Locating the Source of a Foul Smell in House

It is not always easy to determine where a bad smell is coming from in your home. This guide is about locating the source of a foul smell in the house.
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December 30, 2015 Flag

I had this issue just after moving into a new rental. It seemed to match most of the 'rotten egg and sulfur' smells that are repeated on this thread. I figured out my issue, and may match many of yours as well.

The master bedroom is where they usually install the bulk of the alarm systems, sometimes in a master closet (most of the time it seems). The alarm's backup battery (the little 4 inch square box - black, grey or tan) that it uses can go bad after being constantly charged over many years and it can rupture slightly, emitting a small amount of (you guessed it) sulfuric acid, which really stinks! I made the mistake of sniffing it a bit too close, and that stuff literally takes your breath away. It was bad.

I took it to the backyard where I will dispose of it properly later. It's a hazardous substance, but I seriously doubt it would cause a health concern if it just produces an annoying stench in your closet.

It worked! The stench is gone, gone, gone!

Source: Ol factory experience and old fashioned deductive reasoning.

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August 10, 2016 Flag

I was out of town from Friday to Sunday and my roommate said a smell started on Saturday. The smell is like b.o. and cat litter. I have sniffed every inch of the downstairs where the smell is and cannot find the source. I rearranged my living room and found nothing, and the smell gets worse each day. Any advice?

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November 24, 20160 found this helpful
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Using kitty litter will absorb any foul odor especially if it is in the walls. Just make a hole pour it in..... Works great with dead animals or rodents,too

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October 18, 2016 Flag

I came home one day after my AC went out and my house smelled odd. It is getting cooler so we have just been running fans in the house until we can get the AC fixed. But one day I came home and there was a smell in the house that smelled like someone had burned food and tried to add spices to make it better. The smell wouldn't be unbearable if it wasn't so strong. It is stronger in a few areas of the house than others, but I can't find where it is coming from. Any ideas?

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November 2, 20160 found this helpful

There is a foul odor in my house.Who do I call?

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November 27, 2016 Flag

I have this smell in my unit; I am 3 stories up. It smells like Parmesan cheese or off powdered milk. I get wiffs of it around near the kitchen. But when I go looking for the smell I just can't detect where it is coming from.

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December 22, 20160 found this helpful

almost sounds like a fungus or mold....... I would empty and check all cabinets, pull out the fridge/freezer and check the drain pans underneath and behind them. They could have nasty water sitting in them. Check your potato bin, onion bin and everywhere you keep food. Look in your windows--is there any where rain water could have gotten in and be standing and growing mold? Any potted plants that have dirt or standing water in the saucer under them? Do you have a humidifier or dehumidifier or heater or ac that takes water or has a drain pan water? Have you checked the walls that contain water pipes to make sure no leaking pipes in the walls? Under the kitchen sink?

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July 6, 2016 Flag

The odor we have in our kitchen seems to smell like old lettuce. We have cleaned the fridge, inside and outside and find nothing to indicate anything. We have cleaned everything else and can not find the source. I have set bowls of vinegar around the kitchen and baking soda in the fridge and they do not help. There is no standing water anywhere. Help! Every time the refrigerator is opened the smell is stronger. Thank you in advance. New refrigerator?

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November 1, 20160 found this helpful

I moved into a new appartment it did not have any oder or smells of any sort now it smells bad don't no what the smell is been in my neighborhoods. Appartment and they don't smell I want this Snell gone baking soda did not work house spray is just temporary help desperate

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September 5, 2015 Flag

I am experiencing a horrible smell in my house. I first thought it was from some carpeting that had been soiled by some of my pets. The carpet was very old. I tore the carpet up and tried cleaning the wood flooring beneath with different cleaners that contained antibacterials, and some with enzymes to get rid of urine smells. The smell is even worse now. It feels like it even leaves a burning feeling on my tongue and feel like I can taste it. The smell has made me vomit. I don't even know how to describe the smell because I haven't ever smelled anything like this. It has permeated the whole house. I can't find the source of the smell. It just keeps getting worse. Can anyone help me soon? I'm so desperate.

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September 6, 20160 found this helpful

I have a horrible smell in my house. I first thought it was from some carpeting that had been soiled by some of my pets. I tore the carpet up and cleaned the wood flooring benea

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September 21, 2016 Flag

My daughter just bought an old house and the smell is unreal. It hits you when you walk in the door. I was worried it was cats, but the lady who lived in the house did not have any cats. Could you help me get rid of the smell?
Thank You

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September 21, 20161 found this helpful

Your daughter may have purchased a very expensive problem, along with the house. There are many reasons for house odors and animals and sewage are only two. Other possible problems could be kept animals other than cats, dead animal decay liquids that seeped into the wood (a common and expensive problem), sewage and septic tank leaks, plumbing leaks, etc.

