Neighbor's weed usage is waking me up due to the smell. Help!
August 8, 2018 11:26 PM   Subscribe

My upstairs neighbor has started smoking weed in their bathroom on a regular basis. This often seems to happen in the middle of the night, and unfortunately it wakes me up and sends me to the bathroom to dry heave, which is the worst place to go because that is where the smell is coming down into on the first place! My fancy air filters don't help and neither does febreeze. What else can I do when I sense the onset? Tonight the smell is so thick I am considering going to my office across town to sleep in peace, so immediately implementable solutions are very welcome.
posted by Hermione Granger to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They are probably smoking up in the bathroom because they think that the exhaust fan is magically disappearing the smoke so that no one can smell it. In that case - if their goal is to not bother anyone -telling them there is a problem should get them to change behavior.

If they are doing this in an attempt to hide smoking from someone else they live with, then that approach is less likely to succeed.
posted by thelonius at 11:30 PM on August 8, 2018 [12 favorites]

This is dumb, but if the only place it’s coming in through is the bathroom, have you tried closing the door and putting a damp towel against the crack? Are there any vents you can close? Do you have windows that open and a box fan that can blow outside air into your apartment?

Can you talk to your neighbor or leave a note? If this is affecting your place, it might be affecting other apartments, depending on how your vents are set up.

Do you have a landlord you can contact about this? Saying “I can smell what’s happening in his bathroom from my bedroom” should be sufficient to get most landlords to act (and doesn’t blow up your neighbor’s spot).
posted by suncages at 11:32 PM on August 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Your bathroom fans probably feed into a common duct, and the odor is coming down from the fan opening.

The first thing to try is turning on your bathroom fan; the next might be to figure out some kind of air tight cover for the fan. I did this once using adhesive backed magnetic strips on a sheet of plastic.
posted by jamjam at 11:39 PM on August 8, 2018 [12 favorites]

Leave a note for the neighbor. Ask them if they smell the weed odor at night, because you’re trying to track down the source, and not sure if it’s coming from their unit or another unit. Let them know you don’t disapprove (if true), you just are sensitive to the odor and it’s disrupting your ability to sleep.
posted by samthemander at 11:42 PM on August 8, 2018 [33 favorites]

Open a window on the other side of the apartment, close all windows near the bathroom, and leave the bathrooms fan going. Provided you have that window away from their bathroom, of course. Otherwise, running the fan will probably pull the stinky air in.
posted by flimflam at 2:09 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Your neighbor is probably not being purposely inconsiderate—they are probably trying to prevent the smell from being noticeable, using the exhaust fan to vent their smoke. Maybe smoking pot is against the rules in your apartment complex, or maybe they just don't want their apartment smelling like weed. Either way, they would probably appreciate a heads-up that their strategy is backfiring and dispersing the smell throughout the building in a really noticeable way. They may also care (if they're a decent person) that the smell is literally making you feel sick—most people are not sensitive in that way, so it probably hasn't occurred to them as a potential issue. (It would not have been on my own radar, personally—I am literally just learning now that the smell of weed makes some people physically nauseous, despite being a pretty open smoker for several years.)

If I were your upstairs neighbor, I would be very receptive to a knock on my door and a calm conversation about how my choice of smoking location was affecting my neighbor. I would seek an alternative, like smoking in front of a window fan blowing outward, or switching to vaping/edibles while in the house. It would probably be easy to find a mutually satisfactory modification that would allow me to smoke and you to sleep. I would take it as a kindness if you came and alerted me to the problem, because I don't want to be an asshole and I don't want to get in trouble with my landlord.

