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Why Your House Smells Like a Sewer

Why Your House Smells Like a Sewer

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sewer - Reasons Why Your House Smells Like a Sewer - plumber checking drain pipe

Unpleasant smells in your house are usually a sign that something is wrong. Therefore, if your house starts smelling like a sewer, it’s a clear sign that you have plumbing issues. This sewer smell is similar to that of rotten eggs means you may have a sewer gas leak that you need to address immediately.

If you have this sewer gas smell, you should not take it lightly. It can lead to severe health ailments, including headaches, dizziness, memory loss, nausea poisoning, and asphyxiation. Additionally, if the sewer gases are more severe, this could be considered a fire risk because they are made up of flammable compounds, such as ammonia and methane gas.

However, finding the source of this odor can be difficult. While most people assume that it could be coming from the toilet, it’s not always the case. The problem could be in your sink, shower or even washing machine.

If you suspect that you have a sewer gas leak, you need to first identify the cause and take steps to fix it. However, in most cases, you might need to call a professional to help you resolve the problem. In this article, we have compiled some of the reasons for the sewage smell in your home, how to troubleshoot and fix it. 

Reasons Why Your House Smells Like a Sewer

There are several reasons why the sewer order ceeps up into your home. Here are the common ones. 

1. Clogged Shower Drain

  • When we shower, we use different types of soap and shampoo products. All these products wash down the drain together with natural debris like hair and skin cells. 
  • Regular cleaning cna get rid of this residue; however, with time this can build up leading to clogs and slow drainage. 
  • This residue accumulation is known as biofilm. It becomes trapped on the pipes, P trap and sink drains that run underneath your shower. 
  • As the biofilm continues to build up, the bacteria starts releasing a sewage smell from the decomposing debris. With time, this bacteria buildup can also cause infection and illnesses. 
  • Additionally, the bacteria clings to the sides of the pipe and you have to use specialized products to remove it. After a while the sewage odor goes beyond the bathroom and spreads out to the entire house. 

2. Loose Toilet Wax Ring

  • When you smell sewage, the first place most people look is the toilet. If you have cleaned your toilet and used air freshener and the smile won’t still go away, you should check the toilet wax ring.
  • This wax ring is usually placed at the point where the toilet is attached to the ground. It seals the drain and keeps out the gases from the house. However, with time, the ring could wear down allowing sewer gas odor into the house. 

3. Broken or Loose Seal on Your Toilet

  • The other issue from your toilet could be a broken seal. If the anchor bolts were not properly attached the seal loosens or breaks making it possible for the sewer gases from human waste to sneak into your home. This toxic waste can spread a bad odor throughout your home.  

4. Cracked or Clogged Pipes

  • The irritating sewer smell in your house can also be due to clogged, eroded and cracked pipes. If you have an older home that has an outdated plumbing system, it’s common to have cracked or rotten pipes. Sewer gas may be leaking from the breaks in the damaged pipes.
  • Furthermore, these pipe issues could be coming from the sewer itself. This happens because of growing tree roots, grease or flushing items that should not be flushed like diapers and baby wipes. If you think the sewage odor is coming from the sewer line, it’s better to call a qualified plumber to confirm. 

5. Missing or Broken Clean Out Plugs

  • In the plumbing system, there are clean out plugs which separate the outdoor and indoor sewer networks. The role of the plugs is to block sewer gas from entering your house. Therefore, if any of these plugs breaks or is missing, the foul odor will come in. 

6. Dry P Trap

  • The other common cause of the sewer gas smell is a dry P Trap. P Traps are U-shaped PVC pipes placed under the bathroom and kitchen sinks. Due to their shape, they are meant to hold enough water to keep the sewer gas leaks from entering your home.
  • When they don’t have any water, gas can pass through much easier. P-traps also hold the water to prevent methane gas from entering your house. 

