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Author Topic: My apartment smells.
twinky
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When I moved into my new digs, I noticed that they smelled. The superintendent hadn't repainted or anything, so I guess it isn't surprising. Initially I thought it was because the previous occupant smoked (never in the apartment or on the patio, but he still would have smelled simply by being in the apartment), so I deodorized the carpets and the mattress, but the smell still lingers. [Mad]

To be honest I'm not entirely sure that it IS smoke-related. Maybe if he smoked a special kind of cigarette or cigar or something. I can't identify the smell, it doesn't stink like normal cigarette smoke (for which I am thankful; I find the smell of cigarette smoke intolerable), and it's just present enough to be irritating. [Mad] Anyway, I've been cleaning and deodorizing and basically trying everything I can think of short of washing the walls and ceiling or repainting, but it isn't going away. It has been improving somewhat in some areas -- my bedroom, for instance, doesn't smell anymore as far as I can tell. Deodorizing the mattress seemed to do the trick there. But the foyer, right when you come in the door (which, coincidentally, is the furthest point in the apartment from any windows or vents), is far and away the smelliest region, and nothing I do seems to have any impact on it.

This morning at work I noticed the smell on my favourite sweater. That's the last straw. I love this sweater. [Mad]

I think the smell came from my winter coat, which I left draped over one of the chairs at my dinner table last night. My plan is as follows, and I'd appreciate any further suggestions...

  • Wash the sweater. It's my favourite sweater, I refuse to have it smelling funny. I'll have to clean my coat somehow, too. I'm not sure where I can have it dry-cleaned around here...
  • Clean and polish the wooden furniture, particularly the dinner table and chairs.
  • Start cleaning the walls with some sort of potent cleanser. I'll need a mop, I suppose, but that's on my "to buy" list anyway.
  • And, obviously, I'm going to talk to my superintendent about it. This shouldn't be my problem, and I've got enough to worry about as it is without dealing with a smelly apartment.


[ March 21, 2005, 09:58 AM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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TomDavidson
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It's almost certainly a wall/ceiling issue, if it lingers like that. And, frankly, I'd be worried about mold.
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twinky
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Yeah, I thought about that, but the place is spotless. No signs of anything of that sort anywhere (and I've looked, particularly when laying my speaker cables under the running boards and heaters).

Now I'm obsessively smelling my clothes, trying to determine if they're ALL smelly, or if it's just the jacket region...

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Scott R
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For small spaces, I've heard that leaving a pot of boiling vinegar there overnight helps to get rid of odor. . .
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twinky
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That's an idea... though boiling acid might do a number on my teflon-coated pots [Razz]

But I think it's going to come down to me washing the walls with some sort of potent cleanser. Ooo boy, fun. :\

[ March 21, 2005, 10:19 AM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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TomDavidson
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Here's another possibility: have you checked out your ductwork? Are you sure there's not something in the vents?
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Elizabeth
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OK, check out the pan under your fridge. We once had a house-permeating smell, and it ended up that meat juice had spilled into the pan and oh my, it was so disgusting!
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Noemon
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Man, that's really unfortunate twink. I've dealt with apartments that were utterly filthy when I moved in (in the apt. I'm thinking of, the carpet was an ash grey until, at my insistance, the land lord had it shampooed. Turned out to be a kind of dusky rose color. I was floored--I'd really thought it was grey).

What is the floor like in the foyer area, by the way? Is it carpeted?

My parents had some kind of animal, either a squirrel or a rat (or possibly a raccoon) get into a space underneath their stairs. It was unable to escape, and they were unable to free it without tearing out the stairs themselves. It died, presumably of thirst, and is smelling pretty godawful. I told them when he first got stuck that they should just bite the bullet and do whatever was necessary to get it out before the thing died, but did they listen to me? No. Now their house reeks, the scent of putrifying flesh and the cloying stench of the potpourri they used to try to cover the decay coming together in a truly ghastly (and utterly nauseating) combination.

The dog likes it though, so that's good.

