Smelly toilet, tried many things

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by shonuff66, Mar 22, 2011.

  1. shonuff66

    shonuff66 New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    Hi All,

    I have a Toto toilet (single flush, no gadgetry) thats about 5-6 years old in our masterbath. Its in it's own little room in the bathroom. We have a constant smell in there even with the fan running 24 hours a day and door shut. See some pictures attached.

    Setup:
    - there is about 1" between the back of the toilet and the wall. On the other side of the wall is a shower. Toilet is on the 2nd floor.

    Here's some history:
    Part 1
    - drain flies appeared and I noticed some water leaking behind the toilet. There was a smell
    - I removed the toilet to find a big brown slurry mess and the unifit adaptor. The rubber seal from the unifit stuck to the toilet when I lifted it off. That appeared to be the leak point, but hard to tell.
    - after cleaning I removed the unifit, cleaned more, scraped off the wax ring. cleaned more. Flange is metal.
    - replaced the wax ring with a #10 (not quite a double high ring) as the flange is slightly below the floor by about 0.5"
    - put the unifit back on. cleaned rubber seal, attached the rubber seal to unifit, seated the toilet.

    Part 2
    - waited a day for smell to air out, but it didn't. seemed to grow stronger as a few days went by. had door closed with exhaust fan running
    - removed toilet and took the rubber seal off. replaced the tie wrap with a similar heavy duty one. Tightened as hard as I could
    - reseated toilet

    Part 3
    - waited about an hour, no change in smell.had door closed with exhaust fan running
    - removed toilet, applied silicone caulk to the inside of the rubber seal where it attaches to the unifit. smushed it down
    - reseated toilet

    Part 4
    - waited 10-15 min, no change with fan running
    - removed toilet, applied silicon caulk to where the rubber seal meets the toilet, reseated toilet

    Part 5
    - waited 10-15 min, no change with fan running
    - bolted toilet down,
    - caulked around base of toilet, sealed off back of toilet (its open and exposed to the unifit) using tape (hard to tell how good a job I did), sealed side panels with tape (where bolts are),

    Part 6
    - waited 10-15 mins, no change with fan running
    - checked roof vents for apparent clogs , couldn't see down the pipe further than one foot.

    The room stills smells for the last 2 days, fan running constantly.

    Other ideas:
    - smell is seeping through bolt holes that fasten the seat down to the bowl.
    - some strange plumbing vent clog that is only causing smells in that toilet room. I don't hear any bubbling noises anywhere in the house.
    - the rubber seal has an inner lip and an outer lip. The unifit fits between the two. This is unlike the photo shown in this thread where the rubber seal is surrounded by the unifit. Am I right?
    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/showthread.php?11876-Unifit-to-be-tied-nasty-leak-from-a-TOTO

    What do you all think?

    Thanks again for this great resource for do-it-yourself home repair!

    Shonuff66

    Attached Files:

  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,011
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I would bring the bowl outside and clean the underside well. If there had been leaks, you will want to make sure it's clean before resetting.
    I sometimes take toilets onto the lawn and use the garden hose on them. Water isn't going to hurt it.
    I would also replace the Unifit adapter if the seal has come off. It needs to be set with with wax to the flange, making sure there is compression on the sealing.
  3. shonuff66

    shonuff66 New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    Forgot to mention I did a wipe down with bleach solution on the underside of the toilet and in the crevices from the back. Possible that I didn't reach every nook in there.

    Are those rubber seals supposed to hold on tight to the unifit? I can't see how they could. Unless they are supposed to fit entirely inside the unifit, and not have the outer lip hang outside of the unifit with the inner lip inside. That seems like an awkward fit.
  4. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,011
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    The seal is installed tight. I've never seen one loose like that, and I've seen tons of them.

    [​IMG]
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2011
  5. shonuff66

    shonuff66 New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    Resurrecting this old thread - we still have a smell. Here's what we did since

    1) brought plumber out back in March 2011. We cleaned the toilet. And he installed a new replacement unifit adapter. I asked him were he though the smell was coming from, he couldn't smell it (I think he lost his sense of smell), although admittedly it wasn't too bad at that time since the room was aired out. He said it could be coming from outside some how. I don't see how that's possible, unless its coming through the exhaust vent. He didn't think it was a problem with the flange/drain.
    2) A couple of days after he came out, we still had the smell. I hired a couple of guys to help me thoroughly scrub the toilet, floors, and walls of the bathroom with windex. No change after this.
    3) I removed the unifit, and plugged the drain with a test plug. I caulked around the test plug and around the flange just to be sure, no change. Test plug looks somewhat like this: http://s7.cdn.hardwareandtools.net/is/image/HardwareandTools/038753334004?wid=225&hei=225

    The test plug has stayed there since April 2011, sealed up. The unifit and toilet remain uninstalled. The smell never went away, but we aren't running the fan 24/7 anymore, more like once a week and we keep the door shut.

