So, on Monday, I came home to my apartment* and there was as best defined as an old cooked broccoli smell coming from my bedroom. Please note that no broccoli was cooked in the house for a couple weeks. I can’t seem to figure out where the smell is coming from in my bedroom. My bed, small rug (the floor is hardwood or that false hardwood stuff), and clothes all smell fine. There doesn’t seem to be any source to the smell. There is no mold in the room that I can see. I checked in the closet and around the window sill, the walls and ceiling etc. There is discoloration on the ceiling, but it is dry. So, I don’t think it is the source. (My friend also has discoloration on her ceiling and her room smells fine.) The smell is only in my bedroom. Airing out the room doesn’t work. The source is in the room.
Your thoughts would be appreciated,
But I don’t cook in the bedroom
Well, I have good news and I have bad news. You’ve done all the right things to determine the source of the odor.
*The original email didn’t mention an apartment at all.
You can do everything right, run the vent / hood while cooking, wipe down your cabinetry to get rid of kitchen grease, change your air filters frequently and still, if you live in an apartment, you’re at the mercy of other people’s cooking habits.
Close neighbors and intrusive cooking odors are a pretty common problem, especially if there are different cultural backgrounds involved. Some people love the pungent odor of curry, smell it, and are reminded of home and family, but to others it smells like the end of an evening with a few too many pints and the ensuing hangover.
People are sensitive, and justifiably so, about their cooking preferences. As amusing as passive aggressive notes can be on the Internet, they really aren’t a good choice in the “real” world.
I would approach this issue through your landlord. In some places strong cooking odors can be seen as intruding on the peace of a neighboring tenant, but it varies state to state. Check your lease. Please keep in mind that if there is no odor addendum in the lease, the landlord may not have a lot of recourse and in the case of foods from another culture causing an issue, it’s easy to be construed as discriminatory.
The solution may be as simple as the landlord requesting that the broccoli loving neighbor use the hood over the stove when cooking. If you allow the landlord to handle the issue, you reduce the need for confrontation between you and your neighbor.
How easily drifting cooking odors can be prevented depends on many things, the age of the building and the type of ventilation it has and the willingness of the offending chef to follow best practices.
You could mitigate the odor by choosing to cover it with something you prefer, coffee grounds in shallow dish for example. I do not recommend using plugin room fragrances or scented candles to cover up the issue. The longterm effects are still being investigated and until they are definitively ruled as not harmful, I don’t feel comfortable recommending.
While essential oils can be useful to cover up smells be careful what you choose. If you decide that you’d rather smell peppermint or eucalyptus, it could be a good solution, but essential oils are not regulated. You need to do your research to make sure you’re buying what the label claims and not the equivalent of a cheap scented candle.
Air purifiers are another possible solution, but their efficacy varies wildly and the models are quite an investment. If you choose to go the air purifier route you also need to do your homework. Since your main concern is eliminating odors and not allergy triggers like pollen, you’ll need to choose an air purifier with multiple filter types, yours should have an activated charcoal filter. The activated charcoal adsorbs (not a typo) molecules that we tend to perceive as stinky.
*IMPORTANT* Know the square footage of your living space before attempting to choose an air purifier. You also need to keep more than the initial investment in mind; air purifiers need to have their filters changed frequently and their energy use varies by model.
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