Thomas Brothers is now Pico Propane. Learn More →

Do You Know What Propane Smells Like?

How to Recognize a Gas Leak and More Propane Safety Tips

propane orange county, va Propane leaks are rare, but they can happen. Knowing what to do if you smell gas can help ensure the situation is resolved safely and quickly.

Since propane is naturally odorless, propane and natural gas distributors use an additive called mercaptan to give it a distinctive smell that makes it easier to detect leaking gas. Most people describe the smell as like rotten eggs, skunk or dead animal.

Mercaptan is a natural gas that is produced by decaying plants, animals and humans (fun fact—it’s one of the compounds responsible for bad breath!). One reason it’s used in propane and natural gas is that the human nose can detect it in extremely small quantities.

Make sure everyone in your home can recognize the odor and know what to do if they smell gas.

If You Suspect a Leak

If you smell gas and suspect a leak, leave the area immediately.

Avoid all flames or sparks—including lights, appliances, phones or cell phones—which could ignite the gas and trigger an explosion.

Call us, or dial 911 from a safe area, and stay away until help arrives.

If it’s safe to do so, you should turn off the gas at the tank. You should also shut off your tank if there has been severe weather, flooding, or a natural disaster and your tank appears to have moved, or if there appears to be damage to the tank or the gas lines. It’s not hard—but it’s important to familiarize yourself with your tank so you know what to do when it’s an emergency.

Propane Safety Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t store cleaning fluids and flammable substances near your propane tanks.
  • Do clean furnace filters regularly.
  • Don’t let your tanks hit empty. The loss of pressure can lead to a variety of problems and will require pressure tests before refilling.
  • Do set up automatic delivery to avoid running out of gas.
  • Don’t attempt to relight a pilot light if you smell gas. If you do relight a pilot light yourself, follow manufacturer’s instructions exactly.
  • Do call us if a pilot light goes out frequently.
  • Do let us know if flames are yellow or you notice a significant amount of soot. Gas flames should be mainly blue when burning correctly.
  • Do not turn the gas back on yourself if you have turned off the gas because of a suspected leak.
  • Safety First and Always

    Your safety is our priority: If you have any questions about this information or any other propane safety issues, visit our about propane safety page or contact us any time.