Why Does My Gas Stove Smell Like Eggs?

by Michael Franco
Illustration of a gas stove with eggs instead of stove eyes

There’s nothing quite like the sulfuric smell of rotten eggs. And if you’re smelling it around the house, it can be quite disconcerting, to say the least. Aside from smelling bad, the whiff of rotten eggs can be a signal of a larger, more dangerous problem, like a natural gas leak.

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Curious about what might be causing your home to smell like sulfur? Here’s what might be causing that unpleasant odor.

The Natural Gas Smell

Compared to other fossil fuels, natural gas is on the cleaner, more efficient end of the spectrum. Used to power common household gas appliances like water heaters and stoves, natural gas is, initially, odorless and tasteless. In fact, it’s just about undetectable. That is, until mercaptan — a smelly, but harmless substance — is added to the gas. Mercaptan has a distinct sulfuric smell, similar to rotten eggs or cabbage. Gas companies add it to natural gas for a specific reason: to alert those who use gas appliances to the presence of a gas leak.

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Do You Have a Gas Leak?

If you’re smelling this distinct rotten egg smell near your stove, or any other natural gas-powered appliance, chances are you could have a gas leak. Truth is, even small leaks can emit a noticeable odor. That’s why, if you notice the smell of sulfur, go ahead and assume that it’s a gas leak.

If you suspect you have a gas leak, go outside to a safe location at least 300 feet away and call 911. Once notified, the utility company or fire department will come to your home and perform a leak test. If a leak is discovered, you’ll need to have the leak repaired by a gas line specialist before turning the gas back on.

What if It’s Not a Gas Leak?

If you determine that you don’t have a gas leak after all — and the smell isn’t emanating from one of your gas appliances — there are several other culprits that could be causing that unpleasant odor in your home.

Sewer Gas

Like natural gas, gas from your sewer or septic system can also have a similar smell. That said, sewer gas is much stronger and, unlike natural gas, can be harmful if improperly vented for an extended period of time. If you have a shower or sink that doesn’t get used too often, its empty plumbing trap could be allowing sewer gas to enter your home. These P-traps, as they are often called, are designed to trap water so that the water can block sewer gas from coming back into the house. However, if you haven’t used the drain in a while, the water could have evaporated, allowing the sewer gas to filter into your home.

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Well Water

Still not sure where the sulfur smell is coming from? If you rely on a well to get your potable water, you could be smelling hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide in your well water comes from decaying vegetation that’s made its way into the groundwater. Depending on the amount present in your water, it could be quite a strong smell. No need to be alarmed, though. Although it may smell bad, hydrogen sulfide is harmless. That said, you’ll want to do all you can to get rid of the smell. Depending on the severity, you may be able to chlorine shock the well every six to nine months to remove the smell. In more severe cases, installing a reverse osmosis water filtration unit to your water supply will likely solve the problem.

Air Conditioner

Another reason you might be smelling that rotten egg smell is a dirty air conditioner filter or evaporator coil. Your air filters or copper coils could have a buildup of dust and debris with high concentrations of sulfur in them. Replacing your air filter and cleaning your evaporator coils will help get rid of any unpleasant air conditioner smells. Also, remember that excessive sulfur in the air can be a sign of poor indoor air quality. You’ll certainly want to make sure your air conditioner is operating with a clean filter for the health and happiness of you and your family.

Other Causes

Keep in mind that when organic matter decomposes, it releases sulfur. It could be that an animal crawled inside your AC vents and died. Contact a local HVAC company to come out and inspect your vents in order to root out the problem.

In any case, there are a number of reasons why you might be smelling rotten eggs aside from a natural gas leak. Fortunately, in many of these scenarios, there are fairly easy solutions to the problem. It all starts with targeting the specific source of the smell and being proactive about getting it eliminated.

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