How to Identify and Eliminate Dangerous Odors in your Home
Should you treat it like an emergency, or can you simply mask the odor or gas with candles, potpourri, and an open window?
Knowing which odors are dangerous and which are merely annoying is an important part of having a safe home. Let’s look at some of the most common dangerous odors in the home and explore their risks, causes, and what you can do to keep your house safe.
Septic GasesSeptic gas and sewer gas create a highly unpleasant smell, but they also create a health hazard. Not only will you have to smell the annoying sewer odors, you and your family could be subjected to the risk of chemical poisoning. These gases can come through your home’s drain pipe or through a sceptic system and cause significant problems that are both unhealthy and scary.
In smaller doses, you or a family member could have irritated eyes and nasal passages. When concentrations of gases build, you could be subject to asphyxiation and even death. Sewer or septic odors could even cause an explosion in the house if there is a high enough concentration. Poisoning from hydrogen sulfide could occur, and methane, which can make it difficult to breathe, could also seep into your home. If you are exposed to methane, you could have a dizzy or nauseous feeling, and losing consciousness is also a possibility.
Identifying Septic SmellsThe most noticeable feature of septic leaks and sewer gas is the rotten egg smell, which comes from the hydrogen sulfide. This smell is an instant warning sign that you have a problem. Septic can also seep ammonia, which has an intense impact on your eyes and nose.
If you notice either of these reactions in your family or yourself, along with a sewer-gas smell, it’s likely time to call a plumber for an advanced diagnosis of your piping or septic system.
How to Eliminate Septic LeaksWhen you call a plumber, they will check to see if the drains in your home have become clogged, which is a common source of septic smells. Sewer gases can also come from cracks in the drain line or piping vents, so the plumber will need to check these areas as well.
It is also possible for poorly-installed or misplaced vents to cause a leak in the system. In this case, the plumber will likely need to make changes to the pipe system so there is proper venting and flow of odors, which will reduce the chances of sewer gas in the home. It’s also possible for cracks in your home’s foundation to cause issues. If this is the case, you may have to overhaul the foundation or seal it properly.
Preventing Future Septic LeaksThere is a lot you can do to ensure that your septic system runs properly for years. Preventative measures include routine pumping of the system, consistent water use (as opposed to using lots of water in one day), and make sure that harmful material is not flushed or dropped down the drains. This includes cigarette butts, paper towels, bandages, and coffee grounds. Don’t use specific chemicals and rinse off heavily-soiled clothing before placing it on the laundry. With these tips, you’ll maintain a better septic system and avoid future problems.
Sulfur DioxideSulfur dioxide comes from many sources, but the largest source is the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and industrial applications. Mining, volcanoes, locomotives, ships, and heavy equipment also contribute to outdoor concentrations of air containing sulfur dioxide. It can be very toxic and can cause death at high concentrations, and it is known to cause life-threatening fluid to build in the lungs.
Someone who has been exposed to this chemical could experience coughing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, and difficulty breathing. While some chemicals have a significant effect only after prolonged exposure, sulfur dioxide can cause lifelong conditions, including asthma. The gas is so severe that is can irritate and even burn the skin, and permanent scarring is possible.
Identifying Sulfur DioxideSulfur dioxide is considered an outdoor odor, but if you live in high-industry or heavy-traffic areas, you may be exposed to sulfur dioxide in the home. Unfortunately, sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas, so detecting high concentrations in your home can be difficult. However, it does have a pungent odor that can help with identification.
How to Eliminate Sulfur DioxideEliminating sulfur dioxide can be difficult, as you have little control over the conditions of outdoor air. However, if sulfur dioxide is a problem in your area, you should make efforts to maintain clean air in your home.
If levels are expected to be high, keep windows closed to prevent the chemical from coming inside. You could also use an air purifier to remove many of the harmful chemicals from the interior of your home. An air purifier with activated carbon and a HEPA filter could help remove many harmful outdoor chemicals, including sulfur dioxide.
Preventing Sulfur DioxideConsistent practice of general clean-air measures will help you avoid, or at least reduce, the harms of sulfur dioxide gas. Having air purifiers and plants in the home can be beneficial, and when levels are high, be sure to close the windows to keep sulfur dioxide from entering your home.
Natural Gas LeaksWhen natural gas is safely trapped in a pipe and used in the right fashion, it presents almost no risk to you and your family. However, if the gas is allowed to escape, it can become a significant risk. Natural gas is used for many reasons, including cooking and heating of the home, but when it escapes without being burned, it creates a significant risk for fires and explosions. If gas is leaking into the home and a flame or spark is lit, it can lead to a fire or explosion.
Identifying Natural Gas LeaksIn its natural state, the gas we burn in our homes is actually odorless, which makes it particularly dangerous because we have almost no way of detecting it. For this reason, a small amount of mercaptan, which has the smell of rotten eggs, is added to natural gas. This makes even small leaks easy to detect by the human nose. If your home is powered by gas and you have a leak, you may notice a strong and unpleasant smell.
How to Eliminate Natural Gas LeaksAlthough they are rare, natural gas leaks from pipes can occur. If you smell natural gas (or rather, the additive) do not attempt to locate the leak and fix it yourself. This is a highly dangerous repair that should be completed only by a trained professional.
Do not turn electrical appliances off or on, and do not ignite any flames. Instead, leave the house and, from a safe distance, use your phone to call 911. Yes, gas leaks are an emergency, so treat it like one. If you don’t have your phone, use a neighbor’s. The emergency personnel will be able to properly identify and fix the problem in a safe manner.
How to Prevent Natural Gas LeaksIf you use natural gas in the home, nothing can completely prevent leaks. However, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk. A home energy audit will likely be able to find any small gas leaks that you may not notice (which will likely become bigger leaks if left alone), allowing you to stop the problem before it becomes bigger. Home energy audits can likely find places where leaks may occur in the future, creating a safer environment in your house.
