Top 10 Causes of Sewage Odors in Your Home

sewage odor

Sewage odors always indicate something is wrong. The source of the issue may be in your home plumbing system or the sewer line it’s connected to. Sewer gases can contain methane, which is extremely flammable. Left unchecked, exposure to sewer gases can lead to illness and even death. Therefore, the problem must be addressed immediately. Calling for sewage repair can save your life, but the damage must be found so it can be fixed.

Here are 10 of the most common causes of sewage odors in a home:

1. Damaged Toilet Seal

The toilet seal allows it to drain properly and prevents odors from escaping. If cleaning the toilet doesn’t eliminate the smell, have a plumber check the wax seal. This wax ring seals the toilet base to the toilet flange. It can fail over time, especially if the toilet is unstable, allowing sewer gas to seep from the base of the toilet. The fixture will need to be removed to install a new wax ring.

2. Clogged Drain

The toilet isn’t the only potential source of sewage odors. A clogged drain anywhere, including the shower, can produce odors. Dirt, hair, soap scum, mineral deposits, sand, and solid objects in a drain line can cause larger blockages that obstruct water flow. Blockages close to the drain opening can be pulled out. However, they can also form too deep for you to reach; stagnant water can then fester, and unpleasant odors can start rising from the drain as more materials build up.

3. Dry P-Trap

Under many drains in your home is a P-trap. This U-shaped pipe is designed to hold a small amount of water so sewer gases and odors don’t back up. The trap can dry up if you don’t use a sink or shower often. A quick fix for this problem is to let the water run to refill the P-trap; the odors should go away. However, if this doesn’t work, the trap may be leaking or worn out. A plumber should then replace it.

4. Biofilm

Biofilm is an accumulation of hair, skin cells, and other natural debris in drain lines. It can allow bacteria to grow and produce a substance that materials stick to. Decomposing debris adds to the problem and will smell similar to sewage. Cleaning drains with a mixture of hot water, baking soda, and white distilled vinegar can help, but call a professional plumber if the problem persists or the odor is too strong to tolerate.

5. Pipe Leaks

If a pipe under your shower or sink or behind the wall is leaking, there may be a sewage smell. Perhaps a metal pipe has corroded and developed holes. Loose fittings can also cause odors to escape. If your home was recently built or renovated, call the contractor to address installation issues. In any case, you’ll need a plumber to find the source of the problem and a solution, depending on the pipe material and where the damage is.

6. Improper Vent Pipe Installation

Your home’s plumbing system has a vent pipe that helps regulate air pressure, allowing your plumbing to function properly. The vent can also redirect odors away from your home. If the vent pipe is installed improperly, it must be reinstalled by a plumber. However, vent pipes can also develop cracks that allow odors to escape. A plumber can test for cracks using a smoke machine; if the smoke becomes visible anywhere in your home, they can find and fix the leaking segment.

7. Clogged Sink Overflow

The hole near the top of your bathroom sink is part of an overflow mechanism. Designed to prevent water from spilling over, it can fill with grime and mold and release a sewage-like odor. It can be cleaned with water, chlorine bleach, and a small bottle brush. Once the sink overflow is cleaned, the odor should go away; if not, call a plumbing contractor for help.

8. Bacteria in the Water Heater

If you notice a sewage odor only when using hot water, you may have a water heater problem. Bacteria may colonize your water heater if the water temperature is set too low. The bacteria in water heaters usually don’t cause health problems in humans but can produce a strong rotten egg odor. To eliminate the bacteria, raise the water temperature temporarily and run the hot water taps for a bit.

9. Infrequently Used Floor Drains

Floor drains are often found in basements and laundry rooms. They drain water from appliances and when you’re cleaning the floor. But if you don’t use a floor drain much or at all, the water in its trap can evaporate, allowing in sewer gases.

10. Hydrogen Sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide is a primary sewer gas and a leading cause of a strong sulfur odor. In high concentrations, it is toxic. Fortunately, it’s detectable in smaller amounts, so you can contact a local plumber for help. Humans can smell this gas in concentrations as low as .5 parts per million (PPM). Levels from 1 to 2 PPM can produce a rotten egg odor.

How Do I Resolve Lingering Sewage Odors?

If the source of the problem has been addressed, here’s how you can eliminate lingering odors:

  • Open windows to let in fresh air.
  • Place bowls of charcoal around your home.
  • Leave baking soda on a carpet overnight and vacuum it in the morning.
  • Wash blankets and small cushions in the washing machine.
  • Clean larger items with undiluted white vinegar.

When Should I Call a Plumber?

If you can’t get rid of the sewage odor, call a plumber to address the problem. They can look for blockages in the sewer main, tree root intrusion, and broken or collapsed sewer lines. Odors aren’t the only sign of trouble. Call for help if multiple drains back up, there’s noise in your plumbing system, or soggy or lush green spots form in your yard (which indicate a damaged sewer line).

Call Hoover in Troy, MI to Resolve Sewage Odors

Sewer odors in your home are a sign of a serious problem. Hoover’s licensed and trained plumbing contractors use the latest technologies and techniques to address the cause. Whether the job entails plumbing or sewer line repair, they’ll find a solution that leaves your home smelling better and free of health and safety hazards. For prompt assistance, call (586) 500-5163 today.

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