Weird House Smell
April 10, 2014 10:12 AM   Subscribe

There's a mysterious metallic smell in a bedroom in my house. What is it and how do I get rid of it?

One of the bedrooms in my home has had a strange, nauseating smell in it for the past couple of months. The room smelled fine previous to this. It's very clean and is cleaned consistently, but it seems as if the smell is coming from somewhere deeper like inside of the walls rather than from bedding or any objects in the room, especially since it's not concentrated in any one area. It spreads out into the hall if you open the door, but stays contained in the room if the door is closed.

The room is on the second floor of a three-level house with a basement/garage and attic. It has two windows.

I have no idea how to go about tracking down what it could be.

The best way I can describe it is rotten, mildewy (like post-rain mildew) and sharply metallic. It doesn't respond to Febreeze or any kind of cleaning spray, or opening the windows to air it out. None of the other rooms in the house smell like this. I'm thinking maybe it's mold, but mold wouldn't smell like metal, would it?

Help is very much appreciated! It's grossing everybody out.
posted by ariadne's threadspinner to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Something's dead.

A rodent in the walls or nesting birds under your siding or a woodland intruder.
posted by unixrat at 10:15 AM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you have access to a carnivorous pet, like a dog or cat? Air out the room a bit (so the lingering odours dissipate, which will make the source area smell more prominent by comparison) and then let the animal into the room. Once it's comfortable in the room, it will likely wander over to a specific area to investigate the source of the smell, which should help you narrow down where it's coming from. If the smell is due to a dead animal, that is.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:32 AM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd guess you have a critter in the walls or perhaps the attic above. We had this same concentrated sort of reek awhile back after I tried poison to get rid of roof rats. It killed the rats for sure, but they went off to die in the walls in the laundry and dining rooms. I guess they sort of got the last laugh.

Short of tearing the sheetrock up to find it, and good luck with that, best you can do is keep the air moving and wait a bit. If you have access to the attic, you might go up there with a flashlight and poke around above the bedroom space to see if anything has croaked in the insulation.

From the outside, you might be able to see signs of an animal having gained access to the attic space as well - chewed areas, streaks of bat guano on the side of the house, etc. If your roof is complicated, you might not be able to see everything from the ground, though.

Wildcard guess, just for the hell of it: does the bedroom share a wall with a bathroom? Any chance you've got a sewage or septic-related issue going on?
posted by jquinby at 10:37 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, I forgot to mention there's a bathroom inside of the bedroom with a separate door.
posted by ariadne's threadspinner at 10:44 AM on April 10, 2014

Dead animal, most likely a mouse, if it's not in other rooms and centered in the one room I'd be curious to move furniture around and check all the nooks and crannies to make sure nothing has died behind a bookcase or under a dresser. Mice can fit into the tiniest of spaces so you'd be surprised where the little bugger may have crawled off to die.
posted by wwax at 1:53 PM on April 10, 2014

If it is a dead animal in the walls, I would keep a big bowl of white vinegar in the room to neutralize the odor, and wait it out until the body dries up and stops smelling. I personally wouldn't bother trying to dig it out of the walls, but I'm lazy like that.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 2:31 PM on April 10, 2014

You might shine a UV light in the dark, see if that turns up anything.

Are you near a university... you might be able to borrow a gas chromatograph to help you identify what you're smelling. ( I see some DIY gas chromatograph's, but...)
posted by at at 3:04 AM on April 11, 2014

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