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Strange Odors in Suburban Homes

omes in the suburbs can sometimes smell strange. The fresher and cleaner air makes odors that don’t exactly fit stand out. Most of these odors are harmless, but there are a few that can be outright dangerous.

Sewer Smells

If you live in Salt Lake City, Ogden, West Valley City, or any place near the Great Salt Lake, sulfides from the lake can waft their way into your home and make it smell like rotten eggs. While hydrogen sulfide can be dangerous at high concentrations, the wind-borne odors from the Great Salt lake contain just enough of the substance to make it detectable and not nearly enough to make it dangerous. Expect “Lake Stink” to enter your house at least 2-3 times a year. If you don’t have proper ventilation, the odors can persist for a couple of hours.

The smell of sulfides can be quite similar to mercaptan, an additive used in gas lines. If you smell rotten eggs and the wind isn’t blowing, it might be a sign of a gas leak in your house. If the sewer smells are concentrated in the yard, then it might be time to get your septic tank cleaned. Suburban homes are more likely to have individual septic tanks than homes in big urban centers. A full septic tank can cause your toilets to back up and overflow, causing more permanent sewer smells.

Acrid Sweetness

Suburban homes are more likely to have unwanted animal residents. Mice and squirrel can make their way into homes and bats in the attic can be quite common. When one of these critters gets trapped inside a wall or under the floorboards and dies there, it produces an overwhelming sweetness due to rotting. It can take 2-3 weeks before the (literal) sweet scent of death dissipates.

Most of the time, it’s better to just let the carcass rot and just use odor-neutralizers or air fresheners to mask the scent. Cutting through drywall or floorboards can be costly, especially if you don’t know exactly where to look. Some exterminators have thermal imaging equipment that can detect mice or ether critters in walls or under floorboards, allowing more precise extractions and limiting damage.

Even if you know the precise location of the carcass, it might be dangerous to get rid of it yourself. Vermin can harbor deadly diseases like hantavirus, tularemia, and leptospirosis. It’s better to go with professionals if you don’t have the necessary training to dispose of dead rodents.

Earthy Odors

Utah has a healthy senior population. Utah seniors are the healthiest, most mobile, and happiest seniors in the US. With the abundance of old folks, the old house smell should be expected. Unfortunately, that ”old house” smell doesn’t come from the people living there — it comes from mold. While the dry air of Utah limits the growth of mold, moisture can come from other sources.

Old homes can have undetected leaks and improperly maintained HVAC systems can cause moisture to accumulate. Mold treatment can only be done in the earliest stages. Left unchecked, mold damage can require extensive repair and renovations. Chronic exposure to molds can cause respiratory problems and allergic reactions, so make sure to deal with mold problems as soon as possible.

Dirty Dog Smell

Every dog owner knows the smell of a dirty wet dog. However, if you keep your dogs outside or you don’t even own a dog — that wet dog smell can be a sign of other animals living in your home. Unwanted animal visitors are more common during winter. Squirrels and raccoon can make their way into your attic, using it as a warm winter lodge.

A persistent wet dog smell can also be a sign of a rat infestation. Rats can grow to hundreds in just a few months, and their bites and feces can harbor a multitude of diseases. Poison and traps might not be enough, so don’t hesitate to call exterminators once you confirm the problem.


While coriander smells are fine in the kitchen, smelling them in the bedroom can be a nightmare. Bedbug sweat and pheromones have a coriander-like odor. Smelling them in the bedroom means you have a full-on infestation in your hands. Bed bugs are hitchhikers and any kind of travel can expose you to them.

Unless you strip your clothes at the door and wash them in hot water immediately — and make everyone do so as well — you’re bound to have bedbugs sooner or later. The usual insecticide or pesticide won’t work on bed bugs, and changing your mattress probably won’t solve the problem. Bed bug infestations require chemical or heat treatment done by pest control experts.

Don’t your suburban home stink. Purge nasty odors as soon as you smell them by going to the root of their causes and dealing with them efficiently.

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