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Noemon
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I'm not sure how big your new place is, but if it's on the small side and you've got a few hundred extra dollars on hand you could get an ozone machine, hook it up, seal your place off as well as you can, and let the machine run over a weekend or something. Of course, you'd need someplace to stay while you were doing this, so it probably isn't the best plan.

I should probably just delete this post really.

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twinky
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Hm, no, I haven't taken the faces off the vents to check them. I should do that. Thanks. (On a related note, I only recently figured out why duct tape is so named. Similarly, I only recently figured out what it meant for clothing to be "designer." For all my purported smarts, there are some pretty obvious things I don't know.)

Fridge pan! Also a good suggestion. I'll do that tonight, too. It doesn't smell like food, but it can't hurt to check.

The floor in the foyer area is tiles. I put a new mat over them for shoes and stuff after moving in, but didn't mop (since I do not as yet own a mop). I'll have to do that, too.

Edit: Ozone machine? I'm going home for Easter weekend, so if I can find somewhere to get one before Thursday, I can leave it there this weekend.

[ March 21, 2005, 10:40 AM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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Teshi
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quote:
It doesn't smell like food
If it's been there long enough, it won't be food, it'll be a new creature. Watch out.

I really don't have any suggestions of what it could be other than what's already been said. Good luck!

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Noemon
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Ozone machines are really handy for getting smells out of cars. If you stick one in a smoker's car and leave it running overnight it will completely remove the cigarette stench.
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Elizabeth
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"It doesn't smell like food, but it can't hurt to check."

Oh, our smell didn't smell like food, or anything food would go near.

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Scott R
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Hey, twink-- it's our PBEM game.

Getting old an mouldy. . .

[Big Grin]

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twinky
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I'll have to look into this ozone machine thing. Edit: And under the fridge, too.

Scott: [Big Grin]

[ March 21, 2005, 11:00 AM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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aspectre
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If it doesn't smell like cigarrettes, it could just have been several incidents of burning food. Charring steaks'll do it.
Smoking oil, soup/etc that's been forgotten until it started burning, oven drippings, etc will all deposit a film on walls.

Then again, habitual incense or candle burning does the same thing. And entrance halls, foyers are often places which people use as the standard spot for long-burning candles and incense.

I'd be surprised if the plug-in air-fresheners didn't also leave a film behind.

[ March 21, 2005, 01:33 PM: Message edited by: aspectre ]

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ketchupqueen
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In our last apt., we could smell whatever the people next door were cooking, and their cigarette smoke as well. It may be coming from another apartment into yours. [Frown]
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Myr
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I feel your pain. I just moved back into my room yesterday from spring break, and noticed that my room sorta.... REEKED. My roommate won't show up for a while, as per usual. At least my friend and I figured out this morning What It Was.... her fridge was closed this week, and the food within, well, isn't doing so hot.
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ElJay
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Some places rent ozone machines, so you might not have to buy one. Look for a good rental place nearby and give them a call. Your landlord should pay for it, too, I think, but good luck with that.

Baking soda soaks up odors pretty well, but I have no idea how you'd apply that to an apartment-sized problem.

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ClaudiaTherese
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Make sure you circulate some new air in, too. You need at least two open windows and one portable fan.

Point the fan --out-- one of the windows, even though this is counterintuitive (it will create a cross-current and suck air in through the other open window). Better yet is to have two fans blowing out two different windows and at least two other windows devoted solely to suckage, but it isn't necessary.

Let the place go for a few hours, then shut everything down and smell again. At least you'll know if it is being reproduced by something in the apartment or just lingering around.

[Edit: and if the apartment came furnished, it could be settled into the furniture. Crumpled up newspaper with charcoal briquets works well to absorb oders from dresser drawers. Leave in in a night or two with the drawers shut.]

[ March 21, 2005, 01:10 PM: Message edited by: ClaudiaTherese ]

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Elizabeth
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"At least you'll know if it is being reproduced by something"

Yikes!

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ClaudiaTherese
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Well, you know. Like if it is something that died in the walls, getting fresh air in would only make a difference in the short term.

Not because of undead sex or even budding, just ... ongoing whiffiness.

