This list is a very sample of a few odor sources.
Hidden mold inside a toilet tank.
Sewer gasses leaking indoors through soil pipe.
Volatile organic chemical fumes from unsealed paint cans.
Mold and bacteria growing underneath a refrigerator.
Combustible gas and emissions leaking from a water heater.
Dog urine concealed underneath carpet.
Cat urine inside of carpet.
Man-made chemical deodorizers.
Chemicals used in personal care products.
Houses with Odor Problems
There is help for houses with odor concerns.
Today's houses have been constructed or modified to be more air tight and consequently hold in odors better than ever before. The sources can be many and are often unknown to the occupants. Making matters worse is the fact that the people who live in a home with odors are the least likely to smell them. They become accustomed to the smells and therefore do not recognize the health concern or how those odors may be perceived by others.
Odors are not something to be embarrassed about as many homes have them. They should however be identified and corrected for health reasons, or if your home will be listed for sale.
Causes of Odors
Odors in most homes typically originate from multiple sources. Most odors are created from one of two sources, either chemical or biological, albeit some are both.
Chemical odors generally originate from man-made products. These can include the materials used to construct the home and the materials used to manufacture furniture and floor coverings, as well as tobacco smoke and small leaks from LP and natural gas pipe fittings. Household cleaning products and personal care products are also contributors to the accumulation of chemical odors indoors.
Biological odors generally originate from food and cooking, insect and rodent infestation, pet cages and cat boxes, gasses emitted by humans and pets, sewer gasses that leak back into the home, and mold and bacterial growth occurring in a variety of locations indoors, or within walls or attic spaces.
Covering up odors is not recommended.
Chemical deodorizers seen on television and purchased in stores are not deodorizers at all. Using the word "deodorizer" is an absolute misnomer propagated by the chemical companies and shamefully left unchallenged by the EPA, FDA, and AMA, most likely due to lobbying.
The reason it is shameful is because these purported deodorizers become aerosolized by spraying, evaporation, or heating elements, and then end up inside the lungs of humans and pets.
Like the old cigarette commercials, the chemical companies should no longer be allowed to pretend in their advertisements that chemicals introduced into the air you breathe is good for you.
Adding chemicals to the air you breathe indoors is the absolute wrong approach to solving odor problems. These chemical fragrances, whether evaporated, sprayed, or burned into the air with electric heaters or candles, do nothing but cover-up odors by adding dominating chemicals to your air to deceive your sense of smell.
Adding chemical masking products into indoor air can actually make matters worse for people with allergies, asthma or chemical sensitivities. If you are one of the millions of people who suffer, you likely already understand this.
While clearly impractical, if we could leave all of our windows and doors fully open, all year long, and had fans running indoors to constantly move the air around, our homes would not have odor problems. This is because nature would control the odors just as it does outdoors. If you think about the outdoors, we have the decay of all living organisms on earth, plus the daily waste generated by six billion humans and countless wildlife species, plus industry and vehicle pollution, yet nature keeps the air fresh and clean. It is because nature continually creates the ingredients to purify our air outdoors, that we always go "out" for fresh air.
We obviously cannot leave our homes wide open all year long, so we must eliminate the odor sources that we can, and correctly treat indoor air to control the odors sources we cannot eliminate.
Depending on its origin, each contributing odor source can require a specific course of action to eliminate it, or to keep an ongoing odor source under control. Some odors can be eliminated by strategic cleaning and sanitizing, and others by correcting building, mechanical, or other conditions that contribute to odors.
When eliminating odors, the first step is to discover their points of origin. Some odor sources can be obvious if you take the time to look. Due to the way our olfactory sensors can become filled with odor molecules, it is sometimes best to have a person who does not live in the home help find odor sources.
In some instances it is necessary to hire an expert to locate the sources and recommend appropriate courses of action. An odor investigation should include testing for combustible gas leakage on all accessible gas lines, inspection for sewer gas incursion and mold growth, and if pets are present, a urine scan should be performed.
To control odors that cannot be altogether eliminated, such as those from cooking, people or pets, true air purification systems (not to be confused with air filters) can be purchased. These portable purifiers electronically recreate the missing ingredients to purify indoor air in the same manner that nature purifies the outdoor air. And just as nature never turns off its air purification process, an air purifier must continually operate indoors. Fortunately, a true air purifier only costs between 5 to 10 cents per day to operate; a small price compared to the benefits.
Odors that have been persistent for a long time can often become impregnated into walls, woodwork, carpet, sub floors, window treatments, etc. These odors are also safely and effectively eliminated with a true air purifier because the ingredients produced by the purifier go everywhere in the home where the odors went.
Additionally, true air purifiers can be programmed for rapid sanitizing and odor removal in unoccupied spaces, even though they are most commonly used 24/7 on normal settings to control odors and reduce exposure to many indoor air pollutants that can compromise health.
Homebuyers, Sellers and Realtors
Would you buy a house that has unusual odors in it? Many people do not. In fact, many homebuyers are subconsciously "turned off" when they perceive odors as they pass through the door of a potential home.
Homebuyers can quickly lose interest in a property with odors that would have otherwise been attractive. For many homebuyers, smelling odors simply promotes a subconscious, unsanitary feeling about a home. Moreover, many buyers will not purchase an odoriferous home because of the health concerns associated with pet odors, cigarette smoke, or mold and mildew.
Homebuyers can also be offended by odors that are created with chemical fragrance dispensers, which some home sellers place in their homes to cover-up problems. Furthermore, knowledgeable home inspectors often warn homebuyers about devices in homes used to cover-up possible problems.
Some homebuyers have been known not to perceive a problem during their initial brief visit to a home, but after spending some time in the home during a home inspection, or after moving in, they could no longer stay in the house. Their breathing would become labored, eyes would water, their voice would stop, or they would have headaches, etc.
If you are selling a house with odors, it is in your best interest to promptly identify their sources, all of them, and eliminate them. If you do, the house will have a better chance of selling. I have seen beautiful homes sit on the market for months on end, and then right after removing the odors, they sell. Additionally, an odor-free home makes for a happy homebuyer which protects the reputation of the Realtor and reduces the liability for a seller. It simply makes no sense to attempt to cover up a problem when it could likely be resolved inexpensively.
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