Sweet Smell In The House? (Find Out Why)

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

Every home has its own unique smell. Some homeowners strive to make their homes smell more inviting by using fragrant oils and candles to make the household smell refreshing or even sweet. Though a sweet-smelling home can be welcoming, a distracting, pungent, sweet smell in your house can be a real problem.

A gas leak, mold, or insect infestation can cause a sweet smell in the home. Alternatively, the smell could come from your furnace’s cracked heater exchanger. To fix, you’ll have to patch a pipe or remove the walls to inspect mold or insect damage. Unidentified sweet smells in the home are dangerous and can pose health risks.

Home improvement can quickly become an expensive and frustrating task, and ignoring the problem is far too easy to do. A sweet smell may not seem like a big problem, but the mold, gas, and insect infestation are dangerous both to you and your home.

The Sweet Smell in Your House Could Be Mold

Mold in homes can sometimes feel like a death sentence for the homeowner. Typically when people think about mold smell, they think of a dank, musty smell. This is not always the case; in some instances, mold can smell pungent and sweet.

Usually, this type of mold is in areas with a high concentration of moisture, like the basement. Mold causes a plethora of health hazards and should always be dealt with by a professional immediately.

Identifying Mold In Your House

If you suspect that you have mold, there are a few ways to check before you contact an expert.

Step One: Check For Splotches

Mold spores often show up as black, grey, or green splotches. Common areas to check are near windows and doors, drywall, carpet, and wood.

Step Two: Check For Texture

Not all mold is created equal. While some mold appears powdery, others may appear fuzzy, and some sticky and slimy.

Step Three: Find The Source Of The Sweet Smell

An important step in determining if the sweet smell in your home is mold is to find the source. Mold frequently originates near water sources like a window sill or below a leaky pipe in the ceiling. Many of these water sources can go unnoticed, so it is imperative to check everywhere, even in unsuspected areas.

Health Risks From Mold

If the sweet smell in your house is mold you should be aware you may face several harmful health risks. Mold produces allergens, which basically means that there are tiny particles floating around, causing allergic reactions. Health risks can range from simple cold symptoms to irreversible lung damage. Here are the three top symptoms associated with mold.

  • Cold Symptoms. Itchy eyes, stuffy nose, and wheezing are commonly associated with mold. In more severe cases, you may experience more intense respiratory issues.
  • Depression And Anxiety. If you have been suffering from depression or anxiety, it may be wise to check for mold. This symptom is obviously more challenging to catch because it concerns mental health. If you have noticed any changes in your mood, it’s possible the mold could be causing it.
  • Memory Loss, Confusion, And Trouble Concentrating. Brain fog can be a real pain, and mold could cause it. If you are struggling with concentrating and general mental clarity, make sure to check for mold. 

A Sweet Smell In Your House Could Be A Furnace Leak

Aside from mold, a furnace leak could be the cause of the sweet smell in your home. The heat exchanger in your furnace is in charge of pushing hot air from the furnace through your air ducts. When it is leaking, it emits a sweet smell, similar to formaldehyde.

This is an incredibly dangerous issue, deadly in fact. The gas that leaks from your heat exchanger is actually carbon monoxide (CO). Typically, carbon monoxide is scentless; however, it emits a sweet smell in this particular situation.

How To Identifying A Furnace Leak

The only way to identify a cracked heat exchanger leak is a CO detector. Although a sweet smell can accompany a leak in some cases, that is not always the case. Every home should have multiple CO detectors; it could save your life.

Health Risks From A Furnace Leak

Carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen from your blood, depriving your body of the air that it needs to function. This deadly gas can be incredibly sneaky and can catch people off guard, often causing death.

In larger spaces, CO poisoning can cause flu-like side effects like headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and confusion. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms without cause, you should immediately check for a CO leak.

In smaller enclosed spaces, carbon monoxide is most often deadly. Depending on the size of the area, asphyxiation can occur within a matter of minutes. This is why carbon monoxide detectors are so vital.

