Sewer Gas Smell

Sewer Gas Smell In Your Home? Follow These Tips to Remove or Eliminate Sewer Gas Odor

A very bad smell in your house is usually a sign that something has gone terribly wrong. Before you think about putting your house up for sale because you can’t stand the smell, read this.

If you are smelling something that you think may be a sewer gas smell, the first order of business is to make sure it’s not natural gas (the flammable explosive fuel that’s piped into some homes for hot water, heating and/or cooking). Even if you have gas appliances, natural gas should never smelled inside your house, and if it is, something is dangerously wrong and you must take immediate action.

Natural gas (methane) is invisible and odorless, so chemicals are added to give the gas a distinctive odor, a very strong and unpleasant smell similar to skunk and garlic smells. Sewer gas usually smells of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulfide) or sewage. Sewer gas will often be strongest near one or more of your toilets or drains, while natural gas will seem non-localized. Sewer gas, while unpleasant represents an extremely low risk due of toxicity, fire or explosion while natural gas is a major hazard.

Before we describe what to do if you smell sewer gas, if you feel the smell may be natural gas, please take the following precautions:

  • Call the gas company and the first department: Your energy provider (in the Philadelphia area it’s PECO) has 24 hour emergency response teams in case homes have gas leaks. They will probe your house with a device that will pick up PPM quantities of natural gas.
  • Do not light fires, matches or cigarettes: Sound advice as any spark will cause combustion
  • Do not operate electrical appliances: Most electrical appliances will light with a sparking mechanism so using them should be avoided.
  • Leave your home immediately: If there is a natural gas leak, all of the inhabitants in the house are at risk from fire and from asphyxiation. When in doubt, get out!

So you have analyzed the smells and found that it is indeed sewer gas you are smelling. What you are smelling is gas that is created as a by-product of the decay of human waste and comes from your plumbing’s waste handling systems or a septic system. If you can smell sewer gas, something is wrong somewhere in your plumbing system. But, what should you do?

Tip 1: Ventilate Your House

Sewer gas smells. If you have ever smelled it, you know that sentence speaks the truth. It won’t kill you but it can be nauseating. If you can’t stand the smell, open doors and windows near the source. If the smell is strong or persistent, you can set up fans to blow air out a door or window.

Tip 2: Diagnose the Problem

If you have a septic system and the smell is strongest in a particular place in your yard, there’s a good chance that your septic system is malfunctioning. There aren’t any do-it-yourself possibilities here unless you have a backhoe and some friends who don’t mind crawling around in your waste – contact your favorite septic service contractor or local plumber.

Tip 3: Check the Traps

Each drain, whether from a toilet or not, uses a device called a trap to always maintain a barrier of water between sewer gas and the inside of your house. One common cause of sewer gas smells in the home is a trap which no longer has water in it. This can happen in very hot weather or in a drain that is very infrequently used. If you identify a likely culprit, try running some water down the drain and you just might solve the problem.

Tip 4: Check the Vent Stack

There’s a chance that the problem is being caused by a problem with your vent stack. If you have never heard the term, the vent stack is the perpendicular pipe that runs up from your outgoing sewer lines to provide a source of air into the system. If air can’t be drawn into the pluming system a vacuum can develop which will pull the water out of a trap, removing the barrier to sewer gas. You may be able to discover and remove an obstruction up on the roof (be careful). And that might solve your problem.

Tip 5: Snake and Plunge

A clogged or obstructed drain could also be causing the problem. Dedicated do-it-yourself ers can try plunging or snaking. If you are still not successful, then the problem is probably not of the fix-it-yourself variety.

Tip 6: Call a Pro

There’s a good chance that you’ve got a broken sewer line, it’s definitely a job for the Calgary Plumbing professionals, or depending on the locality and where the break is, the agents of the local municipality.


Whatever the cause of the sewer gas smell, the sooner it’s solved the better. Due to one of those odd characteristics of human physiology, the smell of hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs) becomes undetectable over time, so don’t assume there’s no more problem if you stop smelling the sewer gas. And waiting until your next dinner party to hear your friends complaining about the smell is never a good idea. While smelling sewer gas is sometimes a sign of a serious problem, in other cases the problem is minor and easily solved. In either case, the more you understand your plumbing the better off you’ll be. It’s just pipes and water!

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