Why Is There A Garlic Smell In My House?

Most people enjoy the flavor of garlic in their food, but even the most die-hard garlic fans have to admit that the smell of garlic is much less enjoyable. If you have a lingering garlic odor in your home, you’ll want it gone fast, especially if you’re having company soon.

Why is There A Garlic Smell In My House

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common reasons that your house smells like garlic. We’ll also tell you how to eliminate the smell as quickly as possible.

What Causes A House To Smell Like Garlic?

It may surprise you that cooking with garlic isn’t the only thing that could cause a garlic smell in your house. Sometimes other strong scents, like a gas leak or a dead animal, can mimic the smell of garlic.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common causes of garlic odor in your home.

cooking with garlic

1. Cooking With Garlic

Although it’s obvious that cooking with garlic will leave a smell behind, you might not realize just how long it will take for the odor to dissipate.

If your home has poor ventilation, that smell could linger for up to a week. If you did ventilate your home during and after cooking and the scent just won’t go away, it may be coming from the dishes in your sink, garbage disposal, or trash can. 

If you’ve cleaned up your dishes and garbage and still smell garlic a few hours later, the odor could be coming from you. Since garlic has such a pungent odor, the scent can become embedded in your hair or clothing.

Of course, if you ate food that was cooked with garlic, you might even be smelling your own breath.

2. A Gas Leak

Natural gas is an odorless substance that can be deadly if it leaks inside our home. Since it’s important to know if you have a leak, gas companies add a potent chemical called mercaptan to alert you to danger.

Mercaptan has a pungent odor that mimics rotten eggs or garlic so you’ll know right away if the deadly gas is seeping into your home. 

If you think the garlic smell in your house could be a natural gas leak, open the windows, turn off the gas, and vacate your home. When you and your family are safe, you should call your utility company to alert them to the problem. 

3. Skunk Spray

Sometimes a skunk’s spray can smell like rotting garlic or cabbage. If a skunk has sprayed in your yard, the smell should dissipate in half an hour or less, but if it sprayed your dog, that odor could linger for days.

If you discover your dog has been sprayed, add a solution of dish soap, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide to his bathwater to help the smell disappear quickly.

4. Dead Animal

If you notice a foul, garlic-like odor in your home and you can’t pinpoint the source, there’s a chance that a mouse or a squirrel may have gotten into your attic or basement and died.

When animals die inside your house and begin to decompose, their bodies produce hydrogen sulfide, which can smell similar to the sulfur content of garlic. 

5. Body Odor

Sweat often has an indistinct bad smell, but when you’re stressed out, your body oils can sometimes mix with the sulfur-producing bacteria that live on your skin, causing the garlicky smell.

Certain supplements, like selenium, can also make your body smell like garlic, as can eating too much garlic. Rarely, untreated liver disease can make someone smell like garlic.

How To Get Rid Of The Garlicky Smell In Your House

Now that you understand the most common reasons your home might smell like garlic, let’s take a look at how to quickly get rid of that odor.

cleaning kitchen

1. Increase Ventilation

No matter what’s causing the garlic odor in your house, increasing ventilation is the first step to getting rid of it.

Turn on the vent fans in your kitchen and bathrooms, use the ceiling fans, and open the windows to help remove the stale, stinky air from your home.

2. Clean Your Kitchen

If you have recently cooked with garlic, you should give your kitchen a deep cleaning, starting with the stove and dishes. If the smell remains after those items are clean, you should scrub out your sink and empty your trash can.

You should also consider cleaning out your garbage disposal by putting lemon peels down it and grinding them. The oil in the lemon peel will help to break down the allicin in the garlic and kill the odor it leaves behind.

3. Use Odor Eliminators 

If you’re having a problem pinpointing the smell, pour some baking soda into a few shallow bowls and place them around your house.

The baking soda will absorb bad smells in the air and leave your home smelling fresh. If you’d like to mask the odor while you wait for it to dissipate, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to each bowl.

My favorite essential oil for imparting freshness is lemon because it’s bright, energizing, and just smells clean.

4. Check for Dead Animals

If you haven’t cooked with or eaten garlic recently, you should check your basement and attic for dead animals. If you’re having trouble locating the source of the smell, this is the most likely culprit.

When you find the offending critter, put on some gloves, put it in a plastic bag, and dispose of it in your outdoor trash can. Return to where you found the body and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area to remove all odor-causing bacteria from your home.

5. Check Yourself

If the garlic smell in your home seems to follow you around, there’s a chance that you’re actually causing it. If you’ve cooked with garlic in the last few hours, the odor may be lingering in your hair and clothing.

If you take a shower and change your clothes and the smell is still following you, it may be because you’ve eaten so much garlic that you’re exuding it from your pores.

This is much more likely if you’ve eaten raw garlic, onions, or leeks rather than their cooked counterparts. The alliums in these foods can also leave a lingering odor on your hands for roughly one day after you’ve worked with them.

If you haven’t eaten or cooked with garlic recently, you still might be the cause of the garlic smell in your house. When we get stressed out, the oils from our sweat can mix with the sulfur-producing bacteria that live on our skin, leaving a garlicky odor in its wake.

A good deodorant can help combat the smell, but you should also take steps to reduce your stress, like adopting a yoga or meditation routine or simply setting aside a few minutes each day to listen to music you enjoy.

If you’re not eating garlic or feeling stressed out, you should look at the medications or supplements you take each day. Some bladder conditions require a sulfur-based medication that can leave the user with a garlicky smell, as can taking too much selenium.

If your medications leave a bothersome body odor, speak with your doctor about alternative treatment options.

Does Mold Smell Like Garlic?

Most of the time, the Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds (mVOCs) in mold have an earthy, musty odor. On occasion, however, the mold will come from sulfuric bacteria.

These sulfuric molds can smell sour or tangy, kind of like body odor or garlic.

FAQ

What causes garlic odor?

When garlic is cut or crushed, it releases enzymes that turn into allicin when exposed to the air. Allicin is the sulfuric molecule that is responsible for garlic’s pungent scent.

When we eat garlic, the allicin enters our lungs, which leads to garlic breath. If we eat too much garlic, the allicin will also enter our bloodstream and cause us to exude the garlic smell from our pores.

Is garlic toxic to dogs?

Garlic, along with all other members of the allium family, including leeks, onions, and chives, is toxic to dogs and cats. The powdered forms of these foods are more poisonous than raw products because the powders are more concentrated than the food source itself. 

Allium-containing foods can cause oxidative damage to your pet when the chemical compounds inside them bind to the animal’s red blood cells. Their body will try to rid itself of the invader and destroy the red blood cell in the process, leading to anemia.

If your pet doesn’t ingest too much garlic at once, the only necessary treatment is keeping them from eating it again. A blood transfusion may be required for more severe cases to replace the red blood cells your pet’s body destroys.

Conclusion

The smell of garlic lingering in your home for days after you cooked with it is enough to drive anyone crazy. If you haven’t cooked with garlic at all, you may be concerned and find yourself wondering, “why does my room suddenly smells like garlic?” Surprisingly, a garlicky odor can be caused by all sorts of things besides the food itself, including a gas leak, body odor from stress, or a dead mouse in your walls. 

No matter the source of the smell, to get rid of the nasty odor, you should increase ventilation by turning on fans and opening windows, and place odor eliminators around your home to absorb the smell from the air.

Shauna Stone
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