5 Reasons Why Your Lawn Smells Bad ( Easy Solutions)

Summer is an excellent time to host yard parties and other outside gatherings with friends and family. But if your lawn smells like an outhouse, you may not wish to play the host. This article will tell you why your lawn stinks so badly and what you can do about each source of the stench.

There are four major reasons that your lawn may smell bad: fungus, drainage, overwatering, and actual instances of feces. We will look at each of them below and tell you how to fix them.

Reasons Why Your Lawn Smells Bad


Many kinds of fungi can affect a lawn. Here is a quick guide with symptoms, causes, smells, and cures:

  • Dollar Spot — White or dead spots of turf that start about the size of a dollar coin. This can cause the grass to die and smell. It is especially prevalent on golf courses.
  • Mildew —Powdery white mildew is usually the result of growing grass in a poor location. It has a unique, musty scent. It is probably too shady and/or moist, attracting mildew. A surplus of nitrogen could also be at fault.
  • Pythium BlightPythium not only makes your lawn greasy but also gives it a rotten, fishy smell. The best way to identify it is to feel the individual blades of grass; if they feel greasy, that is a sure sign of Pythium. While the best preventative solution is adequate irrigation (see the section on drainage), you may need a chemical fungicide to eliminate the fungus. Be sure to sterilize any lawnmower blades as well. 
  • Rust Lawn — Rust lawn, a type of reddish dust on blades of grass, thrives in moist grass. Remedy this using fungicide and proper drainage. Nitrogen-heavy fertilizers are recommended.
  • Snow Mold — Snow mold has been described as smelling like a cross between “running shoes, and, sort of, an outhouse.” As the name might indicate, it is most common on patches of freshly-thawed grass and can be pink or white. Although smelly, it is not a threat. Do not walk on it, and it should go away. Rake the offending area up and toss the mold in a bin. Clean the rake before using it in other areas. To prevent future blooms, rake your lawn well in autumn so that the mold has nowhere to hide for next year.
  • Summer Patch — a notorious fungus that hits grass at its roots. Pulling up the summer patch will reveal black, decayed roots beneath the surface. These will eventually smell. Prevent summer patch by cutting your lawn less than 2/3rds the length of the grass when you mow, as per Cardinal Lawns.

Grubs can also yield similar symptoms to fungi. If none of these fungicidal options work, you may have a different culprit.


If your lawn is so moist that it is wet and smelly, there could be a drainage problem. Sometimes, this is a topographical issue; your lawn may be in an area that has poor drainage rather than having a problem with your pipes. If this is the case, you may need to ask a landscaper or plumber for help. BudgetDumpster.com has some solutions that you can either DIY or pay a landscaper to craft.

But if your lawn is too moist and it is not an issue of landscaping, it may be time to do some plumbing. First, check to make sure that your garden décor is not blocking any drain channels. Then, check nearby pipes for dead leaves or other organic matter that may be rotting or clogging them.

Poor drainage can also lead to other problems. If your lawn smells sour, it is probably due to moss growing on your lawn. Your soil is not getting enough oxygen for grass to grow, but moss thrives in those wet, low-oxygen conditions. The soil beneath the moss will also be darker. To remedy this, you will need a professional-grade moss killer.

Many species of fungi thrive in lawns that are too moist. The most notorious of these is Pythium blight, which not only feels and smells like fish oil but spreads via running water. By solving your yard’s drainage problems, you can avoid many of the issues that lead to a foul-smelling lawn.


As stated above, there may be several reasons your lawn is not draining correctly. But here is one that you can control: overwatering. According to BobVila.com, your lawn probably only needs 1–1.5 inches of water per week.

Keeping this point in mind will also help trim down your water bill. According to a 2017 study published by the EPA, an average American family uses 320 gallons of water per day. 30% of that water goes to lawns and gardens. Americans tend to take such pride in having lush, green lawns that they feel compelled to water them all the time; this not only raises your water bill but hurts your lawn in the long run.

If you overwater your lawn, and your lawn has a scent because of it, check for drainage problems. But most importantly, make sure you aren’t overwatering your lawn in the first place. It is best to water your lawn in the morning to make sure it gets the most out of the water you give it.


This is mostly a problem if you have large, damp objects (such as pools) on top of your lawn. The grass beneath them goes dormant. If the grass does not get adequate water and sunlight for over a week, it will die. 

Dead grass smells like manure because the grass is decaying, effectively composting itself. Mold and mildew can make this odor even worse. To remedy this, rake up the deceased plants after you are done with your pool, till the soil to give it more oxygen, and replant your grass.

Pet (and People) Mess

This point is basic courtesy: pick up after your pets and tell the neighbors to do the same. This is the most common cause of a yard smelling like poop. Wild animals may also deposit their leavings in your yard. Pick it up with gloves or a shovel regardless.

There may also be a dead animal on your property, especially if you see more flies than usual. According to LawnStarter.com, the stench of a dead animal can linger for months! Once you find the body, handle it with care. Wear masks, gloves, and other safety gear when removing a dead animal from your yard. Do not handle dead animals with your bare hands.

But if the culprit behind your fetid smell is not an animal, you may have a dangerous drainage issue. There may be a distinct smell of sewage in your yard. Broken sewer pipes are especially common on front lawns, so if your front yard is unusually pungent, it may be time to call either a plumber,a lawn care professional, or your local public works. Do not attempt this by yourself.


There are many possible reasons that your lawn may smell bad. Sometimes, you cannot help your geographical situation leading to poor drainage, which can damage your lawn in many ways. But you can control things like how much you water your lawn, cleaning, and if there are obstacles to drainage. You may need to employ things like chemical fungicides in the worst cases. Remove dead animals or feces if you find them. Whether your smelly lawn is caused by fungi or a pool that was out for too long, we hope this guide helps your lawn look and smell its best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Does My Yard Smell Sour?

The issue is probably drainage. Because your lawn is not draining properly, the soil is not getting enough oxygen, allowing other things to grow. These “other things” include moss and fungi. Moss creates a sour smell, and Pythium can make your lawn smell like fish.

Why Does Grass Smell Like Manure Under My Pool?

If you leave a pool up for too long, the grass beneath it will die. It will then begin to compost itself, which smells very similar to manure. The only solution is to rake up the dead grass, till the soil, and regrow the patch.

Why Does My Yard Smell Like Poop?

There are several reasons that a lawn might smell like poop. One is that an animal did its business on your lawn; pick it up and the smell should go away. Another is the self-composting of dead grass. But if your yard smells distinctly like wet human waste, there may be a sewage issue, and you should not try to fix that problem yourself.

Why Does My Lawn Smell Like Sewage?

This is almost certainly a drainage issue. If your front yard smells of sewage, you may need to call a plumber or public works to inspect the area. Please do not attempt to fix this problem yourself.

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