Why Does the Garage Smell? (Things You Should Know)


Garages can have all kinds of different smells. Let’s look at the sources of different odors and what you can do to get rid of that smell. There is always a reason for some smell, and most of them are something you should deal with.

Source of garage smells are usually vehicle fluid leaks, paint, chemicals, garbage, cleaning products, litter boxes, mold, sewer, or something dangerous like failing electronics, gas or gasoline leak, propane, and smoke. 

Keeping the garage odor-free makes it a lot more enjoyable to use the space as a workshop or something similar. 

We also look at how to keep the smells out of your house.  

Why Do Garages Smell So Good?

New buildings usually smell good. The materials are freshand they haven’t had time to absorb any bad smells to themselves. Garages are made of fresh concrete, lumber, and drywall. And they can smell nice many months after construction. 

Fresh paint gives that “new” smell but releases VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that are harmful to health. But they dissipate fast after the paint is dried. 

Why Do Garages Smell So Bad?

People usually keep things in the garage that smell terrible. Cars with oil and other fluid leaks. Paints, all sorts of chemicals, garbage, cardboard and paper, cleaning products, litter boxes.

Your garage may also have mold and mildew problems, or the sewer smell comes up the drains. Maybe somebody smoked cigarettes or housed pets a long time ago, and the scent is still there.

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Fish

A strange fishy smell comes from failing electrical components. Electrical shielding, wires, and components emit a fishy smell when they overheat. Check your outlets and other electrical components for equipment that looks burnt or melting if there is a sign of any malfunction. Don’t touch them !!

Switch off the electricity from that part of the house and call an expert immediately. Failing electrics form a severe fire hazard. 

Burning plastic, wiring, and electrics can smell like rotten eggs too

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Rotten Eggs

The cause of rotten eggs smell can be a gas leak. Manufacturers add chemicals to natural gas and propane to give it a noticeable odor. They are naturally colorless and odorless. The smell is a safety precaution! Vacate the premises immediately and call an emergency number or gas company.

The smell of rotten eggs can also be a problem with plumping. Check if the smell is coming from your drains. If it’s coming from the drain, check the article section about sewage.

If you notice smell intensifies when running hot water. The problem is most likely in your water heater. You probably need to change the sacrificial anode rod, which needs to be replaced sometimes.  

Burning plastic, wiring, and electrics can smell like rotten eggs too. 

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Garbage

Do you have garbage or recycling bins in your garage? Many people keep the garbage cans inside the garage to avoid critters and animals from getting to it.

Move the garbage cans outside, but first, start by hosing them down. Usually, there is a lot of garbage residue at the bottom of cans. 

Mix up a little bit of dishwashing fluid or something similar and hot water.

Scrub the inside of the cans with the mixed liquid and rinse them with a garden hose. Let them dry completely, and they almost as good as new and odor-free. Consider using plastic garbage bags inside the cans. You can also use newspaper sheets and a bit of baking soda at the bottom of the cans; replace them weekly.

A rotten smell can also mean a dead animal inside your garage walls, ducts, or plumbing. Call a professional to check the area. 

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Wet Dog

There’s probably mold or mildew somewhere in your garage or dead animal in ducts.

Also, if your garage has an air filter in ventilation or AC, check it too.

There are many reasons that your AC might smell like a wet pooch.

  • Check drainage pans
  • Check evaporator coil
  • Check air filter 
  • Check for leaks 
  • Check ducts 

Or get a professional to check the unit and ducts. 

Alive squirrels, raccoons, and rats smell like wet dogs too. So you may have rodents living in your garage. Call a professional pest control. 

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Gas/Gasoline

Your car may have gasoline leakage somewhere in the fuel system, and that can be very dangerous. Get the car to the repair center. 

Examine the puddles or drips on the floor to try to figure out where the car is leaking. Check the gasoline cap first to see if it is loose, missing, cracked, or leaking. 

Gasoline fumes and puddles are a health and fire hazard to you and your home. 

Some people like the smell of gasoline.

Gasoline contains methane and benzene, which are dangerous hydrocarbons.

You should not store large amounts of gasoline in your garage. (usually no more than 5 gallons)

Suppose you store gasoline for lawnmowers, garden tools, or other equipment. Make sure the gas is in tightly sealed plastic containers or metal tanks made for the purpose. Also, gasoline should be kept in a detached garage, tool shed, or storage barn and away from any ignition sources, including hot water tanks and radiators.

Keep extinguisher also near your storage location. 

