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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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July 22, 2016 Flag
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My whole house smells like cat urine. I can't find the original location as somedays I can smell it all through the house and somedays I can only smell it in certain areas and then other days it doesn't smell at all. I've never caught the cat in action which makes it even harder to find. It's driving me crazy

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    July 6, 2016 Flag
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    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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      July 13, 20160 found this helpful

      If its not a plumbing (sewer gas) issue, and you've had your plumber check, then it coud be either a vent on the roof is clogged or you have a dead rat, mouse, or other dead animal in your crawlspace, attic, or walls. They are hard to find, but the smell, which would be worse in the summer, and less noticeable in the late fall and winter, should eventually dissapate. No, I'm not a professional. But I live out in the country, and I'm giving an answer based on experience.

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      June 4, 2016 Flag
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      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 10, 20160 found this helpful

        Please check your light fittings/switches. Bad electrical connections can cause a fishy, pungent outdoor, especially if they are old.

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        July 12, 2016 Flag
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        We have been experiencing a strange fishy smell in the same area which is sometimes evident and sometimes not for a few months now. Sometimes it is subtle and other times truly strong! It is in an enclosed area just inside our front door. I saw a similar Q and A to this on here which connects this possibly to being an electrical fault. But would this still be occurring when the only ceiling light and wall socket in there are off and not being used?
        Concerned.

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          September 5, 2015 Flag
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          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 7, 20150 found this helpful

            Hi! Thank you for your answer. I have thought of the smell possibly being a dead animal that may have died somewhere in the house. Unfortunately, I have no idea what that smells like. This odor is almost indescribable. It's almost a cross between some spoiled vomit and something that is so powerful smelling that you can actually taste it. It even feels like it leaves a burning feeling on my tongue and nasal passage. Almost like ammonia does, only not the smell of ammonia. I do have a deck that is connected to the house that has a small opening. I don't smell this odor when out on the deck. The odor has been going on since June, and only getting worse. I truly don't think it's the wood flooring anymore The smell has gotten worse since pulling up the carpeting. I really don't know how much more that I can take. I live on a disability budget and don't have any money to hire anyone to come and check it out for me. I don't know anyone that can come and help me try and find where it's coming from. I live alone and don't really have friends or family that can help me.

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            March 5, 2016 Flag
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            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
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              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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                September 27, 20150 found this helpful

                In my last apartment I had a lot of sewer smell to the point of feeling sick. I found when I flushed the toilet 3 or 4 times in a row the smell seemed to go away for most of the day. I decided to use the product 2000 flushes (blue puck) found in the cleaning aisle - didn't have any sewer smell after using that in the toilet tank. Last up to 3 months.

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                April 11, 2010 Flag
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                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 14, 20100 found this helpful
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                If the smell is really disagreeable you may have to remove the wall entirely and sheet rock a new one. Maybe an animal like a squirrel or mouse died in between the walls. I sure wouldn't work hard to try to remove it or cover it up. I'd make a clean sweep. It doesn't sound good.

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                April 25, 2016 Flag
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                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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                  June 24, 2015 Flag
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                  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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                    June 25, 20150 found this helpful

                    That's a good point though. If you're not sure, have the gas company come out and check, for your peace of mind. It's a scary thought.

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                    April 20, 2015 Flag
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                    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
                    Best Answer

                    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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                    July 30, 2015 Flag
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                    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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                      May 20, 20160 found this helpful

                      We just purchased our first home in February and have been experiencing the exact same things you are describing, Max. I have had plumbers, contractors, restoration companies out to inspect. No one can help, they all smell it but have no answers. We love our house but are heartbroken this smell is driving us crazy and we have actually discussed putting the house back on the market. Please tell me if you ever discovered what was causing the odor in your home?

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                      December 24, 2015 Flag
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                      After one month I moved out of my house to sell it. The handyman called me on the bad smell coming out of the attached garage; it is like a sewage smell. Since then I have opened the sheet rock on 3 walls of the garage looking for a dead animal, not seen. I called the gas people, it is not a gas smell. I called the plumber, they did the smoke test, water pressure test, and used a camera down the drain and could not find what is causing the smell. This has been 9 months. Someone please help. Is there anything like a smell detector out there? The house is in Houston Texas area.

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                        December 30, 20150 found this helpful

                        I was just reading another post about an alarm battery giving off a sulfurous smell in a master bedroom. Cable and internet companies also use these industrial strength batteries when they set up service. I know there is one in my garage right now. Just a thought.

                        Good luck, I hope you find it. We had a terrible smell in our bathroom that we could never figure out. Months later, we found a desiccated mouse carcass under the dryer. Yuck!

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                        November 8, 2015 Flag
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                        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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