New home came with lingering odors. Help

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I just moved into a 10 year old townhouse. I found out from my home inspector that the previous owners were very untidy people. They hardly ever cleaned (I'm guessing they didn't at all) and they never changed the furnace air filter in the 5 year they owned the place (the thing looked like a giant dust ball). The vent fan in the master bathroom was broken, but my home inspector said he saw no signs of mold or mildew in the bathroom. The fan was replaced. There were lots of other little problems and a few major ones (garage door was rotting and sliding door seal broken and moisture got in).
The previous owners must have been using an air freshener (I think they had scented candles) because the moment I stepped into the door after they moved out I smelled a strange musty smell throughout the whole house. It's kind of hard to explain, kind of an "old dingy closet" smell. In addition the bathrooms had a "soap" smell to them, most likely because of all the soap scum on the tub. The water in the place has a mild taste/odor to it but not bad enough to explain what I'm smelling in the whole house.
The first night there I noticed my nose started to get stuffed up and my snot was slightly bloody. Over the next few days I've started coughing a lot and have had a runny nose. Today I feel somewhat weak as if I have a cold or flu (though I'm not coughing as much). Getting sick might have been a coincidence or due to stress, but I'm beginning to doubt that.
The previous owners had a tiny little dog (it didn't seem to smell) and a baby so I had the carpets steam cleaned with a truck mounted device. They put down deodorizer and use detergent and hot water. They did not use any sanitizing agent such as bleach or the like. Even after doing some areas twice the carpet was still discolored. I was told it was worn out and that it would have to be replaced.
I then had a cleaning service come in and do a rather thorough job of cleaning the place. They didn't wash down the walls or ceiling though.
Finally I spray Fabreese all over the house.
The smell went away (or was masked) for about a day and then returned. It seems worse in certain places like the master bedroom closet (there's a panel in there going somewhere, not sure where), one of the guest bedrooms and the storage closet in the finished basement (which raps around under the stairs and is partialy carpetted). The stairway down to the basement also smells, but that smells more like motor oil since the door to the garage is halfway down the stairs. The basement has carpetting and a "cardboard" tile ceiling (like you see in office buildings). I saw no sign of water damage at all, but the place was very dirty and the air intake vents were filthy.
Yesterday there was a damp dank smell to the place which seemed strongest in the basement and the master bedroom closet. It went away partially after opening all the windows and letting the house temperature go down to about 50 degrees F. I also left one window open last night.
I was told I can spray diluted bleach on everything, but that sounds drastic and has a potential to damage things. I've also been told I should get an allergenic (carbon) air filter for the furnace and to just run the fan.
My question is what can I do to get rid of these odor(s)?
Should I have my ducts cleaned out since the previous owner never changed the air filter?
Any ideas?
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Morac, I feel your pain. I have a bloodhound nose and any type of smell can really affect my mood quite a bit. You definitely need to replace your carpet and the padding. I'm sure that will improve your situation quite a bit. Clean the walls and repaint - that would help too. After the old carpet is removed, you may notice damp areas or mold, I don't know. Time to bleach that old floor. If the previous owners were untidy, that's already a negative. Having a pet is a double dose of the problem. As you already found out, carpet steaming will not help your situation at all. After doing all these which will cost you $$, you may want to invest in a whole house air cleaner system that would installed near the air filter.
Don't worry, take it one step at a time :-) Congratulations on your new home. Once all this work is done, you'll be alright.

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Morac wrote:

<SNIP>
I'm very sorry to say that I think you are in for a "problem house". You may be particularly sensitive to allergens and/or toxic products given off by molds. It's quite possible the previous owners were not sensitive to it and lived happily there.
The "musty" odor is a tip-off to underlying problems. Always an indicator of moisture problems. Tracking down the source is not easy. But the fact that you have localized it to the closet area may be a big help. Start doing detective work. You may have to open walls up to find the problem. Spraying bleach around willy-nilly is not the answer and may compound your sensitivity.
Most insurers have dropped mold coverage, but it may be worth asking.
The molds produce what are called mycotoxins. It is these which can produce severe health problems, not unlike what you have experienced. There is a wealth of info on the 'Net on the subject. Do this search to begin your research: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=mycotoxin
There are home test kits and there are commercial inspection services which may help. Do a search for "mold remediation" or similar.
Not all molds are the dreaded "black mold", but its effects are serious. To find out about this strain, go here: http://www.thefairways.com/index.htm
Here's one (commercial) site with some good tips: http://www.moldcheck.com/MoldCleanUp.asp
Take your time. Don't rush into a hasty "fix". Do the detective work and the research.
Jim
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If you are still sick see a doctor they can test your blood for mold exposure. Musty smell sounds like mold. Did you just buy it. You need someone else to take a look, a Pro. Im sure your ducts and furnace should be looked at . Well , home inspectors carry insurance for a reason. Talk to your broker. Bleach will kill mold but first you have to find it, and stop the leak giving it life.
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Lift up your carpets, have your ducts cleaned, and paint the walls are my suggestions in addition to what everyone else said.

