all of your sinks rather than one or two.

If the breach occurs in the water lines that are bringing fresh water into your home, you need to shut off the water mains to prevent the gushing water from continuing to pump through the pipes. Make sure you know where your home’s water main shut off valve is as a precaution.

Removing Water & Waste In The Affected Area

Water extraction is the process of removing all standing water and excess moisture from the property. It not only helps prevent more severe structural damage, but also speeds up the drying process and minimizes the risk of mold growth and secondary water damage.

The first step is to remove standing water with the help of industrial strength wet/dry vacuums and powerful submersible pumps.

Cleanup & Restoration

Our cleanup and restoration duties include replacing damaged flooring, drywall, and other building materials, repairing structural damage, eliminating mold, and conducting humidity and moisture testing to ensure humidity levels in the property have returned to normal.

Contact HRS Restoration Services Today!

When you find a sewer gas smell in bathrooms, call HRS Restoration Services. We have the experience and skill to perform plumbing and electrical repair in addition to water extraction. 

Don’t keep wondering “why does my bathroom smell like sewage?” Call our team of professionals to take care of the problem ASAP. 

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Anytime of day, any day of the year, HRS is here to fix what may seem overwhelming and intimidating. Our professionals in Denver are here to help 24/7.

what is iicrc and Why is it important?

IICRC stands for the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification. Formed nearly 40 years ago, it is a non-profit organization that establishes globally recognized standards for the cleaning and restoration industry, as well as providing certifications, journeyman and master designation, and education.

By choosing a firm with IICRC certified team members, you are assured the cleaning professionals have undergone rigorous training and will handle your disaster restoration with the highest standard of care.


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Figuring out what steps to take when disaster strikes can be a daunting task. HRS is here 24/7 to walk you through the process and bring your home or business back to habitable condition(s).

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