Sewer gas issues can pose potential health risks and create unpleasant living or working conditions in Chicago homes and businesses. Odors resulting from sewer gas leaks not only impact indoor air quality but can also hint at underlying plumbing infrastructure problems. As a property owner, it is crucial to understand the causes of sewer gas problems, how to detect them, and the appropriate measures to address any issues. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss potential sources of sewer gas, its health implications, and the steps to take in identifying and resolving such issues.

Sewer gas is a byproduct of decomposing organic materials within the sewer system’s wastewater. It is comprised of a combination of various gases, including methane, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. In high concentrations, some of these gases can be harmful, causing symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headaches, or even more severe health issues. Additionally, the presence of methane in sewer gas poses potential explosion risks if not adequately controlled.

Causes of Sewer Gas Odors in Residential and Commercial Properties

Sewer gas odors can have multiple causes, some of which are due to faulty plumbing or lack of proper maintenance. Here are four common sources of sewer gas leaks in homes and businesses:

1. Dry P-Traps: P-traps, the U-shaped pipes under sinks, toilets, and floor drains, are designed to hold water, creating a barrier against sewer gases entering your property. If a P-trap becomes dry due to infrequent use or evaporation, the gas can pass through and emit an unpleasant odor. Regular use of your fixtures and occasional maintenance can help prevent this issue.

2. Cracked or Damaged Sewer Lines: Broken or damaged sewer lines can lead to sewer gas leaks into your home or business. Such damage can result from several factors, including tree roots infiltrating the lines, external pressure on the pipes, or natural wear and tear over time. Regular inspections and timely repairs are essential to maintain the integrity of your sewer lines.

3. Blocked or Obstructed Vents: Plumbing vents are crucial in maintaining proper air pressure inside your pipes and allowing sewer gases to be safely vented outdoors. However, blockages or obstructions in these vents can cause the gas to become trapped and leak into your property. Common causes of blocked vents include debris, bird nests, or ice and snow buildup.

4. Loose or Leaking Seals: Seals around toilets, drain covers, and plumbing fixtures serve as a barrier against sewer gas intrusion. Over time, these seals can wear out, loosen, or become damaged, allowing gas to seep into your property. Regular inspection and maintenance of these seals can help prevent such issues.

Detecting and Addressing Sewer Gas Issues

To ensure a safe and comfortable environment, it is crucial to take appropriate measures in detecting and resolving sewer gas issues. Here are four steps to guide you through the process:

1. Locate the Source: Begin by investigating the origin of the sewer gas odor in your property. Check sinks, drains, toilets, and vents for any signs of blockages or damage. Using a smoke test, a professional plumber can identify any leaks in your plumbing/vent system by introducing non-toxic smoke into the pipes and observing where it escapes.

2. Inspect and Repair Sewer Lines: Regularly check your sewer lines for damage and signs of deterioration. If you suspect a problem, consult with a professional plumber who can use specialized tools, such as a video camera inspection, to assess the condition of your pipes and determine the necessary repairs.

3. Maintain and Clean P-Traps: To prevent dry P-traps and sewer gas intrusion, frequently use all the plumbing fixtures in your property. Cleaning your P-traps with hot water and a mild cleaning solution can also help remove buildup and avoid future blockages.

4. Examine and Repair Plumbing Vents: Inspect your property’s plumbing vents for any signs of blockage, damage, or improper installation. Clear any obstructions, and consult with a professional plumber to repair or replace damaged vents as needed.

Preventive Measures to Maintain a Safe and Odor-Free Property

Adopting proactive measures can help prevent sewer gas odors and the associated risks. Consider the following tips for maintaining a safe and odor-free property:

1. Schedule Regular Plumbing Maintenance: Regular inspections and maintenance of your plumbing system by experienced professionals can help identify and address potential issues before they escalate.

2. Properly Dispose of Grease and Waste: Avoid pouring grease, oils, or large food particles down your drains, as these substances can contribute to pipe blockages and sewer gas emissions. Dispose of these materials in a designated trash container instead.

3. Monitor Your Water Usage: If you have unused fixtures, faucets, or drains in your property, periodically run water through them to ensure that the P-traps remain filled, preventing sewer gas intrusion.

4. Educate Tenants or Employees: Ensure that all occupants of your property are aware of best practices for maintaining a safe and odor-free environment, including the proper disposal of waste and the importance of timely maintenance.

Chicago Sewer Experts: Your Full-Service Plumbing and Drain Cleaning Solution

At Chicago Sewer Experts, we understand the importance of maintaining a safe and healthy living or working environment. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to providing comprehensive residential and commercial plumbing and drain cleaning services in the greater Chicago area. With our knowledge and expertise, we can help you effectively prevent, detect, and address sewer gas issues.


Understanding the causes of sewer gas odors and applying preventive measures can help you maintain a safe and odor-free property. By following the expert tips outlined in this article and working with a trusted plumbing service like Chicago Sewer Experts, you can effectively address sewer gas issues and ensure a comfortable and healthy environment in your home or business.

Experience plumbing peace of mind with Chicago Sewer Experts. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your comprehensive plumbing and drain cleaning needs. We also offer emergency plumbing services in Chicago.