I would also respond to a note, but I would be annoyed and I would thenceforth think of you as "my passive-aggressive neighbor who leaves nastygrams under my door instead of just talking to me like a hunan being." If your neighbor is of a less kind and empathetic bent than me, they might ignore your note or it might even backfire. I am a big fan of talking to your neighbors in person about this stuff; it's what humans who are living in a society do. It's awkward, but sometimes being human involves awkwardness. Steel your nerves, gird your loins, and go knock on their door. Good luck!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:53 AM on August 9, 2018 [32 favorites]

Do samthemander’s “hey, have you been smelling anything in the bathrooms at night?” approach, but in person as Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The suggests. Notes run a high risk of coming across as passive-aggressive and backfiring; talking in person might be more difficult but it sets a friendlier tone and establishes a rapport.

I would briefly but unambiguously mention that the smell wakes you up (trying too hard to elicit pity can backfire but you do want to get across that it’s serious and unignorable) and that you’ve tried filters, etc. to mitigate it (i.e. you’re trying your darnedest to avoid inconveniencing the smoker, and you’d rather not get them in trouble).

In the meantime, you can try putting fans in your windows pointing outward, but I’m not confident that will help.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:47 AM on August 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Depending, you might want to check out this previous Ask: Marijuana vaping in a hotel room - cannabis pot travel just for the reference to a 'SmokeBuddy'. There exists air-filtering tubes of activated carbon or some such that are made pretty much just for weed smokers to avoid the smell. Just tell them they need to buy one of these things. Might work.

Also if your apartment complex has wall-mounted gas heat... the heater flue is a much better place to blow smoke. The pilot light will create enough of an updraft to carry the smoke up to the roof, and it will be leak-free since having the flue of a gas heater somehow drafting back into another apartment would be very bad.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:51 AM on August 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

calling in the cops is not the thing to do. Perhaps they are using it for medical reasons? I'd step very, very carefully. Talk to the person face to face. Go knock on their door, open a dialog. Don't call the bloody cops.
posted by james33 at 5:08 AM on August 9, 2018 [30 favorites]

I had an acquaintance with this exact problem; she talked to the neighbor and it turned out that he thought the vent was helping. They worked together to sort out a system with an air purifier in a specific room that resolved her problem, though there was some back and forth about "how's this working now?"

I disagree that a note is passive aggressive, if you sign it. Sometimes you just can't catch a neighbor at home, or you aren't sure they're not going to get mad right out of the gate. But I agree that I'd start with face to face, since that lets you make make it clear that you aren't just trying to slap them down; you have a problem that you need their help to solve.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:21 AM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is a situation that doesn't ever seem to have a catch-all solution. Being friendly and discussing the issue can work or it may not. I lived in an apartment for less than a year where I think everyone in every unit smoked regularly indoors despite the no smoking clause in the lease. Opening a dialogue with everyone (there were maybe 4) along the lines of "Hey I'm cool with this and not a narc but the smoke is entering in my unit daily/activating my asthma/waking me up can you please use a vaporizer or smoke outside I'd appreciate it love and peace" didn't seem to matter. So since appealing to neighborly harmony didn't work, I used the landlord as a diplomat. They sent a mass email out and no one seemed to care. So I got a lawyer to write a letter saying I'm breaking my lease because I couldn't enjoy my unit. Instead of letting me break my lease they asked one tenant to leave that they believed was the offender. Ok. That didn't seem to solve it.

So honestly, your tactic depends entirely on the sort of person your neighbor happens to be. Some people will appeal to harmony, some people will seriously not give a shit. Use your landlord to communicate, that's their job. It's not your job to figure out what sort of person your neighbors are and work around that just to enjoy your apartment.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:19 AM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Please don't call the cops. Start with the landlord and the neighbor directly.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:23 AM on August 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Even though ours is a non smoking building I won't call the cops. I am considering how to approach said neighbor because I have already talked to them about ongoing noise in the last week and want to tread carefully. I respect the possibility that their usage is medical not recreational. I do plan to talk to my land lord when they get back from vacation.

My question is really about how to negate the smell, though I appreciate the encouragement about asking for a permanent retrieve in a friendly way. I also agree that the smoke is coming down to my apt via a shared duct; turning my bathroom fan on distributes the smell even more instead of filtering it.

