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What causes this smell?

cnvh
15 years ago

Hubby and I have lived in our 100-year old farmhouse for about 2 years now. One of the upstairs bedrooms, as well as the attic, have a puzzling smell which I can't figure out what might be the cause. The odor is very sweet, like maple syrup; it's always faintly noticeable, worse if the room door is kept closed for a while. It doesn't seem to change based on temperature or humidity fluctuations, etc. It's not the least bit offensive, just very obvious and peculiar.

There's nothing unusual about that bedroom, except that it doesn't get used very much. (But we have another guest room next door to it, similarly-unused, which has no aroma.) Flooring is the same throughout the entire upstairs (hardwood, not sure what kind), walls are plaster, no discernable leaks, etc. It's been like this since before we moved in, when there was nothing in ANY of the upstairs rooms, so I don't think it's our furniture, either.

The attic smells the same as the bedroom in question.

Any ideas?

Comments (78)

  • Rudebekia
    7 years ago

    I had bats in the walls once. The guano had a sweetish smell.

  • dwagsd2001
    7 years ago
    Cassandra, you were very close as to what our source is. Turns out we had a squirrel infestation in the attic above the room with that smell and what we were smelling was the urine and fecies (sp?) that these little buggers left behind. They had to cut into the ceiling to get up there to figure it out. Now, it's going to cost $10,000 to remove the waste, (properly with hazmat suits and stuff), put up new drywall, and repaint that room. Oh yea, another $800.00 to repair the outside where they chewed their way in. I used to like squirrels and I'm a huge animal lover and now these guys are first on my "Do Not Like List". Beware, if you start smelling a pneumonia smell in your home, that's what it is. We had so many different specialists come in to identify the smell and NONE of them were able to. By chance, we had a contractor out here and he's the one that identified it right away. I hope this helps somebody else out there. Thanks for the suggestions and letting me rant. (Haha)
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  • dwagsd2001
    7 years ago
    Cassandra, how did you get rid of the bat waste and were you able to find how they were getting in
  • Rudebekia
    7 years ago

    Oh dwagsd, I feel for you.

    The bat issue I had was in a house I owned 20 years ago or so. I was younger then :) and also had little money. My sole goal was to get rid of the bats that were flying around the house--it was a terror! I had an exterminator come to identify the hole(s) in the attic soffits where they were getting in; he put those "bat exit" things on them where bats get out but can't come back in. After a time I had a handyman seal the holes. No more bats. Honestly I didn't do anything about the guano (there was not a large infestation--just a few bats I think) and the smell dissipated after a time. Honestly it wasn't terribly offensive--just kind of syrupy sweet on humid days. Good luck!

  • Miss H.
    6 years ago

    We too have this strange sweet honeyish smell in our kitchen. Like dirty honey. It's kinda funky. Myself & my family have lived in our home for five years & the smell hasn't always been there. It first happened last year, then vanished... .it's now returned.... The kitchen isn't dirty so I just can't understand what can be causing it. As everyone else states on here, it's not a pleasant sweet smell, it's overpowering & dirty...

    We do have Bats that nest just outside our small back garden, but goodness knows if their the source of the smell. I doubt it's Mice because we have 7 cats & the mice definitely wouldn't stand a chance with the cats around.. .

    Also this house is a terraced house & we moved in when it was new, five years ago, so I just don't know... It's very weird tho isn't it & I think all of us on this webpage would like to know, what the heck it is!!!

  • sambah006
    6 years ago

    "Turns out we had a squirrel infestation in the attic above the room"

    Just one more reason to keep vegetation well trimmed and not near the house. Especially trees. Why make it easier for animals and insects to gain an entry point.

  • wojak17231
    5 years ago

    These "answers" were all 100% guesses.

  • SaltiDawg
    5 years ago

    So what possible other answer is possible if someone posts they have an odor?

    Just people trying to help.

