Your house is a complicated machine, and it’s not uncommon for some organic materials to end up amid the machinery. What’s more, gas and electrical systems can fail—and when they do, your nose will be the first to know that something is amiss. Here are some of the common causes of foul household odors that you should keep an eye—or rather, a nostril—out for.
Grease in the Pipes
Bourbon Street in New Orleans has a famous reputation for food, fun, and inebriated revelry, but visitors and natives alike also know that it has a certain smell about it, and not a good one. The New Orleans Department of Public Works found the origin of the street’s signature stench when they explored the storm drains and discovered that the sewers were full of rotting globs of fat. Restaurants were pouring their grease down the drains, where it settled, congealed, and decomposed, sending foul fumes up to street level. If you’ve let grease go down the kitchen sink, you could have a similar smell emanating from your drain, and you’re probably not having nearly as much fun, either. Boiling water and vinegar will soften up and break down the fatty clogs stinking up your sink.
Failing Air Conditioner
A mildewy smell in the bathroom is one thing, but if it’s a pervasive smell throughout the home, it could be the sign of an air conditioner on its way out. Dying AC units fail to dehumidify, leading to the buildup of mold and mildew. You may also detect a burning smell coming from your vents. If this is the case, you’ll need to repair or replace your air conditioner before summer sets in.
Natural Gas Leak
If the familiar smell of rotten eggs is coming from anywhere except a long-neglected egg carton, the presence of sulfur should alert you to a serious problem. The sulphury smell of natural gas is not natural itself, but rather the result of an additive your gas utility incorporates in order to make leaks detectable. However, this smell could also be electrical in nature—as electrical components burn, they can release sulfur compounds, which will quickly alert you to what could be a very serious emergency. If you smell this, leave the home immediately and contact your gas provider as well as your police and fire department.
Soaking up Smells
Does your nose detect a little bit of everything? If you still have wall-to-wall carpeting, the ghosts of spills, stains, and accidents past could be awakening. Carpeting and padding that have absorbed a lot over the years are one of the leading causes of foul household odors. High humidity could be rekindling these smells. Now might be the time to pull up the carpeting and make the switch to hardwood flooring.