house smells like heating oil

In the chilly winter months, many people count on heating oil to warm their homes and comfort them. However, it can be far from comforting when your house smells like heating oil. Home heating oil has a strong scent that’s easy to identify, but it can be challenging to identify the source.

We’ll guide you through the potential causes of a heating oil smell, the possible health effects, and what you can do to clean oil spills and eliminate the scent from your home.

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Is a Heating Oil Smell in My Home Normal?

In general, you shouldn’t be able to smell heating oil inside your home. If you’re smelling a distinct oily odor in your home, it could be a sign that there’s a problem. However, there are some instances where the smell of heating oil is expected and shouldn’t be cause for concern, including:

  • A recent tank refill: The smell of oil might remain in the air for a couple of days after you had your tank refilled. It should only take a few days for the scent to fade.
  • Turning on the furnace or heating system: Sometimes, turning on your furnace or heating system for the first time in a while can result in a heating oil smell. The scent should disappear soon after.
  • A dirty furnace filter:  Your furnace filter is meant to filter particles in the air so your system can operate at peak efficiency. A dirty filter can cause clogs that result in a heating oil smell. You can remedy this quickly by simply replacing the old filter with a new one.

A persistent smell can be a sign of something more serious, such as:

  • A problem with your furnace: A damaged or poorly operating furnace can cause problems with oil combustion. The leftover oil can result in an oil smell in your home.
  • A leak in your oil tank: A leak from your oil tank can cause a pervasive heating oil smell in your home. Check around your tank for any oil residue and contact your heating oil provider or HVAC technician to determine if a repair or replacement is required.
  • An oil spill: Spilled oil usually occurs when your tank is refilled. Oil spills will cause a consistent smell of heating oil in your home.

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Is it Dangerous to Have an Oil Smell in the Home?

It’s normal to be concerned when you’re smelling heating oil in your home. While heating oil fumes aren’t as dangerous as gas fumes, resolving the issue should be a priority. Leaks or spills can cause some health symptoms, including:

  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches and coordination problems
  • Irritation in the throat, nose and eyes
  • Skin irritation

You can avoid long-term health risks by finding the source of the heating oil fumes and fixing the problem as soon as possible. Look for signs of leaks and spills when you start smelling heating oil in your home to rule out a potential oil spill. Contact a professional right away if you’re having trouble identifying where the smell is coming from.

clean up a heating oil spill

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How to Clean Up a Heating Oil Spill

Cleaning up an oil spill immediately after it occurs is the best way to prevent adverse health effects for your and your family. Oil also damages its nearby surroundings by soaking into materials like carpet or hardwood flooring, which absorb the smell and can require costly repairs. Call your heating oil delivery company before taking any actions of your own to clean up the spill. They are professionals and will be equipped to clean it up and ensure EPA compliance. The size of the oil spill will determine the steps needed for cleaning up the oil spill.

If you have a spill or leak, be sure to take the following actions:

  • Notify your heating oil provider first:  They will be able to assess the cause of the leak or spill, determine clean-up needs, and dispatch a professional to help. Depending on the situation, they may need to drain gallons from the tank to prevent near-term leakage.
  • Prevent a fire hazard: Turn off, unplug or get rid of anything in the area that can start a fire. Wait to smoke until the oil spill has been cleaned and keep other open flames away from the site.
  • Provide adequate ventilation: When you locate a spill, open windows as soon as possible to air out some of the fumes and close any doors at the location to keep the smell from entering other rooms in your home.
  • Keep children and pets in another location: Keep pets and children away from the spill to avoid contact or ingestion of the oil.

The professionals will use absorbent material to soak up the oil and make sure it is properly disposed of to ensure environmental protection. They will also clean the affected area with soap and water.

You may need to throw out anything that’s been damaged. Oil can soak many materials, such as wood, carpet, and some types of furniture. These materials hang onto the heating oil smell and should be thrown out as soon as possible. Some items can be saved, but get rid of anything that you can’t fix to prevent oil fumes from hanging around.

If you have a more significant spill on your hands, you’ll need professional help to clean it up and remove the heating oil fumes from your home.

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How to Get Rid of a Heating Oil Smell

The spill is cleaned up, but the smell of oil might still be lingering in the air. The ventilation you did earlier will help, but there are additional methods you can use to eliminate the heating oil smell for good:

  • Sprinkle a powder detergent or baking soda: Find a laundry detergent with a sweet scent or use baking soda to cover the spill area.
  • Place vinegar near your furnace: The heating oil smell may result from a furnace problem rather than a spill. You can clear the air by placing small dishes filled with vinegar near your furnace and in front of each vent. Repeat this each day with fresh vinegar until the smell has dissipated completely.
  • Use fragrant air fresheners: Another method you can try is to use regular air fresheners with a strong scent and spray them in the area and throughout your home.

If you’ve tried all of these methods and the smell persists, the oil may still be present somewhere in your home. Consult a professional to determine if there’s an issue with your tank or HVAC system.

Choose Shipley Energy as Your Heating Oil Provider

Staying warm in the cold season is essential. Having enough heating oil to power your furnace will ensure your comfort, even on the coldest days of the year. Shipley Energy can deliver heating oil right to your door on-demand or on an automatic schedule. We even offer emergency deliveries when your heating oil runs out unexpectedly. We can repair and replace your tank as needed to ensure your system is working at its best.

Reach out to our qualified team members for more information about our heating oil deliveries and tank service plans, or give us a call today.

choose Shipley as your heating oil provider


Peggy H.

Always helpful staff and on time for any appointments scheduled. We have never been left without oil.

Peggy H.
Paula M.

Thank you Shipley oil.  Had a friend in dire need for oil.  I arranged to have oil delivered on a Friday afternoon told them she had a house full of kids, including a newborn.  They had oil in her tank in less then 24 hours.  You folks rock!

Paula M.
Stephanie M.

Shipley Energy is the best we've had for our heating oil! Best prices, fast service when we needed it and even next day delivery when we were low! Highly recommend!!

Stephanie M.
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