Identifying Mysterious Smell in House?

Beginning in January, in the middle of the night, we'd get an awful, acrid, skunk-like smell throughout the house. I'd step outside to make sure that wasn't where it was originating. As soon as I'd come back in, the odor was awful. We have to light candles, turn on the exhaust fan over the stove, and crack open a door. This would happen every 2 or 3 weeks. Now, we've had 2 consecutive nights of the occurrence. I don't think it can actually be a skunk since the odor disappears in about 3 hours. I have also noticed a few stink bugs (5), but have never smelled that odor when I get rid of them. Any ideas?


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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
February 25, 20170 found this helpful

It could be a dead animal,
Gases coming up from rarely used plumbing fixtures, leaking pipes or a gas leak. Here is an article which explains more:

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February 25, 20170 found this helpful

It could be methyl mercaptan if you heat with propane or natural gas or have any appliances (stove, hot water heater...) that use it. It is added to fossil fuels (propane, natural gas) as those gases are orderless. The purpose is to alert you to a leak. At night, the air is heavier and it can be more noticeable. Some people claim it has a stuck smell to them, others say it is more sulfur like.


To me, its just nasty. If you do burn gas, do NOT light anymore candles, or electrical appliances, but call the gas company asap and tell them you think you have a leak. Stay out of the home until they check it. It can be as serious as causing an explosion, fire or death. I am a firefighter/medic/instructor. I hear and see deaths all the time due to this.

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February 27, 20170 found this helpful

This is not sulfur like. We did the "bubbly soap" check on all connections. At first the episodes were about every 2 weeks or so. Now, we've had 4 out of the last 5 nights. Very sporatic. To me it is a true skunk smell.


I've heard nightmare stories about this. We're thinking of getting an exterminator, but how would that help? Have him/her spend the night? We see no evidence in the attic. In the duct work? In the walls? OY!

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April 28, 20170 found this helpful

Do you have any teenage kids? Skunk is a nickname for some strains of weed.

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February 26, 20170 found this helpful

There could be a number of different things causing this odor but it would be wise to make a list of suggestions and check out the most dangerous one first.


If you use gas of any type then go this route first as that is probably the most dangerous.
After that you could eliminate any that does not apply to you.
Do you have a septic tank? If so these can cause odors in the house in damp, wet weather so maybe this could be a problem.
A dead animal can get trapped in all kinds of places and when they die the odor does usually come and go for several weeks - especially if it died in a wall.

A very common odor problem is caused from faulty plumbing but probably only a plumber can help with that - costly, so maybe you could leave this till last?

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February 26, 20170 found this helpful

Here's a trick: Close all of the room windows in the house, and keep all of the doors closed to the rooms. Keep some of the hall windows out for about an hour or two before closing. Next, go into each room to investigate where the smell could be coming from. If you open a door and it hits you like a grain of salt, bingo. If not, it is something in the hall that is possibly a dead animal investigation, rotten food in dish drain, leaky pipes, etc, but the biggest thing was the "skunky smell" which then you may want to see if any animal infestation occurred inside, or even outside the house near the window- especially if it has been a few days.

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Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 107 Posts
February 26, 20170 found this helpful

DEFINITELY check the gas situation as it could be lethal.

It could also be that animals living in the walls of your home urinate, which can cause that smell, but what's puzzling is the periodic nature of the smell.

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April 1, 20170 found this helpful

I would have to ask if you have others living in the building as it sounds, by the periodic nature someone's been in to a bit of pot.

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July 18, 20170 found this helpful

Once we had a skunk smell in our bedroom every night very strong. A mother skunk was living under our house. She would spray her smell so that her newborn, blind babies could find her and nurse.


They are nocturnal animals so I guess they were just waking up then. We had them safely and humanely moved.

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