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Thinking more , You have a legal issue, A health issue. A life issue , A liveability issue, which might , with bloody nose mean Mold Poisioning ...and seller deception and inspector incompetance. Carpert removal, probably wont do it , Mold smell as you described it , is internal , and the inspector , you paid Screwed up , not finding it.. Get to a doctor, get tested for mold in blood. Get the city inspectors out. They are Free and unbiased. You Just bought it ....... You have Rights if you act NOW ,, Procrasonate U loose .
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The best thing to do tomorrow is go see an independant Real Estate Atty. For advise
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Reminds me of my house when I bought it. It didn't smell so bad when I was looking at it, but when I moved in - Whoa! I found that they left their dog inside and it pissed all over the place. I ripped up the carpet to find it stained the oak floor under it. Then came the fleas I was getting attacked. My ankles were getting bit up and I couldn't sleep. I pitched a fit and made the previous owners pay to have the place sprayed.
After scrubbing and new carpeting I got the smell under control. John

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(Sorry, I can't seem to pull up he original post...)

On the other side of the wall from that "panel" - your bathroom by any chance? (and probably specifically your tub/shower?)

Wetness. Would you recognize sewer gas if you smelt it? But that's not necessarily it. Rain much in your town? If so, you might have a big old roof leak around a vent stack and be catching a lot of outside water making its way down into the house and eventually mildewing. Or it could be the fixtures in that bathtub leaking bend the wall. You might want to start by pulling that mystery panel and having a look/smell.
Beyond that? Babies don't leave smells like that, neither do most pets. Pull some registers and eyeball some ductwork. If they're full of crud or wet, then you've got a possible solution.
Daring to speak for the newsgroup: please let us know what you come up with.
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Is that from Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie? --------------------------------------------------------

This house had a musty smell when we moved in and there was a damp area on the living room carpet. My husband checked out the crawl space in the basement and it was loaded with grungy old carpeting. He dumped it and cleaned the space and then put in a plastic liner. No more problem. He also changed the dry venting from into the basement to outside.
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Move , give it up, for free
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Actually yes, the other side is a bathroom where the broken venting fan was. I'm guessing that's where the shutoff valve is. I'll look inside when I get a chance. BTW even with a new venting fan, it doesn't seem to vent very well. After showering the room stayed humid for quite a while. Very strange for a fan that is so noisy.

I'm quite sure it isn't sewer gas and it hasn't rained for a few days. I didn't really smell it today, but then my nose is kind of stuffed up. I did take a cold tablet which helped and I still didn't smell anything. It's also gotten much colder (going down to below freezing at night). With winter coming, it may be hard to find the source since the humidity tends to go down a lot and odors are harder to detect when its cold. I also ran the central fan 24/7 today. I'm hoping maybe it will go away on its own over the winter, but I'm not holding my breath.
I'm going away for a few days. If my cold is related to the house it should go away or diminish, if it doesn't than it could just be a cold (though I suppose it could still be stress and its been a very stressful week). I may also just be alergic to dust (the place was just cleaned and had tons of dust).
BTW the odor (when I smell it) isn't overpowering and I don't consider it overly offensive, but it definately shouldn't be there.
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Get some unbiased advise , city permit , health dept , etc.
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I would be super pissed off with the inspector.
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Colds go away in 7 to 10 days whether you treat them or not. Therefore, if you leave and your cold goes away it means nothing. On the other hand, it you stay and it never goes away you are probably having an allergic reaction.
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You a troll Bitch , I checked you out , Bitch
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This vaguely sounds like an outrageous post I remember reading here about 3 years ago. I thought I (no pun intended) smelled a rat.

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On Thu, 23 Oct 2003 19:08:34 -0500 (CDT), snipped-for-privacy@webtv.net (mark Ransley) wrote:

What tipped this clown over the edge? ctrl-K, permanent
...Jim Thompson
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| James E.Thompson, P.E. | mens |
| Analog Innovations, Inc. | et |
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When I bought my house a year ago, the garage had a horrible dog / cat urine smell. I got a couple of Gonzo Odor Eliminator's http://www.gonzocorp.com/odor.htm from Home Depot. They are about $8 a piece but they last a month or so and when they wear down, you just put them outside in the sunlight for a while & they recharge themselves. Honestly you won't believe how well they work.

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Just use laquer thinner.Get 5gallons and mop the place down. Ceilings ,walls,floors, windows. Get a small container filled with vinigar and set it inside the return air vent. Turn the fan onbefor you use the thinner. Open all doors and windows.
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