What's that smell?
October 14, 2008 4:15 PM   Subscribe

My apartment started smelling really bad two days ago. Like some kind of solvent or glue, a chemical smell, strong enough to give me a headache. Could the wood floors that were refinished a few months ago be causing it?

So here's what I have to go on:

I asked the downstairs neighbors (our only neighbors) if they were doing anything that might produce that smell, or if they smelled anything unusual in their apartment. They said no.

It doesn't smell outside, particularly.

The smell started about two days ago, at roughly the same time that our air conditioner broke. We live in texas, it's still (sort of) hot during the day. Before that the apartment smelled fine.

Our floors were redone a couple months ago. My roommate thinks this is where the smell is coming from, and I tend to agree. Our landlord, when I called him about it, said that was ridiculous and that the whatever (polyurethane?) dries after 24 hours and couldn't be producing the smell.

Could it be the floors? Two months after they were redone? Could the broken air conditioner (what?) be producing a weird solventy smell? I wish I could post a sample of the smell to the internet for you.

If it is (or could be) the floors, is there anything we can do about it?
posted by hapticactionnetwork to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Best answer: Polyurethane tends not to smell like solvent. It smells, but not a traditional solvent smell. Likewise, I agree with your landlord... it's almost certainly dried by now. If it doesn't feel tacky, you shouldn't be able to smell it. Furthermore, unless the floor is oiled, it's likely to be urethane.

I'd bet on the airconditioner.
posted by Netzapper at 4:37 PM on October 14, 2008

I've been around a few broken a/c units that do make an acrid/solvent-type odour when they die, depending on what busted.

Air conditioners have toxic contents, so you should get your landlord to handle that asap or authorise you to do so.
posted by batmonkey at 5:14 PM on October 14, 2008

A couple of days ago it got down into the 50's at night there, right? Could your heater have kicked on in the night? Sometimes heaters make a nasty funk the first few times they kick on.

Anyway, it looks like it's pretty nice there at night. I'd throw the windows open and air that place out. Get some fans in the windows, pointing in in your bedroom and out in another room so you get the freshest air.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:46 PM on October 14, 2008

Best answer: If it's been a couple months, it's almost certainly not the floor.

Try putting some plastic over the air conditioner inside (I'm assuming a window unit) and see if that lessens the smell. It could be that when the AC died some piece of electronics cooked, or you have mold or something growing on whatever water was left in your drain pan.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:59 PM on October 14, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everybody, super helpful answers. It turns out, after some concerted sniffing around, that a can of screen cleaner (for screenprinting) leaked/exploded on a shelf.

Ruling out the floor helped us find the real cause. Yay.
posted by hapticactionnetwork at 9:22 AM on October 15, 2008

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