This article looks at the different reasons bidets can develop a foul smell and how to fix each problem that could potentially be underlying the bad odor.
From time to time, I get asked, “Why does my bidet smell?” There several factors to consider, like the type of bidet you have (a seat, attachment, or standalone), and whether or not you’re dealing with a general plumbing issue or there’s something specific to the bidet that contributes to the foul odor.
Bidets can smell bad due to several reasons including evaporated urine (when the dryer and other warm components heat the urine), plumbing issues, damaged seals or missing p-traps, problems with the deodorizers, or electrical issues.
I’ve broken down the below info based on factors like the type of bidet you own and what type of smell you’re experiencing.
Odd smells emitting from the bathroom can range from sewer-like smells, odors of urine or poop, and even burning smells with the latter potentially indicating a serious underlying electrical issue.
We’ll be covering all of these potential problems and more.
My Bidet Smells Like Urine
If you sprinkle while you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seat-y.
This applies to bidets with a heating function.
Reports of a urine-like smell have surfaced over the years. Complaints of this sort tend to come from male bidet seat owners who frequently use the dryer or heated seat function (or someone who shares an electric seat with a male).
It makes sense. Even with perfect aim, small droplets of urine make their way to all parts of the toilet, when the seat is up. Heat can cause any urine on the surface of the warm bidet components to evaporate, leaving behind a smelly residue.
I reached out to Brondell and they confirmed this theory.
They replied to my email inquiry saying:
They were referring to a specific model (the SWASH 1400), but the above can be applied to most high-tech toilets.
To clean your bidet seat:
- Clean the air dryer. Take a soft cloth or Q-tip and lightly clean the air dryer area. Lift the flap making sure to clean any crevices in and around the dryer. Avoid sticking anything way into the dryer opening.
- Wipe the seat. Wet a soft cloth with water and squeeze out the excess water. Wipe down the surface of the seat. If soiled, use a cloth lightly moistened with diluted dishwashing detergent and wipe away any soapy residue with a fresh cloth moistened with water.
- Clean other heated surfaces. No unit is 100% efficient, so there will be some heat transfer. It might be a good idea to gently wash any other parts of the bidet that get warm when in use.
The above should work but I have heard from folks who say the smell still lingers even after a few cleans.
If the smell is persistent, then one option is to stop using the heated functions. But, if you’re like me and have been spoiled for too long with these features, I’d recommend giving it time.
Going forward, make sure to wipe the seat down often, especially when you notice a significant sprinkle.
My Bidet Smells Like a Sewer
This could be an issue with any bidet model—from seats and attachments to the traditional standalone variety and toilet-bidet combos. If it connects to plumbing, it can develop a foul smell over time.
Bidets can develop a sewer smell for the same reasons traditional toilets do. Potential causes range from faulty seals to problems with the p-trap. Ultimately, something is allowing foul odors to travel from the sewage system up through the toilet and/or sink drains.
A quick note: if you’re getting a bad smell from a standalone bidet, plumbing is probably the culprit. While anything with a drain can develop a sewage smell, standalone models lack the fancy features of modern high-tech versions, so it’s easier to narrow the issue down to plumbing problems.
Seal Failure (All Models)
Regardless of the bidet you have (standalone or modern), the first thing you’ll want to check is the seal where it attaches to the plumbing. When compromised, a faulty seal often causes a sewage smell to arise from the pipes. Basically, faulty seals allow odors to escape the pipes into the house.
Missing S- or P-Trap” (Standalone Bidets)
I’ve heard from some folks who say that their standalone bidet is missing a trap altogether.
So you know, a p-trap is the p-shaped pipe located underneath the sink and built into toilets. They collect small amounts of water after each flush or use of the sink.
The trapped water prevents gasses from flowing backward from the sewage system into your home. So, the water acts as a barrier against odors.
Anyway, toilets have traps built-in, which is not always the case for traditional bidets—some bidets come with a trap similar to what you’ll see under a sink, but they’re often purchased separately and it’s possible that whoever installed a bidet failed to include a trap.
If there’s a direct vertical drain then the trap may already be located underneath the floor. If someone were to falsely assume that a trap existed beneath the deck, they may go ahead and plum the bidet straight into the floor.
A lot of folks out there inherit their bidets so they weren’t around during the installation. So, who knows if things were installed correctly.
General Plumbing Issues (All Models)
Trying to fix general plumbing issues can be quite an undertaking.
For this reason, if you’ve tried everything else and suspect a plumbing issue, you’re probably best off contacting a professional. It would be one thing if you knew exactly what the problem was—it could be an easy fix.
But, one of the main benefits of hiring a plumber is that they can pinpoint the specific problem and fix it in the same amount of time it takes to do some quick internet research.
Another reason to get professional help is that if you pinpoint the problem successfully, it could be difficult to fix depending on your level of expertise and the tools you have laying around.
The Bad Smell Is Coming From the Inside of My Bidet
This applies to electric bidet seats.
The only way to troubleshoot a bidet seat that seems to be emitting a foul odor is to open up the unit and physically inspect the inside.
Models vary, but the below instructions should cover most bidet seats:
- Remove the top screws. Most models have 2-3 screws on top that can easily be removed.
- Remove the top cover. After removing the screws, you should be able to gently pry open the top cover, separating the unit and exposing the inside.
- Inspection/cleaning. Look around and remove any foreign objects. If there’s any water or residue, clean it off with warm moist rag and dab it dry. Avoid corrosive cleaning solvents.
- Let the unit air out. Once you’ve cleaned the inside, you’re going to want to let the unit air out and evaporate any residual moisture.
- Reassemble unit. Put it back the way you found it and test it out.