MoldAlthough it’s a natural part of the environment, mold is not something you want in your home. Mold spores can make their way into your home and grow into colonies, usually in dark, damp locations where it has a food source. Unfortunately, mold is extremely resourceful and can make a living off of materials such as the paper on sheet rock or the natural nutrients in wood.
Mold spores are all around us, but if they grow in large concentrations in our home, they can be potentially dangerous to our lung health. People with COPD and asthma are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of mold, while some people may not be affected by the fungus at all. Mold can cause a wide variety of issues, including nasal stiffness, throat irritation, coughing, and irritated eyes.
Identifying MoldUnlike other harmful odors in the home, you can both see as well as smell mold. Most mold in the home will have a faint musty smell. It usually smells like rotting vegetables, but the smell will depend on both the type of mold and the food source.
If you smell mold but you can’t see it, you’ll likely need to do some searching, starting in dark, damp places, especially the basement. Areas of the bathroom with little light, such as behind sinks and toilets, can also hold mold. If you still can’t find it, a home inspection professional should be able to locate the source of the smell.
How to Eliminate MoldFortunately, eliminating mold is fairly easy, inexpensive, and can be accomplished without professional services. However, it will take time and effort. Most molds can be cleaned with household products, including diluted bleach, vinegar, or even soapy water.
Most of the time you can simply scrub the mold with one of these household products and clean it away to remove the mold. Depending on the location and the severity of the mold, you may need to replace household materials. Carpet, for example, can be cleaned of mold, but it will likely be easier and more effective to have your carpet replaced.
How to Prevent MoldMold prevention is not very complicated, but, like cleaning, it does take some effort and energy. To prevent mold from growing in the home, the best plan is to reduce the places where mold can grow, which usually means eliminating dampness and moisture.
Leaky pipes in the basement, for example, are common places where mold can grow. The fungus can also grow behind sinks and toilets, so constantly dry these areas. Make sure there is good airflow throughout the home and consider using a dehumidifier. You could also consider using an air purifier with UV technology, which will destroy mold spores and reduce the chances of future mold growth.
SmokeThe smell of smoke in your home creates an immediate danger. As the saying goes, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” so if you smell smoke in the home and see a large amount of smoke as well, you’ll likely want to vacate the area as quickly as possible. While smoke in a home can present many dangers, including asphyxiation and lung damage, there could also be a fire, which means dangerous heat and damage to the home.
Identifying SmokeMost of the time, you’ll know smoke when you smell it. However, not all smoky smells are a sign that the house is burning. If the smoke has a slightly fishy smell to it, you could have burning electrical implements. Electrical wires and manufactured components emit a fish odor when exposed to heat, so if you smell smoke with a fishy odor, look at your outlets for signs of damage and call a trained electrician. Do not try to fix electrical equipment yourself.
How to Eliminate SmokeIf you have smoke in the home, you need to take action to eliminate it right away, which often means professional help. If the smoke is cause by a house fire, leave immediately and call 911 from a safe location. However, if the problem is not an immediate danger, you can call professional services, such as an electrician or contractor, to prevent further damage.
How to Prevent SmokeThis is probably the most complicated of all the prevention steps because we’re talking about so many different possible sources. However, you can reduce the chances of household fires and smoke by taking the right safety precautions. If we’re talking about burning electrical components, the best choice is to have all your electrical components updated by an electrician. Old electrical components create the risk of fire and smoke in the home, as well as the fishy odor we discussed above.
If the smoke smell is coming from outdoors, keep windows closed and use natural scents to mask the odor. An air purifier for eliminating smoke can also help reduce the odor and the harmful health effects of smoke.
Also, after the smoke has cleared there is still the hazard of breathing in third-hand smoke. That is, smoke gases and particles can still be breathed in from furniture and carpeting.
Can a Whole-House Fan Help with Dangerous Odors?A whole-house ceiling fan is a way to increase ventilation in the home, which has many positive effects, including home comfort and air quality. Whether or not a whole-house fan can help with dangerous odors largely depends on the source of the odor itself.
Whole-house fans are essentially fans placed in the home’s ceiling between the living space and the attic. With vents above and below, a whole-house fan cycles air through the home, creating a comfortable space with a slight breeze, which is beneficial during hot summer months.
If the source of the dangerous odor is coming from inside, the whole-house fan may be able to mitigate its effects. For example, if you have a natural gas leak, the gas will be pulled through the home and allowed to escape, meaning it has less chance of building into a high concentration that could cause an explosion.
However, if the source of dangerous odors is coming from the outside, such as sulfur dioxide from local industry, using a whole-house could make the problem worse. To operate a whole-house fan, you need vents that allow air to flow inward. These vents will not only draw in outside oxygen, but any contaminants in the air, which could include smoke, exhaust pollution, and sulfur dioxide.
Whether the source is coming from the inside or outside, a whole-house fan should not be considered a solution to dangerous odors in the home.
Air Purifiers for Removing SmellsOne of the best ways to reduce odors in the home is to use an air purifier with a good carbon filter. This is a better choice than ozone generators. Oransi air purifiers use the most advanced technology to trap even the smallest particles, allowing you to have a home with less odor and less air pollutants.
mod HEPA Air PurifierThis is an excellent air purifier for anyone that wants to have a small, quiet, and convenient machine for their home. The mod HEPA purifier has a powerful and efficient motor combined with a real HEPA filter, meaning you get superior performance from a top-quality machine. With enough strength to effectively clean large rooms up to 1,250 square feet. This is a purifier you can count on.
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From the smell of rotten eggs to a moldy scent in the basement, we have the right equipment to reduce dangerous odors in the home.