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Question DetailsAsked on 12/3/2013

I have an offensive odor in only 1 room. It comes and goes and is not present every day.

It seems to be less likely when the outside temp is below 32 degrees.
It will be present sometimes for only 1 or 2 minutes, sometimes longer.

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13 Answers


Too bad you did not say what room, and what type of rooms are adjacent to that room. If you answer back with that info (using the Answer This Question button), and whether room it occurs in is on top floor or ground or basement, and if you have a basement or crawlspace, we might be able to help you pin it down more. Also whether you live in a detached house or a duplex/condo/apartment. It would help a LOT if you could classify the type of odor - the fact it goes away below freezing is not definitive as almost all odor sources outgas less at colder temperatures, but could mean it is organic in nature rather than chemical outgassing from appliance, electronics, carpet or such. "Types of smells" would be descriptions like sweet, sour, stinky garbage, moldy, wet wood, wet fabric, wet paper, chemically, greasy, rotten food, dead animal, sewer gas/sewage, urine, natural gas, sooty, oily, gasoline like, nail polish remover like (laquer thinner), burning wood, sawdusty, burning or hot plastic, rotten wood, rotten vegetation, cut grass, straw, fertilizer, etc. I know this can be embarrasing, but if you have a neighbor who is a good and non-criticla buddy, ask them to pop over and give their assessment of the smell next time it happens. Ditto to all family members. When you smell it again, quickly try to scent out where it does and does not smell and if there is a stronger source area - also check the garage area and any basement/crawlspace, and run outside and walk around house to see if coming from outside - neighbor's garbage, boggy area, septic tank/leach field, neighbor's animals, etc. Might take several occurrences to check allthese areas while smell is still strong.
Some thoughts that might help you track it down:1) if chemical smelling, have you installed any new carpet, drapes, electronics, etc that the smell could be coming from ?2) Also, if plastic or chemical smelling, is it correllated to using an appliance, TV, computer, etc - something might be overheating3) IF chemical smelling, look for spilled cleaning or similar containers under cabinets or vanities, in garage, etc4) if moldy paper or fabric smell, look for a water leak under sinks and vanities - also check all closets and such for possible water leak wetting clothing or carpet, and around an in clothes and dish washers. Also, kids or anyone toss some wet towels or such in a corner somewhere ?5) if mold smell, check for mold growing and stronger mold smell, under sinks, around dishwasher and clothes washer, in bathrooms (near ceiling and floor area and near tub/shower). Also, check windows (especially wood) for mold at the bottoms caused by condensation - ditto to back side of curtains or drapes that could have gotten damp from window condensation. Coiuld also be a slow pipe leak.6) if urine smelling, then could be a sewer pipe break, but more likely to be a leaking toilet wax ring or cracked toilet - should smell strong only in bathroom if that is the case7) if sewer smell, could be a cracked sewer pipe or leaking joint but more common causes are sewer gas coming out the sewer vent through your roof - usually noticeable more in cool but not real cold weather (where the chimney effect is stronger) and usually only in calm air, where a whiff will come into the house on occassions. Another very common cause of this is floor and washtub drains and unused guest bathrooms where the water in the drain traps (sinks, bath/shower, toilet, floor) has evaporated, allowing sewer gas to come up into the house, commonly occurs in a brief surge when a lot of water is run (shower, bath, washer) and after flushing a toilet. Do not forget floor drain in garage and mudroom/utility room, if present8) if sticky sweet but unpleasant acrid odor, could be large insect nest in the house walls or floors or crawlspace or attic9) if dead animal smell, could be an animal died in your wall or subfloor, or crawlspace or attic. This usually lasts for a week to three for rodents, then tapers off as it dessicates and mummifies, but if in a damp humid place can last for a month or more - and of course longer for larger animals. Especially common in houses with crawlspaces where rodents are very good at finding (or making) ways in10) if room is near garden or greenhouse, check for rotting vegetation smell coming into house from there, or smell from wet bags of compost or potting soil or such11) if wet sooty smell, check fireplace - water leaking down chimney can make a nasty sooty greasy smell12) if natural gas smell, might be your natural gas (or propane) regulator outside is venting too much (ordinarily you cannot smell it when it vents), or your furnace is firing inefficiently so you are getting a surge of raw gas at ignition or during a flame rollout from the firebox, or rarely could be a leak - sniff around furnace and hot water heater, and also everywhere a gas stubout/shutoff for clothes dryer, range, gas ignitor for fireplace, etc could be.13) if a gasoline or diesel smell, check yard power equipment and fuel storage, and check car in garage is not leaking liquids - oily, gassy (or diesel as applicable), or sticky sweet (antifreeze)14) if heavy oil or refinery type smell, could be coming from your or a neighbor's fuel oil tank or piping or furnace15) get down on your knees and crawl around room sniffing at the carpet and baseboards - could be you have a leaking pipe that is causing mold or rot in a wall or in the carpet padding16) if you have a separate deep freezer, check it is working and has not failed, causing the food in it to rot17) if you have a pet, check around that they did not leave you a gift or have an accident somewhere, or drag in a dead animal, or drag some food scrap into that room and hide it18) you did not say anything about being more common at night, so rancid body oil in pillows or mattress or mattress pad is probably not it19) obviously, check all your kitchen and pantry cupboards and cabinets for spoiled food20) check garbage cans, expecially if you keep them indoors in a mudroom or garage - might need washing out accumulated spilled liquid gunk in the bottom21) if you have a french drain or sump pump in basement, those can go rancid or stagnant22) smell garbage disposal - may need a cleaning - running a lemon in 4 quarters through it works pretty well, as does running some Lemon Mr Clean through it with water23) teenager - time for a general cleanout ?24) if stagnant water smell, check tubs and basins for stagnant water in drains. Also, smell around any household plants - we have had problems with stinky bottom catch trays and tiny gnats in the house this year for first time in 35 years - coincides with using Job's fertilizer stakes in the plants for the first time, so we suspect that, but is also happening only in new plastic pots we got at WalMart this year to repot the household plants, so could als be due to that.25) last years (or last century's) fruitcake or hidden halloween or xmas candy ? As you can tell, I am running out ideas here. Give some feedback on type of smell and room where problem is and adjacent room uses and maybe we can help more.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Single story detached house. The area in question is in the southern part of the house adjoining the garage. The odor is not ever present in the garage. Odor does not seem to be present in the fireplace, hvac vent or warm air return. Smell is often in only one corner of the room but not always. It cannot be identified in the carpet, walls or furniture...