Unfortunately, the only way to identify the cause or cases is to have professional companies evaluate the problem and suggest possible solutions. Just finding the source of the problem can be very expensive. Pest management, plumbing, construction repair and other types of house related companies can help.

Good Luck!

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September 19, 2016 Flag

I live in Florida and have had a bad rotten garbage type smell in my garage for years. I have cleaned out everything, I do not see any evidence of anything it could be. It only smells in the garage. It does not smell in mudroom laundry area which is inside the garage door to house. Nor does it smell outside of my garage. I only notice the smell when I go into the garage when the garage door is shut, or when I first open the garage door and I am outside.
The only thing left to check is the walls. Any idea what it could be or who to call to check it?

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September 19, 20161 found this helpful

As you have had the bad smell for years in one area, you may have a sewer leak or other sewer problem, or a dead animal in or underneath the garage. The problem with organic odors is that they seep into wood structures and then the wood can smell bad for years. Unfortunately, bad smells are difficult to resolve and often very expensive. A pest company may be able to clarify if a dead animal or animals are the source of the smell. A plumbing company can check for any sewage leaks, etc. Good Luck!

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March 5, 2016 Flag

I noticed about a month ago that my guestroom started to have a chemical like odor. I looked for mold or mildew and did not see any. I removed the carpet and did not see anything. My dogs are not allowed in the room so there are no pet stains. The smell has since changed to a pickle-like smell.

I painted the room and the smell went away for 2 days and has come back. We do not use gas here, so I know that too is not the culprit. My house is a 14 year old manufactured home. I have literally tried to smell every wall and the floor and cannot identify the source. The weirder thing is that when I have the fans on, the smell intensifies. Can anyone please shed some insight to my problem as my husband and I are at a loss at this point?

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Anonymous Flag
May 27, 20160 found this helpful

Sounds like he could be smoking meth we lived with a man that smoked it and that's what it smells like. You could Google it. We have the same smell problems here but I think it's a dead animal under the house.

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September 5, 2015 Flag

I am a first time homebuyer and bought my 1097 square foot, low-level home last July. The home was built in 1974. Since shortly after buying the home and closing, there has been a strong sewage smell that plagues the residence. It was around this same time last year (August/September). It is intermittent. However, this smells deters me from inviting anyone over and it accompanies what seems to be an infestation of gnats.

I can't sleep, sit, eat, or anything without a gnat aggressively attacking me. They help me do my hair, help me clean, help me cook, etc. It's driving me crazy. Last year I had the plumbers out because I thought it was a plumbing issue with setting water, but it's back again this year the same time or year with the gnats! I don't have a sceptic tank. I've also noticed like a week or so ago my plumbing backs up, of course my issue began long before this manifestation, but I don't think that helps the cause!

Last year I did the vinegar traps and yes they caught many gnats, but there were equal amounts still living and the smell is still present. It seemed last year like it only went away when the weather got cold. It did not happen all summer, but with the season change it seems to be back in autumn. I've spent a lot of money on this house even after paying an inspector to catch the important stuff, but at this point I need to know where I can begin or what to do cheaply to address this and not deal with it every year around the same time? Someone please help me! What could this smell be with this accompanying infestation of gnats and what can I do to remedy this?

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Anonymous Flag
March 26, 20160 found this helpful

Look for a small pool of water near your home, possibly caused by water leaking or drainage. That's where gnats breed and accumulate. Once the water is dried up they will disappear.

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September 6, 2016 Flag

I have a horrible smell in my house. I first thought it was from some carpeting that had been soiled by some of my pets. I tore the carpet up and cleaned the wood flooring, but it is still here.

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September 7, 20161 found this helpful

You might have a dead animal in your basement, attic, walls, etc. A pest control company can remove the body, however, that may not be the end of the odor. Decaying bodies leave liquid that seeps into a wood structure. Sometimes removing the body will eliminate the smell, however, if enough decay liquid has seeped into the wood, you may need to remove and repair the area.

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April 11, 2010 Flag

I recently painted a new wall with a 5 year old latex primer followed by 2 coats of paint. A very disagreeable odor emanates from the wall. I have never had this problem with "old" paint before. Where is the odor coming from?

By George from Port St Lucie, FL

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April 12, 20100 found this helpful
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It could be your sheet-rock. Since 1997, many houses were built with Chinese sheet rock and they emit a "rotten egg" smell from the sulfur. This sheet-rock was recently recalled because it causes the wiring to tarnish and corrode quickly. If this is your problem, you will have to remove the sheet-rock! The sheetrock has been a real problem in Florida and the South due to the high humidity. The moisture in the paint also could have made the sheet-rock smell.

If it's just the paint, you can cover the wall with one or 2 coats of Zinsser shellac and alcohol based primer (read the back of all the Zinsser primers) it's one of the lower cost primers that Zinsser makes. They use this to prime and seal hospitals, kitchens and schools. They use it because it's low odor. This primer will help seal in the odor of the paint, but won't help if bad sheet rock is your problem.