A Sweet Smell In The House Could Be An Air Conditioning Leak

Amongst sweet smells in the home, there is one that smells particularly like maple syrup. This specific smell typically comes from a leak in your air conditioner coils. Leaking coolant, while not necessarily dangerous, can quickly become a real pain in the warm summer months.

The most common reason that coils leak is due to something called formic acid. This acid develops when the copper from your coils mixes with a volatile organic compound. Common household examples of volatile organic compounds are aerosol sprays like air fresheners, hairsprays, and cleaning products.

Identifying An Air Conditioning Leak

Identifying an AC leak is relatively simple, and there are several ways to do so. The syrup smell comes from the coolant which runs through the coils that cool your home. Here are some ways to check if there are any leaks in your AC:

Check For Moisture– A simple way to check for leaks is to investigate around the unit and look for moisture. Catching this moisture early can help save you from mold and rot damage.

Check For Frost– Frost around cables is a tell-tale sign that your AC has a problem. One of the possible causes of this frost is a coolant leak in the cables.

Insect Infestation Can Cause A Sweet Smell In The House

Another common cause of sweet smells in your home is insect infestations. The sweet smell typically accompanies larger infestations of bugs, most commonly ants, cockroaches, and bedbugs. It has even been theorized that bed bugs emit a sweet-smelling oil.

Insect infestations are immensely challenging and should be dealt with immediately to prevent further damage.

Identifying An Insect Infestation

There are lots of ways to check for bug infestations, and all types of bugs have different signs. If you’re finding a sweet smell at home and you’re totally stumped, it could be time to check for bugs. Here are a few that you can try yourself:

Red Stains On Fabric (Bed Bugs)– Checking fabrics like bed sheets or clothing for red-colored stains can indicate bedbug damage. This is actually their blood which comes from crushing them from activities such as sleeping. Rust-colored stains can also be attributed to bug excrement.

Itchy Bumps On Skin (Bed Bugs)– Bed bugs can bite humans, causing painful, itchy bites. Unexplained skin irritation could be a sign to check for bed bugs.

Sawdust Trails (Ants)– Ants will eat their way into wooden structures, so finding sawdust trails is a major indicator of an infestation.

Droppings And Shedded Skin (Cockroaches)– Finding excrement droppings and skin shells are a major indicator of cockroaches in your home.

Removing Pests

For larger-scale infestations, professional services are usually your best bet for total removal. There are ways, however, to remove smaller infestations by yourself with common household products.

Bed bugs can sometimes be killed by simply washing your fabric in hot water. You can kill or repel ants by spreading vinegar or poison on surfaces. Cockroaches can even be repelled just by spreading laundry detergent like borax.

Sweet Smell In The Bathroom

If you notice the source of the sweet smell in your bathroom the problem may be something else entirely. In order to determine the root issue you should identify exactly where the smell is coming from and when it occurs.

Area Around The Shower Smells Sweet

If the sweet smell coming from your bathroom appears to come from the shower, the issue could be your P-trap. The P-trap is a curved pipe in your shower plumbing. One of the functions of your P-trap is to act as a barrier between sewage and plumbing smells and your bathroom.

If the water in your P-trap evaporates then you may begin to smell the plumbing. This can include curious sweet smells. This issue occurs most often when a shower has not been used for a long time.

Sweet Smell Near Toilet

If you notice there is a sweet smell near your toilet the problem may actually be a health issue. When the smell occurs after urination, there is a chance you have abnormally high blood sugar.

If this sounds like your issue then be sure to contact your doctor immediately. This spike in blood sugar is often a symptom of diabetes.

Summing Up Sweet Smells

When you smell something sweet in your home it is important you find the root cause. The issue could be something dangerous like a gas leak or mold. The cause could even be an insect infestation or a crack in the heater exchanger in your furnace.

Make sure you do not ignore the smell, no matter what the cause is, as there can be grave consequences if the issue is left unresolved.

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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