  • corneem9
    5 years ago

    OMG....I found this thread searching for causes of a honey smell in a house. We have it too. It actually smells good. I have 3 dogs and if it was a living animal I think my dogs would be disturbed and they're not. I also have my house treated monthly for bugs by Terminix because I am terrified of spiders. So I'm hoping it is nothing like that. I live in town and have no cedar in the house. We have aluminum siding and a metal roof. The smell seems to be stronger behind the microwave. YIKES! Any advice?

  • Miss H.
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Just to say, the smell that we had in our kitchen ( the dirty honey smell ) has gone again. It's been gone for quite sometime now, so bon voyage to whatever it was, until I'm sure at some time it'll come back again!

  • joyakirk41
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Recently have experienced a light weird sweet smell, just in my upstairs. It's gotten a little warmer here where we live. I'm not able to pin point where it's coming from. We have lived here almost nine years, last year was the first time we smelled it. It's back, same area, same time of year? What in the world could this be? Of course, every old farmhouse has had problems with mice from time to time, but that is not what this is. Wasps are pretty bad, could this be it?? HELP!!!

  • Rudebekia
    5 years ago

    A sweet, not terribly unpleasant smell, is likely bat guano.

  • cuzlar
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    I'm pleased i googled my question and found this thread of comments to-date 2017. I'm renovating a 40+ yr old home. Removing the cedar baseboard around the ceramic floor (believe it to be cedar, it's definitely not pine ) and strong odor of liquid propane emits from baseboard area. No gas leak anywhere nearby. We smelled the broken wood baseboard and that's what definitely smells. Broken baseboard in garbage can in garage and still faint smell out there. In the house where the baseboard was is no smell ? No water, rats, feces, hineyhives, etc any near floor baseboard. Any ideas what lp-like smell from old, old baseboard could be ? Baseboard was painted not stained. Lastly, we have much more old baseboard to remove, not looking forward to experiencing that smell more. 3/28/17

  • Nonya ...
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    Finding threads like this all over the net - - - and yet NO ONE has yet posted an answer.

    It began with a very, very faint and strange odor in the house. It's a sickeningly sweet chemical like smell. It's hard to describe, it’s an odd sweet bad perfume like nauseating smell.

    When it first started it was subtle. As the days went on, it got so strong your eyes would burn, and headaches started up. Strangely… it increased at night. I even bought a face mask to wear so I could sleep. It was just horrible, it was seriously nauseating to the point of thinking we should go to a hotel until we could figure it out.

    Any time the ac turned on, it permeated the room… so much so that we went without the air conditioning through two very warm months.

    The furnace room, where the furnace and hot water tank are, is in the back part of the garage, which is also our storage room - very noticeable in there, as well as in the garage. Being organized to the extreme, this room has always been kept very clean.

    Was very concerned that this odor might also be harmful or toxic in some way, aside from just being really disgusting, frustrating, and just ruining our summer. It seemed that when we would open the windows, it would come in through there… but we just think it was circulating the smell more.

    I started having some trouble breathing. Stuffy nose, headaches, skin sometimes felt like it was burning after a shower.

    We’ve had every 'expert' out… and they just couldn’t find the problem.

    After the plumber came, and didn’t have an answer…

    I tore every curtain down, washed all everything exposed, including the walls - ceilings - baseboards - doors - door frames - you name it. I had carpets professionally cleaned - along with the ducts - and still - there it was. I literally ‘Cloroxed’ my entire home… and just couldn't find the problem. As an ‘OCD Expert’ - my home is and always has been immaculate. I just don’t get it. We also ran water and bleach through all the drains… including the drain in the storage room.

    It was literally coming through the walls, the floor, and even in the water.

    I then spent the next 22 hours straight in the garage - going through every corner, with a fine tooth comb. SHOCK & HORRIFIED to find that there had been a ‘Mouse Convention’ in our storage room. Somehow they managed to get into some Tupperware bins and nest in. An estimate on the low side would be about 3-1 gallon size jars filled with seeds and feces (mostly seeds). I again ‘Cloroxed’ every container, every anything in that room - and threw out the rest - including one piece of nice luggage they managed to urinate on. Anything in that room reeked. I emptied the room and ‘Cloroxed’ the walls, floors, door, door frame - you name it.

