If you like having your nails done, you know what nail polish or nail polish remover smells like. It’s a smell that reminds us of relaxing days at the salon. But when you come home and the same smell lingers yet it’s not salon day, you might get alarmed and wonder whether you’re actually smelling carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide (CO) does not smell like nail polish. In fact, it does not have an odor, and it is impossible to see with the naked eye. This is why carbon monoxide is often called the “silent killer.” There are other ways to detect CO in the home, however, such as yellowish stains near appliances.

Carbon monoxide is a hazardous gas. We actually come in contact with it in trace amounts every time we use home appliances like water heaters and lawnmowers or burn fuel in vehicles. However, it’s important to keep CO from building up in indoor spaces like homes because it can lead to CO poisoning and death.

Does Carbon Monoxide Have an Odor?

Carbon monoxide does not have any odor. Therefore, it is possible to be exposed to the gas without knowing it. However, when you get exposed to poisonous levels of carbon monoxide, you will start to feel sick or have a hard time breathing. If you suspect a CO leak, leave the area immediately.

Aside from CO having no odor, a CO leak also cannot be tasted in the air. It’s therefore not surprising that as many as 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year. (source)

If you have gas, oil, or fuel burners at home, drive a car, and use a portable generator, among others, you are at risk of inhaling toxic levels of carbon monoxide. This risk goes even higher when you use a camping stove or burner in a small, enclosed space like a tent or leave your car’s engine running inside the garage.

It’s critical to have your appliances checked regularly by a qualified technician or install carbon monoxide detectors in your home. While early detection of a CO leak may not lead to death, it can cause serious illness, especially if you have respiratory issues.

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What Does It Mean When Your House Smells Like Nail Polish (PAA)

When you detect the smell of nail polish or nail polish remover at home, it could mean there’s a refrigerant leak in your air-conditioner, heat pump, or refrigerator. Such a leak usually smells like acetone, the liquid used to remove nail polish.

If you notice this smell in your house, have your appliances checked as soon as possible because a refrigerant leak can damage them permanently.

Other causes of nail polish smell in the home could be coming from any of the following: 

  • Sealants made of caulk
  • Faulty electrical wiring
  • Fresh paint
  • Mold, especially if the space is poorly ventilated

Carbon Monoxide in Your Home

It takes about two hours for exposure to poisonous levels of carbon monoxide to cause noticeable symptoms. In children and pets, however, this time could be even shorter. Still, exposure to large amounts of this gas can cause suffocation or loss of consciousness in a matter of minutes.

How to Detect Carbon Monoxide in Your Home

Thankfully, you don’t have to wait until symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning start to appear. You can nip the problem in the bud by checking your home for any of the below signs:

Yellow or Brown Stains Near Appliances

If you use cookers or burners, portable generators, heaters, and other similar appliances, you need to check them and their surroundings for any yellowish or brownish stains. This is a clear sign that these appliances are emitting dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, and you should stop using them until a technician checks or replaces them.

Also, if you notice that the stains are dark in color, it means that the leak has been going on for quite some time. Note that if these appliances are located in poorly ventilated areas of your home, the risk to your health and that of your family is much higher.

Pilot Light Keeps Going Out

Check your burners, stoves, and other similar cookers to see whether the pilot light comes on and stays on during use. Be careful, though, and use an N95 mask or carbon mask when doing this, so you don’t accidentally inhale CO in the event your appliances are indeed leaking.

If you notice that the pilot light keeps flickering or going out, this is a sign that the appliance is leaking carbon monoxide. Using such appliances for a long time will put you in danger of suffocation or poisoning.

Yellow Light in Gas Burners

Another sign that your appliances have a CO leak is if you notice the fire in your burners doesn’t have a blue or slightly orange (when about to run out) flame. Instead, it will appear to be yellow.

The yellow hue is an indication that the burner is releasing carbon monoxide as it creates a flame. As soon as you notice this sign, turn the burner off and stop using the burner. You can also request a licensed technician to check your appliances.

Presence of Soot in the House

Check the rooms where you normally have fuel, gas, or oil-burning appliances to see whether there is any soot on the walls, floors, and ceilings. At times, you may not see any soot but might notice black smoke or black draft when these appliances are in use.

Another area where you might see this sign is your indoor garage, especially if you forget to turn off the car’s engine. Indoor garages that are attached to the house may cause a CO leak going on in the garage to travel inside the home.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If you get exposed to toxic levels of carbon monoxide, you will begin to feel signs of gas poisoning. Also, once inhaled, it will take roughly a full day for this gas to get out of your system completely.

Here are the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning to watch out for:

  • Flu-like symptoms without a fever – this entails feeling generally weak or feeling as if you have the flu but don’t get a temperature reading higher than normal.
  • Confusion – this symptom is common among those with extended exposure to CO.
  • Shortness of breath or having difficulty breathing – if you have asthma or other respiratory issues, you could experience an asthma attack.
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of balance

Note that these symptoms rarely usually disappear once you are out of the room with the carbon monoxide leak. Additionally, aside from people with respiratory issues, pregnant women, young children, babies, and pets are also at higher risk of poisoning.

When you notice any of these symptoms or as soon as you suspect a CO leak, you should:

  • Open all windows and doors. This will allow air to circulate and improve ventilation in the room.
  • Go outside. The longer you are exposed to CO, the higher the danger of it causing serious health risks and even death. Get out of the house as soon as you experience symptoms or see signs of a leak.
  • Call for medical help. Call 911 right away and do not return to your home until professionals tell you to. When you do go in, make sure to wear a protective mask when you first re-enter.

Final Thoughts

Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas that, unfortunately, can be found in most homes. If we’re not careful, we could be inhaling toxic levels of this silent killer. So, before turning on that burner or using that portable generator, have it checked first and do a full house inspection for signs of a CO leak.

As always, better safe than sorry.

See also: What Will Absorb Bad Smells in My Room?

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