What’s That Smell in My House?

| 5/20/2013 3:28:00 PM

Tags: indoor air quailty, healthy homes, Paula Baker-LaPorte,

sunflower and blue skyWhat do you do if you sense that your household air is not up to snuff?

If you suspect that something in your home is making you sick you may need to engage the services of a professional home inspector.  A variety of parameters can be tested, some with simple instrumentation and others only through expensive laboratory procedures. There is no single magic machine that can test your home for every possible problem so doing a little safe detective work before calling an expert will save time and money and help you to reach an accurate diagnosis.

What the Nose Knows

You already own a sublimely sensitive instrument…your nose is a formidable investigative assistant with an astounding long-term memory. Have you ever re-visited a place after many years absence and noted that the familiar distinct smell of the place piques your memory? The unique smell of burning charcoal in Costa Rica, the aroma of fresh ground coffee in Paris, the acrid waft of steel wheels grinding trolley track in a city metro, these are some of the smells locked in my personal olfactory memory. Many people can smell an incredible one part per million or more. This talent, once a crucial survival tool for our hunter gatherer ancestors is now often dulled by the assaults of modern life. But it is a tool that can be cultivated to your advantage. Many, but not all, problems can be detected through their odor. Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), some molds, some pesticides, dust and gas leaks all have distinct odors.

Using Common Scents

Upon first entering your home bring awareness to what you smell. If there is an offensive odor see if you can trace its source. For your own safety, do not linger there or start your own demolition. If you suspect a problem inside a wall, you could create a larger problem by breaking through the containment. Provide the area with plentiful fresh air until you can get an expert in.

If the first thing you smell is mothballs, potpourri, air fresheners, tobacco or scented laundry products, you may have already discovered the cause of your ill health. These substances contain a constellation of petrochemical toxins that are harmful when inhaled. They should be eliminated and you will be wasting your money if you call a consultant in while these things are present.  The house must then be well-aired and cleaned before any further nasal investigation can occur.

3/14/2016 8:21:36 AM

I am trying to figure out what is making my house smell. there is a pungent fruity smell that fills my house, comes up from the vents from under the house and the smell about knocks me over when I walk inside the house. what could be causing such a strong fruity smell so I know what I'm dealing with

8/19/2014 6:05:54 PM

We have a bad smell in a wall by the front door. It smells like dead animal, but it is a long-term problem which gets really bad when it rains or it is very humid. We also have bats in the siding around chimney, which is about 20 feet from the front door. We are having the bats evicted and the chimney taken down. Wonder if there could be a relationship between the two issues.

2/17/2014 3:52:55 PM

I have a question. I have a weed like smell coming from my bathroom duct. I smell it there first and then it filters to all parts of my house. I don’t smoke weed. It happens more when the air is on, but will also happen when the air is not on. I have my own HVAC and do not share ductwork with another else in my townhome complex. I have had my ducts and HVAC cleaned by a reputable company. There is nothing in the ducts. They have checked my coil and there is no build up. The AC guy just installed an air scrubber and it has been a week. It is intermittent. Sometimes I smell it 5 times a day, other days I smell it 2 times a day. I don't know what to do next help??

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