    That night, the smell came back in the house so strong - I was in tears. Floating around my head was… “It’s Demonic” - somethings trying to stop me from my project. It did, after all, steal the last two months of our lives… and then some.

    It continued for the next three days… and today, the smell is very very faint. Did I manage to bleach out the demon? I’ll update for sure when I know.

    I’m thinking ‘the problem’ - was… The ‘MOUSE CONVENTION’

    When my mom said… “They were probably storing food up for the winter…” - I started feeling guilty, and sad for all the work they did - that was now gone. They found a nice warm home and stocked it with food - and I took it from them. ‘Sigh…’ On the other hand… To make their home - they ruined mine.

    I always did think they were the cutest things, and people were mean to kill them. Always having been an animal rescuer - right down to baby mice so tiny you could see their organs - the guilt set in… but only for a few seconds. IF they had made a home for themselves, without ruining mine it might have been ok.

    Today was a good day, hoping tomorrow is even better. Will update in a few days to let all you searchers know - there is an answer to the unending threads out there with this same exact issue…

    A ‘MOUSE CONVENTION’ …has been scheduled in your home.

  • Milly Rey
    4 years ago
    last modified: 4 years ago

    The maple syrup smell is old urine. Mouse, dog, and human urine can smell like that.

  • Nonya ...
    4 years ago

    Thanks for the laugh in an unbearable situation. A move is in our plans. For the most part, I believe the odor has decreased - however - still very present. I'm sure they got into the walls... God only knows the length of time it would take to dissipate completely. Not something I'm willing to live with.

  • toxcrusadr
    4 years ago

    Maybe it's honey badgers.

  • Noel Morin
    4 years ago

    I had a maple syrup smell that I finally pinpointed to a clip on desk lamp. Check your light fixtures.

  • johnnydesalvo
    4 years ago

    I have an 1885 Victorian and do have bats in the attic. This sweet smelling aroma I am assuming is bat poop. Its sits on the bare wood floor planks and I assume its made its way into the wood. The bats are active currently and I decided to google in hopes it might be old growth wood used for the framing. At this time you could suspect a past bat colony. Its really not terribly offensive and smells like a molasses or honey. We are finishing the attic soon and want to properly relocate the bats. I wanted to give feedback and suggest it could be a past colony. I would suspect moping the floor boards would be helpful with bleach. Your not supposed to mix bleach and pee (chloramine vapor) but assume old smell in wood would be ok. If the bats are gone then maybe add a different smell to the wood. My vote is bats.

  • michele1028
    3 years ago
    last modified: 3 years ago

    Has anyone found anything definite about this smell? In just the Last couple of days this smell has been noticeable in my bedroom. It’s freaking me out! HELP!!

  • toxcrusadr
    3 years ago

    Clearly from reading this thread there are numerous possible causes and the odor is probably not exactly the same for each one. Have you checked for all the things mentioned in the thread? We know nothing about your house or its conditions, or what you've already done. Other than that you're freaking out. Which I'm sorry about, don't get me wrong. :-]


    Post some more details please.

  • Melissa Kwasek
    3 years ago
    I found this thread while searching for the answer of why my leaking heating pipe valve has a strange sweet, syrup-like smell. I live in a condo (built 1970’s) with copper pipe/water baseboard heating. The one shut off valve in the bedroom is very old and crusty and has a slow drip. But, weirdly, smells sweet when it’s leaking more than usual. Because it’s exposed and it’s not in the walls or anything I know it’s the valve connected to the pipe making the smell. But why? Why would it smell sweet?
  • Melissa Kwasek
    3 years ago
    Sorry I forgot to mention in my above post that if other people are experiencing this sweet smell with a similar heating system then maybe this is also the source of their unidentified smell.
  • toxcrusadr
    3 years ago

    There is a boiler somewhere supplying heat to the baseboard radiators. The boiler water is most likely treated with anti-corrosion chemicals to help preserve the whole system. When that hot water leaks out it releases something to the air. That's probably what you're smelling. You might want to have that fixed soon, before it leaks really badly or you need to shut it off and can't.

