6 causes and cures.
Here’s a scenario: you walk through the front door after a long day and your house smells like rotten eggs. The Rolodex of all your recent activity starts flipping in your mind: Did you leave something rotting in the fridge?
Was the gas stove left burning? Has an animal had an untimely death in the floorboards of your kitchen?
All perfectly sane questions, considering the range of consequences possible. When you smell the dreaded rotten-egg-sulfur-odor wafting around your house, caution is king. And we’ll just say this now: If there’s even the slightest chance that you could have a gas leak, leave your home and call your utility company or the fire department right away.
Let’s break this sulfury, nasal punishment down in more detail. We’ve got 6 odory culprits and their fixes:
While gas is odorless, what you might be smelling is mercaptan, a chemical that gas companies inject manually so that you can detect when there’s a problem. This is a moment where over-caution is key. Get out of your house and leave it to the professionals.
Once you’ve ruled this issue out completely, proceed to our next remedies.
Thankfully, the fix is often easy. To isolate the problem, use your nose. Wherever you’re smelling the rotten egg scent the strongest is the place to start. Simply run the water in the sink or the tub for ten minutes to let that p trap get some water in it. That’ll block the sewer gas from getting inside again. If the problem persists, call your plumber.
To confirm that your problem is, in fact, hydrogen sulfide, shut off the water in your home for six hours to allow the gas to build up, then fill your sink up with several inches of cold water. If the scent is strong, you’ve probably found the culprit.
To know for sure, send a sample of your water to your local extension office. Request a testing kit from them at a minimal cost, and have your water analyzed by their experts. If tests come back positive for hydrogen sulfide, they may send instructions on how to get the issue resolved. Usually, they’ll recommend a type of hypochlorite, which treats the water with chlorine and reduces the production of hydrogen sulfide.
This may be a process you have to repeat every six or so months, so you can also consider installing a carbon filter on your drinking faucets or having a plumber install a reverse osmosis unit under your sink to remove the odor.
Thankfully, the fix is pretty easy. Throw out the gross food (and promptly take out the trash), then take any surrounding food out of the fridge so you can treat the affected area. We recommend using a Multi-Purpose Cleaner so that you can easily wipe away the mess while also killing germs.
If somehow you’re still smelling remnants of your unintended science experiment, use an air freshener with a light odor—nothing too perfumey that’ll just smell weird in your kitchen. Febreze LIGHT Air is a solid solve that cleans away odors without heavy perfumes.
Experts recommend checking the copper coils in your fridge and air conditioning units. If you’re noticing black ash, it’s likely the result of corrosion caused by off-gassing. The only real fix here is to replace your drywall, which is a major bummer. Check your homeowner’s policy to see if you can offset some of the costs.
From gas leaks to off-gassing drywall (seriously?!), the rotten egg smell in your house is usually a sign of trouble somewhere. So just remember, the person who first smells a rotten egg in their home and acts quickly and accordingly, is, in fact, not a rotten egg. And that is at least an encouraging irony.