Back to the basics.

Saturday morning I noticed a slight scent of sewage in the air.

At first I thought it was in my bathroom. It was clean, but I cleaned it again. Just in case.

I could still smell it.

So, like any smart homeowner, I went online.

There are a lot of hits when you google “sewage smell in bathroom.”

The overwhelming response was that something had died in the walls, a rat, a chipmunk, a wolverine.

The idea of a dead rat, and all its living scrabbling, scratching, chewing relatives, in my wall made me feel more panicky than the bad smell. So I kept googling, hoping that there was another explanation.

The next webpage suggested that the traps in the drains which keep the sewage smell down and the good air up had become dry. I don’t understand plumbing, but apparently it’s water that keeps the stink from creeping into your bathroom and if the drain gets dry there’s nothing to stop it.

As soon as I read this I remembered that we had run into that problem at the performing arts center, in the green room.

When we go a while between shows and no one is using the shower, it starts to stink. The technical director will run the water for a few minutes and the smell goes away.

I use my bathroom every day, but I ran some water in the sink and shower anyway.

I could still smell it.

Yet another website suggested that when you get a wiff of the smell, because it comes and goes, you should run and put your nose right up to the drains and the vents to see where it’s coming from exactly.

So I hung out in the bathroom waiting for the odor to come drifting out of somewhere.

When it did, I sniffed.

I put my nose on the shower drain. Nothing. I stuck my face in the sink. Nothing. I balanced on a chair and got as close to the vent as I could. Nothing.

I even took a sniff of the toilet. (Which I had just cleaned, thankfully.) Nothing.

As I stood in the doorway, scratching my head and pondering what kind of critter had died in the walls, I realized that I could smell the sewage more when I was standing next to the utility room door.

I opened it a bit and stuck my nose inside.

Yep, it was stronger.

That’s when I remembered a neighbor telling me about having this exact problem.

So, eschewing the internet and resorting to actual human interaction, I called her up.

I had the right problem, but the wrong room. Apparently there is a drain in the utility room that dries out.

I dumped eight pitcher of water down a pipe and the smell was gone.

Isn’t it refreshing that with all this technology and information at our fingertips, all it took was a conversation with a neighbor and some plain old tap water to fix the problem?

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