    Could it be any of the following?:
    - crack in sewer drain, gases slowly seeping out and through floor?
    - water damage under the floor, and its a rot smell going on for this long? Could the water damage smell last this long? If not, could it be the shower valve leaking (shower shares a wall with the water closet)
    - some other smell coming through the exhaust vent. As the plumber said, some smell coming from the outside? I don't understand this one as the exhaust vent is conected to the roof.
    - dead animal - although I think the smell wouldn't gone away by now.

    Any recommendations on what to do next would be appreciated. I'm considering opening up the walls and floor around flange and hiring a plumber to put a camera down the drain to look for cracks.
  6. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,854
    Location:
    New York, NY
    Probably totally unhelpful, but I'll try:

    Think outside the box -- I know you're trying to do this. I had a smell in my apartment bathroom in the City. Hadn't had it before, and the bathroom has an excellent vent fan. I assumed it was urine or something that had leached beyond normal cleaning. Toilet was well-caulked to the marble floor with no gaps. I cleaned everywhere, all the nooks and crannies, sniffed trying to find a more precise location, changed the shower curtain, only had clean towels in there, cleaned the medicine cabinets and sniffed everything in there. Rinsed off the toilet brush and plunger and plunger-holder. And still...the smell.

    It turned out to be the toilet plunger and the little holder it slips into. Rinsing, it turns out, couldn't kill that smell, even with a little soapy cleaner mixed in. It was kind of a rotting smell that I mistook for decaying urine. After about a month of this, I finally poured bleach, straight from the bottle, all over the plunger holder and plunger, let them sit for about 15 minutes, and rinsed thoroughly. I actually didn't expect this to do anything because I had had sort of cleaned them already. But...Voila! Problem solved. I have no idea why that worked, but it did. And the plunger (from Clorox, oddly) didn't dissolve. I would assume that Windex would have a similar effect (and you of course NEVER want to mix the two or the gas produced can be deadly), so maybe this little missive isn't helpful. But you might retry the simple stuff first. If there is *anything* in that room (the braided water supply tube?, the inside of the exhaust fan vent) that you haven't hit with something like bleach, maybe now's the time.

    One other thought. Again maybe a stupid question: Are you sure that the "exhaust fan" is actually vented to the outside? As with vent hoods on stoves, sometimes the thing doesn't actually vent outside but instead the fan just blows the air through a filter or some activated charcoal, which is supposed to reduce odor (or smoke in the case of stove hoods), and back into the room. This, of course, rarely actually does anything productive. If that's the case and you haven't cleaned the filter or changed the charcoal, that can get pretty nasty, and the smell would come out *more* when you run the fan. Just a thought.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2012
  7. kath529

    kath529 New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    United States
    stink from urine trapped in Toto seat mounting hardware

    We have two Toto Drake toilets, which for the most part, I absolutely love. However, at some point after we'd had them for awhile, a strange smell started coming from one of them. It was the oddest thing - it was a distinct urine odor which would actually grow stronger just after the toilet had been cleaned. I finally followed my nose (yuck) and figured out that it was coming from the hinge area. So I removed the toilet seat and hinge covers. It turned out that these clear plastic (rubbery?) pieces in the mounting software seemed to have become soaked in urine (yep, we've a young boy w/ bad aim in the house). They were definitely yellow in color, not clear as when new, and smelled horrific. I tried various things to clean them, even soaking in bleach, but the smell never really went away. I thought that these parts were a key component of the softclose seats and expected the softclose feature to stop working, but that didn't happen, so I just left them out. Eventually the same thing happened with our other Toto. Finally tonight I've remembered to go online to order replacement [thingys] and am surprised and a little bummed to discover (1) nothing online about this problem, which I'd assumed would be commonplace if we'd had it on 2 out of 2 seats; and (2) no available part listing for ONLY the little part I want to replace. The Toto website parts store shows these as one part of something sold as a "MOUNTING HARDWARE SET" (for example, the one for the "COTTON For SOFTCLOSE TOILET SEAT" is part # THU518#01--in the photo, it's the item in the lower right corner; the mounting hardware set for a regular Toto seat looks like it has a similar part - at the bottom of the photo of part #THU 689, or "Mounting Hardware for Toilet Seat."

    The softclose set is $7 plus $10 shipping, which seems like a crazy amount of money to pay for these two little plastic or rubber thingys. ("So why replace them at all?" you might ask. Well, one of our two softclose seat lids recently lost its softclosingness & now bangs shut like pretty much any other toilet seat....no idea whether the missing parts could be a factor in that problem, but the banging has reminded me that I'd been meaning to address it. And, either way, I've noticed that the area at the back of the seat on each of the toilets now seems to be eternally yucky, staying clean for increasingly short periods of time--which leads me to wonder whether these parts are actually SUPPOSED to help soak up stray pee, in which case one would expect to be able to order them by the case, not as parts of some larger set.)

