Removing Odors

Musty smell from sink

An overflow is cast into a bathroom sink near the rim. If the sink is overfilled, water drains through the overflow hole(s), through a small passageway, and into the trap. Smelly, sludge-like material can build up in the passageway.

You can clean away this sludge. Mix a strong solution of detergent and very hot water. Pour it down the overflow. If the smell persists, try a mixture of laundry bleach and water followed by thorough rinsing with water. If you can see sludge, loosen it with a stiff brush and rinse it away.

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Smelly garbage disposal

If your garbage disposal will not freshen up with the normal vinegar, cleaner, or baking soda treatment, the rubber cover may be dirty. Debris can collect under the rubber flaps. This gunk stays damp and creates a strong aroma. To get rid of it, turn off the disposal and use a stiff brush or rag to clean underneath the rubber flaps.

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Sewer smell in home

When you detect a sewer smell in your home, there may be a dry trap in the drainage system. Often the smell comes from a floor drain in the basement.

All drains to a sewer system have a "P" shaped trap which is usually filled with water. The trap provides a seal to keep out sewer gas. If your basement floor drain is rarely used, water evaporates from the trap over time. Eventually the seal is eliminated, allowing sewer gas (and smell) into your house. The solution is easy: pour water into the drain.

If the smell is noticeable mainly around a sink, try flushing a strong cleaner and bleach down the sink’s overflow-the small hole(s) inside the bowl near the rim. When the sink fills to near overflowing, water is routed through an inner chamber to the drain. Debris can collect inside the inner chamber, causing odor.

If neither of these measures solves the problem, there may be a small leak in one of the vent lines of the plumbing system, or a small leak around the base of a toilet or other fixture. You may need the help of a plumber. Check for loose fittings, corrosion, or holes in vent piping. Also, check the top side of horizontal drain pipes. If the top is rusted, it may never leak liquid, but it will leak sewer gas. Drain lines made of copper, steel or cast iron may all exhibit this problem.

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Sewer smell from toilet

When urine and sewer smells persist near a toilet despite careful cleaning, there could be an air leak at the wax ring of the toilet or in the vent pipe. Rotted or damp wood can also cause the smell.

Check to see if the toilet is tightly sealed to the floor. Grab the bowl of the toilet and try to slide it from side to side. It should resist a few pounds of pressure. If the toilet rocks from side to side, the wax ring has failed.

To replace the wax ring, hire a professional plumber. It’s necessary to check the spacing between the pipe flange and the toilet base, and it is difficult to properly secure a toilet in place.

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Water supply smells like rotten eggs

Some homeowners have recurring problems with bad odor in the water supply-especially the "rotten egg" smell of sulfur. Water odors are a tough problem to solve, but I suggest you follow up on these ideas.

First, check whether your neighbors are experiencing similar problems. If your water comes from a municipal well, maybe your local water utility can help.

It is relatively common to have this rotten egg odor in hot water only. In that case, the water heater’s "sacrificial" anode rod is to blame. This rod, made of magnesium, helps protect the tank lining from corrosion; instead, the rod itself corrodes. Unfortunately, as it does, the magnesium gives off electrons that nourish sulfate reducing bacteria. Removing this rod may eliminate the problem.

If your home has its own well, the smell may originate in the well system. There could be sulfate reducing bacteria in the water supply.

To eliminate sulfate reducing bacteria from the water heater, you need to raise the water temperature above 140 degrees for 8 hours. Bacteria die out at temperatures above 140 degrees. To safely follow this procedure, first make sure your water heater has a functioning temperature and pressure relief valve. Also, to prevent accidental scalding, warn users that water will come out of faucets extremely hot and should not be used at the increased temperature.

Finally, check with your municipal water utility. The folks there may have specific suggestions or literature on eliminating problems in well water in your area.

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Burning odor from light fixture

If a light fixture gives off a burning smell, disconnect the fixture until you have determined the source of the odor. Overheating electrical wires and devices often emit a burning smell. Don’t use the fixture again until it has been repaired by a professional.

A fluorescent fixture may have a ballast that has failed and is spilling tar.

