Odor Engineering Help Needed
May 29, 2006 8:40 PM   Subscribe

How do I get rid of the curry smell in my new apartment.

I know just enough to know that curry isn't specific enough to mean much, but I don't know enough to identify the precise smell. Regardless, my new apartment smells somewhat like an Indian restaurant.

The apartment is no-smoking, so strategies that involve burning incense are out.

How can I neutralize the odor of my new place?
posted by b1tr0t to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Vinegar likes to suck up smells. Pour vinegar into bowls and place around the house.
posted by evariste at 8:46 PM on May 29, 2006

Are you sure that incense is outlawed under the "non-smoking" clause? I only ask b/c that's only ever referred to cigarettes/cigars/pipes in my renting experience.

If it really is, what about Febreze? Or, homemade Febreze, 1 part vodka, 1 part water sprayed all over.
posted by tristeza at 8:51 PM on May 29, 2006

Febreze the hell out of it, open all the windows and doors as much as is feasible, and pray. I have a feeling I know the exact smell you're talking about and I understand your need for relief. Good luck!
posted by SuperNova at 8:55 PM on May 29, 2006

This kind of smell usually lingers due to the oils used in cooking (which become impregnated with the spices and carry them when they recondense.) I had to deal with it in an apartment, and the main solution was to degrease *everything*. Hit the kitchen cabinets with degreaser inside and out. Hit the fridge inside and out. The floor. The oven was especially heinous, as were the cabinets directly above them. The kitchen light fixture even had *drips* of oil smoke inside of it.

Once we cleaned all of the oil out, and shampooed the carpet twice with a rug doctor, the apartment was more than liveable. You'd only notice the smell if you opened a closet that had been closed for a while.
posted by SpecialK at 8:56 PM on May 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Volatilized oils can carry aromas from spices. I'd recommend you clean the kitchen, in particular any place in which oil deposits may have accumulated: the oven, spill catchers, oven hood filter, oven exhaust venting, tops of tall items near the oven (such as refrigerators or cabinets), and ceiling fans. You might also consider cleaning the kitchen ceiling and any ceiling penetrations in the kitchen such as lighting fixtures (air movement through these in a kitchen can often result in oily deposits).

You might also consider taking down and washing the draperies, curtains, and blinds in the apartment.

(on preview: what SpecialK said...)
posted by RichardP at 9:01 PM on May 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

Paint the apartment.
posted by unSane at 9:04 PM on May 29, 2006

Make sure you also clean the drains very well, use an enzymatic cleaner for them, this might sound odd, but I used to live above a chinese restaurant and we had some of the drain vents clogged up on the roof, consequently all the odors would come from the kitchen/bathroom sinks until we had the plumbing vents cleared by the landlord.
posted by iamabot at 9:21 PM on May 29, 2006

I'm sure you already will, but try to avoid Febreezing everything or spraying vodka everywhere- these things have their own smells that can be torturous when they don't eliminate the first. After a terrible incident with Febreeze and an old couch I'll never use the stuff again.

In our dormitory kitchen, which was absolutely saturated with curry-smelling oil, the janitors would degrease using some industrial degreaser, using ammonia for painted surfaces and lye for the oven. That, plus a fair amount of light and air, seemed to tame the problem pretty well.
posted by fake at 10:00 PM on May 29, 2006

Incense will only cover up bad smells, what you want is to be RID of them. Clean everything thoroughly and then apply Febreze to any offending surface.

unSane's suggestion of painting is also a good one, it will get the smell out of the walls. (And hey, fresh paint is a better smell than stinky curry!)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:04 PM on May 29, 2006

Amen SpecialK. I have moved into more than one central NJ apartment with the same 'film' on all surfaces. Degreasing is your only hope, and you may need heavier ordnance than citrus-based cleaners. remember to look for surfaces that are out-of-site but that can still collect grime: behind appliances (washers, dishwasher, oven, fridge), on top of cabinets and shelves, etc.

The cabinet-tops in my most recent apartment had a layer of solidified oil so thick that my blender became GLUED to them after being left up there for a few months. I eventually had to spend an entire day chiseling them clean with a putty knife. Good Luck!
posted by datacenter refugee at 10:38 PM on May 29, 2006

Does your kitchen have an exhaust hood? If not you probably have a grease film on everything.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 10:44 PM on May 29, 2006

I lived in an apartment above a lovely Indian couple once upon a time. They were nice neighbors except for the fact that they cooked curry 24 x 7. Me, my apartment, and my clothing smelled like curry for about 6 months, until I bought a vaportek device. You can google them, and are usually able to buy them (plus replacement filters) from janitorial supply outfits. I can wholly sympathize with your situation.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:31 AM on May 30, 2006

Wash the walls. Paintng may work, but if there's enough of a greasy residue on the walls you're going to need Killz II or it's going to ooze through. Get one of those cheap sponge mops, a dishpan wide enough to contain the mop, and some Simple Green, which you'll mix with enough water that you don't need to rinse the walls. You don't want the mop sloshy wet, just damp, and then you mop the walls.

If you've got carpet, rent a Rug Doctor for a day and at least do the rooms within line-of-sight of the kitchen.

I did a little bit of make-ready in college, and you would not believe the difference wall-washing will make.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:15 AM on May 30, 2006

I lived above an apartment full of H1Bs who cooked curried goat hair and mongoose crotch 24x7 for about a year, and it drove me absolutely squirming frothing cornered-badger insane. It got into EVERYTHING - I had to smell curry all day at work 'cause I couldn't even keep it out of my clothes. When these people finally moved out, apt. management had to paint, replace all the carpet, and even replace countertops that had been destroyed through use as cutting surfaces.

But I digress - my purpose was to ask if it should be your responsibility to do all this work and invest in all the supplies? Where I come from, it's the landlord's job to properly clean and prep an apartment if it hasn't been done by the vacating tenant.
posted by Tubes at 9:04 AM on May 30, 2006

try to avoid Febreezing everything or spraying vodka everywhere- these things have their own smells that can be torturous

True, but the Febreze smell eventually wears off. The starch doughnut molecules that trap the odors, though, will stay a lot longer.
posted by kindall at 9:17 AM on May 30, 2006

The first step in most Indian cooking is frying up the spices. You're smelling the results of that.

The advice to rent a rug doctor and degrease the kitchen are probably the best ones -- something like an Orange cleaner should be used to wipe all of the kitchen cabinets, mop the floor, clean the inside and outside of the exhaust hood, etc.

Are you sure the management company truly prepared the apartment per your lease? The standard cleaning should have taken care of most of this.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 9:19 AM on May 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

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