Locating the Source of a Foul Smell in House

February 22, 2010

A woman holding her nose.We have a very foul dead animal odor in our home. The only time this odor is present is after my wife has used a hair dryer. We know it is not the dryer itself, because it does not smell if used outside our home, ie. vacation.


The smell seems to appear after using the dryer for a while and it does not smell in the bathroom where it is being used. It seems to be drawn in from another room. Once the dryer is off the smell slowly dissipates and is gone.

I can not find anything in the ventilation, attic, or crawl space. This has been happening for nearly five years. I think that if it were a small dead animal that it would have dried up and quit smelling by now. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

By Charles from Indianapolis, IN


February 25, 20100 found this helpful
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Most likely the smell you are smelling is rust, and the dryer is blowing the odor around that usually just close to the place the rust is. Behind or in your toilet, your pipes under your sink has tiny hole, the over flow in your bathroom sink, the overflown of your shower or tub. Do you need a new wax ring on your toilet?


Another thing that stinks like that is toilet bowl cleaner, lime away. Do you have these chemicals under your sink near moisture? These to will don't spread there smell unless the air moves around them.

February 26, 20101 found this helpful
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I had this same problem a few years ago and it was driving me crazy. I live in a rural area and a mouse had gotten in the house and took a bite of the electric ignitation wire behind my gas stove and fried him self and that was where the odor was coming from.

December 8, 20150 found this helpful
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I had a dead mouse in the fan of the refrigerater years ago. So everytime the fan kicked on the smell would return..finally removed the dead mouse and smell went with it.

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Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

January 9, 2013

I have this odor that comes and goes. I think that it is associated with the furnace, however I have just had the furnace annual maintenance done. I had the air ducts cleaned and did the monthly cleaning of the filters and it is still here.

I find as I get older it affects my chronic bronchitis making it worse than usual and causes my eyes to burn. When it shows up it seems to be strongest when the furnace is blowing heat.


I know it is not the refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, washer, or dryer as those are new and the dryer duct was cleaned with the rest of the vents. I always figured it was associated with the cleaning of the furnace filters, but this time it showed up four days after I had cleaned the filters.

My husband does not seem to notice it and my son has no sense of smell so I feel like I might be crazy. Anyone know who I can call to get this looked into? My furnace people are clueless and have been no help at all.

By wjw


January 11, 20130 found this helpful
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I am going to list some things that it could be, and you can see if they seem to be what might be causing it.

  • Dead animals in the wall
  • Cat urine that was in the carpets
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  • Mold
  • Old cigarette smoke

Here are some things to do inside the house:

1. Place fans where they can blow out the windows.

2. Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda on the floors and furniture that can be vacuumed. Vacuum it up after thirty minutes.

3. Get four bowls of cut onions and place them around the parameter of each room, or in the corner of each room. Onions absorb odors, believe it or not.

4. Fill up a spray bottle with two cups of water and 1/2 cup white vinegar. Spray everywhere and wipe down with this.

5. Have someone check and see if the vent on top of the house is clogged by dropping a heavy item tied to a rock down the vent. If it doesn't go all the way down, have it cleaned out by someone who does this for a living.
Here is an article on carpet and how to make it not smell from Angieslist...

I hope this helps and if not, you might try a professional carpet cleaner if you think it might be your carpet.

January 11, 20130 found this helpful
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I would sprinkle all the carpets and furniture with baking soda. Then after thirty minutes vacuum it up. I would fill a bottle of 2 cups of water with 1 cup of white vinegar and spray down all the rooms with it and wipe it off, as far as the walls go and doors etc. Have the vent on the roof checked to see if it is blocked.


Tie a heavy small object to a long string. Drop it down the vent. If it doesn't fall, the vent needs to be cleaned.

Blessings, Robyn

September 24, 20130 found this helpful
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Hello, I had a similar problem. It was esp bad when the oil furnace came on. We finally tracked it down to a leak under the toilet that was dripping loaded water into the ventilation system. Yuck.

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September 5, 2015

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, 20150 found this helpful
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I agree with Dinah. My first thought was a dead animal in the walls. Another issue might be some sewer back up issue in some place where you might not think to look. Is there some crawlspace where there might be a leak? You should be able to figure out if it is a sewer stench or dead animal smell.


If you can not, call in plumbers, pest control, odor removers or whomever you think you need. Try to determine the location of the smell; get a friend to help with this -- a fresh nose, so to speak. There might also be some kind of gas leak seeping through the ground and entering your house.

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September 5, 2015

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?


September 6, 20152 found this helpful
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I have been a master plumber for 45 years, and I have ran into this problem before. Not every time, but most times, it is a vent pipe in the attic that has come apart. When you have an open vent pipe, the only place that the odor can go to is inside the house. Some times it comes apart inside the wall, but most times it is in the attic. I would suggest that you call a plumber and let him take a look.

March 14, 20162 found this helpful
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Sounds like a drain that is not getting used enough. Pour water down all drains, showers, sinks in the home to fill the p-traps. When drains are not used the p-traps dry up allowing sewer and soil gases into your home. The bugs are most likely drain flies taking advantage of the situtation. The water poured down the drains should take care of the bugs as well.

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September 21, 2013

I have an open floor plan with stained, scored concrete floors in the living room and carpet in the bedrooms. I have been in two different houses that are built the same just different floor plans. I noticed when we moved out of one house that it smelled awful. The smell was only in the living area. I have three dogs and thought it was because of them. I cleaned the house from top to bottom, opened all doors and windows for several days and placed baking soda boxes in several different places. The smell would never go away.