Gasoline usually lasts three to six months when properly stored. If your gasoline goes old, dispose of it properly to approved waste sites or have someone come and pick it up. 

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Natural Gas

Natural gas leak smells like rotten eggs or sulfur. Suppose you smell an odor like rotten eggs or skunks. Get out of the house! And call an emergency number or a gas company immediately.

Manufacturers add chemicals to natural gas and propane to give it a noticeable odor. They are naturally colorless and odorless. The smell is a safety precaution! 

Why Does My Garage Smell Musty

Cardboard and paper soak up moisture and starts to grow mold fast. Throw the old cardboard boxes and papers out and buy plastic or metal containers. 

You can also try to clean the garage with bleach. Combine one cup of chlorine bleach with a gallon of water in a bucket—mop and sweep all the areas that can be washed and handle a little moisture.

Keep the garage door open when you are using the bleach to ventilate properly. Rinse one more time areas with just water. Allow the garage to dry at least 24-48 hours before using the area normally. 

White vinegar can be used to clean the mold. 

If your garage is insulated, There may be water leakage from the roof or pipes, and maybe some of the insulation has gotten wet.

Get an expert to assess the damage and take moisture readings from the walls and ceiling. The odor may be throughout your home, in your basement, laundry, bathroom areas, or closets. 

Is Musty Smell Dangerous?

Mold can smell like wet socks or rotten wood. Some types of molds are dangerous to inhale for longer periods and can make people very sick. Some molds are only cosmetic and not harmful. If you have doubts, get an expert to assess the situation. 

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Sewage

Suppose you have a drain in your garage. It may be lacking a P-trap. Get an expert to install a P-trap to keep the sewer smell out. 

If you have a drain with a P-trap. It’s common for them to dry out after months of non-usage. So the sewer smell gets to the air. The same thing can happen in your house shower and sink too. Running water monthly to drains keeps the p-traps from drying out. 

You can pour some cheap food oil into the drain with a P-trap. The oil makes the water evaporate much slower. 

If your garage drain doesn’t have P-trap and you never need or rarely need to use the drain. You can just cover it with some plastic and tape. You can also tape down three of the four sides in case of a water hazard so the water can escape to the drain.

If you can’t find the source of the sewer smell leak in the plumbing. The problem might be a vent pipe, which releases sewer gasses through your home’s roof. Call an expert to investigate. 

The smell of sewage can also be a dead animal somewhere in your plumbing or duct system. 

Trust your instincts with this one: if you smell a dead animal, it probably is one. The smell is a noxious sickly smell. 

Call a professional AC or plumping company to take a look. 

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Propane

The cause of rotten eggs smell can be a gas leak. Manufacturers add chemicals to natural gas and propane to give it a noticeable odor. They are naturally colorless and odorless.

The smell is a safety precaution! Vacate the premises immediately and call an emergency number or gas company.

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Urine

Cat or dog pee smells a lot. If you have dog kennel or cat litter boxes, you just have to clean them more often. Chance the litter and hose down the kennels and laundry pet bedding. 

Use a black light to scan the floors and lower walls to see the most often used pet urine spots. 

To get rid of urine smell, buy an enzyme-based product that breaks down the urine bacteria and neutralizes the odor. You can purchase these products from online or pet stores. 

Don’t use ammonia to clean urine. Ammonia already has a urine odor and will make the problem worse. 

Never mix bleach with ammonia. These two become extremely dangerous as combined. 

Suppose your home’s previous owners had cats. Any moisture that comes into contact with wooden walls or floors releases the old dried-up cat pee. 

Does Pee Ruin Concrete?

Pee doesn’t ruin concrete, but unsealed concrete will absorb the pee the same as any water or liquid. When concrete slabs get too wet, say like from water damage. They have to be air-dried with machines for many weeks.  

Getting the Pee Out of the Concrete 

Wash the area with one part of vinegar and one part water mixed with two teaspoons of baking soda. Then use the enzyme-based product. Don’t rinse the cleaner right away. Let the concrete soak it up to 24 hours, and then clean it out.

The smell of cat urine can also be an indication of a mold problem. Certain types of mold smell similar to cat urine. Like a toxic black mold. Check the mold section of the article. 

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Paint

Paint has a chemical kind of smell, and maybe you have leaky paint containers, old spray bottles that leak, or other chemicals that stink up the garage. 

Sort out what has expired and throw old ones out. You have to take them to a hazardous waste disposal center. Or call someone to come and get them. 

Leakage of Motor or other oils from your car can smell too. Depending on your garage floor, It’s easy or hard to clean.

