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Everyone poops. It’s a fact of life (and a great children’s book).
But that doesn’t diminish the embarrassment many of us feel about the odor that our No. 2s leave behind, especially if you find yourself with the need to lighten your load at your significant other’s apartment (or worse, at their parents’ place).
The good news is it’s totally normal for your poop to smell. We have the many sulfurous compounds that end up in stool to thank for the stinky scent.
Research even suggests that evolution has primed us to be disgusted by the smell of fecal matter as a way to avoid infectious diseases.
Apart from just turning on the fan, there are a dizzying number of products that claim to cover up potent poo smells, and a number of tricks to try, as well.
But, because little science-backed research has been done on the subject, we decided to be the guinea pigs. We tested out seven common methods for eliminating bathroom odors to uncover what you should use next time you find yourself in a stinky situation.
If we were giving an award for clever commercials and packaging puns (with varieties like Royal Flush and Déjà Poo), Poo-Pourri would take the cake. The spray is super easy to use: Just spritz the toilet bowl a few times before you pop a squat.
Poo-Pourri uses essential oils to mask the musk after you’ve made brown — though the packaging isn’t transparent about what else is in the bottle.
We were surprised by how well the product works, but it’s almost too good. The first time we used Poo-Pourri, the bathroom smelled like a spring bouquet — far from the inconspicuous scent we were hoping for.
The Just a Drop odor eliminator works just like Poo-Pourri, and its small size means you can hide it in most pockets. Squeeze a few drops of it into the bowl before sitting on the throne and say sayonara to stench.
We couldn’t believe that one drop — OK, we actually used two or three — could actually make reek recede. The concoction is made from plant extract, disinfectant, and fragrance.
Just a Drop was much more subtle than Poo-Pourri, but it did leave our bathroom smelling a little like a sterilized hospital room.
Febreze’s AIR Effects sprays use fancy chemical reactions to break down malodorous molecules to the point where you can’t detect the dung. The product works well, especially considering the fact that you don’t need to spray it before you go.
The one downside is that scents like “linen and sky” also leave behind a vaguely chemical scent.
These natural beauties work wonders when combined with rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Essential oils come with all sorts of fascinating properties. Take cedar oil, for example, which has antifungal activity.
Pick your favorite scents (we love lemongrass and jasmine) and say bye-bye to any fetid wafts.
We’ve heard plenty of people mention the trick of lighting a match and dropping it into the toilet before you flush to cover up bad smells.
First, it should be noted that matches can muck up plumbing. But if you light a match, let it burn for a sec or 2, and then make sure it’s out before tossing it in the trash.
Of course, everyone knows the sulfur-like whiff of a lit match, and that will no doubt spill the beans that you’ve dropped a deuce.
The sink technique is a simple trick you can do in any home. It calls for running the faucet and then adding several squirts of something easily found in the bathroom. Hand soap works best.
When you pump it on your hands — you were gonna wash ’em, right? — also add some to the basin. Then crank the faucet and let it suds up while you scrub up.
Scented products, like shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, and shaving cream, also work well if the soap provided doesn’t do the job of masking your job. Though this technique is a bit more time-consuming.
The courtesy flush is a pro-active technique that calls for flushing every time you hear a splash in the bowl. It’s far from environmentally friendly, but it can help hide the evidence that you’ve cut the brownies. Combine it with the sink method and no one has to know.
Again, pooping — or whatever euphemism you prefer — is a completely natural function, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, even in a public restroom. Plus, it’s normal for poop to smell.
Certain foods, including Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red meat, and eggs, lead to particularly smelly poops, says Dr. Anish Sheth, a gastroenterologist and co-author of What’s Your Poo Telling You?. Boozingcan also mess with your gut health.
“If you notice persistently pungent stool, it’s time to start thinking if you’re digesting things properly, of if you should modify your diet,” he says. (Pay attention to your poo type, too.)
Sheth says smell can be a warning sign of a food intolerance, such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance. In rare cases it can also signal serious conditions including intestinal infections and bleeding of the gastrointestinal tract.
But most of the time, a bad odor doesn’t raise any red flags, and you can do your business without worry.