Fans aren't an option due to the configuration of my apartment (bathroom has no windows). Aside from closing the door and using a damp towel to block the gap at the bottom, are there other methods I could try in the interim while I figure out a long term solution?
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:41 AM on August 9, 2018

Block the vent itself with a damp towel before you go to sleep? Admittedly, this will work better if you're a morning-shower person.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 7:46 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

My bathroom fan has a little spring-loaded flap right at the beginning of the output tube that's supposed to close when the fan is not on and prevent backflow, but it's pretty easy for those to get gucked up and not close properly.

Fans are fairly easy to take out, and the flap and the surface it's meant to close against can usually be wiped clean with a paper towel.
posted by jamjam at 7:57 AM on August 9, 2018

Also, if your bathroom fan distributes the smell throughout your apartment instead of attenuating it, the common duct your fans feed into could be partially blocked (birds love to build nests where the ducts leave the building because it's warm there).
posted by jamjam at 8:28 AM on August 9, 2018

Side note: I rather suspect jamjam is correct (above), so apart from the smell issue right now, the building seems to have a ventilation issue more generally that should be fixed. This may be one avenue of approaching the landlord without necessarily ratting out the smoker ("there seems to be something wrong with the bathroom vents....")
posted by aramaic at 8:43 AM on August 9, 2018

If you find yourself needing a technical solution, I think blocking that vent is the way to go. Someone up above mentioned using magnetic fasteners to affix a plastic cover in a removable way, and I think that's genius. Cut a sheet of rigid plastic a bit larger than your vent and make a gasket around the edges of it with some pipe insulation. Attach some strong magnets around the edges of the vent on your ceiling, and also on the sheet of plastic. Screw in the "eye" end of a hook-and-eye latch to the plastic plate, and tape the "hook" end to a broomstick. During times when you don't need the vent, keep it covered up. When you do need it, use your hook-on-a-stick to remove the cover (and to replace it afterward).
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:56 AM on August 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

What if you left your bathroom fan on all night? Would that help create a negative airflow situation in your bathroom such that the scent doesn't get a chance to even get into your bathroom?
posted by hydra77 at 8:57 AM on August 9, 2018

Realistically you will not be able to get your neighbor to stop smoking weed. If they're a good human they will try and avoid impacting you, but it's going to happen at least sometimes even with them doing their best. Reporting them to building management (or police, definitely don't do that if you're in the USA) is just going to result in a toxic neighbor.

I recommend the neighborly approach of talking to them and trying to find a compromise. Let them know you are sensitive and ask them if they would be willing to compromise by switching to vaporizing. I previously had great success with a neighbor in an old apartment building by offering to split the cost of an inexpensive vaporizer with them. You can get ones that do dry herb vaporization for around $100. This is a good solution because vapor dissipates quickly, doesn't travel more than a foot or two, and doesn't stick to things. That's good for you. It's also good for your neighbor because it will be less hard on their lungs and they will need less weed to get them results as they do with combustion. It's also good for them because they can vape indoors without stinking up their entire apartment or bothering their neighbors.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 9:21 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sorry, my recommendation was to put a box fan in a DIFFERENT room’s window and have it blow new air in (or old air out). Weed smoke lingers. Box fan will help it move along more quickly. Bedroom window with the outside air getting blown in at you seems like your best option to me.
posted by suncages at 9:24 AM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Buy them a bong or a smoke buddy. Leave it on their doorstep with a note - hey smoke smell is traveling. Would you mind trying this? You don't have to sign it, or sign it "Friendly Allergic Neighbor"
posted by charlielxxv at 9:39 AM on August 9, 2018

The PAX vape is about $100 and worth it!
posted by jbenben at 10:34 AM on August 9, 2018

If the shape of the fan is amenable to this and there aren't any problematic pointy parts: could you poke a latex balloon or plastic bag or something similar through the vent and inflate it until it blocks the duct?
posted by XMLicious at 11:15 AM on August 9, 2018

Idea: take the fan cover off, wrap it in some layers of Saran Wrap and put it back on?
posted by purple_bird at 12:49 PM on August 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Actual removing smell wise...

