Unidentified smell! Please help!

hitthewall55August 1, 2011

Someone please help a pregnant lady out. My nose has gotten much more keen with this pregnancy and I am now repelled by an unidentified smell in our finished basement (it's a split level, so it is more the first floor than a true basement, it is only half buried). No one else can get more than a faint whiff of it, but it is overpowering to me. Here are the details:

Smells sickeningly sweet but dirty - best description would be if a dusty dog rolled around in honey

This is now 4 months of the smell, so I am pretty sure if it was something dead it would have decomposed by now.

It is not the carpet - I steam cleaned them and can stick my face down on it and no trace of the smell

The smell seems strongest right in our kitchenette at the bottom of the stairs.

It is not the drain, sink, pipes - smell tested them all.

The smell seems stronger the higher the temp is outside.

We have a dry basement - humidity levels are low and don't seem to change the smell either way

Here's what I've tried:

ammonia washed the linoleum in the kitchenette, though the smell never seemed to be coming from the floor

placed activated charcoal in the suspended ceiling

removed the suspended ceiling tiles (the smell seems to me to maybe be coming from the ceiling - one tile smelled very syrupy to me), let them sit outside in 100 degree weather, painted them with Kilz - this seemed to work, or at least effectively mask the smell for about 3 days, but now it is back

I can't see any evidence of mold anywhere. No evidence of rodents or bugs anywhere (we've never seen anything but the occasional stink bug in our house). The floor joists don't look rotten or smell funny if I stick my head up there.

Any thoughts? I basically can't go downstairs in my house without gagging (again, no one else smells anything but a very faint whiff of something that only lasts a second or two) or wearing a respirator. Something stinks but I can't figure out what. I keep thinking it is ceiling related, but I'm not entirely sure - the smell is so strong to me I can't localize it well, I can just tell when it is better if I move away from it. There's also some painted paneling on the exterior wall in the kitchenette - I can't detect that the smell is coming from there, but it is in the general vicinity where the worst smell is, so maybe something there?

Any help would be much appreciated! Thoughts on smell sources or getting rid of it would be great.

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Does your refrigerator have a drain pan? If so, has it been cleaned recently>

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 6:20PM
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Chibimimi - yes, we thoroughly cleaned the refrigerator and drain pan when I first started noticing the smell. No luck. The "source" of the smell really seems to be a random spot in the room - not next to a wall, no furniture/counter/pipes around it - which was why I went after the ceiling this last time. I'm totally stumped!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 6:26PM
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it's definitely a ghost fart

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 12:27AM
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Have you checked out the light fixture and the area around it? Could it be heat generated when the light is on?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 12:47PM
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Pris- we checked that too after reading about that issue on here. No difference in smell with light on or off and I don't detect the smell coming from the light area at all.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 1:40PM
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I just read on a website about trying to find the source of odors. What they suggested was take a dry paper towel and fold it into quarters. Place one on the surface of the wall, cabinet, carpet etc that you suspect. Cover it with aluminum foil and seal the edges with painters tape. Leave in place 24 hours. Then come back and open it up and quickly smell it. The thought it that odors or gasses will collect in the paper towel (like a filter). It can't hurt and it cheap to try.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 10:14PM
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My sis and I went "crazy" trying to find a wicked smell in her kitchen...only in certain areas. It ended up that when the ice cube maker was turned on, the smell was horrid.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 11:44PM
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That's an awesome idea, dgmarie. I'm going to try that! Deborah - isn't it frustrating? The downstairs fridge doesn't have an ice maker and I'm 100% sure it isn't fridge related since we scoured that thing and the smell is better over by the fridge than in is in the mysterious no man's land middle of the room. I just went and got a more powerful dehumidifier and I'm going to try to take the relative humidity down to 35 instead of 50 and see if that has any effect. The towel idea is great though, so I'm going to set up lots of little smell traps too.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2011 at 12:41PM
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