Friday, November 23, 2012

Bad Odors: Get rid of them!

Odors are generally something we avoid in polite conversation. You’re not likely to walk into your neighbor’s house and ask, “Wow, what is that smell?”
Homeowners aren’t shy though about asking us that question. We have dozens of ideas on our Rosie on the House Web site about how to get rid of this or that odor – every place from the bedroom to the laundry room to the kitchen and more. To tell the truth, we get more homeowners emailing us for advice about bad odors than about any other subject. What follows are some possible solutions for what you’re experiencing.

For sewage smells in your yard or house:
Sometimes that semi-permanent bad smell in your bathroom or kitchen or backyard is really a problem starting on your roof where your plumbing system has a vent. In many cases, the vent isn’t tall enough. When a gust of wind comes along – our southwest wind blowing up from the Gulf of California – it blows those smelly gases across your roof and into your north or east facing yards. The wind can even swirl around and blow methane gas back into your house through a window or back down the vent.
This isn’t just a problem for older homes; in fact, it can happen in new construction. We have actually seen this in multi-million dollar homes in pricy neighborhoods.
But it can be fixed with minimal expense and effort. First, you need an extension on that vent pipe. That should do the trick, but if not, add a charcoal filter to the vent to absorb the gases or an inline powered ventilating fan to blow them away or do both. If you want to know more about this topic, you can check out

For bathroom odors:
A problem with a vent can affect all the drains in your house, but if the smell comes from one sink, then your P-trap (the U-shaped pipe under the sink) may be clogged or lined with years of accumulated stinky gunk. The pipe under that fragrant sink drain could be obstructed with hair, toothpaste, dirt and soap scum that begins to reek. You need to remove the P-trap and clean it out or use a drain cleaner daily until the enzymes can eat away at the trapped organic mess. By the way, we never recommend using highly corrosive liquid drain cleaners or drain cleaning crystals.

Special warning for snowbirds: If you leave your house untended for months and no water runs through the drains, you can have bad odors coming out of any or all of them. So have someone turn on the water once or twice during your trips up north. The water is a seal in the pipe under the drains that prevents sewer or septic gases from entering your home.

In general, bathroom ceiling fans can help remove odors. But these fans don’t last forever; if they sound as if they’re rattling, they’re probably not doing their job and need to be replaced before burning out.

You can easily remove a fan after turning off power to the room at your electrical panel. After taking off the cover on the old fan, unplug the electrical cord; then find the screws securing the fan unit to the ceiling. Use a flat-head screwdriver to remove the screws, pull out the fan, and take it to the store to help you choose a replacement that fits.


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