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BannaOj
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Lol, CT your idea is 100% correct, however I'm chuckling because Twinky could probably start calculating the fluid flow rates and figure out exactly how long it would take to purge his apartment. We had to do enough rate equations in Chem E to figure them out [Wink]

AJ

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ClaudiaTherese
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Hmmm, this smell thing reminds me of an idea I've been kicking around for ages ...
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Kwea
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quote:
devoted solely to suckage
[Eek!] [Eek!] [Wink] [Razz]
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Elizabeth
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Oh, Ct, THIS THREAD reminded you of your horrid nasal experiment?

Doctors, I tell ya.

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twinky
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quote:
Point the fan --out-- one of the windows, even though this is counterintuitive (it will create a cross-current and suck air in through the other open window). Better yet is to have two fans blowing out two different windows and at least two other windows devoted solely to suckage, but it isn't necessary.
Unfortunately there is no way for me to do this. There is a wall between my only window and the sliding door to the patio. Sadly, the only real way for me to create passable airflow is to have the front door open as well.
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ElJay
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If the door between the two rooms is open, this will still work. Not quite as well, but if you are forcing air out the window with the fan it will pull air in through the patio door, even if it has to go around a corner to do it. [Razz]

Edit: By "not as well" I mean "not as fast." It'll still exchange the air in your apartment, it'll just take longer.

[ March 21, 2005, 03:53 PM: Message edited by: ElJay ]

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twinky
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Yes, I'm aware of that. I do have an engineering degree, you know, and they teach us about things like mass transfer. [Wink]

Of course, I still need to buy fans. Heh.

Edit: Also, the fact that the odour is worst in the foyer lends some credence to the fridge theory, because the fridge is right by the foyer.

[ March 21, 2005, 04:01 PM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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RackhamsRazor
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my apartment smells too...but I know that the source is my stinky roommate and the smell wont be gone until I get rid of her.
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Elizabeth
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"Of course, I still need to buy fans. Heh."

So sad for a musician to have to buy his fans. I will be your fan for free, Twinks.

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twinky
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[Big Grin]
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ElJay
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quote:
I do have an engineering degree, you know, and they teach us about things like mass transfer.
I was kinda wondering, there. But "no way to do this" sounded awfully definite... [Razz]
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twinky
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That's why I said "passable" airflow. I'm careful with my qualifiers. [Wink]

Anyway, after last night's events I have concluded that the "source" of the smell is, in fact, the walls, and that it does indeed result from the previous occupant having been a smoker (though maybe he smoked menthol cigarettes or something).

The fridge tray and floor under the fridge were both clean (the tray was admittedly somewhat rusty). The ducts were relatively clean and were non-smelly. But most importantly, when I got into bed last night I smelled the smell coming from the mattress again -- and this is after three days of deodorization and cleaning by yours truly last week. I slept on the futon while airing and deodorizing the mattress as best I could, and it was fine for a few days, but now it's back to smelling. I'm not sure if it's salvageable, which is a shame because it's comfortable.

Also, as an experiment I left my towel draped over the bathroom door last night, and when I went to towel off in the morning the door side of the towel smelled faintly.

So. Today I'm going to have a chat with my superintendent about cleaning options. I don't want the smell to infest the clothes in my closet (which thankfully has not happened so far).

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ElJay
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http://www.atmosklear.net/

I've been trying to remember the name of this product... I'm pretty sure this is it. They carry it at my local Ace hardware store, I've never seen it in a general merchandise or grocery type store. It is excellent. And on the FAQ page they have tips for treating entire rooms or apartments.

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twinky
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Thanks! I'll see if I can get my hands on some. [Smile]

My superintendent offered me the services of her handy shampoo-powered carpet-and-furniture cleansing device, which ought to be waiting for me when I return home tonight. That should help.

Additionally, I spent two hours last night cleaning my bathroom from top to bottom. I discovered that the bathroom ceiling was home to a significant amount of grodemaster residue. A communist dose of my own special double-cleanser concoction (why, oh why are my favourite organic solvents -- dichloromethane and tetrahydrofuran -- only permitted in laboratories? The cheap imitations -- Vim, Tilex -- that I have to make do with are so pathetic...), and no small amount of awkward stretching, dispensed with the problem. We'll see how things smell tonight.

