It could mean something more.

By Melissa Locker
May 14, 2021
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The nose knows. When you're at home and something smells off, don't disregard it. The most obvious smell that should set off alarm bells is if you notice the rotten-egg aroma of natural gas. Immediately vacate the premises and call the gas company from a safe distance away.

Aside from the obvious danger associated with a gas leak, there are other smells to be aware of whether you're house hunting, visiting an elderly relative, or in your own home. For example, if the bathroom smells, let's say, extra bathroom-like, that can mean sewer issues, a clogged pipe, or a "dried-up P-trap", according to Bob Vila's website, and you may want to call a plumber. Similarly, pay attention to musty smells in bathrooms, basements, or garages, which can be a sign of a growing mold problem, according to RD.com. Here are some other smells to pay attention to around the house.

Fishy smells aren't just indicative of a shrimp boil or fish fry for dinner. "That fishy smell is typically a sign that an electrical component is overheating or burning," write the home pros at BobVila.com. The smell may be emanating from frayed wires, overloaded circuits, faulty outlets, or any number of other issues that need to be addressed quickly and correctly or it could result in a fire.

If you notice a wet dog smell, but your dog only gets bathed at the groomer, call an exterminator. According to Bob Vila, that scent could mean there are rodents, raccoons, or squirrels in residence.

If you smell smoke, there may be a fire, but once you rule that out, there may be other issues. Those include either a lurking fire hazard or a former smoker making their presence known and, frankly, neither of those are great. The occasional whiff of smoke could mean that a wire is smoldering somewhere unseen in the walls. Call a professional to help trace the source of the smell.

If the smoke smell is more prevalent, you may be experiencing third-hand smoke. That is when the nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke stick to indoor surfaces and can lead to potential health hazard, especially children, according to the Mayo Clinic. Thirdhand smoke clings to surfaces long after smoking has stopped and it is frustratingly hard to get rid of in a house. RD.com suggests rolling up your shirt sleeves, donning some work gloves, and starting to scrub.

While that "new home smell" may sound like a good thing, unfortunately it is mostly the fumes from so-called volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) floating off new furniture, new paint, and new carpets. Those VOCs are not just unpleasant to smell, but they are also unhealthy. To help fight the fumes, the website Today's Home Owner suggests letting furniture and carpets air out in the garage or outdoors overnight or at the very least opening all the windows and running fans to get air moving and chemicals out.

Use these odor-identifying tips and hopefully avoid facing long-term problems in the future.