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Finding the Source of a Bad Odor in Your Home

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    LESLIE: Vivian in Texas is dealing with a mysterious odor in her house. Tell us what’s going on.

    VIVIAN: I don’t know what’s going on. I have had three plumbers out there, thinking they could find out what it is. But one of them told me I had a bird in my air-conditioning vents upstairs, because our air conditioning-and-heating system is in the attic, and it wasn’t that. And it’s only been a year-and-a-half since I had the septic tank pumped out.

    TOM: Where is the odor most prevalent?

    VIVIAN: When you walk in the back door.

    TOM: Do you think it could be originating near the kitchen sink?

    VIVIAN: I had one plumber tell me that, too. And he opened it – opened the grease trap or whatever you call it outside. And he says, “No, that’s clean as a whistle.”

    TOM: One of the areas in the house that is often overlooked when it comes to odors, and especially sewage-like odors, are the kitchen-sink or the bathroom-sink drains and not, though, the traps themselves. But what happens is that you will get bacteria that will form around inside the pipe and actually line the pipe. And it gives off what we call “biogas.” And biogas has an awful odor to it and it really is difficult to track down because sometimes it’s worse than others.

    So, what we would recommend that you do, before you do anything else, is to get the equivalent of a bottle brush and some bleach-and-water solution and carefully scrub the inside of the drains of the kitchen.

    Now, to do that, you might have to take that trap off again and kind of work up. But you really want to make sure that you get rid of any debris that could be stuck to the inside of those pipes because that’s what the biogas is built upon, so to speak. Does that make sense?

    VIVIAN: Well, thank you very much. I’m going to sure try it because three plumbers couldn’t tell me what it was.

    TOM: Alright. Well, thanks very much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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