New house smells like...bread?! And what to do about it!
December 2, 2008 12:55 PM   Subscribe

So, you all have been following my travails in Seattle living for a while now. In Craigslist, I thought I found the perfect room - furnished, nice roommate (who is also the landlord), clean, in a new house, and in a good location. But, the whole house smells like sweet, yeasty wheat bread, and my asthma is not amused.

The roommate also owns two cats. When I went to look at the place, I asked about the smell, and she said was the two catboxes that she had. But, it smelled too heavy and 'nice' to be the catboxes, especially since she said she cleaned them that day. The litter she uses is Feline Pine, which I have used in the past, and it didn't smell like that at all. Plus, I work with 30+ cats in a shelter every weekend, and it doesn't smell as heavy as this place does.

More details: In Seattle, it's a house in the Rainier Vista Community, which is a 3 year old housing complex with houses built in a 'green' fashion. The house itself is 2-3 years old. It has a gas stove and fireplace. The house itself is very clean. She also keeps plants, but only a few of them. The overall smell is 'wheaty', and the air feels moist inside. So now that I've moved in, I have a HEPA filter with a clean pre-filter going 24/7 in my room to try to get rid of it, and I sleep with the window cracked, but that doesn't help the rest of the house, and I'm still having asthma issues. The smell is everywhere in the house at the same levels, and it doesn't go away at all - it's constant. The upstairs has carpeting where my room is, but the downstairs is hardwood floors.

The roommate did notice a 'new house' smell when she moved in, but she says that it's gone. I really want to eliminate this so that I can stay here, because otherwise it's a nice place. And we are stumped as to what it is. (To the roommate's credit, she is working with me on this, and if I do have to leave, I'm not tied to a lease, it's month to month. So I don't have to worry about that, at least.)
posted by spinifex23 to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Best answer: Is there an attic or basement/crawlspace where some sort of (yeasty-smelling) green/natural insulation might have been put in? You (or someone less sensitive to the smell) might check to see if that's where it's coming from.

The company that seems to have built the housing, website here, might also be able to help you identify what's going on, though if it's a byproduct of the construction materials or somehow due to the very airtight seal (to conserve heat) of the construction, you might find out, but be out of luck, since that's just the way the building is. Tightly sealed homes can be bad for people with certain chemical sensitivities (and can even breed some types of mold if the ventilation system isn't set up properly). Good luck.
posted by aught at 1:22 PM on December 2, 2008

This is anecdotal, but I just bought a bag of Feline Pine, after not having used it for some time. It definitely doesn't smell the same as I thought it did - but I chalked that up to me not remembering correctly. I thought it smelled like fresh sawdust, but it has almost a chemical wheaty smell now. My apartment smells WEIRD, though. I think I'll go back to the other stuff.

Anyway...if she claims it's the litter, wouldn't it be easy to try some other kind of litter (eco-friendly, like Yesterday's News), and see if the smell goes away?
posted by HopperFan at 1:39 PM on December 2, 2008

The overall smell is 'wheaty', and the air feels moist inside.

I'm almost inclined to ask whether your roommate is sure that it's Feline Pine that she's using, as opposed to Swheat Scoop litter? I mean, she gets it, so she should know -- my question is more about whether that she's just calling it "Feline Pine" because of a weird mental block of "oh, it's an alternative plant-based thing so let's call it that", or maybe this is a weird knockoff brand that she got cheap and it's actually wheat instead of pine based.

Of course, if the bags say "Feline Pine" right on them, then ignore me, but that was what I was wondernig about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:42 PM on December 2, 2008

Response by poster: I'm going to check the litter tonight, but I don't think it's that; it's too strong and pervasive, and doesn't have that ammonia smell that a catbox would also have.

I'm thinking that the house is somehow still offgassing, and the tight sealing windows are preventing the air from circulating. I think if we have a small fan going, it might alleviate the issue enough so that I have time to figure out my next step. Thanks.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:06 AM on December 3, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah, it turned out to be this mutant wheat/corn litter.

Changing it to Feline Pine and cleaning it more often seems to have eliminated the problem!
posted by spinifex23 at 11:50 PM on January 5, 2009

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