4 Strange "Copycat" Smells That Could Signal Trouble For Your Home

What's that smell? When your nose is assaulted by a familiar yet inexplicable stench, you no doubt want to get to the heart of problem and get the offending agent out of your home as soon as possible. But this is easier said than done when what you think you smell isn't actually the problem you must contend with. Here are four "copycats" that duplicate familiar smells but indicate other issues entirely—issues that could pose a threat to your family's well-being.

Rotten Eggs - Few scents have a more distinctive effect than the stench of rotten eggs—but you can't automatically assume that the odor emanates from a broken shell or an abandoned yolk lying around the kitchen somewhere. Your culprit may be a leaking gas line to one of your kitchen appliances or your furnace. Hydrogen sulfide, intentionally added to natural gas, gives residents some warning that this deadly, otherwise-odorless gas is filling the living areas of the home. Take this as your cue to have a plumbing professional check your appliances, and invest in a new gas line installation if need be.

Dirty Socks - Dirty socks have a disgustingly musty smell all their own—except that the odor isn't necessarily coming from them. If you can't figure out why your home smells like a locker room after extra innings, ask yourself whether you recently starting using your HVAC system system after a long period of disuse. Condensation can combine with accumulated dust in the drain pans or air filter to create a dirty-sock aroma. Check these components to see whether you need to empty the drain pan and/or replace the filter. If you still smell dirty socks, you may have mold growing in your air conditioning ducts. This can pose serious dangers, especially for individuals who suffer from mold allergies or respiratory conditions. Prolonged exposure to toxic black mold can even cause nausea, vomiting, and internal bleeding. This situation calls for an inspection by a qualified mold remediation company.

Sewage - Raw sewage is about as revolting as a smell can get. With any luck, however, you don't actually have liquid or solid waste invading your home. But you may not feel so lucky if you discover that the sewage smell is actually the smell of a decomposing animal hidden somewhere within the structure of the house. Mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons, and other animals can take up residence in the attic, walls, or ductwork for long periods of time without being discovered. When they eventually die, their decomposing bodies emanate a strong odor that can be mistaken for garbage or raw sewage. The danger here lies in the very real possibility that the dead animal carries serious diseases such as hantavirus. You'll need to call a pest control service to track down the source of the odor and remove the dead animal.

Burning Plastic Wrap - If you've ever kept a roll of cling wrap too close to an active stovetop burner, you probably know the smell of burning plastic more intimately than you would prefer. But you've already checked the kitchen, and you don't see any burning or melting in progress; nor are your kids experimenting with the effects of magnifying glasses and sunlight on their plastic toys. What you're actually smelling may be even worse: an electrical system failure. In this case, plastic is indeed the substance being burned, but it's the plastic insulation surrounding your wiring. You may also notice a metallic or fishy smell mingled with the burning-plastic odor. Unplug your electrical appliances and place an emergency call to your electrician.

Your sense of smell could do you a great favor in helping your safeguard your household, so pay attention it and call the necessary professionals for assistance. Sometimes the nose really does know—even when you don't!