Why Does My House Smell Like Sulfur

Your home is your sanctuary, and nothing ruins a sacred space more than the smell of rotten eggs. Sulfur is a uniquely atrocious odor; one whiff will send you looking through your house for the cause.

Follow this guide to learn all about the six typical causes of this nose-pinching odor and tips to eliminate it once and for all.

1. Gas Leak

A gas leak is the most dangerous cause of that rotten egg smell, and it is by design. Natural gasses are typically odorless, which presents an extreme danger in the case of a leak.

To solve this problem, gas companies added a chemical called mercaptan to give their gas supply that distinctive sulfuric odor. Without this additive, you’d have no way of knowing when you were experiencing a life-threatening gas leak.

What to Do

You must quickly rule out a gas leak as the source of the odor. Leave the premises and call the authorities or a gas leak repair professional. These gas leaks are dangerous, so call a professional before attempting any other choices on this list. Isn’t it better to be cautious than sorry? Repairing a gas leak may cost anything from $120 to $250, which is a small price for your family’s safety.

2. Dry Drain Pipes

Modern vacation home bathroom with bathtub

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Dried-out drain pipes are another typical source of rotten egg odor in the house. Dry drain pipes are standard in guest bathrooms or vacation houses that are seldom used.

Sinks and tubs connect to something called a p-trap. This u-shaped pipe traps sewer gas and prevents it from heading into your home by creating a layer of water on the bottom of the curve. If the water evaporates, the sewer gas happily wafts into your home, creating a sulfur odor.

What to Do

Often, the fix is simple. Run the water in any sinks and tubs in the impacted bathroom for ten minutes. This method allows the p-traps to build up the necessary water to block that nasty sewer gas.

If this doesn’t work, contact a local plumber for advanced troubleshooting. They may recommend the installation of a dedicated sewer gas trap or the replacement of your p-trap.

3. Gassy Drywall

Most people assume that drywall is excellent and poses no risk of creating any odors whatsoever, let alone the smell of rotten eggs. Unfortunately, that is not true, especially for homeowners who built or renovated houses between 2001 and 2009. During those years, many contractors imported drywall from China that contained excessive amounts of sulfur. The end result? Drywall off-gassing a sulfuric odor throughout your home.

What to Do

Though contractors no longer import the offending drywall, many homes still include drywall sheets from the era. Authorities recommend homeowners check the copper coils in their refrigerators or air conditioning units, looking for tell-tale black ash on the copper coils that builds up when drywall emits consistent levels of sulfur.

Once successfully diagnosed, the only solution is to contact a local drywall contractor and replace all of the infected drywall. Check your homeowner’s policy or insurance plan to suss out any potential coverage to offset the costs. Otherwise, replacing drywall costs $60 to $90 per panel.

4. Well-Water Issues

Woman in the kitchen filling up glass with tap water

Photo: Kentaroo Tryman / Maskot / Getty Images

According to the EPA, over 13 million American households rely on healthy water from a local municipal agency instead of treated water. Like sewage pipes, however, wells are susceptible to sulfur smell.

In this case, the water develops the odor, thanks to a buildup of hydrogen sulfide caused by decaying vegetation in the ground. It’s not dangerous, but it doesn’t create the most appealing drinking water.

What to Do

The nose knows. Diagnose the issue by shutting off the water in your home for six hours, filling your sink with several inches of cold water, and taking a strong whiff. If the smell of rotten eggs hits you in the face, you’ve unmasked the culprit. For an even stronger confirmation, send a sample of your water to your local extension office by requesting a testing kit.

What’s the fix? Plumbers recommend installing a carbon filter on your drinking faucets and putting a reverse osmosis unit under your sink.

5. Sewer-Line Issues

Beyond a dried-out p-trap, many other sewage-related malfunctions result in the appearance of nasty odors. For instance, broken drain pipes allow sewer gasses to seep and run amok throughout your home and exterior property.

Clogged drain vents also lead to various plumbing odors, and so on. Your plumbing system is finely tuned and fragile; any issues lead to unwanted smells.

What to Do

Troubleshoot by running water throughout your home, looking out for slowly running drains. Also, listen for a distinct gurgling sound when sinks drain or flush toilets.

Both of these symptoms suggest a clogged drain vent. It is possible to clean and unclog a plumbing vent independently, but amateurs should call in a plumber. Competent plumbers can also diagnose broken drain pipes, even under the yard.

6. Actual Rotten Eggs

Sometimes if it looks like a rotten egg and smells like a rotten duck egg, it’s a rotten egg. Expired eggs and other spoiled food items create foul odors throughout your home.

Though eggs last a while before spoiling, the same is not true of other ingredients like chicken, avocado, green beans, bananas, mushrooms, and others. Additionally, cooked ingredients can spoil and emit disgusting smells, so keep an eye on your cold-pressed juices and whatever leftovers lie in the refrigerator.

What to Do

Clear out the offending ingredients, throw them in the trash, and immediately throw them out. After that, clean the refrigerator with a multi-purpose cleaner and install a mild air freshener in your kitchen or fridge. Also, set your refrigerator’s thermostat to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to stave off early spoiling.

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