Now I am smelling the same smell in the new house. I clean, clean, clean all the time and my dogs are bathed regularly. It's not my furniture and I got rid of the area rugs. I don't even know how to explain the smell. It smells like dirt to me. This is a rental house built in 2005 and my landlord was very upset with me in the last house. I feel like I clean more than the average person, but yet my house always stinks! Is there a professional service I can call for help?



September 25, 20130 found this helpful
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My first thought is that it has something to do with the stain on the concrete floor. Perhaps they used a wrong kind of stain and it reacted with the concrete. I'm not an expert on this, but if you have cleaned very thoroughly and repeatedly and the smell is still there, then it must be in the concrete and/or the stain. Just a guess. Good luck in finding a solution!

June 16, 20170 found this helpful
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2005..possible Chinese drywall issues?

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March 31, 2014

I've had a terrible smell in my master bathroom and closet for almost 3 months, and at first I thought it smelled like sewage. The smell kept getting worse, primarily in the closet so I steam cleaned the carpet (only place in that area that is carpeted), but it made no change. It was horrible over the weekend - would make you gag, but almost went away on Monday.

The smell came back by Wednesday so I had plumbers out to run a smoke test. They re-set the toilet, even though there was no smell in the water closet. It made no change. Since then we have flushed the AC unit, had the roof checked and checked the attic. There is no smell in there. The smell changed from a sewage smell to a pungent musky smell and primarily stayed in the closet and bathroom but you could also smell it in an adjacent hallway and even in the garage.

My parents came over and was certain in smelled like a dead mouse in the wall. I called exterminators and they agreed it was a dead smell, and assured me that it would fade over two weeks.

We did a full exclusion service last year. We did find an area where an AC hose enters the brick that was chewed up. We fixed it and sealed the gap. That was 2 months ago and since the smell gets better and worse. The odd thing is that in the last couple of weeks the musky smell has returned to a sewage/trash type smell and has intensified. Also, although it pretty much stays in the closet/bathroom area it still "moves". Last week it was in the garage, and today it's even by the toilet (water closet).

It's driving me insane to have to deal with this stinch! Odor eliminators don't even touch the smell. We're clean people and it disgusts me to think of something rotting behind my walls. But then, dead things don't move. Suggestions on where to go from here?

By Stacie D


April 18, 20150 found this helpful
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I have had this smell too, it is a dead animal, probably a mouse. I had it in another house in the kitchen but luckily enough I found the body, in the bottom of an old toaster! We also had it about 4 months ago in my daughters bedroom, I stripped the place and searched everywhere but never found the body, it took about 4 weeks for the smell to fade and then I completely redecorated.

Yesterday the smell appeared in my downstairs bathroom, which is small and very clean. I removed everything, steam cleaned it, put bleach in every opening. The smell is much worse this morning, even with the door closed it has pervaded into the hallway. I am just hoping it too will fade.

The very first time this happened I called out the exterminators and they put down poison that kills the mice and it dries the bodies out in a way that does not leave a smell. I guess now I need to get them out again to rid the house of the little critters completely, because everytime one dies this is going to happen. Good luck and I smell your smell!

January 21, 20180 found this helpful
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I also have a sewage odour in my house. I believe it could be a cracked drainage pipe in the bathroom. My husband temporarily repairs it with tape instead of fixing the poor. I believe the gases are backing up. The smell is driving me to go to a motel or even to divorce my husband who uses tape to fix everything

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July 30, 2015

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).


July 31, 20150 found this helpful
Best Answer

First, get the fire department out. You need to be checked for carbon monoxide.
Make sure you have carbon monoxide detector on every floor on your home. Place them near things like vents, a/c, etc.

Here are some symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning:
Blurred vision, dizziness, or a headache Nausea or vomiting Faster breathing than normal, or trouble breathing Weakness or muscle pain Dark or red urine Chest pain, or a fast, strong, or irregular heartbeat Confusion, fainting, or seizures

Here's a helpful link:

If it is carbon monoxide there can be long term health effects, so be sure to check it out ASAP. If it turns out not to be, don't quit until you find out what it is. It is certainly dangerous.

August 23, 20150 found this helpful
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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 2000s and around that time, which emits poisonous and noxious sulfur like fumes and sometimes rotten egg smell when it gets hot out. It's in the walls so that's hard 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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June 24, 2015

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.


September 2, 20160 found this helpful
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It may be the pipes or something backed up in it. Or it could be a dead mice somewhere perhaps in the basement or garage , they die in weird places, if the foul odor doesn't go away you may have to call a plumber, good luck

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July 26, 2011

We have a odor in our basement which we only noticed about one month ago. The smell is very bitter and to begin with I thought it was the herb, dill, but as there is nothing like that downstairs. It wasn't that and it seems to be getting stronger as time goes by. It is now starting to come up thru the heat pipes.

As we are able to keep the windows open now it isn't a real problem, but it will be when it we have to close them. Is there anything like a meter that will read when we are close to the problem? We have been thru everything and washed what we thought might pose a problem with no success. Any help would be appreciated.

By Sharon L.


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July 28, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

If you have gas, it will smell like rotten eggs. They put a chemical in it called mercaptan. It's for that purpose alone. It truly smells like sulfur.

You may have some kind of sealant, or acidic substance that has soaked through and old can and into the wood or piping system. You may also have a dead animal. You may want to call a plumber and see that your sewage pipes have not been cracked by tree limbs, or your local HVAC company. Good luck!

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