General Question

serenityNOW's avatar

Something in My Apartment Smells. I just Can't figure out what it Is?

Asked by serenityNOW (3636points) June 23rd, 2010

I’ve rearranged furniture and vacuumed everywhere. I checked the crawl-space in my closet. I’ve mopped the kitchen floor and cleaned my bathroom. I’ve sanitized the refrigerator. Still, there is nothing I can do about it; the smell just lingers and honestly seems to be getting worse. Lysol spray helps, but only temporarily. Candles just cover the odor and almost seem to mingle with it. I’m getting desperate and I don’t even want to have anyone over – I’m embarrassed. Has this ever happened to anyone? What do I do?

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32 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

It could be mildew or mold in spots that are inaccessible. Try running a dehumidifier to dry the air. Open all the windows on a day with low humidity and air the place out.

It could also be a dead mouse or rat in the walls. That smell will disappear in several days.

Coloma's avatar

Check for lost potatos…lol

Once I had the same problem, it smelled like cat poo but no cat poo to be found.

Searched high & low for days..then…lo and behold, in the back of the pantry I found a rotton potato in a bag that had fallen behind some other items on the bottom shelf.

It was baaaad….floating in it’s own decomposing juice!

Another time I found a container of lost prawns in the back of the fridge.

Never underestimate the power of decaying organics! haha

Merriment's avatar

What does it smell like? Something dead?

It’s possible for a tiny dead mouse to stink up a whole house to an unbearable degree.

JLeslie's avatar

Is it a mildew smell, or like something is dead? Most likely your problem is in the walls, behind the drywall. Can you smell it more in certain parts of the apartment, like it gets stronger near the kitchen, or bedroom, or whatever. The insulation in the walls can get moldy, or if there is a mouse or bird that might have become stuck and died, you might smell that.

cazzie's avatar

It could be SOOOO many things. Scent is my thing. If I was there in person I could tell you, quite possibly, what it was. Can you describe the scent at all?

Is it like heavy rotting autumn leaves (the potato theory which has MUCH credence)

Is it mildew? Bleach can kill that spore.

Is it ammonia? (urine smells of it when oxidised)

Give it a try. We might be able to help.

BoBo1946's avatar

Mildew or something dead are the worse…hands down!

Coloma's avatar

Also..check out in and under your stove and behind the fridge.

Maybe a dead mouse or?

Once I flipped a salmon fillet out of the pan and it fell behind the stove…got it out before if went into the 2nd dead zone.

You’d be amazed what you will find under a stove, even if you think you are cooking without accidents. lol

Otto_King's avatar

Check on your neighbor, if they are fine, or if they can feel the smell too.

serenityNOW's avatar

@gailcalled – I was thinking dehumidifier. Really, the dead animal odor will dissipate. I’d think it would get worse, no?

@Coloma – Yeah, I pilfered through the cupboards and no potatoes (or anything else organic.) Just some bottled stuff.

serenityNOW's avatar

Thanks all for some wonderful suggestions.

It smells kind of like rotten milk… it could be an animal decaying, but I’m not entirely sure what that smells like.

@Coloma: I’m about to move the stove – great suggestion.

@Otto King:
I’m going to have to get my landlords down here – I’m kind of thinking it’s their responsibility.

Okay, you’ve all been so helpful. Time to move that stove. I’m so nervous it’s a dead animal. If you hear me shriek, you’ll know it’s a dead animal. Eeeeek!

JLeslie's avatar

@jonfreed We had a dead bird in the dryer vent in the wall when I was growing up, and it was bad for months until we got someone finally to clean it out. If it is mold it will never get better, not until someone gets rid of the mold.

serenityNOW's avatar

Okay, I moved the stove – nothing behind it or under, so far as I could tell. I’m still going to go the de-humidifer route; even if it doesn’t remove the odor, at least it will cool the place off a little bit. That’s not going to happen for a couple of days. @JLeslie: I hope it’s not mold; that can be very toxic, right…?

JLeslie's avatar

@jonfreed Well, depends on the type of mold, I would not panic. If you were allergic you would be feeling sick, not to confuse allergic with actually getting very sick from mold, just some people are very sensitive to mold. I think you should be able to tell if it smells like mold or if something is dead. My husband always says things smell “wet” when they are moldy. Drives me crazy, because I tell him if it smells wet that means it is moldy, wet does not smell. But, maybe that description will help you distinguish, is it like an old apartment smell, kind of musty? Or, maybe you have a towel that when it is wet it smells like mold? Some people say things smell damp. That is all the same type of thing.

