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9 Dangerous House Smells You Should Never Ignore

 As hard as it is to believe sometimes, humans used to be a nature dwelling species, relying on their hunting skills to survive, just like other animals. We did retain some of those age-old instincts as a species, like our sense of smell for example. If something doesn’t smell right to you, there is probably a good reason, and you should trust that primal instinct.

If you sense a strange or unusual smell in your home, taking swift action can prevent a disaster sometimes. These are noteworthy home odors that every homeowner should be on high alert for, what they could mean, and how to solve the problem.

1. Smell of gas

Potentially Dangerous House Odors, gas

Gas is naturally odorless, so in order to make it detectable, the chemical mercaptan is added which creates the skunk-like odor we associate with gas. The fact that you can smell gas when you shouldn’t is a sure-fire sign you might have a gas leak somewhere. Gas is explosive and highly toxic; in fact, enough gas in the air could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

If you smell gas leave your home immediately and contact the gas company through a mobile phone, or a neighbor’s phone. Avoid using your own landline, turning on appliances, lights, or starting your car. This could cause a spark and may ignite a gas explosion. 

2. Musty smell

Potentially Dangerous House Odors, leaking faucet

A strong musty smell is usually a sign of a sink leak or a damaged pipe that has given rise to mold, which loves to grow in damp, dark spots. Mold holds danger especially to those suffering from asthma or severe allergies. Inhaling mold spores could potentially lead to lung infections and other health issues. 

It is important to find the source of condensation. If it is a non-porous surface like tiles, disinfect with 10 percent bleach and water solution and let sit for ten minutes while ventilating. For porous surfaces like drywall, it’s best to replace them. If you’ve looked everywhere and can’t see the mold, it may be in the walls. In this case, you can contact your local health care department or a home inspector.

Related: 12 Home Maintenance Mistakes I Regret Not Knowing Earlier

3. Smoke-like smell

Potentially Dangerous House Odors, smoke
The smell of smoke is an obvious cause for concern, but experts claim even a small occasional whiff can indicate a big problem. Take note if you smell it when you use a particular electrical appliance or light switch - it could be an electrical spark behind the wall, which could lead to a fire in your home. If you detect a smell of smoke, call the fire department or an electrician right away. 

4. Foul bathroom odor

Potentially Dangerous House Odors, bathroom

If you start smelling excessive sewage odors coming from your bathroom, you might have a leak of sewer gas or sewerage buildup in your plumbing. A leak of sewer gas is dangerous as it contains toxic and potentially explosive components like hydrogen sulfide and methane, which could cause an array of problems from eye-irritation to loss of consciousness. The most common reason for this is a rarely used bathroom. If you have a guest toilet, for example, the water in the system may have dried up, allowing putrid gasses to pass through.

To fix the problem, simply pour a glass of water into the bathroom drain, says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors. To stop the water from evaporating again, you can add a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Alternatively, you could have an issue with sewage drainage, or clogging, in which case it is best to call a plumber.

Related: 7 DIY Ways to Make Your House Smell Better

5. Fishy smell

Potentially Dangerous House Odors, fishy

If you sense a fishy odor in your home but don’t remember cooking any seafood recently, it might mean that a certain electrical fixture, likely an appliance, in your home is overheating. The fishy smell comes from the melting plastic, rubber, or another material found around the afflicted appliance. 

Try to identify where the smell is coming from. If it’s indeed an appliance, you can consult an expert to decide if it’s fixable or needs to be thrown out. If the smell comes from an outlet or a switch, it’s best to call an electrician. 

6. The smell of a wet or dirty dog

Potentially Dangerous House Odors, dog

If you notice a raunchy smell that reminds you of a wet dog, but you don’t own a dog, it’s a cause for concern. After all, nothing smells like our favorite furry friends than other furry creatures. Wet-dog smell could mean you have rodents, squirrels, or raccoons in your attic. 

These critters typically crawl through the drafters in your roof and leave their droppings all around, which could pose major health risks according to the CDC. If you find feces in your attic, contact pest control to ensure safe removal.

Related: Rodent Alert: Ways You May Be Inviting Mice into Your Home

7. Smell of old cigarettes

Potentially Dangerous House Odors, old cigarettes

You’re probably well-aware of first and second-hand smoke and the terrible effect they have on our health. Newly emerging concerns point out the dangers of third-hand smoke, too. Third-hand smoke is tobacco particles which settled onto surfaces such as furniture, carpets, curtains, linen, and clothing. If you sense a faint smell of cigarettes in a vacation rental or a new home, it might mean it was previously occupied by smokers. 

“We don’t know how significant thirdhand smoke exposure is, but kids are at greatest risk by rolling on the carpet, touching tables, then sticking their fingers in their mouths,” says  David Dyjack, executive director of the National Environmental Health Association. He recommends thoroughly cleaning the house if you suspect thirdhand smoke.

8. Sweaty locker-room smell

Potentially Dangerous House Odors, gym gear
A sweaty, locker-room kind of smell isn’t necessarily coming from your gym bag or laundry basket. In some cases, it could indicate a buildup of bacteria in your heating system. Condensation creates the perfect habitat for bacterial growth, especially in the spring and fall. If you have ruled out all the other possible culprits, you should probably call an HVAC expert or try and clean the system yourself with a proper cleaning product. 

9. Ammonia smell

Potentially Dangerous House Odors, cat in litterbox
A strong smell of ammonia can resemble that of cat urine. If you don’t own a cat and don’t use ammonia-based cleaning products, this unpleasant metallic smell is one you shouldn’t ignore. It could indicate a number of things. Many older appliances use ammonia as a coolant, so give those a sniff. The source could also be mold and even a critter that died in your walls. The latter is not necessarily dangerous but points to a pest problem you might need to tackle. 
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