Smell? Perhaps a strong animal urine type smell - ?

Answered 6 years ago by billdains


OK - that seems to tie it down better, though it still might be rot from leaking pipes as well as animal urine - wood fungus can smell pretty acrid if it gets really out of hand. My guess - probably an family of animals have moved into your crawlspace (if you have one) or subfloor, or maybe attic or walls. Try sniff tracking to figure out if coming from ceiling, wall, or floor to narrow your search area. If you have a dog or a neighbor with a dog with a good sniffer they might be able to point you in a likely starting direction.

Easy solution - contact a rodent control / animal control company for removal/killing of animals, removal of nests, disinfection, blocking of access points. ALL need to be done to solve your problem.

One factor to think about - since you said seems to diminish below freezing, though that could just be because things smell less when colder, it could indicate animals in your crawlspace or up under the floor from the cold crawlspace, and when it gets colder they are hibernating (more or less) so they are not urinating as often, so less smell.

Tougher way - doing it yourself - start with detailed inspection of crawl space (if you have one) for access points into subfloor, evidence of nesting, etc. Also check all around outside wall from ground to rooftop for possible access points - at this point, sounds like attic or subfloor or crawlspace or walls are all possibilities. Check attic if you have access.

You may be able to locate them by sound - buy a $10-15 stethoscope at a box store or pharmacy, and move aroundthe room along ceiling, walls, and floor with stethoscope - rapping on the surface while you listen for rustling or scampering sounds as you knock near them. Might have to do this both day and night, not knowing if your target is nocturnal or not.

If you don't find it, then buy yourself a COLOR fiber optic inspection tool with fiber optic lights for around $100 (some tool rental places rent for about $15-30/day), and start checking attic through eaves if you cannot physically climb into the attic. If no luck there, then start drilling holes in your floor under the edge of the carpet (if carpeted) - one hole per joist space (usually 24 inch spacing), and being careful to only drill through the subfloor - not into pipes or wires underneath. While going through the center of the floor works better (can look both ways to both outside walls), it means pulling the rug half way back which might not work for you, so you may have to work down two sides of the floor. Of course, if you have laminate or hardwood or hard surface floor, this is not very viable. A forstner bit is good for drilling inspection holes as the center point does not protrude significantly beyondthe cutting edge. After inspecting each space with camera AND by smell, plug the hole with a cut off piece of correct sized dowel coated with glue, so it cannot be used by insects to get into the house or be a source of cold air drafts. Typical inspection cameras/video guns take a minimum 1/2 or 5/8" hole to get the probe through. If that does not find it, look for holes into walls animals could get into (small mice can get through a dime sized hole, small squirrels a silver dollar sized one) and lacking visible entry holes, you might have to start checking wall stud spaces the same way, assuming the wall with the garage is uninsulated.

In using the camera, remember you are looking for animals, animal nests, urine stains, fecal matter, water staining from pipes or green or white stains or fuzziness on copper pipes, and any sign of fungus or mold on wood.