  • emeraldgreen100
    3 years ago

    I have been having this same problem for months and its driving me crazy. I have a sickeningly sweet smell (sometimes faint, sometimes stronger) that is especially noticeable in my kitchen. I can smell it on the walls and door jambs when I sniff up close, even after having washed them down several times with various cleaning solutions. I had someone crawl under the house in the crawl space to see if something with a scent might have been dragged under there, but found nothing. No leaks either. I haven't had anyone up in the attic yet, but I don't have bats, and never seen a squirrel in my yard.

    I do have rats and mice sometimes under the house, but the smell isn't in all the rooms so I can't understand what it could possibly be. And I looked on the internet and it doesn't seem that rat urine smells sweet.

    Anyone who uncovered their sweet smell problem, please help!

  • HU-446322253
    3 years ago

    I am truly offendd that people find bees and honey combs gross. We need bees for our own survival. Of course we do not want them living in our house but they are wonderful beings, not gross!

  • SaltiDawg
    3 years ago

    Sorry you are offendd (sic) You are likely the only one to read this thread and feel offendd (sic) because bees in a wall may be viewed as a pest and do not view them as "wonderful beings. (Or is that beeings? )

  • toxcrusadr
    3 years ago

    I don't find them horrible and gross either.

  • SaltiDawg
    3 years ago

    Of course you wouldn't. lol

  • Jacqueline Roland
    3 years ago

    we have an old house. I took the room in the attic and this summer it got too hot to sleep up there. So I moved downstairs for a night. Went back up For some clothes this morning and noticed an old gross sweet smell. Not sure how to explain it. Doesn’t smell like honey or syrup. its not like something died. It isn’t unpleasant but it grosses me out, a little stinky mixed with sweet. the lady before had problems with mice. But I havent seen any. We have 3 cats that have found a way into the space between the attic floor/base level ceiling. This is due to the house being in the middle of a renovation that we don’t have the money for right now. So if there was anything in there it doesn't stand a chance. I haven’t noticed it before, only when we first moved in last summer. But it got cold fast and the smell wasn’t there anymore. I notice when I spend long amounts of time up here (like days- because I’m an online college student) i don’t notice the smell and I also don’t really feel myself, often oversleeping and feeling ill with headaches and dry sinuses in the morning. (No history of allergies) But for the first time I slept downstairs for a night and came back up In the attic and when I opened the door I immediately smelled it. I’m just worried that it’s a dangerous smell. Or that it’s Rats. its an Old attic. I would t say unfinished. But it’s old. They painted the floorboards without sanding, concrete walls? And not very good insulation. There are two tiny storage spaces in the attic one on the left side with a window seems to be nicer and more finished than the one to the right in the closet with no window that is completely bare (wood structure completely exposed) theyre pretty large sized rooms for storage but you can’t stand up in them. The smell seems to be coming from the one in the closet, worse when the window unit isn’t running on a hot day. But like I said when I spend enough time up here I don’t notice the smell at all. It’s only when i return after being out of the room for a day. the only way I can describe the smell is that its the way it smells when you walk into an antique shop, but the smell is mixed with a sickeningly sweet/rot smell. We got the house for practically nothing so I’m not too worried about making the wrong purchase decision, just worried about my health, bugs, feces/urine, and animals that shouldn’t be there.

  • toxcrusadr
    3 years ago

    It could be that some critter took up residence somewhere in the walls, roof etc. and left poop. I had racoons spend a winter in the attic of a small building once, and they left at least 10 gallons of dried poop up there that I had to shovel out (wearing a high quality filter mask!). The smell was musky, not really a poop smell like dog or human. You may have any kind of rodent in there: squirrels, mice, rats, bats, you name it. Or I could be full of...manure.

