Mould/mildew- can't see any now, but can't get rid of smell.

Discussion in 'General DIY' started by lauralulu, 16 May 2011.

  1. lauralulu

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    This problem is stressing me out. My partner bought a property last year that had stood empty for a while. He had a survey done and no damp was found. However, whilst we had it plastered, he stored clothes in the garage which he brought back into the bungalow. It always had a bit of a 'funny smell' but I thought it was just because it had stood empty a while and needed warming and airing. However the smell got worse and worse, until the day came when we found some of the things he'd stored in the garage and brought back inside, had got mould on them!

    We got rid of those things, washed everything, threw away anything that had absorbed the smell that it wouldn't wash out of, and have used white vinegar and bleach to clean all the surfaces we can, including inside cupboards and on his leather sofa.

    The problem is, although it's not as bad, we cannot completely get rid of the smell. What's puzzling about it is that in the bungalow, it doesn't seem to smell (we keep burning aromatherapy and scented candles) BUT when I leave (I haven't yet moved in with him) my clothes smell musty and my hair smells really bad of mustyness! Even after washing it, the smell lingers. So I am worried, as it's a month now since we got rid of the mouldy stuff, I am worried why it still smells enough to make my clothes and hair smell!!!

    Incidentally, it's like an ongoing battle in that we keep finding further smelly culprits, so I am HOPING that its just that the mould smell permeated a lot of things, and not due to there still being mould hidden somewhere. Like I say, the survey said no damp, we can't SEE any damp or mould, the property is ventilated well (but wasn't heated enough over the winter due to my partner trying to save money).

    If the smell doesn't go I am thinking we might have to get someone in to do some proper checks, but I don't know the best way to go about this. My partner is convinced there's no mould or damp anywhere and that the smell is just what remains from the mouldy items he brought into the house. I guess he could be right as the smell has improved, but it is taking so long to go away completely.

    Next steps I am taking are neutradol spray and pots around the place, and zeolite crystals and possibly even activated carbon as well! I just don't want to be fighting a losing battle trying to make things smell nice if there is still a problem hiding somewhere we can't see, and I don't know where to turn for help, so if anyone can advise, I'd be very grateful.

    I should add that the garage is housed below the property, and all fabrics that were stored there went mouldy or smelt dank, despite the fact my partner said every time he checked it was dry in there. It still smells like a cellar down there. We also had a new radiator fitted (we had it moved slightly to allow for new fitted wardrobes- which incidentally don't have backs as they are on the outside wall) in the bedroom, which is above the garage, there is a hole where the new pipe comes up which is surrounded with insultation, I checked the insulation in the garage around the central heating pipes and there's no sign of mould on that, but I do wonder if bad smells could be coming from the garage through this hole/gap into the whole property?

    I feel like I am playing a guessing game wondering what is causing this smell and where it is! Would love to get to the bottom of it and eliminate it as it gets me down having all my clothes and hair smell, me and my partner are both business people too so it doesn't bode well visiting clients and smelling of musty dankness!

    I have posted on other forums and some people have said get a dehumidifer, however when I phoned up some mould removalists, the guy there said this is unnecessary and wouldn't solve the underlying problem (if there still is one). I'd do it if it would help but my partner is very frugal and I doubt he'd want the cost of running one :/
     
  2. JohnD

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    try the cures mentioned in

    http://www.diynot.com/wiki/building:condensation_in_houses

    as a start ventilate well, and never drape wet washing about the house. check for plumbing and roof leaks. Don't waste your money on scents to hide the smell.

    check underfloors for damp caused by leaking pipes and/or blocked air bricks and/or builders rubbish hidden under the floor and decaying.

    spray any old mould with bleach solution in water and scrub off.

    look in the loft and verify that any water tanks are perfectly clean and have close-fitting lids to keep out dirt and wildlife.

    run a hose against the garage door to see if rainwater is getting in and ensure that it is well ventilated
     
  3. lauralulu

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    Thanks,

    We do all the ventilation things, thanks for the suggestion about checking under floors, something we have not yet done. Hassle but thinking worth it if it is this causing the smell as I want more than anything to be rid of it!
     
  4. wreckedit

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    Just a thought. If the smell diminishes as the weather warms up it may be another clue as to what is the cause.

