Common Household Odors Explained

moldy drywall

Why Is There A Stale Smell In The House?

Have you ever returned home from a vacation and wrinkled your nose at the scent in your house? You convince yourself that it’s because your home has been closed up for several days. But if you’ve ever seen a Febreze commercial, you’ve heard that you can go “noseblind” to the regular smells in your home.

What’s worse than your house smelling bad is the fact that you don’t even notice it. Trust us; your friends do. They’re just too polite to say anything.

Learn why these odors happen and what you can do to make your friends stop talking about the stale smell in your house.

1. Your House Smells Musty

“It’s just an old house,” you say. That’s no excuse for stale odors. If your house smells musty, you probably have mold hiding out somewhere.

Mold releases volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, into the air. You’ve probably heard about those before. They’re often associated with chemicals, such as those found in paint or cleaning products. As mold grows, it undergoes a chemical reaction. The potentially toxic compounds in the mold vaporize at room temperature. That’s what causes the smell.

If you smell mold or mildew, you should try to pinpoint the source of the odor. Mold and mildew grow in areas that have moisture problems. This can occur if you have a leak in the roof, a pipe with condensation on it, or a humidity problem.

A pungent, musty odor can also come from rotting wood. If you have a termite problem or water damage, the beams that hold up your home might be compromised. This can cause a lingering scent that doesn’t seem to go away no matter how much you clean your house.

Why Does My House Smell Musty After a Vacation?

On a related note, another concern we hear about frequently from homeowners is that their house smells musty after coming home from a vacation. The explanation still might have something to do with mold or mildew, but it might not be as sinister.

If your house smells stale after some time away, you have to remember that your house has been sealed shut for as long as you've been away, which means there's no airflow from opening doors and windows. Chances are you've also turned your thermostat up so that your AC runs less frequently while you're away. While this saves money, it also means your indoor air isn't moving as much and there's less dehumidifying happening. The solution is simple: open some windows and turn on some fans to get some fresh air!

2. Your Walls Stink

Drywall is porous. That means that it absorbs the smell of the fish you cook for dinner once a week, the ammonia from your cat’s litter box, and the incense that you burn to mask the bad odors. Your walls pick up these smells over time. It’s like a reminder of everything you’ve ever done in your home.

Priming and painting can seal the odors and restore a fresh scent. But what if there’s something worse going on within your walls?

You probably don’t want to think about it, but it’s not uncommon for an animal to get stuck in your walls and die. When that happens, it starts to decompose, and the smell can be revolting. That’s because bacteria get to work once the animal dies. As the microbes break down the body, they release hundreds of compounds, such as methane and sulfur dioxide. That’s akin to having someone fart out a rotten egg in your home. It’s tough to ignore the putrid odor of death.

As long as there is moisture in the carcass, it will continue to emit a stench. If the animal’s body is trapped in a humid area, such as the walls in your basement or near a steam pipe, it might stay pungent for longer because the moisture allows the bacteria to thrive.

3. There's a Strong Urine Smell in Your House

If your house smells like urine, and you’ve taught your young sons to aim into the toilet, not around it, you might have a pest problem, a plumbing problem, or a mold problem.

Malfunctioning electrical wires might also cause a urine-like odor. If your electrical system is exposed to high heat, it can let off an odor that smells like fish or urine. Electrical issues can also cause a burnt-plastic odor.

4. Your House Smells Like Popcorn

You're not going to like the answer to this one, but you may want to get in touch with a pest control company to have your home checked for mice. Mouse pee can have an odor like popcorn or ammonia, but it takes a lot of mice to secrete so much urine that the average person can smell it. If you do, though, it's better to have your home inspected for your peace of mind.

5. You Notice a Pungent Oily Musk Odor

You're going to like this one even less. You probably have cockroaches.

Seeing one is bad enough. But did you know that if you have a severe infestation, you can smell them too?

Roaches emit a pheromone that attracts their friends to their nests and food sources. Experts describe this odor as an oily musk. It’s pungent, rancid, and can be a bit musty. Although you can only smell some species of roaches when they collect in large numbers, one German cockroach can let off a perceptible scent. It can even change the way that your food tastes.

Killing the cockroaches doesn’t necessarily get rid of the smell. These pests release oleic acid when they die. The stench that comes from this compound likely warns other insects not to come closer because the area might be dangerous for them. While the stench of dead cockroaches might keep the other creepy critters away, it can also make you and your friends want to steer clear of your home.

Need Help with a Smelly House? We Can Help.

It’s not uncommon for the technicians at Cut N Dry Restoration to find evidence of cockroaches, rodents, and other pests when we’re restoring homes. You might be surprised to know what’s going on behind your walls. Whether you have water damage, mold, or another situation, we can help you remediate the problem and sanitize your home so that it smells fresh instead of fetid.

To get to the bottom of that strange, lingering smell, call (909) 829-5002 to request service in the Rancho Cucamonga area.

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