Sniffing out the source: Origins of odd household odours

Have you ever walked into a room and instantly wrinkled your nose in disgust? And have you ever been troubled, stumped even, by where those odd odours came from? If so, help is here! Our straightforward checklist identifies sources of undesirable household smells to guide your search—and outlines how to prevent them.

Where’s that icky smell coming from?

When there’s a strange stench wafting through your home, inspect the following.

🔘 Kitchen bins

Typical odour(s): Pungent, rotten, sulphur-like

Common causes: Food waste, like bones, skin, and fat from meat products, dairy, and veggie scraps, can cause a mighty, often overwhelming, lingering stink, particularly during hot weather when garbage spoils rapidly. 🤢

Solution: Bad-smelling bins can be avoided by being proactive.

  • Separate food waste from other garbage.
  • Use high-quality, no-rip, no-leak garbage bags.
  • Drain liquids before dumping items in the trash.
  • Purchase stainless steel bins. (Plastic is porous; it absorbs smells.)
  • Regularly deep clean garbage cans.

🔘 Kitchen drain

Typical odour(s): Musty, stale

Common causes: Over time, food particles, oil, grease, and grime from washing plates, pots, and pans can build up in pipes, decay, lead to clogs, and emit foul scents.

Solution: Use a sink strainer and never dispose of excess oil down the drain.

🔘 Bathroom sinks

Typical odour(s): Musty, foul, sewage-like

Common causes: Plumbing issues are the primary offenders. Things like a blocked drain can lead to stagnant water, soap scum, and a biofilm build-up in the sink and pipes. Meanwhile, a dried-up p-trap (the curved pipe beneath the sink designed to hold small amounts of water) allows sewer gasses to leak.

Solution: Remove hairs from your sink, scrub away excess toothpaste, and run water down the drains weekly.

🔘 Toilets

Typical odour(s): Foul, stuffy, ammonia- or sewage-like

Common causes: From unflushed urine to uric scale deposits, stagnant water in guest bathrooms, and a faulty wax ring that allows sewer gasses to escape—toilet bowls (and surrounding fixtures) are sources of persistent and some of the worst smells imaginable. 🥴

Solution: Flush after use and regular cleaning.

🔘 Bathroom floors

Typical odour(s): Damp, musty, like ammonia or rotten eggs

Common causes: There are many culprits. Microbial colonies in drains and pipes. Misfired urine (hi, mums of little boys). Wet bathroom mats. Humidity. This combination creates the perfect environment for embarrassing bathroom aromas.

Solution: Use a powerful germ- and odour-busting enzymatic solution like Healthy Habitat to clean bathroom floors and surfaces.

🔘 Rugs and carpets

Typical odour(s): Varies

Common causes: Life! 🙃 Dust and debris, pet messes and odours, accidental spills, cooking-related smells, and smoke/tobacco get absorbed into rug fibres.

Solution: Consistent carpet care! Vacuum. Spot clean with E.N. Zyme Urine Stain & Odour Remover. Shampoo carpets with our Bio-Activated™ Eco Carpet Cleaner Shampoo. (Psst... 🤫 You can shop a discounted bundle here.)

🔘 Bedding

Typical odour(s): Musty, sour, stale

Common causes: Sweat, body oils, dead skin, dirt, and allergens accumulate where you sleep. The most affected are pillow covers, blankets, and fitted sheets. By the way, the same concept applies to sofas and couches!

Solution: Wash your sheets with a hypoallergenic formula at least once weekly.

🔘 Mattress

Typical odour(s): Musty, mouldy, stale, body odour

Common causes: Like bed linens, mattresses soak up sweat, body oils, and other fluids, including urine during the toilet training period or from incontinence. Mattresses also attract pet dander, dust mites, allergens, and other odour-causing substances.

Solution: Use a machine-washable mattress protector and vacuum, air out, and wash linens regularly.

🔘 Dirty laundry

Typical odour(s): Sour, mildewy, stale, body odour

Common causes: Leaving soiled laundry, like gym clothes and damp towels, in the hamper for long periods leads to bad smells.

Solution: Run smaller, more frequent washes at the right temperature, then dry laundry promptly. Store items in a clean and dry environment.

🔘 Floors

Typical odour(s): Stale, musty, like ammonia, urine or a hospital

Common causes: It depends. The most prominent causes are pet messes, especially during puppy potty training. Moisture (wet floors) has a smell, too. Finally, harsh chemicals in traditional cleaning products leave an industrial-like smell behind.

Solution: Frequent sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping with mild- or fragrance-free enzymatic products.

🔘 Walls

Typical odour(s): Your home's distinctive scent

Common causes: A combination of lifestyle (smoking/vaping, air fresheners), pets, housekeeping (cleaning frequency, chemicals), and culinary (spices, fried foods) factors determine what your walls, and therefore home, smell like. Walls retain smells because plasterboard is porous.

Solution: Wipe walls at least once yearly using a soft microfibre cloth and our family-friendly Eco Disinfectant Cleaner.

Congratulations! From the kitchen to the bathroom, you can now save time, nerves, and effort to successfully pinpoint where all those unwanted indoor smells are coming from.

Note: This list does not include emergency sources of odours like gas leaks, overheating electrical appliances, and problematic wiring.


Get Our

15-Minute Speed Cleaning Routine For Pet Parents


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published