Get 5% off in-app
400k+ download
Open app

What Does a Gas Leak Smell Like? Is It Safe? 

  • Safety Tips
  • Celine Jerly
  • 9 minutes

Spread the love

There’s a stink in the air, but you can’t really place it. Did someone forget to take out the trash, or is it past time for a deep clean? If none of the questions solve the strange smell, maybe it’s time to check for a gas leak. It could be inside the building or outside – there are a few symptoms that’ll help you confirm the leak. But first, you need to know what a gas leak smells like. 

Natural gas is the world’s cleanest fossil fuel – it produces greenhouse gases, but not as much as the others. Burning gas mostly gives off harmless water vapor, carbon dioxide, and some nitrogen oxide. It is also affordable, and the number of American households making the greener switch is increasing steadily. Many consumer products also use natural gas – fireplaces, furnaces, dryers, stoves, and more. So, it’s likely that some amount of gas is present in every house/building. 

How safe is it, though? Harmless as it is for domestic use, natural gas can turn dangerous if you handle it improperly. You needn’t go looking for trouble – a loose vale, a busted pilot light, or a damaged pipe is enough to start the leak and cause potential fires. Inhaling it is also a health risk and could lead to gas poisoning. Could it cause an explosion? Let’s find out: 

Find a cheap homeowners insurance policy in Michigan

See: Car Smells Like Gas? 6 Common Reasons 

What does a gas leak smell like? 

In its natural state, gas is odorless and colorless. However, gas companies add Mercaptan to give it a distinctive smell. Mercaptan is a harmless odorant that does not affect the gas quality and smells like Sulphur or rotting eggs. Now, you know why a gas leak could smell like hot trash.  

It’s likely a leak if the smell is getting stronger. It might not be immediately noticeable outdoors or if the indoor leak is minimal. However, even a small leak will cause several serious issues over time, including the risk of explosions and poisoning.  

Also See: Gas Leak in Your Car: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

How do I know if my house has a gas leak? 

You can’t determine a gas leak by the smell alone. So, how do you tell if the smell is a gas leak for sure?  

Look for these additional symptoms: 

  • Hissing sounds 
  • Air bubbles in mud/puddles 
  • Wilting plants or yellow grass 
  • Unexplained increase in gas usage 
  • Dizziness, nausea, and other symptoms of gas inhalation 

Let’s explain these further to help you detect gas leaks quickly: 

Hissing pipes and valves 

If a damaged pipe or appliance is causing the leak and smell, the escaping gas is likely to make a hissing sound – the bigger the leak, the louder the hiss. You’ll hear it even if the appliance is switched off; check your stoves, furnaces, and dryers regularly. Supply pipelines could also sustain damage that causes such leaks.

Bubbles in standing water 

If there are underground gas pipelines on or near your property, a leak might cause the natural gas to disperse through the mud and into the air. It is easier to detect if there are puddles, as you’ll see unexplained bubbles. 

Searching,For,Gas,Leak. bubbles

Withering plants and leaves 

Natural gas in the soil prevents roots from absorbing oxygen, so plants start wilting. You might also notice stunted growth and discoloration, despite taking good care of the plants. Trees may have leaves smaller than normal, and grass could turn yellow in patches.  

Increase in gas consumption 

If you use natural gas at home, it’s easy to estimate how much you consume in a month on average. After factoring in seasonal variation, it’s important to ensure there isn’t an undetected leak if you notice an unexplained jump in usage. 

Poor Health 

Inhaling natural gas could cause headaches and dizziness. Fatigue, nausea, and breathing difficulty are also possible. If these symptoms are persistent and accompanied by a gas leak smell, take necessary precautions immediately. Over time, it can lead to gas poisoning, which causes suffocation, loss of concentration or memory, and could even knock you unconscious.  

Can a slow gas leak make you sick? 

Yes, over time, exposure to natural gas can cause several health issues and lead to serious poisoning.  

A slow gas leak like those from household appliances isn’t easy to detect – you might not even notice the smell. But it will continue to affect your health, and the symptoms are easily misunderstood as unrelated problems. Detecting even large gas leaks won’t be easy if your sense of smell isn’t strong.  

To ensure you are not exposed to toxic fumes, install carbon monoxide/gas detectors at home. Advanced detectors that identify multiple threats are available these days. The alarms effectively help avoid gas leak risks when the smell goes unnoticed. 

