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ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS - INSPECT, TEST, REMEDY
AIR CLEANER PURIFIER TYPES
AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR
AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT STRATEGIES
AIRBORNE PARTICLE ANALYSIS METHODS
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION IN BUILDINGS
BACKDRAFTING HEATING EQUIPMENT
BLACK MOLD, TOXIC & ALLERGENIC
BLEACHING MOLD, Advice about
BOOKSTORE - ENVIRONMENTAL
CADMIUM in the HOME
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY
CAT DANDER in BUILDINGS
CELL PHONE RADIATION
CHEMICAL CONTAMINANTS in WATER
COMBUSTION PRODUCTS & IAQ
DIRECTORY of MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS
DUST SAMPLING PROCEDURE
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
EMF ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELDSRE
ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS at BUILDINGS
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOOR TILE ASBESTOS IDENTIFICATION
FUNGICIDAL SPRAY & SEALANT USE
GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC
HEATING OIL EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
HOUSE DUST ANALYSIS
HOUSE DUST COMPONENTS
HUMIDITY CONTROL & TARGETS INDOORS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
LAB PROCEDURES MICROSCOPE TECHNIQUES
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
Legionella Legionnaires' Disease
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MILDEW in BUILDINGS ?
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOLD CONSULTANTS / INSPECTORS
MOLD DETECTION & INSPECTION GUIDE
MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE
MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE
MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL, HEATING, EXPOSURE HAZARDS, LIMITS
OIL HEAT ODORS & NOISES
OIL SPILL CLEANUP / PREVENTION
PET ALLERGENS / PET DANDER
PET STAINS & MARKS in BUILDINGS
PLASTIC ODORS-SCREENS, SIDING
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
PVC - VINYL BUILDING PRODUCTS
RADON HAZARD TESTS & MITIGATION
SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
SAFETY HAZARDS & INSPECTIONS
METHANE GAS HAZARDS
SEPTIC SYSTEM ODORS
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWER GAS ODORS
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
UFFI UREA FORMALDEHYDE FOAM INSULATION
URETHANE FOAM Deterioration, Outgassing
VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO
VOCs VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
Building odor & smell diagnosis & cure procedure: This article provides a methodology useful for tracking down the sources of odors in buildings. When you can't seem to find the source of an annoying building smell, we suggest using these investigation methods that include noting the time, weather, area, operation of equipment and similar conditions that will help track a building odor problem to its source.
How to find the cause of odors, odor sources, and how to find and cure the source of smells in building air, water, heating and cooling systems, or other sources. Also see see SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors.
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We offer below a list of smell and odor diagnosis clues that any home owner, home inspector, or other investigator can follow in seeking to pinpoint the source of an annoying or obnoxious odor in buildings. Readers are asked to contact us to suggest additions or corrections to this list.
Often people's perception of odors varies with time and exposure or with a number of other site factors that make it hard to track down just where a smell is coming from.
But if we think carefully about when, and under what conditions we notice odors, often that information is instrumental in tracking down an odor to its source and thus in helping us decide if an odor refers to a potentially dangerous or unhealthy condition.
This odor diagnostic checklist is in simple alphabetic order, not in order of probable cause, importance, or health risk, all of which can vary widely. A printer-friendly abbreviated PDF version of this smell diagnostic checklist is at Odor Diagnosis Checklist-PDF, thanks to reader Kathleen Black
You can start tracking down the cause or source of an odor in one or more of several ways:
Photo at left: OdoBan™ is a dilutable-liquid product advertised for use in "elimninating odors" in buildings. This product was on display at a building supply store and is widely available. The container labeling advertises the product for use as a deodorizer that "eliminates unpleaseant odors on washable surfaces", as a sanitizer, a disinfectant, a mildewstat (MILDEW PHOTOGRAPHS BUILDINGS ? ), and as a viricide.
We could not find the product ingredients on its label but the product's MSDS is readily available and indicates that principal ingredients (other than water) include isopropanol and Alkyl (C12-16) dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride. There the product is described as including a floral alcohol - its source of a more pleasant scent than the odor it is intended to ban. Indeed, killing bacteria (if that is the odor source) or washing a contaminated surface with a sanitizer or disinfect is likely to significantly reduce the contribution of that specific surface area as an odor source.
But as we comment at CHEMICAL ODOR SOURCES, because an odor reservoir can provide effectively a continuous source of smell, in our opinion the most effective means of odor removal in buildings is to find and remove the odor source. For this reason this article series focuses on methods to find the source of smells or odors in and around buildings.
Keeping a log sheet that records date, time, weather, operation of building mechanical conditions, sun, wind, etc. can help track down otherwise mysterious smells in or around buildings.
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