That only takes care of detecting it - once you locate staining or nest or actual animals, then you have to open up access to get the animals killed/removed, then spray with 50% chlorine bleach solution (except on wiring and pipes) to disinfect the site, then a deodorizer to prevent recurring smell during humid and warmer times.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


By any chance has you city or county put new liners in the sewer ? It is called CIPP or Styrene. Is it like chasing a ghost odor..does it move around? or go on FB and in the search box type in <Styrene / CIPP caused me to vacate my home>

Answered 5 years ago by TerryAston


I have this issue in my Kitchen

Answered 5 years ago by Homemaid


It is very likely related to an electrical receptacle for a light fixture. As the light bulb heats up the receptacle, the adhesive used in the receptacle release that rotten flesh odder.

So, turn on all lights, wait for an hour, if odder is back, go around and sniff each light receptacle. You will find the source.

Answered 5 years ago by opader


Question: Do you own a cat? Okay, too easy. From what I read in the original and subsequent posts, I think we can zero in on urine. There are three basic varieties: Cat, Dog, and rodent.

Cat urine is very pungent and persistent. In the case of male cat spray, the odor is especially strong and annoying but disipates in a matter of hours.

Dog urine can ruin a rooms atmosphere for years after the source is removed. But, since it originates within the homes living space, finding the source is usually a matter of "sniffing" it out.

Rats are different in that they will do their business away from the nest, but usually in the same spot where waste can accumulater for months or years before discovery.

That's what I think you're smelling in that one room. I have had the same experience you describe in trying to locate the source of a faint but foul odor my moms bathroom. The odor was only there occasionally, and too brief to know which direction it was coming from.

I just figured someone had an "accident" that wasn't cleaned up completely, and that's what I must have been smelling. So I scrubbed the floor with soap and water and diluted bleach water, and washed all the rugs.

It seemed to work since I was unaware of any odor for almost a week. On about day six I caught the smell again. My first thought was "man, someone sure is crapping on the floor a lot in here!" My next emotion was anger since there was no way any odor could survive the scrubbing and bleach, but there it was, plain as day. But only for a moment, which only adding to my frustration.

Out of this anger and frustration grew a strong determination to find the source. So I got down on my hands and knees and literally sniffed every inch of the floor, toilet, cabinets, along the baseboards--everywhere. Okay it was desperation, obviously, but at the base of the vanity, "bingo!" I found a spot where the smell was constant, right where the vanity meets the 4" base it sits on.

But still, what the heck? With no obvious source, and no problem found inside the vanity, giving up was a real possibility. I was desperate, remember? I took everything out of the vanity and cut the bottom out of it with a skil saw! There it was: a combination rats nest and rats toilet between the bottom of the vanity and the actual floor of the bathroom.

They had squeezed up through the hole cut in the baseplate for the drain pipe and left I guess anywhere between five and ten pounds of rat poop and urine soaked insulation.

Last but not least is the secret weapon to combat all urine soaked areas: Hydrogen Peroxide. Dollar tree, two bottles for a buck, spray bottle, $1.00. Roll of paper towels. Spray suspected area, watch it foam up, wipe up the foam with paper towels and toss immediately, repeat until the hydrogen peroxide no longer foams.

Good luck, I hope this helps!


Source: Personal experience

Answered 3 years ago by RanchoHandymandotcom


Did you ever find out what the issue was? I have the same problem!!

Answered 3 years ago by Yoyo24


Oh my gosh, I have this exact same problem! I thought I was losing my mind as the odor comes and goes and I've literally crawled around trying to find it.

I have a ranch home on a slab. The odor is in only in the bathroom off the hall. It is extremely sour smelling. I have not heard any scratching or movement to make me aware of any animals.

Can you please direct me to the next steps? Exterminator?

Thank you!

Answered 3 years ago by pegz54


Pegz54...what did you finally do about the odor? I have the exact same problem you described. A ranch house on a slab with an intermittent odor only in a bathroom off the hall. Did you ever find the Problem or a solution? Thanks!

Answered 1 year ago by klcfour


I have the same problem in my house. It's in one corner in the hall. And I have no furniture, curtains or anything there. It's 2nd floor. I don't smell anything outside that room(everything smells normal outside the room)and inside the room except that corner. The smell is same(animal urine smell) that comes and goes only at some particular time (usually around 8am) for about couple of minutes.

I recently shifted to this house but when i was in the previous house i had the same issue. This smell comes only in winters (now the temperature is less than 20°C). There is no trace of smell in walls or windows nearby.

Could you plz help?

Source: Own experience

Answered 9 months ago by niharika2000


Hi ,

I have this same issue. musty smell. smell comes and goes . 2 story family house in Texas. One of the bedrooom upstairs has this smell. The smell only comes in this one room . No smell in any other rooms in the same floor. Additional info.. there is ac unit above the hallway and bedroom. Please suggest any way to figure where the smell is coming from. Animal control inspected the attic above and cleared it. Had A/C professional inspect and perform maintenance and all looks good. Any ideas to find the source of this smell.

Answered 4 months ago by Ssrn


I use my own urine.

That's right!

Answered 1 month ago by romeo

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