Did you just move in? If you did I would tell the landlord and see if he will come and check it out.

cazzie's avatar

@jonfreed can you describe the smell?

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
janbb's avatar

Dead animal (squirrel or bird) in the walls or dryer vents is very smelly and hard to find.

Otto_King's avatar

@jonfreed If you don’t have a missing pet, then it’s defenitely not your fault. So just tell the landlord, that something stinks, and that you think it could be harmful for your health. (fungus, gases from dead animal, etc.) Then I think he’s gonna take it more seriously.

serenityNOW's avatar

@Coloma: Cute joke… maybe I have an alter-ego that’s burying bunnies in my floorboards.

@JLeslie: Doesn’t smell like a wet towel that’s been stinking up for days… gosh, I hate that. More of a food-ish smell, if that makes sense. Like someone cooked garlic and the odor never escaped; instead, the odor multiplied and got more intense. Also, I just quit smoking and I’m super sensitive to smells. Can that be a factor, too?

JLeslie's avatar

@jonfreed Doesn’t sound like mold then. Sure, not smoking probably does make you more aware of odors I bet. I think something is dead. Does it smell more on one side of the apartment, can you ask the neighbor on that side if they have a problem as well? I feel for you. It would drive me crazy.

jojo22's avatar

maybe its just built up smells in your walls from food and smoking. try a fresh coat of paint!

cazzie's avatar

Sounds like a rotten onion or something then….. you need to look through your cupboards.

serenityNOW's avatar

@JLeslie – Landlord should be home around 8-ish. It does seem to be coming from the kitchen, but I scrubbed everything sooo hard; mopped twice; assaulted the fringe with soapy water. I’m thinking something in the walls, too. Boy, I wish I had that de-humidifier right now.

@jojo22: I never smoked in the house, but I haven’t ruled out food smells, either.

serenityNOW's avatar

Wow, everyone has been exceedingly helpful. Now, I have two hours to “wait-and-see.” I’ll keep y’all posted. Thanks!

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, once my dad had left over saurkraut in my fridge and that had a bad garlicky type smell. But, it only smelled when I opened the fridge. Took me a couple of days to figure out what it was. Really bad.

laureth's avatar

Do you keep garlic or onions in plastic bags? If so, that can keep moisture in and cause rot. An ex of mine once found a plastic bag of onions (but it could have been potatoes, it was so decomposed that we couldn’t tell) under the sink that was wriggling with fruit fly larvae. It was godawful bad.

Another possibility – did you just break up with anyone recently? Seriously, I once had a bitter breakup and friends were telling me to hide ground turkey or maybe shrimp in his house in odd places. Before too long the stench would be unbearable. (I decided not to at the last minute, having already gone over with the ground meat in my bag.)

Merriment's avatar

Dead animals can smell remarkably like old garlic.

I’m afraid this tale isn’t going to have a happy ending for some critter.

I’d check the cupboard under the sink as they are drawn to moisture. Also, they can get under the kick plate under a cabinet and there is no way to get to them short of pulling off that wood. So it’s a matter of out waiting the stench.

Hopefully you will find it soon.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

My parents had a similar problem. Turned out there was a tiny tiny hole in the lid of some canned food. It rotted and no one could figure out where it was coming from, until one day a couple weeks later my dad went to open this can and found nothing but rotted food.

serenityNOW's avatar

Thanks again, all, for the suggestions and help! Fortunately, the de-humidifer, (supplied by my landlords) has eliminated the odor(s) from the apartment. I had it run for about 36 hours non-stop and the apartment smells, well – like a bachelor’s apartment, again. Hopefully this is all the remedy needed…

gailcalled's avatar

@jonfreed: Run it regularly for part of the day, particularly when the humidity is high. You can water the plants with the liquid that the dehumidifier produces. It is a nice life cycle.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
melissaem987's avatar

So, we have a piece of furniture that has started to smell very bad lately. It didn’t smell when we first bought it off of a friend, but now, whenever we open the top drawers, it smells like rotting butter of some sort. At first, it just smelled like butter (which i can’t stand), but now it’s a rotting butter smell… and it is making me crazy!

I cleaned the drawers with cleaning fluid and it smelled fine for a few mins, until it dried. Once it dried, the smell started up again. I have no idea what it is. Please help!!!

Please note that food has NEVER been stored in here..

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