Why you shouldn’t ignore these household smells

Don’t ignore these odours – it could spell danger
Brigid Arnott

Persistent smells in your home need to be investigated. Ignoring them could do more harm than good.


Whilst natural gas itself has no smell, a harmless chemical odorant called mercaptan is added to it so that a leak can be detected. If you notice the smell of gas in your home, don’t ignore it. Follow this safety checklist immediately:

1. Check all of your gas appliances to ensure all are turned off and extinguish all pilot lights

2. Do not light any matches or start your gas stove, or use any device or appliance that could produce a spark (including electrical and light switches or mobile phones)

3. Open all windows and doors to ventilate the gas and prevent a build up of gas

4. If the gas smell is coming from a gas appliance such as your gas stove or gas heater, or from a pipe connecting your gas appliance to the gas meter, turn the supply off at the gas meter

5. Phone your local licensed plumber or gas fitter immediately 


If you detect a musty odour inside your home, it could mean there is a problem with damp that has led to mould growing in dark, damp areas of your home. This could be near a wet area such as bathroom or laundry, or adjacent to broken pipes or water collected under the flooring. 

“For mould we’re really concerned about people with allergies and asthma,” says Dr David Dyjack, an occupational health and industrial hygiene specialist. “Both conditions can be exacerbated by mould exposure.” Dr Dyjack recommends cleaning with a mix of 10% bleach/water solution and to ventilate the area well.

A persistent bathroom odour

The smell of sewerage is not to be ignored. A blockage or breakage in a waste water pipe can lead to a buildup of toxic gases that are potentially explosive, such as hydrogen sulphide and methane.

Bathroom pipes are designed with ‘s’ and ‘u’ bends to retain water and act as a barrier for smells that have passed through and can sometimes dry up or stagnate if not flushed regularly.

Perhaps it’s simply an unused bathroom that needs a swish and a flush here and there but, if more serious and left untreated, blockages can also build up to the point that the waste is forced back up the pipe and into your sink or floor.

If you can locate it, a small blockage is usually relatively easy to clear yourself, however if your own investigations can’t get to the bottom of the smell, seek the help of a plumber.

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