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 causing the smell to gather there. (Be sure to also look in area of the hot water tank.)

The following are short posts, related to this post. It is a good idea to read them and share them.

Some of the words readers have searched to land on this page include: fish electrics multifuel causes stove odour smells wierd weird ripe rotten strange danger dangerous stinky gross odor stench   putrid vile rude space heater bedroom house home wall ceiling television sex awful snake spoiled vomit rotten potatoes, rotten onions,  tmau faulty wiring dirty light vulgar fittings fixture smell burning bakelite electrical electric electricity apartment trailer woman mobile home problem what causes repulsive apartment rotten tuna strong alarm battery, dead mouse girl mice rat moisture foul bathroom stink stench scent disagreeable, squirrel, urine fault new house cat kitten plumbing sewer gas fridge refrigerator

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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.

  2. Michelle says:

    Ditto the above poster! THANK YOU for posting this very detailed description of what possibly could be causing this intermittent and very rancid odor! We were convinced it was a dead rodent in the walls…until it went away and returned a day or two later…on and off for nearly a month! I FINALLY googled “What is that smell in my house that comes and goes?” and eventually stumbled onto your article! ELECTRICAL!!! Who knew?!?! And yet this is EXACTLY what it was! And the kicker is that, for us, the electrical socket with the fried wiring was not even IN USE!!! It was behind my daughter’s dresser with NOTHING plugged into it. Yet after reading the article and then smelling the smell again the next day, I touched all the electrical sockets in the room to test for heat…and when I moved the dresser and touched that socket it was WARM! Called an electrician, told him my suspicions and took him right to the socket! He popped the cover off and removed the fixture and sure enough…MELTED plastic wiring casings turned BLACK from burning…and that terrible smell was all over that fixture so I KNEW without a doubt it was the culprit! Seriously can’t thank you enough!!!!

    • Nina says:

      so was the smell in your house in one room only???

      • tulsage says:

        It can be in one room only or of course, the smell can waft all over the house. Start with what
        is plugged in or turned on. Does it happen at only certain time of the day? If so, what is going on
        then…are you turning on a light or ceiling fan, a television? Sniff the electrical plugs and switches.

  3. Tate says:

    FACT Homes built with aluminum wiring are 55 times more likely than those with copper wiring to catch fire, and the odds of a fire increase every year. If you home was built before 1972, have an electrician check the wiring.

  4. Nina says:

    What if its only in one room???

  5. tulsage says:

    The problem might not even be in the room where you are smelling it. I’d start sniffing outlets and light switches in every part of the house. If that is not it, I’d check any appliance that was plugged in. Ours was in a television set. It was plugged in and emitting that rude smell. Good luck and please let us know what you find out.

  6. Nobody wants to talk about it......but if you suspect it is your body..... says:

    Check out these

    Adrenal Fatigue — What’s That Nasty Smell?


    Trimethylaminuria,(TMAU) an uncommon genetic disorder that causes a strong body odor that some describe as smelling like rotting fish, feces or garbage is created when the body is not able to break down trimethylamine. The gross smelling chemical is produced in the gut particularly when certain protein and choline-rich foods are digested.

    If you have trimethylaminuria, the chemical trimethylamine will build up in your body and there will be a strong odor in your sweat, urine and breath. There are usually no other symptoms. GOOGLE: Trimethylaminuria

  7. Through owning my own cleaning company I periodically get calls about “this strange smell” at the office. I’ve found some odd things that were causing them in my day and am currently chasing one for a client that’s primarily isolated to one room.

    At first I inspected the room and asked all the questions I normally do. Do you have pets? Do you have children? Do you ever eat in this room? It’s a spare bedroom that nobody uses.

    So I cleaned and deodorized the carpet in the target room last week, and ran an ozone generator in it for about 4 hours. For over a week everything was fine. Today the homeowner called and told me that the smell is back. After googling and finding this site I’m going to email them with a link to this article and advise them to turn everything electrical on in that room. Then sniff and feel all their plugins and electrical switches for an odor or warmth.

  8. Prisci says:

    This blog about fishy odours is mentioned in the comments on: LifeWithJackie (Howie Mandel’s daughter’s vlog). Check it out:

    they are having a problem with stinky odours so watch at 3:04 through 4:23

    6:18-6:20 she talks about maybe why it stinks
    9:10-10:09 how they went on the internet and found the info
    11:28-11:53 is pretty funny


    1:50 to 4:40

    Notice, in the comments someone asked her about Did smell come after the lights and tvs were installed???

  9. Pingback: Veterans Discounts | Tulsage.com

  10. Deyana says:

    Hi Jackie (Howie Mandel’s daughter)’, we have a smell at home, just not a fish smell, still I am worried, even more – it is a Bakelite smell. I wonder what happen with your smell problem at home – could you share?
    Best regards Deyana

  11. JP Tuckerton says:

    Thank you so much. This was exactly right. For weeks now, we had been a smelling fishy smell in a bedroom upstairs. We could not figure it out, but it seemed to be near or coming out of an air conditioning vent, so we had a duct cleaning company come and clean out all our ducts for hundreds of dollars. The smell persisted. After reading this, I checked the ceiling fan next to the air conditioning vent, and wouldn’t you know, the light fixture of the ceiling fan smelled horrible! In fact, I believe the halogen bulb had been causing the insulation in the ceiling fan to give off the smell. Then when the air-conditioner would turn on, the vent would push the stinky air around, which made us think it was coming out of the air conditioning unit. I’m glad I read this, because my next step was to have the air conditioning company come and open up the air conditioning unit! Thanks for your help.

  12. Davina says:

    BE SURE to click on and read the info in the links in the bottom of the blog post (above) as there is more info in them, too.

    P.S. This blog post was picked up and posted on Reddit:https://www.reddit.com/r/electricians/comments/69sudn/fishy_smell_looking_for_some_guidance/

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