Ever since the start of winter my studio apartment has been smelling quite bad. The smell is sweet and astringent, almost like rancid ice cream or sweet vomit. The apartment is only one room and a bathroom, and thorough investigations (i.e. sniffing) from several people, including the building managers, came to no conclusion as to where it originates. It seems that the smell is strongest in the middle of the room.

Since the smell seems to somehow be connected to the heat, I should mention that the apartment has one big baseboard radiator. There could possibly be something in between the fins although no particular portion of the radiator seems to emanate the smell. FWIW the managers seem to think that the radiator is not the source (although they do not have an alternative theory either). There is only one vent (in the bathroom) and it also does not smell, and turning the fan on and off in the vent makes no difference. The apartment is next door to an elevator shaft. The elevator does not smell, nor the hallway outside the apartment (unless the smell is really strong inside and seeps out the door, which sometimes happens). I checked outside the neighboring apartments, both on the same floor and one floor down (I live on the top floor) and none of them seem to have the smell emanate from the door.

Finally, none of the previous renters have complained about any smell to the management company. My questions are:

  • What could be causing the smell? Anyone know of perhaps drugs or animals that smell particularly sweet?
  • Who could I call that would be able to identify it?
  • What other ideas do you have in tracking down and/or eliminating the smell?
  • 1
    Did the previous tenants smoke a lot of pot??? Feb 22, 2013 at 22:03
  • Does the apt have carpet, suspended ceilings or fiber ceiling tiles? Were the heaters recently painted? Feb 22, 2013 at 22:05
  • I don't know, but it doesn't smell at all like pot. That is one of the few drug smells I am familiar with.
    – vlsd
    Feb 22, 2013 at 22:06
  • @shirlockhomes No carpet. Hard ceiling. Heaters don't look like they have been touched in years. Thanks for getting on the case ;)
    – vlsd
    Feb 22, 2013 at 22:07
  • 2
    Maybe try an infrared camera to see if anything in the walls or floors stand out? Could be a small animal got in some how and is now rotting away
    – Steven
    Feb 23, 2013 at 3:07

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately nothing seems to work. I have tried an UV light, but no anomalous things popped out. I did not try an IR camera, and that's due to costs. The solution: move within the month. At this point it is the most economical. I have about a week left before I renew my lease, so unless something miraculous happens during that time I'll just rent a truck and find a new place.

Update: It's a been a long time since I posted this and have moved around quite a bit. I am pretty sure now that the smell was some form of smoked drug, like meth or crack, seeping in from a neighbor. I arrived at this conclusion after encountering a severely impaired individual on the train who smelled the same way... coincidence perhaps, but it fits the pattern

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