Neglected Trap Permeating Foul Odors in Your House?

PROBLEM #7: How to diagnose foul odors, and their source.

If you have an offensive smell emanating from somewhere in your house, you have a PROBLEM.


Investigate to find a Solution

Man with a gas mask in a house

What does the smell actually smell like? Does it smell like  sewage or like something died? As much as this may be uncomfortable, you have to try to find the room or area where the smell is originating. I’ve seen dead animals in a fireplace flu, dead mice in a wall vent, standing water in a shower, dirty socks, and wet towels. There are many possible sources of foul odors. Start by a thorough cleaning. If that doesn’t eliminate the odor, then take a flashlight and take look in wall vents, fireplace flues, and closets. This can be scary – you never know what you might find.

Quick story from my house . . .

If you have a dead animal stuck somewhere, you may have what seems like unending streams of flies in your house. I’ve experienced this first hand – trust me – it’s frustrating – “Where are these flies coming from?” My wife and I were constantly killing flies. We even bought an aerosol spray to use in the affected room. It was intended to kill flying pests. I sprayed all through the room, and we left for a few hours, and when we came back – hundreds of dead flies on the floor. We ended up having two dead squirrels stuck to each other in the fireplace flu (who knows what they were doing when they died – I couldn’t tell). – yuck.

Back to the Investigation

Once you’ve eliminated many of these possible sources, check to see if the odor remains. If it does, I have one simple question for you. Does the room with the odor have a sink, tub, or shower in it?

There is one simple cause of odors that seems to almost always, especially in my house, be forgotten. It is the trap on the drain of either the sink, tub, or shower. The purpose of a trap is to “trap” sewer gases from escaping out into your living space. See the diagram below. The problem is, if you don’t often use that particular sink, tub, or God forbid, shower (seriously? – you don’t shower?), the water that is supposed to be in the trap evaporates and allows the sewer gases to escape. The solution is to simply run water into the drain every couple of days. Or if you know you don’t or can’t do that, you can put a cover over the drain to keep the sewer gases from escaping.

Diagram of trap in a plumbing system


No ones likes to have their house smelling like an outhouse. Let me know if you found other sources of foul-smelling odors that you have had to deal with – your spouse’s after-dinner gas doesn’t count.


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