Why Does My Belly Button Smell?

Fact Checked Medically reviewed by Tanja Premru-Sršen


Our belly button is pretty far down south of our nose. But still, sometimes, we happen to notice a fishy smell from it.

If you wonder why your belly button smells, then the best explanation for your stinky belly button is personal hygiene.

Our belly buttons are where our umbilical cord used to be, which was attached to our mother while we were in the womb.

This little indentation needs to be cleaned as it collects:

  • Debris
  • Bacteria
  • Dirt
  • And other germs

Sometimes a stinky belly button is also a symptom of an infection or cyst needing medical attention.

Some symptoms that can accompany an infected stinky belly Button include:

  • a scab around your belly button piercing
  • fever
  • a lump in your abdomen
  • white, yellow, or green discharge
  • swelling and redness or discoloration
  • itching
  • pain

What Are the Causes of Smelly Belly Button?

A smelly belly button can happen for a few reasons:

Improper Hygiene

A person’s belly button has a tiny ecosystem. According to a 2012 research review, our belly button is home to almost 67 bacteria types.

This includes fungi and other germs too. These germs then feed onto other particles that get trapped in your belly button, such as:

  • Oil
  • Sweat
  • Other debris
  • Dead skin
  • Dirt

These germs and bacteria then multiply and make your belly button smell like your armpits do when you sweat. The deeper the belly button, the more dirt, and germs will build inside it. Any unpleasant odor is due to:

  • Dirt
  • Sweat
  • Bacteria

The good news is that one can easily get rid of this awful smell by incorporating good hygiene habits.

Infection Due to Candida

Candida, a type of yeast, likes to grow in environments that are:

  • Moist
  • Dark
  • Warm

Sounds a lot like your groin, underarms, and belly button, right? Our belly button provides the ideal habitat for these tiny creatures, especially if we do not keep them clean.

Infections and Diabetes

A 2014 study concluded that a person is more likely to develop infections, including yeast infections, if they have diabetes.

Diabetes mellitus, also known as hyperglycemia, is characterized by above-normal blood sugar levels. This condition reduces our immune system’s ability to fight off infections.

Recent Surgery to the Abdomen

Any recent abdomen surgery, such as fixing the umbilical hernia, may also increase the risk of belly button infection.

Bacteria can go through any hole in your body and cause an infection. That includes your belly piercing.

If you develop a skin infection, one might see pus leaking from the belly button. At times pus also gets accompanied by smell. Other symptoms include pain, redness, discoloration, and swelling.

Epidermoid And Pilar Cysts

An epidermoid cyst is a bump that starts in your top layer of skin, while a pilar cyst starts near a hair follicle.

It is very likely that these cysts develop an infection and may require a doctor’s appointment.

Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous cysts can be in your sebaceous glands. These glands may produce sebum, a waxy and oily lipid mixture.

These cysts fill up with sebum and can develop infections. If you have a sebaceous cyst condition, different treatments are available depending on your needs.

When Should You Contact a Doctor?

A person does not need to contact a doctor for hygiene conditions. Once you clean your belly thoroughly, the foul smell should improve.

If the funky smell does not go away and is accompanied by a discharge, we recommend visiting a doctor. This could be a sign of infection.

We also recommend booking an appointment with your doctor if you have other symptoms of infection, including:

  • pain in your abdomen
  • pain when you urinate
  • fever
  • redness or discoloration of the belly button
  • swelling of the belly button

Your doctor will most likely examine your belly button and collect a sample of the discharge. The sample is then sent to the lab, where a technician then checks it under a microscope.

How To Cleanse Your Belly Button?

The best and easiest way to prevent dirt and bacteria from collecting is to clean your belly button regularly.

Here’s how you can Keep your belly button clean:

  • Use a little bit of plainantibacterial soap and put it on a wet washcloth or clean towel when you’re in the shower.
  • Using your cotton ball or a cotton swab dipped into rubbing alcohol underneath the washcloth, gently clean the inside of your belly button.
  • After you come out of the shower, pat your belly button area dry.

We recommend not using too much cream or lotion in or around your belly button. This can encourage an environment where fungi and bacteria can grow easily.

If you have belly button piercings, keeping it clean and dry is the best way to prevent an infection.

Also, one can use a wet washcloth with a mixture of antibiotic soap and water to wash the area around the belly button piercing gently.

The Conclusion

A stink belly button is never nice. It can be home to an infection due to all the bacteria.

You can quickly get rid of the foul odor by maintaining a good hygiene regime and washing your belly button every day. In case of an infection, we recommend visiting a doctor.