How to remove curry smell in new condo
December 3, 2021 3:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm asking on behalf of a friend. She is moving into a new condo. Before moving in she had new wood flooring installed throughout as well as having all the walls painted. She did not re-surface or do anything to the ceilings, which are those textured plaster ones.

The place reeks of curry from previous owner(s), even after all the new work done. What can she do to get rid of the strong curry smell? The smell does not seem to be from neighboring units, but seems to be from right inside her place. Could the ceilings have absorbed and hung onto the smell? If so, is there anything she can do about it without having to completely redo the ceilings?
posted by primate moon to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Yes, absolutely, especially if venting was poor or not used.

Pro painters can usually clean & spray a ceiling pretty efficiently and that should take care of most of it. She’ll want to make sure she changes any filters in the oven vent.

(Also… not a huge deal but “reeks of curry” is a bit of a microaggressive framing. Not trying to smack your knuckles or anything, just FYI.)
posted by sixswitch at 4:08 PM on December 3, 2021 [17 favorites]

“Reeks” is a straight-up aggressive framing, actually!

Open windows to air out the space for starters, that’s easy and free.

Washing the kitchen walls, tops of cabinets, and stove hood fan with soap would be a more laborious but inexpensive step. The smell is likely vaporized cooking oils that settled on the walls and tops of surfaces, so washing it will remove a lot of it.

Next up repaint the walls.

And finally in terms of hassle, repainting or removing the popcorn ceiling would likely do the trick but is a lot of work and mess, so try the easier things first.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 5:14 PM on December 3, 2021 [8 favorites]

I would definitely consider re-painting the ceiling. I would also suggest putting a coat of Kilz down before painting anything else in the future, they make a restoration blend specifically for sealing in odors from smoke and the like. Speaking from experience, removing a textured ceiling is extremely messy so plan accordingly - might be worth hiring a pro.

I would also throughly clean the kitchen cabinets (maybe repaint them if that's an option) and the vent hood - odds are any lingering cooking oils and associated smells are concentrated there. Could also try boiling a 3:1 mix of water and white vinegar mix - I've heard that can be very effective. You can also try leaving a bowl of vinegar sitting out.
posted by photo guy at 5:43 PM on December 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

I moved into an apartment that smelled of curry - a week of spraying febreze on the walls in the kitchen took care of it.
posted by Arthur Dent at 6:13 PM on December 3, 2021

If it is indeed a popcorn ceiling she should be careful about removing it or really disturbing it in any way:
Popcorn ceilings generally contain between 1 and 10 percent asbestos. While 1 percent may seem insignificant, it’s important to note that any percentage of asbestos in a popcorn ceiling is cause for concern and should be addressed.

Thankfully, asbestos doesn’t pose any serious health risks if it’s left completely intact and undisturbed. However, popcorn ceilings are constructed from highly friable (crumbly) materials, and even the slightest disturbance can release toxic asbestos dust into the air. If inhaled.
posted by jamjam at 6:32 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

The smell is organic compounds. Ozone generator will pretty much remove it.
posted by flimflam at 7:00 PM on December 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

If the condo has a ventilation system, your friend should replace the filters. All of the air in the home will circulate through those filters, and trapped odors could potentially be recirculated.
posted by wile e at 11:11 PM on December 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would first paint the ceiling with a coat of Killz and then add another coat of ceiling white paint which has been mixed with odor control paint additive.
posted by mezzanayne at 12:05 AM on December 4, 2021

Fully agree that "reeks of curry" is a racist framing. The "issue" has even been used in the UK by a major landlord to illegally ban tenants of South Asian heritage from renting his houses.
posted by indemandgirl at 2:14 AM on December 5, 2021 [5 favorites]

Ouch. As someone who grew up in a house that "reeks of curry", nouvelle-personne has it right that washing all surfaces (including the ceiling if possible) with hot, soapy water is a great place to start.

I would suggest saying "fried onion and garlic" smell instead of "curry" smell, because that's what you're referring to, right? It would certainly make it less depressing for South Asians immigrants like me, harmlessly scrolling MeFi and suddenly reminded of all the paranoia my family carried for years of "reeking of curry" whenever we left the house.
posted by guessthis at 3:06 AM on December 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

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