Many of us have experienced the dreaded surprise sewer smell in our basement or bathroom. The sewer smell permeates the whole house and often comes on so suddenly, you might wonder if a family of skunks has set up permanent residence. Luckily, this aromatic annoyance can usually be evacuated with just a few easy steps. And if you can’t figure out the cause of the sewer smell, our plumbing professionals can sniff it out and clean it up for you.

In The Basement

If you smell sewer gas in your basement, the most likely culprit is a dried out water trap. Plumbing drains that lead to a sewer system have a P-shaped trap designed to hold a small amount of water providing a seal to keep sewer gas from seeping into the air. Over time, the water evaporates and the smell is allowed to escape.

Fix It Refill the drain with a cup or two of water to re-seal. You can also pour a couple tablespoons of cooking oil on top of the water. This creates a floating seal that will slow the evaporation of water.

In The Bathroom

If you smell the pungent aroma of sewer gas in your bathroom, it could be coming from one of several areas. Depending on where you localize the smell, the solutions range from simply flushing a toilet, to a faulty wax toilet ring. Here’s what you need to know:


Toilet – If you’ve flushed the toilet, aired the room out and the smell remains, it could be due to a bad wax ring between the toilet flange and the base of the toilet. If you notice the toilet can be rocked easily, this is probably the source of the smell.

Fix It – If you have a few hours to spare and you’re feeling handy, this could be a do-it-yourself project, but if you have any doubts, call Comfort Systems professional Plumbing division to repair the ring for you.


Shower – In the same way your sink drain gets clogged with hair and other particles, the shower drain can too. When hair mixes with shampoo, conditioner and all those frilly body scrubs, you could have a sludge brewing in your shower drain.

Fix It – Remove the drain cover, clean out any debris you can reach, mix together a strong bleach or detergent solution and scrub with a wire brush. Flush repeatedly with hot water.

Where IS that smell coming from?  – Okay, we’re going to figure this out, I promise. If you’ve flushed the toilet, scrubbed the sink and shower, added water to the P-Trap and it STILL smells, it could be coming from a garage sewer drain, or, your sewer system needs to be professionally cleaned. Comfort Systems plumbing division has high powered

Fix It – On the roof you’ll find a vent that allows fresh air to enter the plumbing system. If the vent is blocked by snow, leaves, the neighbor’s Frisbee or ice, it can prevent fresh air coming in and can lead sewer gas smell right back to the bathroom. Clear debris from the vent, carefully go back down the ladder and fix yourself a big glass of iced tea. You’ve earned it.