How To Get Rid Of Sewer Smell In Basement Bathroom

A basement bathroom is usually close to a sewer line. If something’s amiss with the plumbing, the putrid smell from the sewer system can enter your bathroom. So how can you get rid of the sewer smell in the basement bathroom? We've consulted with the experts about eliminating sewage smells in basement bathrooms, and here’s what they say.

Finding the source of the sewer smell that enters the basement bathroom is the first step to solving this problem. Some possible causes are old pipes, dirty drains, and broken seals. Once you found the source of the issue, use the appropriate solution to achieve effective and long-term results. Some of the steps you can carry out are as follows:

  • Remove clogs from the toilet.
  • Fix a broken pipe seal.
  • Clean the cleanout plug.

Take note that missing out on important details in eliminating sewer smell in a basement bathroom may aggravate the problem. Keep reading to know these specifics to ensure that you’re getting the results you want from this project.

A woman wearing a glove while cleaning the toilet bowl, How To Get Rid Of Sewer Smell In Basement Bathroom

Why Does My Basement Bathroom Smell Like Sewer?

A sewer smell in the basement bathroom is generally caused by faulty or malfunctioning parts in the nearby plumbing system. Finding the source of this problem is important as exposure to this harmful gas can potentially lead to health issues. Additionally, the steps to solve this concern depend on the source of the problem.

A gas mask placed on the toilet cover

Here are some of the relatively common causes of basement bathroom sewer smells:

Clogged Toilets

Several reasons can be the primary culprits to clogged basement bathroom toilets. These causes include flushing non-flushable items, blocking the trap, and clogging the vent. Some low-flow designs also tend to promote a greater-than-average risk of getting clogged more than other basement toilet variations.

Broken Pipe Seal

If your basement bathroom has plastic pipes, it can be prone to broken seals. Plastic seals tend to be less durable than their metal counterparts. Cracks and breaks in the bathroom’s plastic pipe seals can also promote leaks, which can also lead to more serious issues like basement floods.

Additionally, the excess moisture from leaky basement pipes can become an invitation to certain pests to enter the premises. If you want to know more about how to keep these basement bugs away, read our post on How To Prevent Bugs In A Basement Apartment.

Unclean Cleanout Plug

A plumbing system’s cleanout is the area that offers easy access to the property’s drain pipes. Homeowners and plumbers use this space to remove clogs and debris from the drain pipes. But an unclean cleanout pipe can deliver filth to the drain pipes, causing waste buildup and sewer smells to emanate from the plumbing.

Getting Rid Of Sewer Smell In A Basement Bathroom

A woman covering her nose while cleaning the toilet

After finding the source of the smell in your basement bathroom, use the right steps to eliminate the stench. In this section, we’ll tackle the methods to remove the sewer gas smell from your basement’s bathroom based on the source of the issue.

Unclogging Toilets

The frequent maintenance of basement bathroom toilets may not provide thoroughly clean results. Some debris may not dissolve from the solution you use, which may cause clogs.

Here’s what you’ll need to unclog a basement toilet:

  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 gallons of hot water
  • ½ cup chlorine bleach
  • 4 ounces mineral oil
  • Cold water

Next, here are the steps to unclog the toilet and remove the sewage smell in the basement bathroom:

  1. Pour the baking soda into the toilet.
  2. Pour the cup of white vinegar.
  3. Let the solution sit for about 2 hours. Make sure to keep the bathroom door closed as the mixture’s smell can be quite strong.
  4. Pour 1 gallon of hot water down the toilet.
  5. Wait for 15 minutes before running cold water into the toilet for about 10 minutes.
  6. Pour in the ½ cup chlorine bleach and let it sit for another 2 hours.
  7. Pour another gallon of hot water into the toilet after that period.
  8. Run another round of cold water into the toilet for about 10 minutes.
  9. Pour the mineral oil into the toilet. It’ll float, but the mineral oil will help reduce the evaporation rate of the mixture, allowing for more of the clog to be dissolved.

