How Can I Get Rid Of The Sour House Smell ?

Q. Our house smells sour (motel room like) no matter what we do!! We are very clean people– got any suggestions on how to permanently get rid of the odor. I’m tired of covering it up with candles, sprays, etc. I’ve even tried baking soda in the carpets! I also have to be careful because my children have horrible asthma/allergies. Thanks, Heather 🙂

A. Dear Heather, I’ll bet that something (probably pet urine) is in your carpet pad. Cleaning the carpet only treats the surface, not the carpet pad. If you don’t want to replace the pad, try using a steam cleaner and add a scoop of Oxyclean to the cleaning solution. Good Luck, – Katie

A. Buy a large pump of "FEBREZE"…it works on everything. Smelly hampers, sticky rental cars, sleeping bags that reek of camp fire, you name the smell I have used febreze. You can get it at the supermaket. Another idea is to use a citrus odor neutralizing spray, I used this at a Salon I worked at to rid the place of perm smell. BB

A. If you have a forced air heating and cooling system with ducts, get the ducts checked. We have a 45 yr. old house that had mold and LOTS of build up of dirt and other nasty stuff apparently causing an odor. The ducts were rusting out and we needed to have them changed. The newer ones are much more energy efficient. We have saved money on A/C costs this summer. Get a company that cleans ducts to inspect them. Some have a camera that can show you what is in your ducts. But be careful who you get. Use a reputable company and check with the Better Business Bureau. Ask them for references. Some only clean a short way and spray a deodorizer. The estimate we got to clean ours was only $350.00 less than new ones cost us. This was not cheap but we have a grandson with asthma, too. We thought it was vital to his health to do this.

A. You may have a mold of some sort growing in your carpet or behind your wallpaper.  Create a bleach solution (1 to 10 to start, then up to 1 to 4 if it does not work) and gently wash down all of your walls and mop boards.  Rent a hot water carpet cleaner (I actually purchased one and I use it four times a year) and put a bleach solution into the reservoir rather than the soap they try to sell you  (add a drop or two of dish soap, but no more:  it is the water that cleans, not the soap.  Adding too much soap will actually make your carpet dirty because it does not rinse out of the carpet and soap bonds with dirt.).  I have never had this bleach solution discolor even a very dark carpet.  It kills “everything” that might be causing an odor and the hot water cleaning really helps allergies as well.  Keep babies off the rugs as breathing chemicals of any sort is especially bad for them. If after cleaning like this the smell comes back more quickly than you think it should, get a dehumidifier.  Dry out the living quarters first, and then clean out your basement so it is empty of anything that could hold moisture and run it down there as well. Make especially certain to remove cardboard boxes.  Never run a dehumidifier where you have an open window or you are trying to dry out the atmosphere!  An air conditioner actually works even better because of the filtering system in it, but it is too cold where I live to still be using one. Finally, one of those devices that produces ozone or air-born hydrogen peroxide can also work, but they tend to be expensive and may not get to the root of the problem.  Covering or filtering odors is always more costly than eliminating their source. – Judy

A. At our last house we had the same problem ! I too burned many candles and complained about the smell. It was the old shingles ! We replaced them and instant relief ! The 25 or 40 year olds shingles had been covered up for many years & had years to mold and smelled terrible!! Good luck….. Lisa

A. This is for Heather with the sour house smells. We also had house smells and allergies. I burned many a candle trying to get rid of it. We decided to pull up our wall-to-wall carpet and that is where is smells were. We completely got rid of it and the stinky tack board it was attached to. We cleaned and painted our cement floors and the smells are gone. We use area rugs in the rooms now and it has really helped us. – Robin.

A. To get rid of any unwanted odor in the home place a bowl of white vinegar in an out of the way place in the room where the odor is strongest. Within 24 hours the odor will be almost undetectable. Within 48 hours it will be gone completely. It does not mask the odor but gets rid of it.

A. Perhaps it’s because there is a moisture problem. You may have molds/mildew in hidden areas. You may have to have a professional evaluate this status. Check your crawl space or basement for molds. A dehumidifier (standing unit or an addition to your heating and air conditioning units) may eliminate the problem. However, existing molds or mildew would have to be cleaned. Molds and mildew can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms for anyone in the house. Another “quick fix” to odors is charcoal briquettes hidden in inconspicuous places or small bowls of white vinegar here and there.

A. We have lived in several homes with disturbing smells. One was a trailer where cats had urinated in carpeted rooms and the carpet reeked especially on damp days. Cats also apparently loved to pee into your registers. We also once had a strange pile of goo in our vents that just reeked. We did end up moving, and replaced the carpet for the new tenants; we hope it solved the problem. Another problem could be mice in your vents. Finding the source of the foul smell is going to be tough. If you have pets, smell around your baseboards as you enter the house because pets have obnoxious habits. One house we had the previous owner had covered up a damp basement smell with a special type of cedar chip hidden behind light switches in the basement. We discovered in the spring there was a huge crack that leaked water into the laundry right into the drain. Cost us bucks to have it excavated and sealedIT was dry after that and the basement did not smell. Another home we found carpet hidden in a tiny basement room that reeked of cat urine. We dealt with that. Other problems we’ve encountered are unvented basement bathroom toilets, or wet vented plumbing. Or damp pantries. Or bathrooms with no windows or exhaust fan. Use your sniffer nose and go around each room to see it certain areas have a higher concentration of odor. Check your weeping tile drainage in the basement (a hole with a cover in your basement floor) to make sure it is flowing. Make sure your vent stack from your bathrooms is not plugged on the roof.

Sometimes carpets are steam cleaned unprofessionally and a lot of water remains. This causes mildewing and a related odor. Remove your carpets and put in hardwood or similar type flooring, with area rugs that can be cleaned outside of the home and dried before returning to the area. If your carpets are ten years old, it doesn’t hurt to remove them. Check for urine staining on the wood underneath. You can try disinfecting the wood, and then staining it to seal in the smell if you can’t bear tearing out the sub floor. Make sure your furnace is in good repair and is not leaking noxious gases, and check your natural gas lines for loose connections. Rule out all the smells one by one. Some cooking habits (ie curry, certain sausages, cabbage, etc.) leave smells behind that can be rather odious when you come back from being somewhere else. Good luck. RS