7. Damaged Roof Vent Pipes

  • Roof vent pipes are designed to ensure that the awful gases stay out of your home through the roof. In addition, they help regulate your plumbing system’s pressure. Vent pipes can develop problems if they experience corrosion, or are not properly cleaned.
  • If you don’t keep them clean, they can be damaged by animal nests, ice and leaves. Furthermore, if the vents are placed in the wrong places they become corroded and develop loose fittings, and ultimately trap in bad odor. 

8. Odor From the Washing Machine

  • If you notice that you have a sewer smell in your house, you should check the bathroom. The source could be the washing machine in your laundry room. Your washing machine will smell like sewage if the drains and vent pipes are clogged or you have improperly installed P-traps. 

9. Hydrogen Sulfide in Your Water

  • Hydrogen sulfide has an odor similar to rotten eggs. If your water has high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, your house will have a strong sulfur smell. 
  • This can be toxic if it’s in large amounts and make your water too foul to drink or bathe in comfortably; therefore, it’s best to contact a plumber. 
  • This problem is common in houses that have installed water softeners. This creates an ideal environment for the gas to spread throughout your house.

How To Eliminate Sewer Smell From Your House

sewer - How To Eliminate Sewer Smell From Your House - view of supports underneath house

To eliminate this foul smell from your house, there are several things you can do. Here are some tips.

Clean the drains

  • A lot of debris makes its way to your drain from hair to toys which clogs it. To avoid this, ensure that you regularly clean your drains by removing any debris. You can use a pipe waste cleaner to pull out all the debris inside. Repeat this process a few times to ensure that the drain is clear. Afterwards, you can flush boiling water down the drain. 


Keep the water in the traps

  • Identify the locations of all your trapa and ensure that they have the correct water level at all times. To prevent the traps from drying out, pour in some water or drops of vegetable oil to prevent the water from evaporating. As long as the traps always have water, they won’t allow the gas to pass through to your house. 


Ensure the toilet is not loose

  • As mentioned, a loose toilet allows sewer gases to pass through the crevices. To avoid this, have the toilets regularly inspected to confirm that there are no loose bolts or joints. Additionally, confirm that the toilet ring is properly fixed to keep the gases away. 


Use Baking Soda and Vinegar

  • If you are experiencing sewage backup in your bathroom, you can clean the drain using baking soda and vinegar. To clean the bathroom, follow these steps:
  • Pour 1/4 cup of baking soda into the drain followed by one cup of white vinegar.
  • Let the mixture sit for two hours and pour a gallon of hot water down the drain.
  • Afterwards, you can run cold water to wash the vinegar away. 
  • Pour a half cup of chlorine bleach into the drain and leave it for 2 hours. 
  • Rinse the bleach with lots of hot water.
  • Run cool water for 10-15 minutes.

Is Sewer Gas Dangerous?

sewer - Is Sewer Gas Dangerous? - exterior drain with protective grate

If you inhale sewer gas, it’s not healthy because it has a combination of compounds and gases like methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide. Although this gas is not harmful in small quantities, the gases are dangerous. 

  • Ammonia: Exposure to this compound can cause eye, throat and nose irritation. At higher levels, ammonia can contribute to organ damage or even death.
  • Hydrogen sulfide: If you inhale this, it becomes toxic to the body’s oxygen systems. In high amounts, it also causes organ damage and death. 
  • Methane: Although this gas is harmless and non-toxic to humans, it can be extremely flammable if it’s in large quantities. When combined with ammonia, they become a serious fire hazard for your home. 

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Call a Specialist Plumber

Once you smell sewer gas in your house, it’s vital to find the source. Unless you are experienced on how to deal with the problem, you should avoid fixing the issue yourself. Sewer gas leak is potentially hazardous so it is best to call a specialist plumbing company to address it. Hawthorne Plumbing, Heating & Cooling has been proudly serving the Reno and Las Vegas area and providing top-quality plumbing services for countless home and business owners for the past 15 years. We are well-equipped to handle projects of all types and sizes and we guarantee all of our services in writing for your peace of mind. Get in touch with us today to learn more! Take a look at the list of home repairs related articles below for more information on how to keep your home in top condition.

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