If you notice that there’s still blockage in the toilet, you may use a drain auger or snake to remove the leftover substance.

Check out the Ridgid 59787 toilet auger on Amazon.

Repairing Pipe Seals

Fixing cracks, holes, and other types of damages can eliminate the excess moisture in the basement bathroom. If damaged pipes are the cause of the sewer smell in the space, you’ll need the following tools:

  • Scissors
  • Fiberglass wrap
  • Repair tape
  • Clean cloth or rag

Follow these steps to fix or replace a leaky plastic pipe in your basement bathroom:

  1. Cut the water supply to your basement bathroom.
  2. Use a clean cloth or rag to remove the water from the leaky pipe. Make sure the faulty pipe is dry before proceeding.
  3. Wrap the malfunctioning pipe with repair tape. Ensure that the tape wraps the faulty area tightly.
  4. Once secure, cut the tape at a desirable length.
  5. Return the water supply to the bathroom to test.

You may also use rubber epoxy instead of repair tape to close the crack or hole in the faulty pipe. Just make sure that the epoxy dries and cures properly before doing the test.

Also, if your basement bathroom is a moisture magnet, and not only because of leaky pipes, think about installing a vapor barrier. For more information on this topic, you can check out our post: Does A Basement Ceiling Need A Vapor Barrier?

Check the J-B Weld 8271 KwikWeld reinforced epoxy on Amazon.

Cleaning the Cleanout Plug

Many cleanout plugs have a metal composition. Since it's relatively close to damp places, it's no surprise that these parts can rust. The rust, along with other dirty substances, can enter the plumbing system, causing unclean water and sewer smell to rise.

You need the following items to clean a cleanout plug:

  • Metal baking pan
  • Soldering torch
  • Rust penetrant
  • Rust remover
  • Pipe wrench
  • Hammers

After gathering the essential tools, here are the steps to clean a cleanout plug:

  1. Use the metal baking pan to remove the cobwebs and other dirty substances surrounding the plug.
  2. With the soldering torch, apply a sufficient amount of heat to warm the plug and its fitting.
  3. Soak the plug’s threads with rust penetrant.
  4. Use 2 hammers to whack the opposite sides of the fitting to loosen it.
  5. Use a pipe wrench to remove the cleanout plug.
  6. Apply your choice of rust remover before returning the plug and its fitting to its original position.

Take a look at the Evapo-Rust super safe rust remover on Amazon.

Do Unused Drains Smell?

Drains help carry water away and prevent harmful gases from entering living spaces. On the other hand, unused or infrequently used drains may have trapped moisture in its space.

If mixed with the right levels of humidity, the excess moisture can promote mold and mildew growth, which can also be the cause of the foul smell. Long-term exposure to airborne mold and mildew may cause a range of health issues from light coughs to asthma attacks.

Will Bleach Kill Sewage Smell?

Yes, bleach can help kill the bacteria associated with the sewage smell. Various bleach products, particularly chlorine bleach, have bactericidal properties that help sanitize different surfaces.

However, it’s important not to use undiluted bleach as it can cause serious respiratory and skin problems, particularly if you’re not wearing any protective gear. Also, don’t mix bleach with vinegar as the combination can create a toxic gas when mixed with other airborne substances.

Is A Sewage Smell In The Bathroom Dangerous?

Sewer gas isn't dangerous when breathed in relatively small amounts. However, long-term exposure to this noxious gas can increase the risks of certain health concerns. The combination of airborne chemical compounds like methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and nitrous oxide may lead to health issues like the following:

  • Hydrogen sulfide poisoning
  • Asphyxiation
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Other than the potential health concerns, take note that basements that don’t have proper ventilation are at a higher risk of house fires than living spaces practicing good airflow.

Final Words

The first step to getting rid of a sewer smell in a basement bathroom is to locate the source of the issue. It could be a clogged toilet, broken pipe seal, or a dirty or rusted cleanout plug. Applying the correct steps based on the source of the smell will result in a long-term solution.

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