You could try one of those Ionic-Breeze type air purifiers. They work by giving particles in the air a bit of electrostatic charge as they float by a charged wire, then those charged particles are drawn through to a set of metal fins of the opposite charge which both creates an air current flow through the device and makes the big particles like smoke stick to the metal fins. The plus side is that you just pull out the fins and wash them off and they're ready to go again. In exchange, your bathroom probably smells more like Ozone...

I have one of these stored in the closet because I found my apartment was just too dusy and I had to clean it too often. But it did pull a lot of cruft out of the air.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:34 PM on August 9, 2018

They make small ionizing air purifiers that are bathroom-sized.. plug into an outlet much like a night-light. You wouldn't need a big honkin' air-purifier for your bathroom.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:40 PM on August 9, 2018

I covered my bathroom vent with plastic wrap and sealed the plastic wrap along all edges with packaging tape. This has been successful in keeping my neighbours' disgusting marijuana (and other) stench out of my bathroom (and with a large shared air system it can be hard to know for sure who the culprit is, as odour cycles around the building), but it means I have had to find an alternative way to prevent my bathroom from becoming humid and moldy. Good luck.
posted by windykites at 8:01 PM on August 9, 2018

Also, it often comes from more than one location... If you want to be really stink proof, seal off your place as well as you can (any vents, cracks, the mail slot, the door edges and bottom will all let smells amd smoke in- you can purchase a rubber bumper for the door bottom and put up a heavy curtain behind the door instead of screwing around with towels etc) internally and depend on windows and fans for ventilation. Any shared indoor air can carry polluting smells, especially strong ones. Then of course you have to contend with the outdoor air but I find it to be the lesser evil most of the time.
posted by windykites at 8:12 PM on August 9, 2018

Response by poster: Frustrating update: cleaned my bathroom vent, left it running starting at 8pm, and closed the door. At 10:15, the weed came through anyway like clockwork, and this time it's strong enough that it's interfering with my anxiety medication (I have the twitches and jitters). I'm also not sure where it's coming from anymore because I may share a vent with as many as 4 other neighbors. (I feel like I am playing a game of Clue, but it's not as fun.) If this wasn't affecting my job, I'd just deal, but now I really have a problem. Here's what I am thinking:

I am going to put plants in my bathroom directly under the fan to support air quality in general. I will also start running a separate air filter once I go to bed in addition to closing the door to the bathroom and leaving the main fan on. I am a little leery of completely covering the fan vent because earlier this year I had a terrible experience where a broken pipe below my upstairs neighbors' tub broke and the vent was the first place the backed up water came through before half my ceiling came down. I will give it a try anyway if I can, though.

To be very honest the idea of buying whichever neighbor this is a bong, water pipe, or vape pen goes way out of my personal comfort zone still. I do understand how those would be preferable over just smoking a joint, though. If I have to I will visit one of the dispensaries near my office to ask for guidance. The last resort will be asking my landlord how marijuana use now fits into our no smoking clause in our lease so I can understand what my rights are as a tenant and what my neighbors' rights are too. My city's ordinances on residential smoking only address marijuana use in public or shared spaces.

Wish me luck. Thank you very much for your advice. I am going to sleep in my living room for now and try to tackle this tomorrow. Further input is welcome and appreciated.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:37 PM on August 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I got desperate and covered my vent with as much Press N Seal as I could and plugged my door with a towel. It sort of worked, but not enough. I wrote my landlady.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:52 AM on August 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

« Older Pre-MRI, Pre-Diagnosis Anxiety   |   Why is cancer treatment less aggressive in Canada... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.