8 Reasons Why Does Your Toilet Smell of Urine (Causes & Remedies)

Even if you clean your bathroom regularly, it can still end up smelling of urine, and sometimes, you may not even be able to work out why or where the odor is coming from.

To help, in this post, we discuss the causes and remedies for this problem as we consider the question, why does your toilet smell of urine?

Why Does Your Toilet Smell of Urine?

1. Toilet

If you detect unpleasant urine smells in your bathroom, the most obvious culprit is the toilet itself. However, the smell might not be coming from the bowl, so there are some other areas to check and clean too.

Make sure you clean under the toilet seat, and you should also clean the outside of the toilet – these are the areas where urine splashes can go unseen, causing that distinctive unpleasant smell. Another area to pay attention to is beneath the toilet rim inside the toilet.

By giving these areas a deep clean, you may find that much of the urine smell in your bathroom disappears.

How to clean

You can use regular store-bought cleaning products, but another effective way to deep-clean your toilet is to use white vinegar thanks to the acetic acid it contains. This acid content also makes vinegar a useful, inexpensive disinfectant.

Simply pour some white vinegar into a spray dispenser and use the dispenser to apply it to the areas you want to clean. Leave it to act for at least half an hour – then simply rinse it off using a cloth and some warm water.

For any more stubborn stains, you can also scrub with a non-abrasive brush.

Tip: Since lemon juice contains citric acid, it also works as an effective natural cleaning product. However, it has the advantage of having a natural pleasant scent, so some people prefer using it due to vinegar’s much more pungent aroma.

2. Floor

Another area to pay attention to is the floor around your toilet. Sometimes, urine can run down the side of the toilet and onto the floor, and sometimes people just don’t aim very well and cause splashes while peeing.

Furthermore, when gentlemen use the toilet standing up, tiny invisible splashes of water and urine spray out of the toilet and onto the floor, which, with time, can build up and cause a urine smell.

How to clean

If anybody in your household uses the toilet standing up, it’s inevitable that the bathroom floor will receive a spattering of urine. It’s not necessarily a question of not being able to aim properly, it’s just a fact of life.

This means that cleaning your floor regularly is essential if you want to remove urine smells – and mopping the floor with a commercial cleaning product should take care of it.

3. Walls

Depending on the size of your bathroom and its configuration, it’s also possible that urine splashes and spray can reach your walls. This is especially true of the part where the toilet is attached to the wall since urine splashes can run down the back.

How to clean

Using vinegar in the way described above is the best way to tackle urine splashes and stains on your walls. Use a spray bottle to apply the vinegar, leave it for half an hour or so to do its work and then wipe it off with a cloth and some warm water.

Tip: Pay special attention to the bottom of the wall where it meets the floor. This is a place where urine splashes can collect, and if you don’t clean it thoroughly, it’s just the kind of place that can be responsible for the urine smell in your bathroom.

4. Beneath the toilet

A more serious problem is if the urine smell is emanating from beneath your toilet. If this is the case, it probably means the wax ring needs replacing, in which case you’ll have to lift the toilet out of place to get to it.

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It can be hard to tell if the urine smell is coming from beneath your toilet without removing it first – but if you have cleaned all the other areas around your toilet and can still smell urine, it might be worth removing the toilet to check it and to give it a deep clean.

How to clean

Turn off the water supply, empty the water from the toilet bowl, unscrew the nuts and bolts and then remove the toilet from the wall – if you’re not sure how to do this, here’s a good video that shows you how.

Underneath, the ring of wax seals the toilet, so once you have removed the toilet, you can check the condition of the ring. If it has cracked or otherwise failed, you will need to replace it.

In any case, while you have the toilet up, it’s a good opportunity to clean the parts that are usually inaccessible. We recommend you do it using vinegar in the same way as we’ve already described.

Spray it onto the bottom of the toilet, around the wax ring and also on the floor where the toilet usually sits.

Remember that when urine gets underneath the toilet, either from a leak or from splashing, this is a common cause of urine smells – and one you usually can’t do anything about.

This is why it’s important to clean that area of the toilet as thoroughly as possible while you have the toilet up.

After leaving the vinegar to work for about half an hour, wipe it down with a cloth and some warm water and leave it to dry.

5. Garbage cans

Another source of bad smells in your bathroom could be the garbage can. Through use, the can itself will come into contact with urine and other items that may cause it to smell, which means the garbage can itself will need cleaning from time to time.

How to clean

Empty the garbage can and spray it with white vinegar, inside and out. Leave it to act for half an hour and then wipe it down with a cloth and warm water.

