So a few months ago I asked a question about a strange smell I would have described them as slightly related to Tuepentine. My house is 2 floors with 2 tenants. The top Tennant owns fish and aquariums and the bottom tenant works with wood. Randomly, there was a smell of this chemical in the house and they had to evacuate for 24 hours. When they came back the smell was gone.

Everyone said it was the bottom tenant and the chemicals he uses but he used non VOC chemicals.

After that I just went on the assumption that it was that until last week when I had some repairs done to a drain pipe.

The plumber brought some PVC glue and it was the exact same "turpentine" smell we smelled a while back.

So I now know what the smell exactly was but not sure exactly how the smell happened. My plumber said someone could have left a small bottle of it in the walls and it may have been knocked over time but I think it could have been something else.

To prevent the smell from coming again I think it could have been caused by something else but I am not sure.

Any ideas on how the smell could have happened? The plumbing work was done 3 years ago besides the pipe last week

  • 2
    Just so we are clear, low VOC does not mean that it won't smell. I've sprayed some nasty primers (Rodda - Prime Solutions Speed Prime) that stink like you wouldn't believe. They can clear a building with a quickness.
    – matt.
    Nov 4, 2023 at 15:04
  • 3
    A PVC cement container open for 3 years would have turned to stone 2 years ago.
    – popham
    Nov 4, 2023 at 16:00
  • 1
    I have no idea of the chemical smells associated with aquariums. Wood work, however, uses all sorts of solvents. I'd be looking at the wood worker with suspicious eyes.
    – popham
    Nov 4, 2023 at 16:05
  • Everyone keeps pointing to the wood guy but he showed me the chemicals he uses or at least the ones he isn't hiding and none of them smells like the PVC cement or glue. The actual smell was exactly like the PVC glue or cement
    – jakeshay1
    Nov 4, 2023 at 16:15
  • Those who care for aquariums have been known to use solvent-rich sealers or adhesives.
    – kreemoweet
    Dec 5, 2023 at 8:47

1 Answer 1


The main solvent in PVC cement is tetrahydrofuran (THF).

This solvent is used in some varnishes that woodworkers use. It is also used in cleaning and maintenance of 3D printers. (It un-clogs a clogged print head.)

Tetrahydrofuran is unusual in that although it is a strong solvent, it mixes easily with water. It is conceivable that someone in the house disposed of THF down their sink or toilet and ran water to flush it out. This could have spread fumes throughout the household plumbing drains, where water in the traps under the sinks could have absorbed the highly volatile THF vapors and released them into the living space.

So you might question the woodworker, ask if their varnishes contain any tetrahydrofuran, and ask how they dispose of excess varnish. Also ask if either tenant has a 3D printer.

The good news is that although THF is toxic in high concentrations, it has about the same toxicity as acetone, which is in some nail polish removers. In other words, toxic but not plutonium, as one member here says.

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