  • Lindsey Jones
    2 years ago

    My “new“ house (built in 1948) had a weird smell when I moved in. It was empty and closed up for some time while on the market. The smell was sweet-ish, just barely musty, and almost a little bit perfume like. As If someone wearing ‘vanilla fields’ had just walked through. Once we aired out and moved in, ran dehumidifier, figured it would go away. Nope. After a while, I narrowed it down to the kitchen, but on the ’empty’ side-away from drains or appliances, where my table and chairs go. the wall abuts the shower, which I had already torn down to beams, waterproofed and tiled and could not be the culprit. All winter, I was scrubbing and bleaching, sticking q-tips under baseboards, shining flashlight in cracks, cleaning basement ceiling under the kitchen, taking apart and cleaning air ducts from the furnace up. Couldn’t find the smell.

    one spring day, I noticed a crack in the door jamb where light was shining through. I started poking at it to see if a board or trim piece had come loose and I found that my screwdriver poked right through the wood at the bottom of the door frame. Someone had kindly painted over rotten wood about a dozen times to hide this feature of the house. I started digging and pulling back linoleum and found that this rotten doorframe had allowed water to seep into the subfloor about 2.5 feet back from the door and between the layers of plywood that I pulled out splinter by rotten splinter, were old/dead carpenter ants nest, and some gross pink and orange molds. Apparently (from my Internet research) the wood softens and rots, and the carpenter ants follow the path of the wet wood because it’s easy to munch on and build nests in. I cut a 2.5 x 5 foot section out of the subfloor before I got to dry/solid/untouched wood all around. That smell is now gone. Yay!!


    Another smell Ive learned from this house, is the smell of old composite siding with tarpaper and very old (probably original, circa 1947) plywood that has gotten wet. (Previous homeowners poured concrete ‘skirt‘ around the house to keep water away from foundation, but on one corner, poired the concrete above the bottom of the composite siding and allowed it to soak up the water from bottom up. (All found UNDER the Tyvek housewrap they covered it up with.) This has a chemically-sweet glue-like smell as well. Maybe from the glue used to press the plywood or composite siding together, or maybe from the old tarpaper.

    I am finding new smells every day...just hope you are able to find the cause of yours.

  • Paige Cone
    2 years ago

    Do you have radiators? I remember this smell from a classroom in my 100 yr old grade school and I just wiped down a dirty radiator in my apartment and the smell hit me like a ton of bricks. I was searching for how to get rid of this smell, because I fear once I've woken the beast I might be stuck with it. The smell in that classroom was still there when I visited 15 years later.

  • HU-880769628
    2 years ago

    Carpet beetle larvae has a terrible sweet smell like stale fabric softener it's disgusting I have been fighting these things for months they have eaten clothes got into my furniture you name . Good Luck Everyone

  • nirit29
    last year

    Is there an answer to this question??!! Someone found the reason for the sweet smell?

  • toxcrusadr
    last year

    There are a number of possibilities discussed in the thread. It could be any of them or something we haven't figured out yet. Every circumstance is going to be different.

  • laura_monahan_rial
    last year

    I just insulated some duct work and the brand new fiberglass smells like maple syrup. Is it possible theres a leak in the house and its getting into the insulation causing the smell to come out?

  • P Fox
    last year

    It might be pollen.

  • HU-314021466
    last year

    Had a similar problem. Marked by a fox. Their scent gives off a fruity sweet aroma. Check surrounding area for piss markings, in the attic and listen for sounds at around 3-5am, that’s when they come home to roost.

  • Alan Hinton
    last year

    I have flexible insulated a/c ductwork that the fiberglass got wet and I think that is my stinky sweet smell!

  • HU-246982829
    last year

    Look up something called urea-formaldehyde. It was used for insulation in the 1970s but then was banned.

