5 Smells in Your Home and What They Mean

How many different aromas do you smell in your home each day? From cooking to laundry to exercise, our daily lives generate a surprising array of odors. Some of them are safe — though not always easy — to ignore. However, there are also certain scents that require attention, as they may indicate a problem. Here are five common household smells worth investigating.

Rotten Eggs or Sulfur

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Natural gas is odorless, so this distinctive smell actually comes from an additive designed to alert you to potentially dangerous leaks. It can also come from a sewer line, hot water heater, or plumbing problem. To be safe, turn off the main gas line and avoid doing anything that can cause a spark, like lighting a match or turning lights or appliances on. Head to a neighbor’s house and contact the gas company so they can check for leaks. If you get the all-clear but still smell the odor, contact an HVAC specialist and/or plumber to help you find the source.


This kind of smell suggests a plumbing problem. Unseen leaks lead to moisture, and moisture plus darkness equals mold. Left unchecked, mold can cause health problems, especially for people with allergies and asthma. You can treat areas of visible mold yourself, but if the problem persists, call a professional.

Bathroom Smells

Some unpleasant bathroom smells are just part of having a bathroom. But if it lasts too long or is particularly strong, it may indicate a sewer gas buildup. This is most common in bathrooms that don’t get a lot of use. Under each drain, there is a trap that contains a small amount of water to prevent gas from getting through and into your home. If that water dries out, you’ll smell it. Be sure to run water through all of your toilets, sinks, and shower/tub drains at least once a month, and call a plumber if you can’t solve the problem yourself.

Smoke Without Fire

It’s normal to smell smoke when you’re cooking or if you have a fire going in the fireplace. However, if you smell smoke when you shouldn’t or when using an appliance or switch, it may be caused by a spark or worse inside the walls of your home. Call the fire department and/or an electrician right away.

Animal Odors

Living with pets means living with smells. However, if you catch a whiff of something like a dirty dog that’s not coming from your four-legged friend, you may have critters in your attic or ducts. An HVAC specialist can take a look in the spaces where rodents, insects, and other unwanted guests like to hang out. If you notice animal droppings in your rafters, don’t try to clean them up yourself, as they can contain dangerous compounds. Call an exterminator or wildlife specialist for help.

Your home is full of all kinds of smells, some wonderful and others less so. When you smell something not quite right, that’s one of your natural warning systems alerting you to a potential problem. Trust your instincts and take the time to make sure everything in your home is as it should be.

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