Old House Odor

evecakes7November 20, 2005

We live in a house that was built in the early 1930's. We're not sure if it is because of the age of the house, but the house will sometimes smell bad. Someone said that it may be from mold in the heating and a/c unit building up -- called "dirty sock syndrome." Not sure if it is this or maybe mold elsewhere. Does anyone have any advice about how to explore this further? Thanks.

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If you have heating and a/c ducts they should be cleaned regularly, even if you don't have an odor, so that's the first thing I would do.

The next thing would be to install a vapor barrier system on the floor of your cellar and any crawl space.

Do you have any carpeting, that would be next. Unless it is newly installed I'd be looking (i.e pulling it up) to make sure the padding and underside are clean and not moist, etc.

In general, lowering the humidity helps.

I have some closets in room that had been left closed up which have absorbed an odor into the plaster. No amount of airing seems to make a difference, so I'm going to paint the interior as a cure.

Sometimes old wallpaper can be smelly.

You didn't say if it was a foul rotten, decaying flesh, or mouse nest/droppings or even old cat pee, those can be persistent and somewhat intermittent smells.

I always find a good, hot scrubbing and forced air drying helps get rid of general empty house smell. I use a mild powdered laundry detergent without optical brighteners and hot water and bushels of towels. I scrub everything, floors, walls woodwrok, ceiling, etc.



    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 5:55PM
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We tore off the back of our 40's home to add on, and found rockwool insulation with unspeakable stuff growing on it. Our GC wanted to blow insulation over it, but I threw a fit and made them take out every bit.

We used to have that 'old house' smell at certain times of the year- high humidity as I recall- we don't have it any more.

I'm going to assume it was the nasty insulation in our case.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 8:47PM
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I found a minor ceiling leak which was causing a smell. It wasn't big enough to cause me to notice it for quite some time, but the smell would come and go and drove me nutty. Fixing the leak made the smell worse because we apparently disturbed the mold, but airing it out with fans made it go away eventually.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2005 at 8:18PM
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People had some great suggestions. I was interested in this thread also because we have an old farmhouse and one room smells different than the rest. Not bad, just wierd I guess. I have removed the old wallpaper, repainted, cleaned the rug and everything I can not figure it out! Must still be the rug maybe.

Anyways if you are having issues with the entire house it does sound that like could be a heating/ac issue. If you don't use the AC or heat for a while does the smell go away?? If it does then I would have your ducts cleaned because that would most likely be the source.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2008 at 11:42AM
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If there is a concern about mold, it should be taken seriously because it could be a health hazard. The thing to do is to hire a mold inspection company to undertake a thorough inspection of the house using instruments that measure the concentration of spores. They also measure the heat and humidity levels in various parts of the house, because mold will only grow if the humidity is above a certain level. It is extremely important to hire an inspector who is trained and certified to do this kind of assessment AND WHO DOES NOT DO THE MOLD REMEDIATION, BECAUSE YOU WANT AN IMPARTIAL ASSESSMENT, NOT ONE DRIVEN BY A CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The assessment should take out the guess work in figuring out what the problem is and what to do about it. Inspection costs can vary by more than a hundred $, so shop around.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2008 at 6:53PM
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Has anyone else actually tried Room Shocker? I am considering trying this product and am interested to see what other people have to say about it. Thanks

    Bookmark   October 12, 2008 at 9:02AM
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Chlorine dioxide (CLO2) vapour, which Room Shocker claims to release, is a proven biocide used in agriculture and medical facilities.

I'm not a chemist by any means. But I wonder if CL02 can be created and released in such a simple manner as the spammer's supplier suggests. See the link below from a commercial scale supplier.

Local commercial cleaning suppliers should be able to help you out with effective products for specific needs.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chlorine dioxide

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 10:45AM
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Our new-to-us foreclosure sat empty for 6 months surrounded by woods and a farm. Our Old House Smell was indentified yesteday as a combination of rat, flying squirrel and mouse droppings and urine.

A pest control technician is about to become a very good friend.

Good times.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 10:11AM
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