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Question DetailsAsked on 1/28/2015

How do I figure out the odd/nasty smell in my house? Who do I call to fix it?

We started noticing a rotten egg like smell about a month ago, and then a very foul smell a few days after the rotten egg smell.
Called gas company - no leaks found, all was good.
Noticed a foul smell coming from the washer (almost like sewage) and a different smell from the dryer (kind of like rotten eggs).
Cleaned both the washer and dryer completely, smell seemed to have gone away from the dryer - but didn't help the washer. I actually smelled near the drain in the wash-bin and that is where the awful smell was coming from.

We get the rotten egg smell when the heat is on, but it doesn't smell all the time, it's only periodic.

Should we have our ducts cleaned? Sewer pumped? I'm not sure what we need to do or who we need to call, please help!

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3 Answers


OK - natural gas smell probably out - and it does have a different small than rotten eggs. If you don't know what it smells like, call customer service at your utility - they will usually mail you out a scratch-n-sniff card so everyone in your family can learn what it smells like.

Rotten egg smell is usually hydrogen sulfide gas, which is a gas created by sewage biodegardation, and usually originates from the main sewer or septic tank, not within the house.

You say you smelled it "near the drain in the wash-bin" - that is probably diagnostic. Two likely possibilities -

1) First, a floor drain near or under the washer/dryer that has gone dry over the years, so sewer gases are coming up through it - will commonly tend to do so more when heat is on as furnace pulls air into the furnace from wherever there are openings - and that is one. Simple solution - pour about a gallon of water down there with some baking soda and a bit of liquid dishwashing soap in it to fill the trap under the floordrain and mitigage the odor in the trap.

2) Second possibility - a backup getting started, so sewage is starting to come up into traps. Usually starting with washer emptying, and then as blockage gets worse progressing to occurring with tub emptying, showering, toilet flushing, then eventually backup occurring from the lowest elevation drain. Commonly preceded by gurgling in the lowest level drain as the water goes into the drain pipe and displaces the air in there as it backs up because of the blockage. As soon as the backed up water reaches the vent point in the system the gas can no longer vent through the vent pipe to the roof, so it starts pushing sewer gas up through commonly the lowest elevation drain - though occasionally a higher one with a much shallower trap. The gas coming up through the water in the trap causes gugling, and you get "shots" of noxious gas (and soap suds if dishwasher emptying on first rinse is causing it) every time this happens. As the blockage gets worse (or becomes essentially totally blocked), the raw drainage water/sewage starts coming up out of the lowest elevation drain(s).

Overfull septic tank or blocked leach field can also cause this, if you are on septic - so if septic tank has not been emptied and leach field checked within last couple of years for larger family, last 5 or so years for small family, might be worth checking that.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


Thank you for the response! So, we tried the Baking soda, water, soap thing and it hasn't seemed to have helped. Any suggestions on what kind of company to call and check out further stuff for us??

Answered 5 years ago by Kathieap


Because it is periodic, not continual, you could spend a lot of money tying down where it is by using a pro, who really cannot sniff out the source any better than you can.

My recommendation - as that appears to be the area where it is coming from, disconnect and pull out the washer and dryer and check around that area for a water leak under the washer or atthe faucets, or discharge hose not fully in drain so water is partly going down into the wall. Could be what you are smelling is mold and rotting wood, though with rotten egg smell that is less likely. Also check for a floor drain that the smell could be coming from. Look also for any sewer pipe cleanout plug that could be leaking.

If you have a floor drain there and flushing/filling it did not stop the issue, it is likely you are starting to have a backup in the sewer pipes - just partial at this time - especially if the washer is on the bottom floor (ground floor if slab on grade or if your sewer pipes are in the ground floor joists and do not go down to any usage point in the basement or crawl space, otherwise in basement if there are any drains/sinks/tubs/showers there.

Commonly when you start having a backup, the first thing you notice is sewer gas coming out of the lowest level drain (floor drain if you have it, otherwise lowest elevation trap at a fixture or laundry drain), commonly starting when the washer is running or tub is emptying (large volume of water emptying rapidly) as the water backs up in the sewer pipe at the partial blockage, filling the sewer pipes and forcing the air in them back up into the system. Once the backed up water reaches past the intersection with the sewer vent (which goes up through your roof) the gases can't escape that way any more, so it starts forcing the gas out the lowest elevation trap - commonly causing a gurgling sound as it bubbles through the water in the trap. That is a sure sign it is time to get the sewer pipes cleaned ASAP (unless it is caused by a septic tank/leach field backup).

If you have a septic tank and it has not been pumped within around the last 2-4 years with a 4 or more person family, or 4-7 or so years with 1-2 residents (variable by leach field, tank size, and soil conditions, of course), then that could be causing a backup in the sewer pipes even without a pipe blockage. Contractor for that, of course, is Septic Pumping contractor, to pump out and inspect the tank and entry to the leach field pipes.

If the sewer pipes have not been routed out in the past 5-15 years, depending on how much hot water your put down the drain (long hot showers and hot washer loads are good for cleaning pipe) and how much grease and garbage disposal debris goes down it (they are bad), then it might be a good idea to get the pipes routed out by a Sewer and Drain contractor, who can also help you with tracking the smell if you cannot do it yourself. If you get the pipes cleaned, I emphatically recommend that they be full-diameter routed with a scraper, not just snaked, because the pipe diameter gets reduced by the accumulated soap scum/fiber/grease over time, and only full-diameter scraping (or pressure jetting, if done slowly and with proper equipment so it cuts buildup off the entire inside diameter) can restore the pipe to its full diameter. Scraping has the advantage that it also cuts away any roots, and a good operator can usually detect if there are significant breaks in the pipe or joint offsets.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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