See: Know More about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from a Gas Stove

Did You Know? 

According to American Gas Association, 187 million Americans use natural gas at home for heating, cooking, and more. 2.6 million miles of underground pipelines deliver gas safely and efficiently. The country is spending over $32 billion annually to enhance natural gas supply system safety.   

How to check for small gas leaks? 

Once you catch a whiff of what could be a gas leak smell, listen for hissing or whistling. Go closer to appliances, valves, or pipes that could leak natural gas to listen better. Next, turn the stove on and check for the safe blue flame – if it’s blue, there’s enough oxygen in the air. Orange or red is a clear indication of danger – turn the stove off.  

Gas-powered appliances usually have a pilot light – the flame should be blue with a yellow tip. You’ll find this in electric dryers, furnaces, heaters, stoves, and generators.  


If you think you’ve found the leak but need to be sure, use some soapy water to check for bubbles – it usually works on small damages on pipes or valves. But it’s best to stop your investigation here and call for help. Avoid exposure to gas leak smells, and leave it to experts if you are sure there’s a leak.  

Note: If you have a natural gas supply at home, there’ll be a shutoff valve outside the house – make sure you know where it is and how to use it in an emergency. Everyone living in the house/building must know how this works. Cutting off the main supply effectively stops the gas leak and prevents more exposure.  

Can a small gas leak cause an explosion? 

It is less likely, but you can’t dismiss the risk if the leak goes undetected for longer. Natural gas is flammable and can cause potential fires. If there is a strong gas smell, even from a small leak, you must clear the area and call for help. Make sure not to do anything that can cause a spark or fire near the exposed area.  

Keep children away from appliances like stoves and heaters that can expose them to gas. Also, teach them what a gas leak smells like and recognize other symptoms. Make sure your kids know what to do if they suspect a gas leak in or around the house. Check out this video about natural gas safety: 


Also See: How Deep Are Gas Lines Buried? How to Be Safe around Them

What should you do if you smell gas? 

Do not ignore or delay in taking necessary precautions if you confirm a gas leak smell. In most cases, the strong gas smell is enough proof to vacate the building and move to a safer area. Once you are in the clear, call 911 or your local gas company to report the leak. Do not wait for others to make the call – more reports mean higher urgency.  

Note: If the smell is only near an appliance like a heater or fireplace, it could just be an open burner valve or a pilot light that has gone out. You don’t need to leave the house if the smell disappears after these are fixed.  

Make sure to follow instructions from emergency responders and utility employees when they arrive. Stay calm and allow them to address the issue without distractions. Be patient till the emergency crew secures the area. Read up on what the experts recommend for using natural gas safely to be better prepared to handle the problem.  

Here’s what you must and must not do if you smell a gas leak: 

Must Do 

  • Put out any open flames: It might take some time for leaked gas to cause fires, but it isn’t impossible. 
  • Clear the premises immediately: Get everyone out of the house/building. If you are outside, move to a safe area till you stop smelling the gas.  
  • Call for help: Call 911 or your gas company to report the leak and await their instructions. Make sure to use the phone away from the exposed area.  

put out open flames if gas leak smell

Must Not Do 

  • Don’t do anything that can make a spark and cause a fire or explosion. Striking matches, lighting candles, flipping switches, using doorbells or elevators, adjusting the thermostat, or adjusting the controls on any electrical equipment is risky if the leak is strong enough. 
  • Do not wait to try and locate the source yourself. If the leak is strong, it is better to let experts with the right skills and equipment handle it. 
  • Do not operate vehicles or powered equipment near the leak. Move your cars when you vacate the area.  

If the gas company shuts off your supply due to safety concerns, do not turn it back on until you are cleared to do so – even if you can’t smell the gas leak anymore. A licensed plumber or your gas company must do the repairs according to local regulations and confirm it is safe to turn the valve on again. 

Also See: Strange car smells and how to fix them

Way.com, your go-to auto insurance savings app, now covers your home too! Find the cheapest home insurance quotes in your area through Way! Who doesn’t love to save a whopping $900 on their home insurance policy? 

Way.com is more than just your refinance app of choice, though! This auto super app helps you find EV chargers near you and book the best parking & car washes. It is the one-stop destination for all your car service needs, helping you save around $3,000 a year on expenses. Need even more reasons? How about gas cashback of up to 75¢/gallon?


Related Posts


Press ESC to close