For typical incandescent light fixtures, the burning smell may occur if you’re using an oversized bulb. Check the rating of the fixture and the wattage of the bulb. Never exceed the wattage recommended.

You might also have a loose electrical connection at the splice, or a loose screw or lamp base. A loose connection can create excessive resistance to electrical flow, and the resistance causes heat. Excessive heat can make metal connections expand and contract, loosening them further. This heat can damage insulation and even start a fire.

You might also have a loose electrical connection at the splice or in the outlet box, or a loose screw or lamp base. A loose connection can create excessive resistance to electrical flow, and the resistance causes heat. Excessive heat makes metal connections expand and contract, loosening them further. This heat can damage insulation and even start a fire. Sometimes, when such excessive heat melts plastic, the problem area emits a misleading "dead animal" smell.

If you notice any strong smells near outlets, electrical boxes, or light fixtures, they may be due to an electrical problem. Call an electrician to evaluate and fix the problem. In the meantime, do not use electrical power in that area

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Eliminating refrigerator odor

To freshen a smelly refrigerator, scrub the refrigerator with an all-purpose cleaner such as Spic and Span or Soilax. Clean every crack and crevice, and pay particular attention to the rubber gaskets around the door. Remove all drawers and wash all surfaces.

Clean the drain pan located below the refrigerator. You will need to remove the lower panel in the front or rear of the refrigerator to reach this pan. The pan periodically catches moisture as the freezer de-frosts or the refrigerator drains condensation. Most people don’t know it exists, and if you’ve never cleaned yours, you may find some pretty awful stuff growing there.

You also need to clean the drain line from the freezer and refrigerator to the drain pan. You can flush your cleaning solution down the drains located in the bottom of the refrigerator and the freezer.

Finally, you can leave an open container of baking soda, coffee grounds, or activated charcoal in the refrigerator. These materials will help absorb odors. (Activated charcoal is used to filter water in fish tanks.)

Nonsence will also eliminate odors from refrigerators. You can buy it at appliance stores. After use, the product can be refreshed by placing it outside in the sunlight and fresh air.

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Eliminating musty smells from wood furnishings

Wood furniture stored in damp, poorly ventilated conditions can develop a musty odor. To eliminate the smell, place the pieces outside in the sun on a dry day. Remove all the drawers, open the doors and let Mother Nature have at it. This will remove any remaining moisture and may improve the smell.

If you can’t place the furniture outside, at least put it in a well-ventilated garage or shed and direct a fan to blow air on all the pieces. Allow them to air out for several days.

Scrub the surfaces with solution of 50% l aundry bleach and water. Follow up with a scrubbing of 50% isopropyl alcohol and water. If smells remain, scrub with Lestoil. You can also leave small, open containers of Lestoil in the closed cupboard. Placing open containers of kitty litter or activated charcoal (available at aquarium supply stores) in the furniture might also absorb the odor.

If all attempts to remove the smells fail, seal them in by painting or varnishing all interior surfaces, backs of drawers and undersides of all parts. Bin is a great sealer.

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Removing smoke smells from home or car

Once cigarette smoke smell has penetrated finish materials in a home or car, it is difficult to remove. Professional cleaners or scents to cover the smell don’t always work.

One great way to remove or cover smoke smells is with Pine-Sol cleaner. Place several small bowls of Pine-Sol in the problem area and close it off overnight or for several days. Pine-Sol’s detergent smell is very strong. Afterward, open the area and ventilate with outdoor air. As fresh air removes the dete rgent scent, most or all of the smoke odor will be gone, too.

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Pet urine odors

Odors from pet urine are hard to eliminate, but these steps may help.

Treat the stain with a product containing liquid enzymes. You can find these products at pet stores. Soak the area with the enzyme, and don’t use it with other cleaners. It may take several treatments. Follow the label directions.

Next, scrub the area with a strong detergent like TSP or Mex. Scrub, rinse and scrub several times.

Finally, seal the area with a stain sealer like Kilz or Bin. These provide a white finish and seal in smells.

Don’t use ammonia-based cleaners. They can compound the problem and may even attract pets to the spot again.

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