Floors like epoxy or tiles are easy to clean off.

If you have a non-sealed concrete floor of plastic mats, you have to try and soak it out, something that absorbs oil like kitty litter or sawdust.

Cover the spots with sawdust or kitty litter and wait a couple of days. Sweep the area and rinse and repeat till the oil is gone. 

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Smoke

Something might be burning. Get out of the house and call an emergency number. 

Install smoke detectors all-around your house, including the garage, and know what they sound and change the batteries regularly.

Failing electrics gives away a fish smell that indicated you have burning electrics somewhere in your home. Take a look at your outlets and electrical equipment without touching them. To see if anything is melting or malfunctioning.

Why Does My Garage Smell Like Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke contains many nasty things. When smoked inside, the tar and nicotine and other stuff stick to the walls and ceiling.

Maybe somebody smoked in your garage a long time ago, and the smell is still there. 

The smell of cigarette smoke is hard to get rid of. It usually means washing every surface imaginable, Using an ozone generator, and painting walls and roofs. 

Keeping the Smells at Check

For future smells, you can try some of these to maintain a fresher-smelling garage. 

First clean the garage from top to bottom.

  • Carbon pouches that absorb odor molecules
  • Kitty litter absorbs fluids and smells
  • Winegar neutralizes smells 
  • Leave the trash cans outside
  • Baking soda neutralizes smells and is a natural cleaning agent 

Replace these once a month or every three months to ensure they remain effective.

Use Ionization(ozone generator) machine that you can rent. It neutralizes any smells from the garage. Consult experts or read the user manual carefully. You cannot use the space for one or a couple of days while the machine is doing its job. 

Install garage ventilation. Ventilation also helps with garage temperature and moisture levels. 

Suppose you have an outside shed. Move all the chemicals there that can tolerate cold temperatures. Of course, this depends on your region. But keep in mind that paint freezes. Oils and car fluids don’t freeze. Do an online search or ask an expert about the product if you doubt that it will freeze or can’t be in a too hot environment. 

Consider what to keep in the garage and what not to.

How Do You Keep Garage Smells Out of the House?

Fumes and smells from your attached garage can seep into your house living areas Through open doors, gaps, and ducts.

A health study found measurable quantities of carbon monoxide and benzene(from gasoline) inside houses with attached garages. In comparison, they saw little in those with a detached garage or without a garage.  

Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon monoxide doesn’t smell like anything and can be deadly. Sources of CO in a home can include. 

  • Fireplaces
  • Space heaters
  • Gas and wood stoves
  • Untuned combustion engines

Make sure your home has at least one CO detector. Preferably more. Put one on your garage also, at least temporarily, if it goes off when you have not been running any vehicles in the garage. It could be a sign of a failing furnace or gas water heater. Also, learn how to operate fireplaces and wood stoves properly. Install smoke detectors too. 

Seal the Gaps

Check your garage thoroughly and assess where the smells could enter your home. Buy supplies like weather stripping, caulk, and spray foam and use them. 

Check the door leading into the garage from the house that it closes tightly, and weather stripping seals all the gaps. Replace the weather stripping if necessary. 

Seal all the ducts and wiring gaps that pass to the house or garage ceiling with caulk and spray foam. 

Keep the Garage Air Clean

Avoid running any gasoline-powered equipment like your car, lawnmower, chainsaw, or motorcycle any longer than you have to.

Always open the garage door first before starting up any vehicles or equipment and move them fast out of the garage. Shut the engines quickly, too, when you move them inside the garage and keep the garage door open for a couple of minutes, so the air changes before closing the door.

Tip

Install self-closing door for the garage-house door. That way, the door won’t be left open when you enter with the groceries, or kids accidentally left it open.  

Upgrade Your Garage

Garages are usually unfinished to save money in the construction phase. 

Finish the walls and ceilings, and floors. Maybe install some insulation and heating and cooling too. Add proper ventilation also. 

Finished walls and ceilings and joints sealed and surfaces primed and painted don’t leak nearly as much or not at all, compared to an unfinished garage. 

A finished garage adds value to your home, and you’ll have an ideal space for your projects or workshop

Store Chemicals Safely

Check your chemicals and liquids containers are properly sealed and that they haven’t gone expired. Throw out any spoiled or leaking container. You have to take them to a hazardous waste disposal center. Or call someone to come and get them.

Suppose you can smell any chemicals. It’s a sign of a leaky container. You can double seal containers with plastic bins with sealable lids. You can also buy a lockable chemical storage cabinet that will ensure your kids or pets don’t access them. 

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