Stinky house? Then this classic rock lyric hits you where you live: Ooh, that smell, can’t you smell that smell? Many of us wrestle with unpleasant household odors at one time or another from pets, smoking, cooking and more. We combat them with scented candles, spray cleaners, air freshener, dryer sheets and fans. While these methods clear the air temporarily or mask the odor, identifying and treating the source is the best long-term solution. Snuffle your way through our list below to clear the air.
Musty or wet cardboard: Also known as old house smell, this scent usually indicates hidden mold. Don’t panic: nearly all of our planet’s 200,000 species of mold aren’t dangerous to humans and small patches can be safely removed by homeowners with a diluted bleach solution. Look for leaky plumbing, clogged gutters and areas of poor ventilation. Make sure A/C is properly tuned: high humidity can worsen the stink.
Undefinable yuck: Aging carpets, walls and furnishings often harbor odors from pet stains, a lifetime of food spills, smoking and more. If replacement or repainting aren’t possible, white vinegar, baking soda or professional cleaning can help. Another nose offender: a foul-smelling dishwasher or washing machine. Clean appliances traps, filters and seals, then run a cycle with vinegar (dishwasher) or bleach (washing machine).
Sewer gas: Have a bathroom you don’t use very often? The trap underneath the sink, shower or bathtub may have evaporated, leaving an open pipe for sewer gas to flow into your home. The solution is simple: flush toilets or briefly run faucets at least every two weeks.
Sudden, nauseating and offensive: The exact smell of a dead critter is hard to describe, but once you’ve encountered it, your nose remembers forever. Experts advise searching the attic, chimney, under the house and in walls. Worried that it expired in the ductwork? That hardly ever happens - the ductwork just spreads the odor.
Fishy: Overheated electrical components smell particularly fishy. If you haven’t been frying up fish, check outlets and lights for heat and smoke. Call Service America immediately for prompt electrical service if you find melted, hot, smoking or overheated fixtures.
Garbage: Either the garbage needs to go out or stored room-temperature food is rotting. Potatoes and onions – frequent culprits because they are stored for long periods – are particularly funky and their scent spreads quickly throughout the house.
Sulfur: If you smell sulfur, your water heater probably needs maintenance. Depending on water quality and mineral content, a different sacrificial anode – the metal rod inside the tank that’s designed to rust – resolves the sulfurous stench. Or it may be time for a replacement. Service America SAM-brand water heaters carry a 10-year warranty for parts and labor, too.
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