Searching for the Specific Source of Smells in a New House

Young woman cleaning bathroom with green cleaning products
heshphoto / Getty Images

Most of us can relate to moving into a new apartment or house and thinking that you've managed to secure the perfect place, only to find that upon arrival, the area has a bad smell. Regardless of what room it's coming from, the smell of a new place can change the entire perspective of your visit and plan. Whether you try to air out the room for a few minutes or a few hours, some places just have a stench that's hard to get rid of entirely.

First contact the landlord, who will hopefully tell you he simply forgot to take the garbage out. If that's not the case and you've recently moved into a new home, and there’s a stench that you can’t seem to locate, it’s time to find the source. Even if you found the source of the foul odor, there are some tricks and tips to lead you to a fresh new aroma that will put you and your guests at ease.

Locate the Source of the Stench

First, pinpoint the area. Some smells come from a certain place in the house, whether it's a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, or other living areas. Smells coming from a specific area are the easiest to find and remove. If you can’t find the specific place the smell is coming from, and it seems to be through the entire space, then the source of the smell could be in the air ducts or from the furnace fan. Check the basement or the area around the furnace and air source first.

Target Certain Rooms

Check the kitchen after you've tried to nail down the area without any luck. Most smells tend to come from the kitchen due to food. In fact, refrigerators, cupboards, and ovens often contain old food pieces that have simply gone bad. These items may be hidden, so look carefully.

For example, make sure you check behind small appliances, like your microwave, blender, and coffee machine. Look on top of high shelves as well for things left behind that may have become rotten. Doing a thorough clean of the kitchen before unpacking anything often quickly reveals any evidence from previous residents.

Check for Water Inside and More Outside

If the kitchen is a fail, the next step is to check for any standing water. Standing water will begin to smell if it’s left for too long. It's likely to be trapped in the washing machine, dishwasher, bathtub, or sink. If previous residents left behind buckets or pails, take a peek inside to see if there’s any liquid or old wet rags and sponges. Remove and dry any water sources found and air out the room.

Another place to look is beneath the house or around the apartment. Sometimes, animals or birds find their way underneath the house or deck, and unfortunately, don’t survive. Carcasses have a very putrid and unique smell, so you may recognize it as soon as you enter your new home. Various wildlife can also get into attics or walls, which is much more difficult to find and resolve. Keep an ear and an eye out for any signs of animal droppings or sounds in this scenario.

Tips and Tricks

If you can’t locate the smell, it's important to hire a professional. The source is probably hidden in the roof or walls, and you'll need to have someone properly assess the air quality to remove the problem properly. Otherwise, try the following:

  • Implement a strong scent in your new home by using candles, linen sprays, oil diffusers, and incense.
  • Do a deep clean of the home by scrubbing the floors, cleaning the carpet, and wiping down all surfaces. While you're cleaning, leave the windows open to air out the area.
  • Remove subtleties that come with your home like old blinds. Replacing these can make a difference in the smell factor.