Tip: If you have a handheld showerhead, you may find it easier to place your garbage can in the shower and rinse it down with warm water from the shower rather than wiping it down by hand. However, you may still need to use a cloth to remove any stubborn encrusted stains.

6. Tank

Sometimes the toilet cistern – also known as the toilet tank – can be the cause of bad smells. It is less likely that urine smells will come from the tank, but it can still be a good idea to give it a deep clean occasionally.

How to clean

Empty the tank by turning off the water supply and then flushing the toilet. When you flush, hold the handle or button down until all of the water drains out.

Next, lift the lid from the tank and spray vinegar generously inside the tank. Make sure you cover all the sides as well as all the parts of the flush mechanism.

Leave to act for half an hour and then wipe down with a cloth and warm water.

7. Drains

Like the tank, drains in your bathroom may be responsible for unpleasant smells – although again, they are unlikely to be due to urine.

Rather, these smells come from blockages in your pipes. Hair, soap scum and anything else that gets washed down the drain may become stuck, clogging up the pipes.

Not only will this cause the water to drain more slowly – and eventually, not at all – it can also cause foul smells due to bacteria growing there.

This means to get rid of the nasty smell – and to get your plumbing working properly again – you’ll need to unclog the pipe.

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How to clean

Depending on where the blockage is, there are different techniques you can try to remove it.

The clog could be just beneath the drain hole of your shower or bathtub, so all you’ll need to do is remove the stopper – and the strainer if you have one.

You can do this using a flathead screwdriver, and then it’s just a case of pulling out any hair and other muck that’s blocking the drain. You’ll probably want to wear rubber gloves for this since it can be pretty nasty.

If the blockage is further down the drain, you may be able to reach it with a wire coat hanger bent to make a hook, but if you can’t reach it like this, you might have to resort to using a plumber’s snake.

If you don’t know how to use a plumber’s snake to clear a blockage in a drain, here’s a good video that explains how to do it.

Tip: Toilets themselves may also become blocked in this way due to toilet paper and anything else that gets flushed away, and tell-tale signs are if the water drains slowly or the water level rises too high after each flush.

This kind of blockage won’t usually result in a bad odor since the water in the toilet creates a seal and prevents sewer gases from reaching your bathroom.

However, you should still take steps to unblock the toilet if it shows signs of being clogged – you can do this either with a plunger or with a plumber’s snake.

8. Leaks

The cause of urine smells or other unpleasant odors in your bathroom could also be due to leaks in your plumbing. The best thing to do is to follow the smells and check there are no leaks anywhere – and if there are, you should repair them or call out a pro to do it.

Other cleaning products to try

Above, we’ve mostly recommended using a white vinegar spray to clean your bathroom, but there are some other options you can turn to. Here are some other products you can try:

Bicarbonate of soda

Bicarbonate of soda, also known as baking soda, is another inexpensive yet highly effective multipurpose cleaner.

You can mix it into a paste with water and then apply it to areas that are dirty or stained with urine.

It’s especially useful since it helps remove odors as well as cleaning – and it’s a good option to use in areas like the grout between bathroom tiles or in other nooks and crannies that are not so easy to clean thoroughly with vinegar.


Borax is similar to baking soda, but it’s more potent – you’ll have to pick it up from a specialist hardware store since most regular stores don’t carry it.

You can use it by sprinkling it over the area you wish to clean before spraying with vinegar or you can mix it up into a paste like with bicarbonate of soda.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a more powerful chemical that can be used to help remove urine odor and stains – it’s readily available in most stores that sell cleaning products.

To use it, simply mix up a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water in a ratio of 1:1. Spray it onto the surface you want to clean, leave it for half an hour to act and then wipe off with a cloth and warm water.

Chlorine bleach

Chlorine bleach is a heavy hitter that you can turn to when other gentler cleaning products don’t cut it. It will remove urine stains and urine smells as well as disinfecting the area you clean.

If you use chlorine bleach, make sure you wear rubber gloves and protective goggles since it can damage skin and eyes.

Final tip

As a final tip, if you can smell urine in your bathroom but can’t locate the source, urine stains show up in UV light, so by turning off the lights and shining a UV light in your bathroom, you will be able to see urine stains that were previously invisible.

A deep clean should resolve the problem

As we have seen, urine smells and other unpleasant odors may come from a range of different places in your bathroom. However, by cleaning the areas we’ve mentioned using the techniques we’ve discussed, a good deep clean of your bathroom should resolve the problem.

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