Help! How Do I Get That Old-Man-Pee Smell Out Of My Bathroom?

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Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

I have a question for ya. So my bathroom smells like old man pee even after I scrub that shit down. I'm only using bathroom cleaner but is there something stronger you can recommend?

When this question arrived—and, you should know, in the past year two people who are not this Letter Writer have asked me what to do about this Letter Writer's bathroom smells, so we are talking about some extraordinary bathroom smells here—I asked him what bathroom cleaner he's been using and what the ventilation situation is like in the bathroom.

The answers were, "Just the Basics" bathroom cleaner and "ZERO."

I'd sort of suspected something was going on with the airflow sitch, and I'd asked about bathroom cleaners mostly to make sure he wasn't using some namby-pamby green cleaning product made up of water and essential oils. Water and essential oils are great and have their place, but not when it comes to serious bathroom smells. Right, then. So really the thing we're addressing here today is what happens when a smelly place suffers from a lack of ventilation.


You have a couple of options when it comes to a stinking bathroom with no air circulation. You could use something like the Bad Air Sponge, which is an odor absorber. You could buy a small, plug-in air purifier like this $50-ish model from Honeywell. You could use both! Another thing that frequently happens in a bathroom with no ventilation is that moisture builds up and exacerbates the smells. A desiccant like DampRid will help those sorts of matters greatly. (This is also a thing for those of you who live in basements and/or swampy climates to know about.) It also bears mentioning that those scented plug-in things and sprays are terrible. Don't use them. Your bathroom will just smell like floral poop. Regular old Lysol is the best bet if a spray is required.


Since there's a smell build-up issue happening here, we do need to take a few triage-type steps to help get you back to a baseline of a neutral-smelling pissoir. Start with a clean slate, and launder the bathmat, hand towels, and shower curtain to rid all the fabrics of any lingering smells they may be harboring.

Once you're at a place where the smell is no longer overpowering, try to get in the habit of leaving the bathroom door open when the room is not in use. You probably don't want to do that because it smells in there and you don't want the rest of the house to smell, but it will make an enormous difference.


If you've done all of this and there's still a smell, there are two other things that may be going on:

1. The toilet tank might be retaining a urine smell. Lift the lid and sniff; if it smells strongly of pee, grab a bottle of white vinegar. Pour some vinegar in the tank, put on a pair of rubber gloves (because eew), grab a scrub brush, and get after the walls of the tank. Then flush. And flush again. Keep adding vinegar to the tank water, about a half a cup at a time, which also means you're flushing the bowl through with vinegar, too, and that's a good thing to do.


2. The grout might be holding in smells, which can be solved pretty easily by cleaning the floors with some of that white vinegar you used to clean out the toilet tank.

I hope you have a suggestion for me to clean my Le Creuset pot. I used a microfiber dish towel to remove it from the oven and I now have melted dish cloth on my pot. Is there any hope? The pot was a gift and I miss making curry in it.


There's hope! There's almost always hope—this is a point I want to impress upon you. Also this: These things happen. They happen to the best of us, truly. You're being blessedly merciful on yourself, but I can't tell you how often I get similar questions in which people are flogging themselves over their mistake and you know? Life is hard enough. We make mistakes. We can, more often than not, fix them.

And fix them we will.

Before we get into how we can solve this problem, a quick word on microfiber. The microfiber found in the towels and rags that we use in the kitchen and for cleaning is made of polyester and nylon, and obviously those are two things that don't like heat so much. It's a pretty natural thing to grab for a dish towel to serve in the place of a potholder or oven mitt, but if you're using microfiber dish towels be aware that you can't do that. Alternately, stick with cotton dish towels in the kitchen and avoid potential melting altogether. OK!


There are two ways of removing the melted microfiber that I can offer you, so that you may have choice. The first is WD-40. Have we talked yet about WD-40? Because oh my God I love WD-40. Are you following WD-40 on Twitter? You should be; their account is an utter delight. Also, their product? Equally delightful. To use it, spray it on the areas to which the microfiber has adhered, then slough it off with a rag or a sponge. Honestly, it should slide right off. Once all the microfiber has been removed, go ahead and give your pot a thorough washing with hot, soapy water to remove the WD-40 residue.

The other option is to use a soap-impregnated steel wool pad to lift the microfiber off the pot. You'll want to let the steel wool do the work rather than bearing down very firmly on the pad to ensure that it doesn't scratch the enamel, though here I will tell you that many is the time I've taken a Brillo pad to my Le Creuset without incident. But right, don't go after the enamel with all the force you've got, just to be on the safe side.


OK, now go forth and make curry! And then come back to me when you want to know how to remove the curry smell from your house.

Jolie Kerr is the author of the upcoming book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume, Spring 2014); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.


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