  • toxcrusadr
    last year
    last modified: last year

    https://www.idi-insulation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Fact-Sheet-Fiberglass-Insulation-Sweet-Odor.pdf


    Owens Corning actually has a fact sheet about the sweet smell from their fiberglass insulation. It's a bio-based binder. I assume it's either used to glue the paper facing to the fiberglass, or it's sprayed on the fibers to keep the batt together. In any case it's not toxic at all. In fact the new stuff is formaldehyde-free, which is one reason they switched.


    https://www.jlconline.com/how-to/insulation/overbaked-fiberglass-batts-linked-to-odor-problem_o

  • Kannabis Katie
    last year

    My sister and I associate this sweet smell with dust. I have memories of when I first smelled this sweet, artificial grape like smell - it was behind the tv in the living room . I get whiffs of this smell throughout my life . It smells so GOOD. It’s almost addicting . I’ve been looking online for answers and I’m sad to see that someone has related on here 14 years ago, but still no answer .

  • Miss H.
    last year
    last modified: last year

    I finally discovered what the honey like smell is.... .

    We have a Hoya Carnosa plant and when it flowers (has clusters of tiny white flowers), which produce a sticky sap and it's that sap that makes the honey aroma in our house.


    It's not in bloom here, but anyway, I was pleased when finally I realised, what makes that aroma.

  • GiveMeThe70s
    last year

    It's funny that I found this thread...I have been getting this odor for months. I live in an apartment (pre-war) and at first thought it was mold from the myriad of leaks (and floods) we've had from the upstairs neighbor, but thankfully no mold.


    I have found evidence of mice and have gotten rid of 2. Where there are 2, there are more. I have 2 cats and a GSD so am very surprised, though not totally, since the mice probably travel behind furniture where none of my furbies can fit.


    My dog also gets 'corn chip feet' smell from the bacteria dogs tend to accumulate on their pads.


    Between that and the mice, and the advice I've found here, I think I've found the cause(s) of my sweet-vanilla-almost-pancake-like smells.

  • GiveMeThe70s
    last year

    Prudent to mention - if you encounter a smell that is reminiscent of walking into a fish market, you may have electronics that need serious attention - like leaking capacitors or even an overloaded outlet - and usually results from melting wiring insulation.

  • janice stanko
    10 months ago

    Have had the same smell like the above letters, but it was off and on. Except for this summer, and it stayed on! I live in a condo and they sent a repairman who noticed, like me, that it was on and off. We took off a switchplate cover which backs up to the outside wall on my front entry, and the smell hit us full strength. The repairman took off the stucco board, the blue foam insulation and the pink insulation. On the wallboard, the paper backing of the insulation had left oily residue and that is what was smelling. The problem is, we can still smell it even after removing the above. The repairman thinks it is off gassing of the insulation. He's probably right but now what? Right now, I told him not to repair it right away as maybe some of it will air out. I can still smell it, but fainter. At some point he will have to complete the repairs and we're both worried that I will still have that smell. Wallboard is porous so maybe it got into that , but I can't start tearing apart walls!

    And why now after living here for 9 years?

  • toxcrusadr
    10 months ago

    The paper backing of fiberglass batts is stuck onto the fiberglass using a type of glue. That glue is probably decomposing after years of heating and cooling. It was not oily when the insulation was installed.


    Since heat rises, buildings have a 'chimney' effect, the pressure is lower inside compared to outside, and air is pulled in wherever it can leak in. Other than venting the outside walls to the outside - which is not practical for several reasons - there is not much you can do to actually get rid of the vapor.


    But...You could put those foam insulators under all of your switch plates and outlet plates. They are supposed to seal up the opening in the wall to stop cold drafts but they will also stop whatever comes in with the draft. :-] Easy to install but for max safety you have to turn the power off to each circuit as you install them. Only outside walls though, walls between rooms are not insulated.




  • Leah Naomi Gonzales
    8 months ago

    Could if be formaldehyde in the building materials? Perhaps in rotting or older materials? Just a random guess. I'm not even sure what formaldehyde smells