Bad smells and odors at home can be a sign that your air is potentially toxic. Learn what causes and how to prevent them.
When a new smell comes into our homes, it is very easy to notice. Some new smells can be quite welcome, like a fresh-baked pie or spring flowers. Others, we would rather avoid, such as pet accidents or spilled milk. But some smells, whether good or bad, can be completely inexplicable.
When you are faced with a persistent, mysterious odor, what can you do? How do you know which smells you should be concerned about and which can simply be fixed with a quick cleaning?
Understanding if odors are dangerous
When you encounter a new, unexplained smell in your home, the first thing that you should do is make sure that it is not causing immediate harm to you or your family. Some lingering smells could indicate serious health threats and could even be deadly. While maintaining your indoor air quality should always be a priority, you should take special care when dealing with the following odors.
Rotten Eggs or Sulfur Smell Indicate Gas Leaks
If you smell rotten eggs or sulfur in your home, it could mean that you have a gas leak, especially if the smell is coming from your kitchen or near appliances that use gas. This may simply mean that you have a burner valve is slightly open or a pilot light that is out. If this is the case, you may be able to fix the problem yourself.
Nevertheless, if the source of the gas smell is not easily identifiable – or if you don’t know how to fix it – the safest thing to do is to leave your home immediately and call your gas company from your cell phone or a neighbor’s phone. Do not try to turn off any electric switches or appliances. Avoid changing your thermostat, using automated garage doors and smoking or lighting matches.
For more information, please check “What to do if you smell propane gas” from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection.
Did you know? Propane gas is odorless, but gas companies must blend it with an element called mercaptan to give it its distinctive smell. This was done to protect consumers by making gas leaks easier to detect.
Burning or “Fishy” Smell Indicate Electrical Fires
There are a few different reasons that you might smell smoke in your home. Even if you do not see a fire, there could still be one behind your outlets or within your wall. When electrical wiring starts to overheat, it can emit a burning smell.
Check to see if any of your outlets are sparking, especially if you notice that the smell is only present when you use a specific one. However, if the burning smell is strong and you cannot determine the source, the safest option is to exit your house immediately and call the emergency services once you are safely outside. Do not return indoors until the fire department has had a look around.
Did you know? Some electrical components give off a “fishy” smell when they are exposed to high temperatures. If there is an unexplained fishy smell in your home, check your outlets and appliances just as you would for a burning smell.
Carbon monoxide can be odorless, but it is far from harmless. Room heaters, fireplaces, faulty engines and some stoves have the potential to create this dangerous and potentially deadly gas, according to the CDC. You may not notice symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning before they become severe, including:
- Chest pain
The best way to protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide at home is to install a carbon monoxide detector. These detectors are available at most hardware stores.
Did you know? Severe carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.
Other Types of Smells
Once you have made sure that the mysterious odor in your home is not a sign of a bigger, potentially dangerous problem, the next step is to figure out just where the smell is coming from and what’s the cause of it.
For example, carpets and paint can both retain smells from past accidents or spills months after they have been cleaned. Replacing your carpets, or at least deep cleaning them once a year, can greatly help with this.
Most paints emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as they dry. These VOCs can be harmful when inhaled and may cause serious health problems such as headaches, nausea and other respiratory symptoms. To avoid this, buy paint brands with no or low VOCs concentrations, and make sure to open the windows and use fans in your home during and after painting.
Musty smells, sometimes compared to the smell of wet cardboard or wet towels, are often caused by mold or mildew in the home. If you notice a musty smell in your home, it may be caused by microbial VOCs released by the mold spores. Exposure to these VOCs can cause a variety of health problems, so any potential mold growth should be investigated and delt with as soon as possible.
The first step to getting rid of the musty smell is to figure out where it is coming from. Check for plumbing leaks, such as under your kitchen or bathroom sink. There may also be issues with your gutter or condensation buildup in your windows or HVAC systems. Most minor household mold problems, meaning those under 10 square feet, are safe for homeowners to clean on their own, according to the EPA. While bigger, more serious mold problems may be dangerous and require professional intervention.
Sometimes, you may notice a sewage smell in your bathroom or near a sink, especially if the room has not been used in a while. There is a U-shaped pipe called a P-trap that uses water to keep sewage smells from rising up through your pipes. If this pipe has dried out or broken down, there may be nothing blocking the sewage smell from entering your home.
Flushing your toilet or running water in your sink or bathtub for a bit can be enough to reintroduce water into the system and fix the problem. If this does not help, you may need to call a plumber.
If your house has started smelling like a dirty dog – especially if you happen to not have an actual dirty dog – you might be dealing with an infestation of uninvited guests.
Rodents, such as raccoons, mice and squirrels leave behind smelly droppings that may contain roundworm eggs or other parasites. This type of smell may also be caused by a deceased animal in the attic, walls, chimney or under the house. To be safe, it’s best to call a pest control expert to take care of this type of problem.
How to get rid of smells and odors?
When you have an idea of where the lingering smell is originating from, and what is causing it, you can take the necessary steps to clean it up and make your home smell fresh once again. If you have been exposed to mold or VOCs, your family’s health may be at risk.
Some things, such as rodent droppings and deceased animals, may require professional help to ensure that the area is thoroughly cleaned. Other situations can be handled on your own.
Remember that many cleaning solutions can contain harmful VOCs that can negatively affect your indoor air quality. However, there are other ways to keep your home clean and free of unpleasant odors.
Baking soda and vinegar can be used to neutralize many different unwanted scents. For example:
- Use a spray bottle with vinegar and water to clean stains from your wall that may be causing lingering odors.
- If you need to fix a stinky sink or garbage disposal, try pouring one cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by two cups of vinegar. Let it bubble for about five minutes before washing it down with plenty of hot water.
- Try sprinkling baking soda on your carpets to get rid of lingering odors. Leave it on for as long as you can, overnight if possible, and then vacuum your carpet. This trick can also be used to freshen up an aging mattress.
In addition to regular cleaning, increasing the ventilation in your home can also help keep your home smelling fresh. Try adding an air purifier to improve your indoor air quality and decrease the VOCs that you and your family breathe in each day.
A conclusive note
Unwanted odors can be annoying and even worrisome, but you do not have to sit back and let them take over your home. By finding and eliminating the source of the lingering smell, you can start to breathe easier once again.
Luckily, the latest advancements in air purification technology allowed us to develop KORU Air focusing on maintaining an extremely high air purification effectiveness, while limiting our impact on the planet and on customer’s pockets with a permanent and washable filter perfect to capture even up to 96% of smells and odors volatile sources.