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We have recently moved home, and all is fine appart from a mystery smell which I'm unable to track down. It's driving me crazy (actually, my wife thinks I am crazy as she can't smell it). I'm hoping someone on here could offer some tips on how to track it down, or what it might be. Here's some info:

Background: The house is a two floor (plus basement) block/concrete construction. There is a wide hallway on the groundfloor connecting the rooms (including kitchen, toilet/shower room, stairwell). The stairs are wood-board on concrete. The floor in the hall and kitchen is tiles over concrete, the rest woodblock/parquet over concrete.

Location of the smell: I usually smell it when coming down the stairs, seems to be strongest about half way down. However sometimes it doesn't smell on the stairs at all, but rather in the ground floor hallway. Seems to move around quite a lot. Occasionally I have felt it upstairs, but assume this is it drifting. The basement smells fine.

The Smell: The best description of the smell I can give is something like old rubbish.

What I've investigated so far:

1) Something died somewhere? This was my initial thought, and since I usually notice the smell on the stairs I thought I'd try there first. I've taken up some of the wood on the stairs (not all yet) but not looking promising, as there really isn't much space between the wood boards and the concrete. Not really sure where else something could have gotten, as everything seems to be tight against the concrete.

2) Smell from kitchen moving into rest of house? I never really detected a bad smell in the kitchen, but thought I'd rule it out anyway. I thought maybe it was the bin under the kitchen sink that might be causing it. So I moved the bin to a small storage room at the back of the kitchen (and kept the door closed) and thoroughly cleaned inside the cupboard under the sink. No change. I also looked behind all of the cabinets for a problem, but could not see anything.

3) Gas from drains? The sink doesn't smell in the kitchen, and it's got a P-bend trap on the pipe - so I can't see a problem there. Cant detect a smell from the plugholes in the bathroom either. The bathroom sink waste pipe has a bottle-trap on it. Don't know if there is a trap on the shower as it's a sealed unit, but I'm guessing yes (and can't smell anything).

Can any one think of something I might have missed, or give any advice?

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We had the same problem- we moved house and in one cupbaord specifically there was a smell of like rotten mould or something- we pulled the carpet- vented it all sorts.. it drove is mental.. It turned out that the mop stank like rank if it was kept in the cupboard- but the mop it self does not stink.. It know how you feel - hopefulyl you can find it.. i cant think of any smell detectory :( maybe a police dog? –  ppumkin Aug 22 '11 at 9:20
    
Thanks. The resident Jack Russell Terrier does not seem interested though :/ –  UpTheCreek Aug 22 '11 at 9:21
    
Have you got cavity dry walls? like when you knock on them they are hollow in the area that stinks? Its most likely some sort of damp smell.. but it could be a decaying rat that fell down a cavity.. –  ppumkin Aug 22 '11 at 9:48
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Check your exhaust vents to be sure nothing is nesting/dead in there. Also, check if the smell is coming from around the base of the toilet, indicating a failed wax seal. –  BMitch Aug 22 '11 at 11:41
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A stinky ghost? What type of HVAC system do you have? –  Tester101 Aug 22 '11 at 12:07
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3 Answers

Guesses so far...

  • Stinky mop.
    • Solution: Wash the mop.
  • Stinky Jack Russell Terrier.
    • Solution: Wash the dog.
  • Dead thing in wall.
    • Solution: Find the dead thing and remove it.
  • Dead thing in vent.
    • Solution: See above item.
  • Stinky toilet.
    • Solution 1: Flush the toilet.
    • Solution 2: Wash the toilet.
    • Solution 3: Replace wax ring.
    • Solution 4: Light a match / candle.
  • Gas leak.
    • Solution: Call gas company to find and fix leak.
  • Stinky ghost.
    • Solution 1: Wash the ghost.
    • Solution 2: Exorcism.
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+1 Your solution to wash the "stinky" ghost is a great surprise for me. I thought no one can touch a ghost. –  Larry Morries Dec 23 '11 at 6:10
    
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Get a UV light that detects pet stains in the dark. It also detects a few other stains, you may find the source with that.

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Check if there's something inside or behind electric radiators, if you have these. A classic but terrible prank is to put shrimp shells inside a heating radiator, very hard to find out.

The smell seems to move because of slow air movements (and is probably pulled to the stair because the air rises or falls between your two floors, think about if the smell is in cold air going downwards or hot air moving upwards. You could also try to isolate it by taping the sides of the doors (without anyone locked up inside, of course).

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protected by Vebjorn Ljosa Jul 21 '12 at 9:03

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