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Question DetailsAsked on 8/6/2013

how to remove foul odor in utility room.

Just moved in a ranch home with crawl space things seem to be alright with the exception of a small odor which may be consistent with a place not being lived in. But when I turn on the attic fan, a strong foul odor came from the utility room. I appears that maybe it could be coming from the furnace or hot water heater. I notified the owner, he had some guy spray, but odor persist. The smells of mildew and something deceased still persist. What type of provider would I contact to get to the bottom of this odor.Sign BAR....

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1 Answer


Could this be sewer smell coming up from a trap gone dry. Especially if the house sat vacant for a while, if the water in the trap dries out, then sewer gas will come up into the house. Take a bucket of water with some vinegar or bleach in it and fill the traps in the utility room to well overfull so it flushes the drain out good - in any wash tub, floor drain, drain pipe for the washing machine, etc. Unused drains (especially floor drains) will dry out enough to let sewer gases in after about 1-6 months without use, depending on humidity.

Also check washing machine and dryer, if there, for wet clothes left in it or smell - it can go stagnant if left unused for months. If washer is the problem, run a wash cycle with just an old towel or two with laundry deetergent, chlorine bleach and borax (pure borax, NOT boraxo soap). If dryer had wet clothes left in it, again with wet towel run a cycle with a scented anti-static strip.

Then turn on attic fan and see if smell persists. If not, that was probably your problem. If smell persists, with attic fan on smell around furnace and hot water heater to see if smell is coming from there. Also check under any laundry tub or such for a dead animal.

Otherwise, a handyman, rodent exterminator, or HVAC contractor (probably in increasing level of hourly cost) could all be solutions - none really fits the bill perfectly.

If the above did not sole the problem,, I suspect you have mold/mildew/dry rot in the utility room (advanced wet rot can smell like a dead animal), or dead or living animals in there. Could be water causing rot, could be animals nesting, or an animal that crawled into the nice warm water heater or furnace combustion chamber or ducting and then got killed but not hot enough to turn to carbon when it fired up.

What you need is a person (if you can't do this yourself) with fairly perceptive nose and a good bright flashlight to investigate the utility room and contained appliances.

Could be a 3 minute or one hour search, but between a strong light and nose should be able to find the cause.

As an aside, if the attic fan is pulling such a vacuum that it pulls air from the utility room into the house, you have a serious danger there. It sounds like the attic fan is easily pulling house air, which for energy conservation purposes it should not - look for air leaks, open or unsealed attic hatch, etc. The utility room should have a outside combustion air source - typically a round screened open vent or duct about 6-12 inches in diameter, unless each water heater and furnace has an independent sealed air intake duct from the outside. Lacking this outside air source, it will cause backdrafting of the units when they first fire up, which causes sooting and overheating of the unit, and can put carbon monoxide into the house.

Answered 7 years ago by LCD

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