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casheroo's avatar

What could be causing this ammonia smell?

Asked by casheroo (18017 points ) June 28th, 2010

Okay, so we have a big problem. Our entire house reeks of ammonia.
Now, at first we assumed one of our cats sprayed. They have never done this before, but we had a terrible storm on Thursday, which knocked our power out for almost 48 hours. The heat and humidity have been 90 degrees (F), and it’s so humid. Unbearable.
So, yeah, I assumed it was cat pee so we scrubbed the kitty little boxes and the tray and sprayed this “Ewww!” enzyme product which just freshened the air it seems.
We borrowed a strong UV light, and looked all over the house for the source of the pee.
We can’t find it anywhere. Also, the smell isn’t in one spot, it seems to be all over the house..which doesn’t make much sense. We checked the duct work to see if he might have peed on it but he didn’t.
What else could it be if not cat urine?! Could the humidity and water damage (yes, our basement had some minor damage..) have brought it up from past owners?
I’m at a loss. It smells so bad when you first walk in and I’m concerned about breathing in whatever it could be, since it doesn’t seem to be cat urine. Even having the a/c running 24/7 doesn’t help!

Any advice?

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10 Answers

janedelila's avatar

Do you have old wallpaper and/or the old type of plaster? Like the kind over lath (sp?) board? I think it’s called horsehair plaster. We lived in an old house that we ripped all the walls down from and put in drywall and peeeyoooo did it stink in the summer!

WestRiverrat's avatar

Could something have gotten into a crawlspace, up in the rafters or under the floors? raccoons, squirrels, bats or other wild animals will sometimes make their homes in human houses. And they can leave a stinking mess.

casheroo's avatar

No wallpaper at all, it’s all paint.
I don’t know if something got into a crawlspace..wouldn’t it have a stinky smell to it if something died? That happened at my parents with a mouse and it smelled awful. I also don’t even know what or where our crawlspace is lol.

We’re wondering about the pipes or something in the air conditioner (it’s central air) since it’s all over the house.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

I’ve had several experiences with ammonia smells, from both cat pee and from water damage (our basement gets flooded rather often, unfortunately, due to melting ice in the spring and occasionally overflowing septic systems). Sometimes rugs wet from water damage smell a lot like they’ve been peed on. If it’s in your entire home and you can’t find the source of the pee with UV lights, there may be no pee at all. Although, sometimes even after you clean cat pee, the smell still lingers for quite a while…

What kind of sewage system do you have? My family has a septic tank, and when the basement floods, it’s AWFUL.

Whatever it is, good luck with it! If it’s water damage, get lots of fans and air the place out, see if that helps.

Pandora's avatar

Possible you only cleaned the top of the urine pee but the rest has settled in the foam under the carpet. You may need to rip it all up. Especially if it was dry before and now that you wet it in trying to clean it the smell was made stronger till it fully dries.
Sometimes my pipes smell bad. Especially garbage disposals.Try closing your bathroom doors and put a plug in the sink and see if that makes the smell lessen. If it does that it may be your sewage.
Another thing that tends to smell may be your diswasher. If you don’t run it for days it may start to stink.
I think I read somewhere once that fertilizer can smell like ammonia.
Good luck.

jazmina88's avatar

is there a meth lab next door?

casheroo's avatar

@jazmina88 Funny thing, I always refer to my one neighbors fiance as a meth-head because of how she looks/acts..her teeth are either really bad, or she’s done some hard drugs. Ugh.

jazmina88's avatar

well…....maybe it’s not your cats at all…....maybe her teeth are bad because of the hard drugs. is the smell outside????

Redeye_Dog's avatar

I had this problem in my house which is being renovated. As a result, not all of the facilities are used on a regular basis. In fact, some of them not at all, since we’re staying with family until all the work is done.

We tracked it down to (at least) one of the P-Traps where the water in the trap evaporated over time. The gases for the main sewer line were entering through the drains. It was in the middle of summer when this occurred and we were experiencing 100 degree temps.

We just ran water through all the facilities and the problem disappeared. Note: This would only happen after the course of weeks. If a home’s facilities are used regularly, this would not likely be the the source of your problem. However, all it takes is any one P-Trap for the condition to occur.

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