Google: "Chinese sheetrock" or "Chineese wallboard" for more info.

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June 24, 2015 Flag

My home is clean, the trash is taken out, no dirty dishes, and I haven't cooked anything today. About a hour ago this foul smell filled up the entire house. I've checked all bathrooms and sinks to make sure that nothing was backed up and everything looked OK. I can't even describe what it smells like. I have no inside animals. This has been happened for about a week. It was so bad on Sunday that the smell woke me up and I sleep with a full face mask hooked up to a CPAP machine, but I could still smell it. I've done smell checks on all the kids. It is horrible. I have Crohn's so I smell things to the extreme, it's like I have the nose of a pregnant woman. I'll take any suggestions. I have hardwood floors, central air and heat, and all my air and water filters have just been changed.

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Anonymous Flag
April 13, 20160 found this helpful

Try to smell your TV router

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June 4, 2016 Flag

I get a reoccurring fishy odor that comes and goes in the house. It is in the same area. What could it be?

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June 5, 20160 found this helpful

Could be an animal hide out or a decaying animal body. Check the area and, if needed, a pest removal company can check, clean out and remove any animal bodies. It is important to remove bodies immediately as the decay process releases liquids into the wood structure. If the wood is saturated with decay liquids, then the area may need to be replaced as the decay stench can last for years.

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April 20, 2015 Flag

We have had several dead animals under the slab foundation after a torrential rain. We had several holes around the house where we have seen rabbits and possums. How long before smell goes away?

By Nova

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April 21, 20150 found this helpful
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It takes about 3 weeks for the smell of dead rat in the walls to go away. Your situation sounds a bit different. The moisture might make it a longer process.

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April 25, 2016 Flag

Every 3 years we get this awful smell, like Parmesan cheese that seems to come through the walls on our stairwell. It is very strong and lasts for a week or two, then completely vanishes! We live in a pole home, so the underside of the house is exposed. I am wondering if there is some plant, or mould that could be causing this strange odour?

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April 25, 20160 found this helpful

There may have been an animal that had died in your stairwell and the decay process definitely smells. That this has happened more than once may mean an animal has easy access to that area. You should have the stairwell area checked to see if there are any areas that an animal can crawl into. Next time the smell starts again, have a pest exterminator check the stairwell area to check and remove the dead animal. It is important to have the animal removed quickly as the decay process liquids leak into the wood framework and can damage and/or smell for a very long time.

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August 1, 2016 Flag

There is a smell outside my bedroom that began this week. I have no idea what it could be, there is no food around and there are no pets in the house. I'm thinking it might be a dead animal, but I'm at a loss on how to find it and what to do about it. I would be grateful for any suggestions.

Thank you.

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August 2, 20160 found this helpful

A pest control company can search the area around and under your house to find the source of the smell. If there is a dead body, the company can remove it. If there is no body, the company should be able to suggest a solution for the smell or recommend another service, if needed, to address the problem.

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July 30, 2015 Flag

We purchased a new home in December. All was OK, though we could smell the floor stain (Minwax and Fabulon). Around April we began to cut on the AC. Those of us who slept near the vents had sneezing fits constantly day and night for weeks. We thought it was pollen. Then we all began to get tired, nauseated, have ringing in our ears, fatigued, forgetful, blurred thought, etc. Anyone else ever have anything like this?

The smell is like chemicals, reminds me of that stuff my dad used to clean his carburetor when I was a kid. Now it smells sort of rotten too. It's also sort of sweet like a perfumey sweet. It is all over the house. It is most chemically in the crawlspace and sweeter and more rotten inside the house. The crawlspace is air-conditioned like the rest of the house (stupid new federal government home design thing).

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August 23, 20150 found this helpful

Check the plaster board or wall board on the walls , There were many cases of cheap plaster board from China that was used in houses in the early 200o and around that time which emits poisonous and noxious sulfur like fumes[sometimes rotten egg smell] when it gets hot out . Its in the walls so that's had to tell.check with builder and real estate agent . It would not be carbon monoxide , as that is odorless.

cathy from ma

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November 8, 2015 Flag

I have an weird smell in the bedroom, only at night. The adjacent the room is the bathroom which also gives off the scent.The smell started after a four day none stop rain. I cleaned the whole house with Clorox and water and washed every piece of clothing, linen, etc. The smell still comes back at night specifically around 3:00 a.m. that's when the smell wakes me up. Now I have been stuffy in the mornings with mucous coming out from my nose. The smell at times is so unbearable that I sleep on the living room couch. Please help.

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November 10, 20150 found this helpful

I wonder if you have some sort of problem with sewer gas back up? If you had a dead animal in the walls, as DCA suggested, you would likely smell it all the time. If you have sewer gas, it may be worse at night because there is no activity -- no flushing toilets, no laundry being done, no one showering, etc. I would try to get a friend over to help identify the smell, and I think I would call a plumber first as I think it is more likely a sewage gas leak/backup.

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