Garlic is one of the worst scents out there. If you smell it in your home, you’re probably wondering how you can get it out ASAP.
In this article, I’ll explore some of the many causes of garlic scents in homes so you won’t have to keep plugging your nose all day.
Why Does My House Smell Like Garlic?
Houses can smell like garlic for a variety of reasons, from cooking foods with garlic to having a dead animal to getting sprayed with a skunk to having a change in body odor and even having an altered sense of smell.
Where Does It Often Happen?
Garlic smells can happen anywhere in your home, but these are the most common areas:
- Laundry room
12 Reasons Why Your House May Smell Like Garlic
Natural Gas Leak
While natural gas itself is odorless, a chemical is added to it when it’s in homes or buildings. Most people describe this as a rotten egg smell, but it may smell like garlic to you due to how intense it is.
The reason this chemical is added is to indicate that there’s a problem. If there’s a leak, you can smell it and get out as quickly as possible.
If you suspect there might be a gas leak, evacuate your home immediately and call 911.
Even a small one carries a risk of an explosion or a fire. If the gas is not vented properly, you may be exposed to carbon monoxide, which can be lethal.
It might not actually be a leak, but you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that you and the rest of your household are safe.
This one might seem a little bit obvious — if you cook with garlic, then of course it’ll smell, right?
But you might forget how much the scent can linger if you haven’t made anything with garlic in a while.
Also, someone in your house may have made something with garlic in it without your knowledge, like someone late night snacking on those delicious garlic rolls you had in the freezer.
It might not just be your home that stinks but also your breath and body odor.
This has a scientific explanation — when you eat garlic, the oils in it end up in the lung tissue and spread. It can also get into your sweat, bloodstream, and even your urine.
It does go away eventually, but it may take up to two days or even longer, depending on your metabolism. So if you’re still smelling garlic long after you made your favorite Italian dish, your breath or BO might be to blame.
The garlic smell you’re smelling may not even be garlic. Onions, curry powder, and cumin can also release the same sulfur compounds that lead to a nasty smell.
And yes, these can also affect body odor as well, so the same things I mentioned in the previous section apply here.
Having Plants That Smell Like Garlic
Most plants that smell like garlic aren’t grown indoors. I can’t think of anyone who would walk into a plant store and come out with a plant that smells like death.
But there might be some plants outside your home that smell like garlic. If pets or children get near the plants or if you leave the door open too long, this scent can invade your home.
Here are a few plants that smell like garlic (and some links to read more about them):
- Garlic vine (Bignonia aequinoctialis)
- Crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis)
- Field pennycress (Thlapsi arvense)
- Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)
Body Odor and Bad Breath
As I mentioned before, body odor or bad breath could be an innocent case of eating garlic. Onions, curry, cumin, and garlic supplements can all have the same effect.
But in some cases, they can be a signifier of a medical issue. It’s usually rare, but you may want to bring it up with your general practitioner or dentist if you’re concerned.
Here is a list of things that can lead to unusual odors (which may or may not smell like garlic):
- Bad breath:
- Liver disease
- Selenium poisoning (from eating too many supplements or foods that have selenium naturally like brazil nuts)
- Sinus, throat, or lung infections
- Tooth decay and gum disease
- Body odor:
- Bromhidrosis (condition that causes a garlic smell when your body breaks down sweat)
- Overdosing on thiamine or choline (two types of B vitamins)
- Hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy or menopause
In addition, you or someone in your household could have issues with body odor as a result of:
- Exercising more
- Being out in hot weather
- Being overweight
- Hyperhidrosis (a condition that causes excessive sweating)
While these don’t usually cause a garlic smell, they could, especially if sweaty clothing is left on the floor or in an open laundry basket.
After all, body odor is caused by bacteria, which will continue to grow the longer that it’s left out. Over time this will create a disgusting smell that can have the same intensity as garlic.
Dead animals in or around your home can lead to a garlic smell. There are a lot of bacteria involved in the decomposition process, and they produce compounds like sulfur dioxides.
Sulfur can smell like garlic to many people, which may be what you’re smelling.
If you find a dead animal nearby, it’s best not to dispose of it yourself. Like I said, dead animals have a lot of bacteria on them as they decompose, which can make you seriously sick.
Instead, call your local pest control service and see if they can handle dead animals — most can.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact — the same compounds in garlic, called thiols, are also in skunk spray.
Skunks spray when they feel intimidated by predators, people, pets, and other wild animals.
If there’s suddenly a bad smell outside your house or on your children or pets, you may have a skunk problem.
In that case, the best way to remove them is to put them in cage traps and relocate them. It’s the best method since it won’t harm the skunks, and it’s usually easy if you bait them with some food and leave the trap out overnight (skunks are nocturnal).
If you don’t want to do this yourself or it’s not working, you can also call your local pest control service to do the same thing.
Altered Sense of Smell
For some people, Covid-19 came with a strange and unexpected symptom called parosmia. Parosmia causes you to smell things differently, which can also affect your sense of taste. Even ordinary things like toothpaste and coffee can be intolerable.
