oil smell in house but no oil
Kristina Davis

Some smells feel pleasant around the house, like freshly made cookies or a burning scented candle, but the oil smell in house but no oil is annoying.

✅ A putrid odor can be a signal that something is wrong or requires fixing. For instance, mold often produces a musty odor.

And the same may be confirmed when you notice the smell of burning oil in your house.

Many individuals rely on heating oil to keep them cozy and warm throughout the cold winter months. The smell of heating oil, though, is not exactly reassuring.

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The thing is that it is not hard to feel the odor of home heating oil, but tracking it down might be tricky.

You may notice an oil smell in your house if you turn your furnace on after a while, have it filled recently, or find a leak in the tank. 

Oil Smell in House but No Oil: What To Do?

oil smell but none

Before you go any further with what causes that smell and how to get rid of oil smell in house, ensure it is indeed oil.

Yes, heating oil does have a noticeable scent. There should not be any lingering odors of it around the house, though.

If you smell heating oil, it is probably a sign of trouble, from something temporary to something more serious that needs fixing immediately.

Tip: Keep the area free of fire hazards by turning off or unplugging anything that could spark a blaze if you feel an oil smell.

Identifying the Smell of Burning Oil

smell of burning oil

You might have heard that it will smell like rotten eggs in case of any problem with your heating system.

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That is correct, but it is true only for specific fuels.

Neither propane nor natural gas has a naturally pleasant scent; instead, they smell like rotting eggs or sulfur.

The smell you feel is the outcome of a mercaptan molecule, which is added intentionally to spot a leak.

If you smell rotten eggs but do not have any propane or natural gas in the house, it could be your imagination, or there could be food that has gone bad nearby.

the burning oil smell

However, if your home also uses propane gas for other purposes, such as water heating, you should take the odor seriously.

It is essential to leave your house and dial 911 immediately. Wait for the all-clear before returning to the house. 

Reasons To Notice Smell of Burning Oil in Your House

notice smell of burning

So many things may be behind the unpleasant odor of burning oil spread in your house. 

It could be because of the following reasons:

You Have the Tank Filled Just Recently

filled the tank

After replenishing your heating oil tank, the stench can linger for a few days.

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It means you do not have to worry much if you have recently filled the tank and feel the smell afterward.

That said, there should not be a much-lingering odor, and it should go away after a few days.

If it persists, there may be something else to blame.

For instance, the person who filled your tank may have spilled oil.

👍 Or another problem may be contributing to the lingering odor of oil, which needs more attention. 

You Use Your Furnace After a While

a while using furnace

Over time, dust may accumulate on your furnace, especially in the vents. It can often lower the efficiency of your furnace.

Because of this dust, whenever the heater is turned on for the first time in a new season, there may be a faint burning smell.

It only takes a few hours for the smell to go away on its own, and there is no need to worry.

If the stench of burning dust lasts for longer than a day, you need to look for other possible causes as well.

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👍 Do not ignore it if it persists, and consult a professional to clean your heater before you need it.

Tip: In case of a spill, cover the area with sawdust, cat litter, or some other absorbent material. 

You Have Blocked Chimney

the blocked chimney

If you smell oil and smoke, it may be because something is not right with your heating system.

Smelling smoke indicates multiple emergencies that require prompt response. Shut off the furnace immediately if you notice any smoke.

In fact, it is better to play safe and evacuate the house entirely before calling a specialist to check it out.

When smoke is produced, it may mean the chimney is blocked, or the fuel is not completely burned. 

Your Heating System Needs Cleaning

furnace need to clean

Your furnace should not smell like a dirty laundry bucket, but if it does, it may need to be cleaned.

And in many cases, you will also feel the smell of oil and something like dirty socks.

It happens because bacteria can build up in a heater’s coils, causing the unit to emit a potent, off-putting odor anytime it is turned on.

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Having a technician give it a good scrub down should help with the smell.

You Have Mild Buildup in the Furnace

mild buildup the furnace

If condensation has built up in the heating system, you may notice a musty odor when you switch on the system again.

The stench that disappears rapidly is usually harmless. But it is not always the case.

If the musty stench persists for over a few days, mold growth may be to blame.

A service technician should inspect the furnace and clean it if necessary. 

You Have Not Changed the Filter for a While

change the furnace filter

A clogged furnace filter is a common cause of that familiar heating oil odor.

It is essential to change the filter every 60-90 days. And simply replacing the filter will help resolve the lingering heating oil smell issue.

If changing the filter does not eliminate the stench, you should look more into what produces it. 

You Have a Leakage in the Tank

you have leakage in

It is possible to smell oil when there is a leak anywhere in the heating system. It could be in the furnace itself.

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It could be in the pipe connecting the tank, or it could be affecting the heating oil tank.

Whatever the case, remember that this is one of the more serious problems that might produce an odor.

You should check for oil streaks in the tank. 

Sometimes, the problem is as simple as a loose fitting that needs to be tightened or adjusted by an HVAC professional.

A new tank may be necessary for other scenarios. 

You Have Spilled Oil in Your House

spilled oil in house

If you have actually spilled some oil anywhere in your house or there is some on the floor while refilling the tank, the smell may persist for a while.

How To Fix the Oil Smell in Your House?

fix the oil smell

To fix the issue, you need to identify the root cause first. It is a lot easier to repair everything once you know what might have caused it in the first place. 

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For instance: 

Keep the Furnace Clean

keep furnace clean

A malfunctioning furnace could be the source of the unpleasant heating oil odor.

Place small plates of vinegar near your heating system and in front of each vent to clean the air.

For best results, do this daily with fresh vinegar until the odor disappears. 

Ventilate the Area

ventilate in the area

In case you are dealing with some oil spills, ventilation is essential.

When a spill occurs outside, ventilation is not an issue.

But, in the event of a spill in the basement, you should immediately open the windows.

Sealing off any other openings that could allow the oil smells to spread through the rest of your home is also important.

Tip: When working with oil, it is best to have the remainder of your house sealed off from the basement and turn on fans for improved ventilation. 

Hire a Professional

hire the professional

When you cannot pinpoint an issue, it is time to call in a pro.

If your heating system is emitting an odd odor, it could be a sign of a more severe problem, such as poor operation.

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To put it another way, if the oil is not burning completely, the residue could leave a foul stench.

Similarly, cracks in the oil burner, which might let toxic gases escape, should also be inspected. Also, a broken heat exchanger could be a problem.

hiring a professional

A pro HVAC technician will be able to determine the source of the odor.

Whatever the case may be, they have the skills, experience, and equipment to identify the issue and fix it safely.

Tip: Fix the smell of burning oil because it can be dangerous and cause health issues such as nausea, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and more. 


If you feel an oil smell in house but no oil, you should be prepared to investigate the issue and identify the cause.

So often, it is as simple as having your tank filled recently and spilling some oil.

But it could be something serious related to a malfunctioning furnace or a closed chimney.

Be sure to talk to a pro if you fail to identify the root cause.