    I also don't like to keep my house too warm because of cost but even if you may be able to suffer a bit of cold, houses with people living in them hate it.
     
  5. RigidRaider

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    I work for an industrial perfume manufacturer so I know a bit about smells.

    When you are inside the house your nose will quickly become accustomed to the ambient smell and you won't notice it. It's only when you go outside and refresh your nose that you will smell it wafting up from your clothing. The musty smell of damp is very pervasive, I agree.

    You are wasting your money on air fresheners as JohnD writes. There are some brands that claim to have malodour counteractant chemicals added but nobody has ever really proved that they work. The answer is ventilation; an open fire or a multi-fuel stove will suck masses of air up the flue and ventilate the house by force. The space beneath the floorboards including the garage must be well ventilated; are you sure the air bricks are all clear and there isn't dry rot in the timbers? Dry (or wet) rot produces a mushroomy smell, which is terribly pervasive. The smell from the garage is certainly coming up through the floor so you need to dry out the garage and block the flow of damp air into the house. Leave windows open whenever possible, don't dry washing indoors if possible, cook with the kitchen window open and the internal door closed and use an extractor fan. Same when showering or bathing.

    Moisture also make the nose more sensitive (that's why dogs have wet noses) and you will smell carpets and fabrics more readily, especially if they are a little old and stale. The only answer in this case is to fit new carpets.

    Do your doors stick? That's a sure sign of high moisture content in the wood.
     
  6. Burnerman

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    Maybe it coud be worthwhile investigating in a cheap moisture detector - just in case water is getting in somewhere....Draper tools do one.
    A dehumidifier could be a worthwhile purchase if all else fails.
    John :)
     
  7. Nige F

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    Old People lived there before :mad: :eek: ;) No seriously look for decaying chipboard units - bloody rancid smell - found some in this place I`m in now :idea:
     
  8. RigidRaider

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    I'm afraid he's right; houses occupied by older folk often have a characteristic odour. With my recently-deceased neighbour the problem was incontinence and damp caused by a strange reluctance to open windows, even in high summer. Older folk are also not in the habit of showering or bathing daily like people do nowadays. They also don't wash their clothes as often - I sometimes think we wash ours far too often, encouraged in subtle ways by detergent powder manufacturers, I expect.

    Two 1800s cottages have sold recently in our street that were formerly occupied by old folk and in both cases the new owners are doing complete refurbishments from the bare shell, plaster, ceilings, floors, electrics, water, the lot.

    More recent bungalows, say from the 1930s, seem to be pretty poorly built and two in our street have been completely knocked down and rebuilt to a modern standard.
     
  9. littleliz

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    I know that this is an old topic but I've only just come across it.
    If Lauralulu is still about, I would love to know if she did eventually get rid of the musty smell. We have a similar problem, we moved into a late 1960's bungalow about 2 years ago. It had been empty for a couple of years and prior to that had been occupied by an elderly lady. When we first saw the house there was a very definite musty odour but we put this down to the fact that it had lain empty. There was quite a lot of damp on a wall in the hallway but were assured that this had been due to a burst pipe which had been repaired. We don't know how long it had been leaking - could have been a while as the place was empty. Our surveyor knew we were concerned about this and said that the damp would have been consistent with a burst pipe, the rest of the property showed no damp whatever.
    2 years down the line and the smell hasn't gone, It's not a damp smell - just stale and musty. I think it's lessened and I can't smell it when I've been in for a while but whenever I go out I smell it in my clothes, hair and everything. We have completely redecorated (the damp patch dried out quickly once we'd had the heating going for a while btw) and recarpeted etc. We have a suspended chipboard floor and as each room was decorated, we cut a trap and had a look underneath. It's just earth and rubble but seems bone dry and the airvents are not blocked. The only room we haven't tackled yet is the bathroom which we will be starting on soon. Like Lauralulu, it's driving me mad too. I smell like a musty old lady wherever I go, (my husband smells like a musty old man aswell but it doesn't bother him as much!)
    After that rant - can anybody help?!
     