    So 2 questions: 1) Any suggestions for a way I might get ahold of these parts more cheaply? and 2) Does anyone know why my household might be having this problem (going two for two) when I can't find evidence online of anyone else having it? (Except possibly the originator of this post, though it sounds as though their problem is likely something completely different.) BTW, I do *not* have a particularly keen sense of smell - if anything, the opposite, actually! Help???
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2013
  8. shonuff66

    shonuff66 New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    Back to the original post. We did the following:
    1) Installed the original toilet (new unifit adapter). Smell increased significantly after installation (before we had the drain sealed up with a faint smell). To me that indicated something is just plain wrong with the unifit or the toilet.
    2) Bought a new toilet (Drake II, no unifit of course). Installed it. Same smell. Doh!
    3) Smelled inside the wall from the other side (opened shower escutcheon plate) - IT SMELLED!

    So I've ruled out the following:
    1) Bad toilet
    2) Anything in the actual water closet smelling. (items, walls, floors). The room is empty, walls are sanitized.

    So, I'm down to the following:
    1) sewer pipes are seeping gases, gases are seeping through the floor/walls. Is it possible they were damaged after using a snake?
    2) There is some stinky rot/mold under the floor (from the unifit leak we had, see first post).
    3) bad flange?
    3) Exhaust fan. I doubt it's this. Vent goes to the roof. I stuck my nose up there, can smell anything strong coming from it.

    Is there some test we can run to definitively rule out a sewer line leak? Should I just straight up replace the flange - its cast iron?

    If I want to check if there is rot/mold under the floor, what's a quick an easy way to do that without causing a severe repair job if that is not the problem? Take the flange out?
  9. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

    Messages:
    1,854
    Location:
    New York, NY
    One other thought is Chinese drywall. There was a recall and a bunch of drama a few years ago involving drywall from China that began to smell after a few years. Any chance that has something to do with it?
  10. ShockHazard

    ShockHazard New Member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    North East Pennsylvania
    Have you looked into the possibility of bad traps or vents regarding the sink and shower?
    I'd open both and block them, throw a test cap on the toilet, and if you still smell something, It's a drain or vent in the wall.
  11. chrisf8657

    chrisf8657 New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    I'm not a plumber but I've seen and heard lots of people having this issue.

    I'd put my money on mold/mildew underneath the floor or behind the toilet. You'll need to pull the flooring in different spots and see if that's it, and also the molding that runs along the floor behind the toilet.

    If you have drain flies, there's a possibility you have a cracked sewer line. If the smell is in the bathroom, all the time, there's a possibility the line crack is somewhere underneath the bathroom. A video on Youtube was posted about this same scenario. The line will need to be scoped.

    Smells can seem to come from places where they are not really coming from - you said it smelled near the shower too - possible that there is a leak somewhere around the shower, and it's created a mold/mildew problem. That will certainly be fun to find - it could be the pan/drain, walls, ceiling, etc...

    There was a Holmes on Homes episode where the owners were having the same issue, but exactly at the shower. When Mike tore the shower up, the liner was not over the wood, the wood was soaked and full of mold/mildew, the liner had standing putrid water below the tile, and there was a plumbing issue of some sort - although everything looked fine on the surface.

    Try what dwindle suggested too.

    Another question - how old is your house and, if your not the original owner, did any previous owners do renovations?

    Just my .02
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2013
  12. shonuff66

    shonuff66 New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    2013-03-21_12-41-53_359.jpg 2013-03-21_12-17-10_141.jpg 2013-03-21_12-13-54_125.jpg
    Thanks for the replies. We did some destructive testing and here is what I found. (See attachments)

    Had plumbers in they did the following:
    - opened up ceiling below the toilet, found mold on the drywall. we inspected throughly and it was only located around the area under the toilet. I knew it definitely leaked at some point, so not too surprising.
    - determined that the toilet was no longer leaking since the ceiling was dry and we flushed the toilet a 100 times almost. (still hasn't leaked for last two weeks)
    - this cut open area did NOT smell.

    Water closet and shower share a wall - there is a smell in that wall. The plumber suggested that there could be a damaged vent pipe, but unlikely since it's all cast iron.

    He suggested opening up that wall and have them come out again. After opening up that wall (see pictures), I see no visible damage. One of those pictures is looking down - don't see any water damage. The water closet smells stronger now.
    2013-03-31_22-07-36_711.jpg 2013-03-31_22-07-11_417.jpg


    I went up to the roof to find the vent. I found it but its too hard to safely reach for me with my shoes (I need some spikey shoes). But not sure what I can do from up there anyway.

