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Question DetailsAsked on 1/25/2018

What's causing food smells in nursery overnight?

We just moved into a house and the nursery is above the kitchen. Each night when I go in to nurse, the room has a strong meat and garlic smell regardless of what we had for dinner. And it never smells when I put her to bed which is much closer to dinner time. We have radiant floor heat so my initial thought was something in the carpet or on the floor? We haven't lived here long enough to know whether the smell will be there when the heat is off. It never smells during the day, only sometime after 10pm. Our house is detached so it shouldn't be neighbor cooking. Why only this room and how do get rid of it??

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1 Answer


Assuming not baby passing gas, clothing in dirty clothes bin with food on it, wipes with throw-up on them in the nursery trash can, etc. And that the child is not old enough to have carried food upstairs and stashed it under the bed or in a drawer or such, and maybe the smell is just concentrating and not blowing away at that time.

Below are links to a BUNCH of similar questions, with answers offering several checklists of possible causes to track down and eliminate or confirm. Several of them (especially first one) have a list of links to other similar questions with answers - some of the questions and links will be dups, so keep a list of the question ID numbers (from the URL) which you have already read.

Sniff around at open windows and outside - could be a nearby restaurant or pizza place or neighbor or such - we get VERY strong burnt toast and burnt coffee smells at our place in the AM from a coffee place almost a mile away, drifting on air currents just one time of day. Of course, also pay attemtion to whether this is only on calm days or not or only when there is a slight breeze from one specific direction.

Think whether you close or open doors or windows before heading to bed - you may be changing the airflow in the house at that time of night, causing odors from kitchen or grease in the over-stove fan or such to waft that way.

Commonly at night, as the night air cools, the airflow through the sewer roof vent pipe can become less inclined to exit from the vent and rise above the house and blow away (plus commonly the vent pipe is not built as high as it should be by code) - in the denser cooler air conditions the sewer gases tend to spread out over the roof and sink down around the house rather than rising and blowing away, just like smog does in an inversion, possibly coming into attic ventilation and from there into the house ventilationk system, or through a window (open or not tight-fitting). The meat and garlic smell might be sewer gas smell - some people describe ti that way, though most people can distinguish between those two if they have eer smelled an open sewer pipe, sewer manhole, or septic tank being pumped - but not everyone has had those joys.

Fungal growth in the subfloor from leaking pipes (including from leaking radiant floor heating pipes) can commonly smell like rotting meat or garlic - and might only be detectable at one time of day because it has gotten rewetted by leaking from pre-bed bath or such maybe, or like with the roof vent because the airflow in the house at night as it cools off is driving the smell into that one room. Especially if you usually have a window open during the day and close it at night. Also, if from leaking radiant floor piping (assuming hydronic rather than electric heat), system is going to be on during night presumably but maybe not during the daytime, causing the smell to become more enhanced by the heat promoting outgassing and possibly even growth of the mold/fungal growth. If this is a persistent thing and fungal growth is a suspected situation, that would mean fungal spores are also spreading with the smell - kwhich can lead to respiratory infection, particularly in infants, so would definitely be a find-the-cause-now situation- and maybe cause to move the baby to another room until it is cured, just to be on the safe side.

Also - though less refined than with cats and dogs, humans do have the nighttime defensive mechanism where the sense of smell and hearing becomes more sensitive (especially when the lights are off), and there have been reports of pregnant/nursing women having more enhanced cases of it - try nursing in another room for a couple of nights and see if you smell the odor or not.

Also - because the house is generally going to be in heating mode during the night, in most houses you get a "stack effect" where the house (especially if multi-story) acts as a chimney and pulls a small vacuum on the air in the house with the hot air rising, and exiting through higher elevation leakage points and attic penetrations and such - so it can pull in odors from downstairs, crawlspace, outside, etc which might not be noticeable during the daytime. Also, attic air, as it cools at night, can start entering the house rather than rising and exiting through roof vents - so wet crawlspace, unfinihsed basement, and attic mold or fungal growth can be a suspect as well.

For a contractor to search this out - your options are Mold and Mildew, Heating and A/C, and Plumbing - depending on what you think the cause might be. Or perhaps sstart with a Home Inspector to check the house from top to bottom, looking for any signs of possible source. In extreme puzzler cases, an indoor air quality specialist has to be called in to do chemical "sniffer" testing to identify the type of smell and track down the source - but hopefully not,b ecause that gets into the thousands of $ and, liek mold or fungal growth from a leaking pipe, is almost never covered by homeowner's insurance.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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