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  10. RigidRaider

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    My sympathy! Houses definitely do take on an aroma from their owners. Don't forget that everywhere you go, you are shedding a shower of skin particles, hair and dust from your body and your clothes. Mixed up with the skin cells will be some of the solids from any perfumed product they might have worn or used to wash their clothes as around 10% of perfume raw materials are solids in suspension. It is said that the Underground and the Paris Metro will never smell the same now that musk xylene, a crystalline musk material, has been banned from perfumes. Old folk wash less obsessively and eat different food and have different body chemistry to younger folk, which probably explains their distinctive aroma. There is also a growing realisation that dogs can pick up warning odours from the breath or the body of people who have certain diseases so I'm wondering if humans can also perceive the odour of a fellow human who is sickening, albeit at a much lower level of consciousness? Any surface, which is impregnated with odour (carpets and curtains especially) will smell worse in damp conditions as the aroma will evaporate off more readily and your nose will be more sensitive. However your nose will quickly become fatigued to the environmental smell and you won't notice it until you go outdoors or into a different environment.

    The only answer is a complete refurbishment. The bathroom is a good place to start because that's where you are most likely to find damp boards or damp trapped under vinyl flooring or baths. When we bought our house we discovered (though the surveyor missed it) that the kitchen ceiling was falling down because the shower above had been leaking for a good number of the 17 years since the vendor built it; the joists were sopping wet with dirty shower water, the chipboard floor was like wet shredded wheat and everything stank. Removing the shower and the tiles was a horror story, we ended up taking everything back to bare walls and joists and skimming the lot.

    By the way odour masks like Febreeze don't really neutralise odour, they merely obscure. Best remedy is to renew and ventilate, get everything as clean and dry as possible.
     
  11. Bridgetb

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    Hi Littleliz, I've only just came across this topic. I myself live in a bungalow and I'm ready to go mad cause we to are having a musty smell from are clothes!! We have tried everything! We pulled up all the insulation up the roofspace, we have pulled up floor borads to smell down below the house and smelt nothing and even get a new washing machine in case it was coming from there but no luck! It was all done up, new kitchen, bathroom, painted and still we can't get rid of the smell!! We are living there 2 years and it's got to the point now that we think we might have to sell up which is very upsetting as we spent a lot of money on doing it up the way we wanted it and we don't think we will get what we spent on it back:( I'm having my first baby in 5 weeks and really want to try and get to the bottom of it before he or she arrives as its bad enough that me and my husband smell of fust!! But couldn't have my baby to! Im very house proud, i keep a clean house, I open the windows everyday no matter what the weather is like cause I'm so paranoid about the smell can someone please help:(
     
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  12. squeaky

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    My first thought was a leak under the floorboards. No sign of damp (Yet) but smells and possibly lots of little black flies in hot weather. Sometimes this is caused by a leaking pipe or sometimes by rain water in the garden backing up under the house.

    If possible try and lift aboard up and have a look around under there using a torch and a mirror.
     
  13. foxhole

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    Sounds like you have ventilation issues, opening windows does not constitute good ventilation, in a damp climate, most of Ireland, you need permanent open vents in every room.
    Kitchen and bathroom both need mechanical ventilation, you cannot dry clothes indoors at all.
     
  14. squeaky

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    I've heard (don't know true this is) but if you have a lot of empty boxes laying around in a room - maybe just moved in?- can cause mould and musty smells ????



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  15. littleliz

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    Hi Bridgetb,
    Seems like you are having the same problem and I really feel for you as it's so frustrating (especially as it doesn't bother my husband as much as it does me!).
    We still haven't got to the bottom of it and reading through my post from last year I notice I said that the only room we hadn't tackled then was the bathroom - well now we have and it's all bone dry underneath. The only things we can come up with now are possibly the cavity wall insulation or underneath the flat roofs of the hallway and the garage (this is a possibility as the leak was around that area and the hall does smell quite musty, but again, all the walls are dry and there is no mold). Some of our friends and relatives can smell it but say it's not as bad as I make out and some say they can't smell it - are they just being polite or am I being paranoid! I do hope you get to the bottom of your problem, it's a tricky one I know, people do try to be helpful but sometimes don't understand that you've probably just about tried all of the most of the obvious things. Whatever it is, I'm sure it's not a major problem and the ultimate solution may turn out to be something quite simple and inexpensive - it's just finding it!
    Hope everything goes well with the baby, try to relax and enjoy your home and family and I'm sure everything will turn out well for you.
     

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