    Anyways, not sure how to diagnose this now. Should I wave incense around to see air movement out of that wall? I heard about some some sewer gas detectors (Hydrogen sulfide?). Read about that here:
    http://fritzing.org/projects/hydrogen-sulfide-gas-detector-sewer-gas/

    Should we do a peppermint test? Smoke test? Pressure test?

    Dwindle and chrisf8657 thanks for your responses.

    Dwindle
    - the shower and sink area certainly don't smell - the sinks are 6-7 feet away from the water closet. The shared wall between the water closet and shower smells. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, how could doing what you say stop a smell from coming out of the water closet?

    chrisf8657
    - now that the mold and mildew idea is out. Your ideas of pulling the molding - still need to do that.
    - subfloor looked clean from underneath
    - drain flies have been gone for 2 years.
    - will have to investigate the shower pan - any idea how to easily do that now that the wall is opened up?
  13. shonuff66

    shonuff66 New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Location:
    Santa Clara, CA
    One more pic for perspective. Note the shower is on the other side of that wall (see the valve)
    2013-03-31_22-07-02_168.jpg
  14. Smooky

    Smooky Member

    Messages:
    623
    Location:
    NC
  15. mystreba

    mystreba New Member

    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    highland, md
    Holy cow, that is quite a lot of weight pressing down on quite a number of coupling sleeves. Have you sniff-tested them all? Honestly, regardless of whether it's the cause - if it were me I'd rip that cast iron vent stack out and run PVC from that first coupling sleeve all the way to the roof and strap the heck out of it where it enters the attic to relieve down-force. Someone will probably tell me why that's wrong, but that's the first thing I'd do!
  16. chrisf8657

    chrisf8657 New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    shonuff,

    Thank you for posting the pics!

    Well, it's obvious now that someone did some kind of renovations at some point, and I think without a plumber or renovator who knew what the f*ck they were doing or properly licensed. Key point: the wood not being the same holding the shower valve (it's a lighter color i.e newer), and all those pipe couplings with bands - why did they not use fernco fittings (like I said I'm not a plumber but with all those clamps it DOES NOT LOOK RIGHT) - like Smooky said, do a smoke test. I would bet the smoke would come out of those clamps like crazy. I can't tell from the photos either, but it looks like they went from cast to PVC too (hence the clamps) - and the one photo right below the stud in post #12, last pic, shows the cast iron is deteriorating...which means the house was built quite awhile ago. If it's doing it there, it could be the same way thru the whole house. Cast iron is extremely susceptible (sp?) to sewer gases, and if it's showing that kind of corrosion on the outside, I think it's time to re-do the entire house kinda like mystreba said.

    Also, where is that pipe going that is behind the board (last pic)? Thats a sewer/vent pipe, but it stops behind the new shower wood board and looks like someone shoved a piece of drywall over the top of it...I'm very suspicious of that pipe...it almost looks like it might have been the old vent pipe, and they never cut it off at the proper point/capped it.

    Also, they cut thru that 2x4. We don't know if that is a structural beam or not. Just by doing that, they could have compromised who knows what structurally. Unfortunately, I am not a structural engineer either. But I do know that is NOT correct. You either avoid that, or find a way to double up the beam some how after you go thru it or cut it to keep the original integrity, or shift the load equally to other stronger beams...

    The mold you posted in the first picture shows the toilet was leaking for some time around the flange, but I can see rust along the flange area and it looks like someone took some kind of foam to repair it at some point, or it was original to the flange (i.e. Plumbers putty)

    Again, I'm not there, so I can't be sure of anything.

    In picture #4, there is board sticking a bit out from what I would suspect is the drywall. Do you see the black spot? That could be mold. Is the shower RIGHT behind that board?

    As for the pan, um...dunno. Might have to drill a small hole and place a pinhole camera underneath the pan if it's even possible to see if there is a leak.
    I just dealt with a home that had a huge brown spot on the ceiling in the garage, and I was sure that was right where the shower was... and I cut that portion out, and there was the shower drain. It leaked slowly over the seal of drain, but enough over time it had done damge to the ceiling in the garage, but because it was in AZ, no mold. Eastern/mid-west have that problem more than we do (mold/mildew). Story short, we redid the entire shower + drain (customer wanted it anyways).

    Can you post a picture of the exterior of your shower, and the interior?

    If you've figured out what the problem is do let us know anyways.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013
  17. Seattle2k

    Seattle2k New Member

    Messages:
    10
    Location:
    Seattle
    Since there was obviously a leak at the flange in the past, there is great possibility that nasty water got under the tile, into the backerboard. If the cast iron isn't the source of the stank, then consider pulling up tile.
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