It’s also unclear how long this symptom can last, but one study suggested that it lasts up to six months, or three months on average.
It’s estimated that around 5% of adults may have long-lasting changes to their sense of smell, and there was also a study done on a patient who had not gone back to normalcy after 27 months.
There’s still ongoing research on the relationship between parosmia and Covid-19, but suffice it to say that it’s different for everyone.
If you had Covid-19 at some point or suspect you may have had it, your sense of smell could be altered, causing you to smell a garlic scent. Try asking other people if they smell a garlic scent, which can tell you whether it’s really there or it’s just you.
One common pregnancy symptom is a heightened sense of smell. The increased estrogen in your body causes this.
While it won’t cause you to start smelling things that aren’t there, it can cause certain scents to be unusually powerful and even intolerable. So cooking a dish with garlic could make it seem like your entire house smells like garlic, for example.
Plumbing Issues (Hydrogen Sulfide)
Hydrogen sulfide can cause your water and plumbing to smell like sulfur. And as I mentioned earlier, sulfur often has a garlicky scent to some people.
Most of the time, this doesn’t lead to unclean water. But exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas can lead to medical problems, which is why it’s always good to get it checked out.
Some plumbing-related causes of hydrogen sulfide can include:
- Sulfur bacteria in the water (including ground and well water) or plumbing
- Sulfur bacteria or certain reactions in water heaters
Besides calling your plumber, you should also test your water to make sure it’s safe. In rare cases, your water may be polluted.
It’s also best to stay somewhere else temporarily to limit your exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas and potentially contaminated water.
Dirty drains have bacteria in them.
Over time, this can give off a foul smell. This can be from dropping food in the kitchen sink or from hair buildup in the shower, just as two examples.
Either way, try cleaning your drain if your kitchen or bathroom smells like garlic.
There’s a rare symptom called phantosmia, which means you start smelling things that aren’t there.
Some describe a burning scent, rotten eggs, perfume, and others. You might also smell garlic.
While the smells are fake, the causes behind them aren’t. Phantosmia can indicate serious medical issues like tumors or seizures.
If you suddenly start smelling things that no one around you smells, it’s good to check in with your doctor.
Pets (usually cats and dogs) can also stink up your home, which all kinds of things can cause. This may or may not smell like garlic.
Here’s a quick rundown of some causes:
- Matted fur can build up bacteria and parasites, which can cause foul odors. Be sure to brush your pet and get them groomed regularly, especially if they have a thick coat.
- Much like humans, pets can have liver conditions that can cause them to smell like garlic.
- Puppies often have terrible breath. This is normal and will usually go away.
- Urine that smells unusually intense can indicate dehydration. Make sure your pets are drinking enough water. Adding wet food to their diet can also help with hydration (especially for cats).
- Phosphine poisoning can cause pets to smell like garlic.
- Poor dental hygiene can cause gum disease and tooth decay, just like it can in humans.
- Digestive problems or allergies to certain foods can cause pets to be unusually gassy, leading to foul smells.
Even if you haven’t cooked with garlic or onions recently, you may have accidentally left some in your fridge.
Over time these will rot and give off a disgusting scent.
Some meats and sausages can have garlic in them, too, causing them to give off a garlicky scent when they rot.
How Do I Get Rid of Garlic Smell in My House?
Getting rid of a garlic smell in your home starts by getting to the root of the issue. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s a matter of taking the necessary steps to get it out.
For most rooms, keeping the windows open and putting a high-powered fan in for a few hours can eliminate the smell. But here’s a quick room-by-room rundown that can get your house smelling garlic-free in no time:
If you have a range hood in your kitchen, turning it on can help with the smell. It’s also good to clean your drain if you emptied any leftover garlic or other food into it.
If the garlic smell is from your bathroom drain, getting a drain cleaner can help. You can also use a plumbing snake, which will help to get out any built-up hair or other gunk.
Do this for your sink, shower, and bathtub.
If garlic smells in your bedroom are from dirty clothes or sheets, washing and drying them can help get rid of the smell. You may also want a closed laundry basket if you don’t have one.
Doing a deep clean of your fridge can usually fix garlic smells there.
Check all your produce and ensure it doesn’t have mold, discoloration, or a foul smell. Also, check your items’ expiration dates to ensure they’re still fresh.
Dirty laundry left in the laundry room can cause a garlic smell, so washing it and drying it thoroughly can help.
Sometimes, your laundry room can smell like that because of sewer gas, so getting your plumbing checked out can also help.
Smells from an unused attic are usually from dead animals. Call your local pest control services to check out the attic and remove the dead animal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does a Dead Mouse Smell Like Garlic?
Any dead animal can smell like garlic after a while, and that also goes for dead mice.
Does Black Mold Smell Like Garlic?
To most people, black mold doesn’t smell like garlic. People usually describe it as a musty or earthy smell.
Does Sewer Gas Smell Like Garlic?
Sewer gas, particularly hydrogen sulfide, can have a garlic smell.