When a new smell appears in your home, it’s hard not to notice. Some smells are pleasant, like homemade apple pie or fresh-baked cookies. Others, such as spilled milk or pet accidents, are not so welcome. However, some smells, no matter if they are bad or good, can be extremely baffling.

So, what are your options when you are faced with a mysterious odor that constantly comes and goes? And how do you know which smells are cause for concern and which you can fix with a simple cleaning? Let’s learn more about what might be the reason behind the mysterious odor in your home and what steps you can take to get rid of it.

Could the Mysterious Odor be Dangerous?

When you discover a new smell, the first thing you need to do is ensure that it cannot harm your family. It’s important to note that some odors can indicate a severe health hazard and shouldn’t be ignored. Although maintaining indoor air quality should be a priority, you need to be careful when dealing with the following smells.

Rotten Eggs or Sulfur Odor

If you notice a weird smell similar to rotten eggs or sulfur, you might be dealing with a gas leak, particularly if the smell is coming from the kitchen. Sometimes, that means you have a slightly open burner valve, which is easily fixable.

However, if you can’t identify the source of the smell, the safest thing you can do is exit your house and call the gas company. Avoid using any electric switches or appliances, including automated garage doors and thermostats.

Remember that while a gas leak usually gives off a lingering odor, it can also create an inconsistent smell that can be covered by other odors inside your home. So, you should be wary of even the slightest sulfur odor.

Burning or Fishy Odor

A fire or faulty electrical wiring can cause a fishy or burning odor. Even if you do not see the fire or smoke, there could be one in your wall, behind the outlets. Keep in mind that electrical wiring emits a burning smell when it overheats.

You should inspect your outlets and see if any of them are sparking, especially if the odor is only noticeable when you use a specific outlet or appliance. If the smell is strong and you can’t find the source, leave your house and call 911. Don’t return inside until the fire department has inspected your home and given you the green light.

Pickle Odor

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, can be present in multiple locations all throughout your home. Some of the most common VOCs are butane, formaldehyde, acetone, ethylene glycol, and methylene chloride. Those compounds are also found in paint, cleaning agents, and hairspray. However, some types of plywood can also contain them, so act with caution when purchasing such items.

Over time, VOCs generate a specific smell, depending on the product that contains them. For example, the smell of pickles near furniture or paneling might be caused by VOCs, as they degrade over time and turn into vapors. If you want to get rid of the smell of VOCs, you’ll need to eliminate the source. Throw away old cleaning agents, paint cans, and empty hairsprays, among similar objects. While you won’t be able to avoid all VOCs in daily life, you can reduce their presence inside your home.

Other Common Household Odors

Once you know for sure that the mysterious odor is not a sign of a more dangerous problem, it’s time to find out its source. Although there are many reasons why your home might smell, most of them can be easily taken care of. Here’s what you should be on the lookout for:

Sewage Odors

Sometimes, you’ll notice a sewage smell near a sink or bathroom, particularly if it wasn’t used for a while. But why is that the case? Simply put, your sewage system features a U-shaped pipe called a P-trap, which prevents sewage smells from entering your home through pipes using water. If the water has evaporated, there is nothing to stop the odor.

Running water in your bathtub or flushing your toilet can add water to the pipes and fix the problem. Alternatively, you can use drain cleaning products to reduce the smell until water accumulates again in the pipe. If that doesn’t work, you may need to call a plumber.

Pet Odors

Has your home started to smell like a dirty dog, even if you don’t own one? If that’s the case, you might have unwanted guests in your basement or attic. Pests, like mice, raccoons, and squirrels, can leave behind droppings that contain parasites. Deceased and decomposing animals in the walls, chimney, attic, or under the house can be other potential sources of this smell. The best course of action is to contact pest control and get a professional inspection.

Musty Odors

Musty odors are similar to the smell of mothballs or wet cardboard and are usually caused by mildew and mold. These fungi emit microbial VOCs, which can cause a variety of health problems. Symptoms of mold exposure include coughing, sneezing, runny eyes, and nasal congestion. So, you should investigate any potential mold growth and remediate it as soon as possible.

To get rid of the smell, you’ll first need to figure out its source. You should look for plumbing leaks, especially under your bathroom and kitchen sinks. HVAC systems can also stop working as intended and allow condensation to build up in your home. It’s important to understand that if you do find mold, you should only handle it yourself if the damaged area is under 10 square feet. All other types of mold infestations are harmful and require the help of a mold remediation company.

Locker Room Odors

Everybody is familiar with the sweaty, dirty sock smell that is prevalent in locker rooms, hence the name. However, while dirty laundry could cause this nasty odor, it can also result from bacteria buildup in your heating system coils.

This growth can happen at any time of the year, but is more common in the fall and spring, as the system is cycling between heat and cold. The condensation on the coils creates the ideal environment for bacteria to flourish, producing a distinctive odor. If you want to get rid of this foul smell, you’ll need to clean the evaporator coils using a non-acid coil cleaner. Or, you can call a qualified HVAC professional to clean them using their own special equipment and cleaners.

Stale Sheets Odors

You shed dead skin cells every night during sleep, which can be eaten by dust mites and bacteria. When that happens, you’ll notice a stale smell similar to that of mold. To prevent it, you should wash your sheets at least once every two weeks. But if the weather’s hot or you sweat during the night, you may need to wash them more often.

How to Get Rid of Bad Odors

There are many steps you can take to freshen up your home, depending on the source of the pesky odor. While some problems, like deceased animals, may require expert help to make sure that the area is thoroughly cleaned, you can handle others on your own. If you want to clear the air in your home, be sure to try these helpful tips:

  • Baking soda and vinegar are powerful tools that can neutralize many unwanted scents. For instance, if you need to clean a stinky sink, pour one cup of baking soda down the drain. Then, add two cups of vinegar and let it bubble for five minutes before using hot water to wash it down. Similarly, you can sprinkle baking soda on your carpets or sofa to get rid of nasty odors and then vacuum them after 12 hours.
  • Adding a couple of air purifiers will improve the indoor air quality while also decreasing the amount of VOCs that you breathe in daily.
  • Don’t forget to also open the windows and let fresh air permeate your home. In fact, this is one of the most effective ways to keep your home fresh and clean, as letting outdoor air into the house will dilute many harmful chemicals like VOCs.
  • Avoid using air fresheners and scented candles, as they could release VOCs and other chemicals into the air. Instead, you should use natural fragrances like essential oils, which you can place in a diffuser or a bowl to give off a natural aroma throughout your home. You can also use spices, such as cloves and cinnamon, to create a healthy scent that will cover up any unwanted odors.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, unwanted odors can be both annoying and worrisome. But you don’t have to let them ruin your home. A quick inspection should help you discover the source of the smell. Then, you can either deal with it using our tips or contact a professional. Just remember that some odors can be linked to dangerous hazards, so you should always do your research before attempting to solve the problem.

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