That “fishy smell” may be something as simple as a 100-watt light bulb in a 75-watt socket causing an electrical overload.  The insulation around the light fixture or plastic components in outlets, switches and light fixtures overheating will throw off that odor.

If you smell it at night when it is getting dark and lights are turned on that is your clue to check:

  • all light fixtures/lamps fittings and sockets, especially those with plastic light covers and light fixtures resting flush against the ceiling, hanging lamps, chandeliers, ceiling fans
  • switches, including dimmer switches and electrical wall outlets, may draw too much electricity causing plastic to melt and/or the outlet to smoke.  (A wire in the wall switch might have come loose or plastic coating on the wiring might have broken down.  A loose wire can arc and  start fires.)
  • extension cord with too many devices plugged into it  can cause overheating.
  • an appliance plugged into a faulty socket will trigger the smell when you turn it on-television, oven,  lamp, vacuum cleaner, heaters, including space heater, and dryer.

Note: The smell may not show up right away when something is turned on. Strangely it might not even stink in or near the room where the problem is.  The smell may appear to come from a corner near the floor where the air  circulates least so  the smell gathers there. (So look in area of the hot water tank.)

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  1. Matthew says:

    So many answers online saying “bad pipes” – YOU nearly saved lives just now. My fiance and I could not find the cause to this smell for ages until today, the smell was so bad and so sharp. It was so thick it almost stopped smelling like fish for one and started smelling toxic. I found your pages about this subject which made me look at the sockets.

    I had smelled the scent earlier today near the socket but didn’t even think to check the socket itself, I had my mind so wrapped around bad pipes and I figured it may be under the house in that area, just didn’t know how.

    So I checked the sockets after reading this and wouldn’t you know, the socket was actually streaming thick smoke.

    Realized just prior to checking, post reading this article, that it smelt more like solder than fish in a weird way.

    Unplugged everything, turned everything off.

    We’re living with my fiances father currently in an attached trailer until we can get our self employment fully on our feet. It looks like our self employment will have to be in another location.

    Thank you for being the only article online explaining this. I would have never known otherwise.

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