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Question DetailsAsked on 10/31/2016

I have a rotting odor in 1 room, what could be causing this odor?

This is a bedroom in my home and an adult child resides in it. There are only bedrooms adjacent to his room, we have cleared everything out of every corner to find a source of this smell to no avail. We have also opened the window and left a fan running over night and the smell is just as potent as it was when the window was closed. Help!!

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2 Answers


Normal causes with kids around:

1) food slipped down under furniture - including alongside mattress into bedframe or kicked under bed or slid off under head of bed - or food left on a shelf, in a desk drawer (secret cache), in a backpack thrown in the closet, etc. Also drinks (especially if fruity/organic or sugary) left in a glass and forgotten.

2) spilled fruit drink or soda biodegrading in the rug or flooring

3) wet towels or clothing tossed in corner, or mildewing in the laundry basket/pile (though that is a mildewy or moldy smell, if you can recognize the difference)

4) missing (and deceased) pet animal

5) stinky shoes or sometimes stinky plastic luggage, bags, etc

6) stinky feet

other common sources:

7) water leak in roof, walls, windows, or bathroom, wetting walls/insulation or carpet and causing mold or fungal growth. Wood fungus normally has a smell that is described as more woody or earthy, sharper or more acidic, and more "rancid" than mold).

8) check attic or any overlying rooms for any signs of leakage - which can run down in the walls or into the subfloor. Also check spaces underneath - crawlspace, unfinished basement, etc.

9) check attic and eaves/soffits for animal nests - bird, bat or rodent. Also some insect nests can smell this way if they go rotten - some wasp/hornet/etc ones built in the spring that are intended (by the insects) to sit overwinter in the cold go rancid as the larva and stored food for them rots if built in a warm attic.

10) check any grates or grills or vents for stuck animal (remove grate or grill and use hand mirror and bright flashlight to look inside). Sniff closely at grates and grilles for possible source. Also, if it becomes stronger when the HVAC fan kicks on (if forced air system), then likely dead animal in venting

11) very rarely for rotting odor, but some plastics emit very nasty odors when they overheat - check for overheating electronic device or especially device chargers, overheating cell phone or computer/laptop/tablet/electronic game or charger.

12) if ground floor room, check around outside for smell from dead animal or rotting fruit or such on ground, under deck or porch or air conditioner or such, or under house.

13) commonly, water leaking from bathroom into adjacent room floors, or into ceiling from overhead bathroom - either from pipe or drain leak or from leaving the floor wet after bathing and it leaks/runs off flooring to wall or into subfloor

14) rarely, water leak from in-floor or baseboard or steam radiator fluid-filled heating system, causing mold or rot

I would (you and the kid both) go to hands and knees and sniff around closely at the rug and furniture, baseboards, around door and window frames - to try to isolate the smell, and see if maybe it is coming from a specific area. If tied down to a particular wall or ceiling area, check adjacent room on other side of the wall for the smell too - could be in wall between rooms or leaking under.

If all else fails and no signs of water or such, then you have a tough choice - if you think it is a rancid, fatty, dead animal odor - then probably a Handyman (who can also repair the holes) or an Animal Removal contractor to start looking in walls and floors (fiber optic scope is good in interior uninsulated walls and subfloors, not much use in insulated walls or attic floors) to see if a dead animal is around. Obviously, as far as scenting it out, you would be paying him by the hour to smell around for where it is strongest, so if you get that part done yourself that saves you some money.

IF more a rotting vegetation or woody / toadstool type odor, then either a Handyman with fiber optic scope (takes about 1/2" hole in ceilings and walls to run it into, one hole per stud or joist bay typically so can add up to a fair number of holes) - or an Insulation contractor or Home Inspector with fiber optic scope and thermal infrared camera to look for wet or warmer spots that might indicate a leak or fungal growth.

On the thermal imaging camera - you can also rent them for typically $50-100/day (sometimes 1/2 day rates available too) at tool rental places, some auto parts stores, and Home Depot and try imaging yourself - google Youtube or FLIR (the primary manufacturer) websites for how to use and interpret it - gives a color image of temperature and will show significant amounts of fungal growth or wet areas through uncarpeted surfaces, sometimes will show larger dead animals in walls if warm from decomposition oreven with squirrel size and above sometimes shows profile through wall even if long dead - not detecting the critter tiself, but showing as a temperature difference because the furred animal is blocking heat flow from the house. Inspect from inside and outdoors both, and from adjacent rooms also for shared walls.

Many computers and smart phones can also be temporarily tuned to near-infrared sensitivity on the camera using a cheap App - not as good as a true infrared camera but if you have a smart phone or tablet or laptop with camera might be worth the $0-15 for an App to see if it works for you. More recent iPads and iPhones have this capability to retune the camera sensitivity built-in - maybe some other brands or device OS's also.

Here are links to a couple of similar previous questions with answers also FYI -

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



This is Erick in Member Care. Thanks for your interest in Angie's List!

We'll be happy to help find top rated House Cleaners that would be able to do a deep house clean to hopefully take care of this if you're unable to locate the odor, but it doesn't look like you have a subscription to the List yet. You can join by visiting or by giving us a call. Our call center is available 8:00 am-9:00 pm weekdays and 8:00-5:00 pm ET on Saturdays.

Thanks for your question and we look forward to assisting you!

Answered 3 years ago by Member Services

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