I plan to give the carpets and furniture a dose of the shampoo machine before I leave for the long weekend. Hopefully that will help, too.

[Smile]

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Noemon
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Wow, shampoo as an energy source! Who knew?
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ElJay
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See all the things you can get done when you don't have Internet access at home?

[Razz]

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Noemon
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So, twinky, ever get the stench out?
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twinky
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Yeah, if only the whole world could run on shampoo. [Big Grin] The dirty water in the vacuum cleaner smelled seriously disgusting when the cleaning was done.

I left the windows open and fans on over the long weekend while I went home to see my family. When I came back the smell was down to a pretty faint level, comparable to a sort of mustiness. I was heartened, but still deployed three newly-acquired passive odour-eating devices and sprayed the ceilings with deodourizer. I ordered two bottles of the Atmosklear stuff, but until it arrives I'll just make do with what I have.

Then I took a nice, long, hot shower. When I emerged, I saw that the condensation on the walls had absorbed some grode and there were little rivulets of yellowish nastiness running down the walls (and also on the ceiling). Now remember, I scrubbed the bathroom walls and ceiling last week, with some of the most potent cleansing products available in Canadian hardware stores (Edit: that do not remove paint in addition to grode, that is. [Wink] ). (I cleaned them again, obviously.)

Perhaps the whole apartment needs to be steamed.

I also dusted with Pledge, which helped. And I washed the futon cover. And put the mattresses out on the patio to air.

Additionially, I bought a broom, a mop, and a bucket. [Big Grin]

My superindentent said that if it doesn't go away they might have to have the place repainted. I agreed, but we both also agreed that I was making good progress in dispelling the odour, so repainting *might* not be necessary. She was very apologetic about the whole thing and has been helpful, which is nice.

This morning the smell was stronger than yesterday, so it seems like it comes back a bit when air flow goes down (I closed the patio door overnight). That is leading me toward the conclusion that repainting may be inevitable, though I might try going over the walls with some kind of cleanser this week before my Atmosklear shipment comes. If *that* doesn't work, then it'll be time to repaint.

[ March 29, 2005, 09:41 AM: Message edited by: twinky ]

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Farmgirl
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quote:
When I emerged, I saw that the condensation on the walls had absorbed some grode and there were little rivulets of yellowish nastiness running down the walls (and also on the ceiling).
Yeah - you definately had a smoker in there before you moved in. Too bad - that is just almost impossible to rid from a place - it permeates so much.

He should have one apartment, at least, marked as "non-smoking" so that no one would have ever smoked in it. They you could have chosen that one.

Farmgirl

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ElJay
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Maybe they can just repaint the bathroom, at least. I had friends who recently moved into a house that had been owned by a smoker for the last 40 years. The bathroom was beyond disgusting... it had plastic tiles, so the smoke soaked right in. They replaced the tiles, but just scrubbed and painted the ceiling, and that took care of it.
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Elizabeth
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"She was very apologetic about the whole thing and has been helpful, which is nice."

Well, apologtic is nice and all, but I think she ought to spring for the cleaners. If the smell is that icky, she peobably knew about it, and should have had the apartment painted. If you like painting, ask her to buy the paint, and you can do it yourself, rather than wait.

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twinky
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What I don't understand is how I didn't notice it when I was there looking. I could have taken a non-smelly apartment a floor lower, but it looked out onto a funeral home and McDonald's and the layout was a mirror image of mine; I just didn't like it as much, and plus this one came with some furniture. I don't get how I somehow failed to smell the smell. Perhaps I had a cold, I don't really remember... [Dont Know]

In any case, if I ultimately decide that repainting is required, my superintendent will obviously be paying for it. I'm not particularly interested in doing it myself at this stage (too many other things to worry about), but that could change.

I took another really hot shower this morning and did not encounter my friend grodemaster. The condensation was clear. Perhpas two passes was all it took to get the bathroom clean...

...I definitely want the smell banished, though, because I refuse to entertain until it's utterly gone. So if painting is what it takes then that's what will be done.

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