My Bidet Smells Like It’s Burning
Obviously, this is limited to electric bidets as well. I’ve gotten reports from people who say they’ve noticed a burning smell that seemed to be coming from the unit. In each case, it was an owner who had a fancy seat or bidet-toilet combo with a built-in dryer.
A lot of electric bidets come with dryers. If you have one with a dryer, make sure you clean it out once in a while inspecting it for lint and other small pieces of debris.
Also, like any electrical item, there’s always a chance of something going wrong in the wiring. Electrical bidets are known to be safe but anything electrical carries some degree of risk. Always unplug the unit if the product emits smoke.
My Bidet Smells Funky (Can’t Describe It)
If your bidet smells so strange that you can’t even put it into words, you may be dealing with an issue of deodorization.
The deodorizers that come with electric bidets are great. Instead of masking bad smells like air fresheners, they break down smelly molecules by pulling bathroom air through a carbon filter.
I’ve heard this one a few times and it usually has to do with folks using aftermarket air fresheners and deodorizers on a model that comes with its own deodorizer.
When purchased separately, deodorizers and common air fresheners (like urinal cakes) can reduce the effectiveness of factory deodorizers resulting in strange odors.
While this isn’t an issue for standalone bidets, most modern varieties (those that replace the seat on the original toilet) and toilets/bidet combos come standard with deodorizers.
So, if that’s the case for you, you may want to avoid air fresheners and aftermarket deodorizers to see if that helps.
Clean Your Built-in Deodorizer
Most toilets, bidet or otherwise, could use a good quality deodorizer. These odor-killing devices are a pretty standard feature on high-tech bidets.
The air filtering system goes a long way when it comes to keeping your bathroom smelling fresh. But, they only work so long as they’re kept in good shape and the filter is swapped out once every so often.
If you don’t regularly clean or change out the filter on your deodorizer, you’ll want to start doing that now.
As always, models vary, but most filters can be cleaned or replaced the following way:
- Locate the filter on the side of the seat and pull it out.
- Open the deodorizer case, prying it open gently. You may need a screwdriver for this.
- Remove the filter. Depending on the model, it either slides out the end or is removed from the side of the case.
- Either retrieve the new filter or clean the current one per manual instructions.
- Place the new, or newly cleaned, filter into the deodorizer case and put the case back into the side of the bidet.
If the unit doesn’t filter the air adequately for whatever reason, you may need to send your toilet back to the manufacturer if it’s still under warranty.
If you need a new one, make sure to find a suitable replacement—one designed for your particular make and model.
Consider a Deodorizer if Your Model Doesn’t Have One
For the most part, this applies to bidet attachments, traditional standalone bidets, and standard toilets having a handheld bidet sprayer.
I say “mostly” because there are modern bidets on the market that don’t have deodorizers—it’s just that they’re uncommon.
As mentioned above, deodorizers are great for cleaning the air in your bathroom. Unlike urinal cakes, they don’t leave the room smelling like the public restroom at the local gas station.
And sure, you can use candles or incense to address the problem, but they tend to mix with the foul odors and the result isn’t always great.
For example, putting a holiday-themed candle next to the toilet often makes the restroom smell like someone pooped a Christmas tree. You get the idea.
Instead of masking odors, deodorizers filter the air removing the stink. The filtration system usually makes use of activated carbon.
The activated carbon-containing material develops pores that attract and trap particles in the air, many of which are responsible for unwanted smells.
The deodorizer fan pulls air through the filter and circulates it throughout the room which helps keep the room smelling good overall.
This is NOT to say that the presence of a deodorizer will always do the trick. The fan in these isn’t huge and some smells are more powerful than others.
But, if you suffer from an intractable smelly bidet—or a stinky bathroom whatever the cause—you may benefit from purchasing one of these.
General-purpose deodorizers are easy to find both online and in common retail stores, so it’s an easy fix.
Consider a Self-Cleaning Bidet
I wrote an entire article on the best self-cleaning bidets.
Folks often ask if bidets are sanitary. Ironically, modern models have an edge over traditional toilets when it comes to sanitation.
Being high-tech, many come with self-cleaning features. Not only are the wands usually self-cleaning, but many models have built-in functions that regularly clean the commode.
Some models pre-mist the toilet bowl when it senses a potential user approaching. The pre-mist typically contains some sort of non-corrosive disinfectant.
When the user leaves upon flushing, the unit then gives the bowl another spray.
According to TOTO, one of their models has been shown to keep the bowl 80% better than a dry bowl.
I don’t know about you, but I’m much less diligent than I should be when it comes to bathroom cleaning. Before getting a bidet with a self-cleaning function, I’d clean the toilet maybe once every few weeks. Nowadays, my bathroom smells like any other room in the house.
That should do it for now.
There are a few important signs to look for that indicate when a bidet needs cleaning.
In conclusion, most odd odors that are non-plumbing-related can be traced to a deodorizer filter that needs cleaning or swapping out.
Other potential issues include the heated seat function (which can give off a urine-like smell) or something inside the unit that needs cleaning out (liquid residue buildup or foreign objects).
As for underlying plumbing issues, most anything with a drain—and by extension, any bidet—will develop a sewer-like smell eventually. Problems can occur when gasses from the sewage system make their way up the pipes into the house—either through the drain or a leaky seal.
Bidet use is much better for plumbing and sewer systems than toilet paper. If only more people used them (and they are catching on), we’d be much less likely to experience plumbing issues. And for those who have septic systems, bidets are great for septic tanks as well.
Again, if you have a standalone bidet, make sure to check out the article on bidet plumbing requirements. But unless you have an interest in learning a little DIY home plumbing, you may be better off outsourcing plumbing issues fix to someone with expertise.
Thanks for reading.