Some parents tend to put a lot of effort into making their home safe for children. They buckle furniture to the wall, blockade the stairs with a baby gate, and put safety knobs on the doors. But then there are the unseen dangers — the dangerous smells in a house that can potentially kill.
This isn’t meant to cause a panic. However, when it comes to safety concerns that can’t be seen, many parents are less informed. Letting your guard down in this area, however, could be dangerous, and in some cases, deadly. So here’s the information you need to protect yourself and your family.
1. Smelly Socks or Mildew
If there’s an unpleasant smell that’s dank — like sweaty socks, unwashed gym clothes, or something that makes you think of water– there may be mold or mildew nearby. These organisms like to grow anywhere it’s damp, like under the sink, behind the fridge, in the basement, and anywhere there’s been flooding or leaking.
In addition to being unsightly, mold and mildew can cause allergic reactions like stuffiness, irritation, and coughing. Some forms of mold can cause serious infections and medical complications.
Your best bet is to use a digital hygrometer to check the humidity of each room and run a dehumidifier in damp spaces. You can also apply an antimicrobial spray to surfaces where mold might have taken root. If it’s more serious than that, you may need to bring in a professional inspector and cleaner.
2. Rotten Eggs
Of the many dangerous smells in a house, this is one most people know about. A rotten egg smell can indicate a natural gas leak. Natural gas is actually odorless, so utility companies add a compound called mercaptan, which smells like rotten eggs—so that if there’s a leak, you’ll know.
Natural gas is flammable; if the gas leak has been going on long enough, lighting a match, turning on the stove, flicking a lightswitch, or even just a static spark can start a fire—or literally blow the roof off.
If you smell rotten eggs, get everyone out of the house and call 911 from a safe place. Then follow up with a phone call to the utility company.
3. Smoke or Fish
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” so the saying goes. If you smell smoke that shouldn’t be there, get out of the house and call the fire department. Don’t worry about turning off the electricity, because the fire department will take care of that for you when they arrive.
If you smell something really fishy (literally) there could be an electrical fire in your home. Wires and plastic components in your home’s wiring give off a fishy odor when burning, so this smell means you should take a look around the house and see if any outlets are melting. If they are, DON’T touch them. Get out and call the utility company.
4. No Smell at All
The deadliest substance doesn’t have a smell at all. Carbon Monoxide can be absorbed into the body within minutes, resulting in unconsciousness and possibly even death. Space heaters, stoves, dirty fireplaces, and running vehicles in the garage can all give off this deadly gas. According to the CDC, approximately 430 people die in the United States from accidental CO poisoning every year, and approximately 50,000 people visit the emergency department due to accidental CO poisoning.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to have a CO2 detector in your home. Many states require homes to have one on every floor, and even if it isn’t required it’s just a smart safety precaution. It’s also good to have your fireplace cleaned once a year.
They are very inexpensive, easy to install, and a great investment. If you have one, make sure it’s operational by pressing the test button. Not sure how to do it? Just look at the brand in your house and Google search the manual for instructions. CO2 detectors will let you know when it’s time to replace the battery by beeping, but if you’re unsure then just replace the battery. Again, it’s an inexpensive fix that can save your life.
If the detector goes off, get everyone out immediately and call 911.
5. Something Funky, Wild, or Rotting
If you smell something in your home like a dirty dog in desperate need of a bath, there may be some nutty critters burrowing in your home—like rats, mice, raccoons, and possums. These furry friends like to hang out in the attic or walls.
If that wild smell turns rancid, there could be a dead animal trapped in the walls or HVAC. You’ll want to call an exterminator to check out the scene because both live and wild animals can carry disease, attract other pests, and get cranky when confronted about not paying rent.