Clogs in appliance drains are a common source of foul odors. (Photo: Dreamstime/TNS).

Foul smells aren’t just unpleasant. They can also signal unhealthy conditions, making it important to find and remove the source as soon as possible. Whether your furry friends are wreaking havoc on your carpets or you’re catching a whiff of something musty and new, different odors can indicate whether you should sterilize things yourself or call in a professional.

1. Rinse your dishwasher
Eliminate odors and give your dishes an extra sparkle with a machine refresh. First, remove any food particles you can see in the bottom of your dishwasher. Then run white vinegar and baking soda through a high-heat cycle with nothing else inside. Still having issues? There could be a problem with the mechanics or the drain hose.

2. Inspect your carpets
Funk you can’t quite place? The culprit might lay beneath your feet. Even if you regularly clean your carpets, multiple factors – including age, pets or cigarette smoke – can build up over time and let off an unpleasant odor. Professional carpet cleaning can lift stubborn stains, but you may need partial or full replacement if a deep shampoo doesn’t knock out the issue.

3. Examine your washing machine
If you notice an earthy aroma in your laundry room, take a look inside your washer. Front-load machines in particular can play host to mildew and mold, which taints your clothing and can even make you sick. You can research DIY cleaning methods, but if the problem persists, mold may have taken up residence deep inside the machine. There could also be a problem or partial clog in your washer’s drain pipe.

4. Be on alert for the stench of rotten eggs
Rotten eggs reek in a distinct way. If you notice a similar rancid or sewage-like smell, it could mean there’s a natural gas leak in your home. Usually, natural gas is colorless and odorless, so utility companies inject a chemical called mercaptan into it so you can smell ASAP if there’s a problem. If you suspect a leak, make sure to leave the property immediately with pets and loved ones. Then, call 911, the fire department or your utility company’s emergency number.

5. Look for blocked air flow and flies
If you notice a strong scent that isn’t related to a natural gas leak, it’s possible that an animal has died somewhere in your home. Your best chance of finding it is to follow your nose, but it may be trapped in your walls which can make it harder to pinpoint. Keep an eye out for flies and make note if the air flow in your home seems blocked or if the odor seems to come from the vents. In this scenario, it’s usually a good idea to have a professional help to locate and safely remove the source of the smell.

By Diana Crandall, Angie’s List. Diana is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit