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GfortheCPE 06-06-2009 04:13 PM

House has chemical odor
Hopefully someone here will be able to help me out, i've tried using google and haven't come up with much.

When I go away for a few days I always turn my AC unit off in my house.

And now twice when I've returned (both times about 6-7 days later) when I walked in my house it had a weird odor that was pretty strong. The odor is almost sulfur like but not exactly. It smells almost like a mix of bathroom cleaning chemicals that have been festering.

I turn the AC back on, and the smells dissipates quickly and is gone in a matter of minutes. So either A) the smell is always there and I get used to the smell quickly (doubtful, guests never complain of smell) or B) the smell fades quick.

I have no pets, and I don't believe it is a dead animal since the smell is always gone quickly once I start circulating air. I have two house plants (bamboo and some potted plant) that I suppose could cause the smell due to the soil and non-circulated air for a few days.

If it were mold I would imagine the smell would linger longer?

Anyone have any ideas?


Ron6519 06-06-2009 05:56 PM

Do you have any sinks or tubs/showers you don't use on a regular basis? The water in the traps can evaporate, allowing sewer gases into the house.

GfortheCPE 06-06-2009 06:12 PM

Well my second bathroom shower doesn't get used often but the sink does.

I don't think I follow what you mean by water evaporating out of the traps?

SKIP4661 06-06-2009 09:00 PM

If it is a newer home chinese drywall may have been used. Have read several articles about odor problems with chinese drywall. Seems when the humidity in the home rises the smells worsen. If your A/C had been off for a few days the humidity will rise in your house. May be worth checking into. You can do a google search for chinese drywall, lots of info.

Ron6519 06-06-2009 09:50 PM


Originally Posted by GfortheCPE (Post 283776)
Well my second bathroom shower doesn't get used often but the sink does.

I don't think I follow what you mean by water evaporating out of the traps?

There are traps at each plumbing fixture. The toilets have one built in. If you don't use a fixture for a while the water evaporates and the seal the water provides is lost. Sewer gas can enter your house through these dry traps.
If you here a gurgling sound coming from the shower it's possible the smell is coming from there.
Also check out Skip's suggestion about the drywall.

GfortheCPE 06-07-2009 01:43 AM

I read up on the chinese drywall and a lot of what is described fits.

The smell is pronounced after I've been gone for a while and the AC hasn't run which increases the heat and humidity in the house.

But I've opened a few outlets and my copper wiring doesn't look corroded, it is nice and copper colored. And my house was built 2000-2001 which I believe is before the large in flux of chinese drywall.

Tonight has been a cool night so my AC hasn't kicked on much and I woke from my sleep and took a deep breath and could smell the sour like odor.

Maybe it is all in my head at this point but I sure seemed to smell the odor when I first awakened.

sherr13 08-16-2013 08:56 AM

Any resolution?

I was wondering if you ever had a resolution? I am having the exact same problem and everyone tells us something else. We're getting ready to just gut the bathroom even though we can't really afford it but I'm worried that even after we do that, the smell will still be there... I appreciate the help.

alexjoe 08-16-2013 02:54 PM

It happens sometime when house is closed completely, when you go outside always on a fan or exhaust fan so that any kind of smell go outside and ventilation system run.

koldburn 08-16-2013 07:34 PM

I know someone mentioned the Chinese drywall. This is the best explanation for the smell. I know of 2 people that have a similar situation and when the humidity is removed from the home the smell retreats.

Hope this helped. Have s great day!!

user1007 08-16-2013 11:35 PM

Sounds silly to suggest but are all your roof vents free of squirrel and bird nests? They have animal proof caps on them?

I once had a terrible smell like you describe and the source turned out to be non-draining potting soil around a houseplant. The housekeeper/cat sitter kept watering the thing and did not notice it was no longer draining. New potting soil. Happy hanging plant. No more sulfur smell.

The sulfurish smell sounds like a sewer venting issue to me and not what I have read of Chinese drywall.

I guess my point is, and am the first to do so, we forget to check for little obvious things and assume a bigger problem than exists some of the time.

And the end of the day, house components do have to outgas though. And we have this habit of wrapping new construction so tight it cannot breathe---in my opinion. You might think about leaving the fan system of your HVAC on when you are away so air circulation can happen? Crank the thermostat way up or disengage completely so the AC does not turn on?

To venture off to the side of this thread? While you are thinking about HVAC, invest in a box of filters or a washable filter system and replace your filters every month or so. This will not help with the sulfur smell though.

ccarlisle 08-17-2013 11:06 AM

4-year old thread...:sleep1:

Pro Painter 08-18-2013 05:26 PM


Originally Posted by ccarlisle (Post 1230466)
4-year old thread...:sleep1:

...and your point is?

Pro Painter 08-18-2013 05:39 PM

One of the more interesting sources of an odor in a house, and particularly ones strange enough to be unwelcome, is the paint that may have been recently used somewhere to paint something. Occasionally some (usually small or off-brand) paint manufacturer makes something that has a solvnet component (yes, there are solvents, coalescing solvnets even in latex paints) that has an off-odor. These may not be noticed when immediately painting, but the next day if there was little air circulation the painted space has a distinct odor.

Waterborne paints are emulsions of liquid resins in water, very simply, and bacteria will live in the water-phase and feed at the huge surface area of the oil-phase. The by-products of bacterial dining generally smell bad. To prevent bacterial hatching-and-growth, there are in-can preservatives that are used to prevent in-can bacterial growth. If the paint manufacturer did not do a thorough job of mixing-in the biocide at the end of the manufacturing process, some of teh cans packaged form a batch of the latex paint may "go bad" in greater or lesser degree, sooner or later. That, too, can be a source of unwanted odors.

ccarlisle 08-19-2013 08:15 AM

"If the paint manufacturer did not do a thorough job of mixing-in the biocide at the end of the manufacturing process, some of teh cans packaged form a batch of the latex paint may "go bad" in greater or lesser degree, sooner or later. "

Yup; my bad. Guess there is no time limitation on the dissemination of conjured-up theories by the blind.

henrylarry6 08-30-2013 08:16 AM

I have faced same problem because of defective drywall and hate that odor like rotten eggs.

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