Monday, November 28, 2016

How not to cause grief when altering the smell of things.

This primer, (you will get the joke later) is for people who enjoy the fragrant smells of things like essential oils, marijuana, it's mask incense and all sort of things we spray, diffuse or burn to make our homes or ourselves smell better than burnt popcorn or diapers.

First, there is no better air freshener than cleanliness. A little  ammonia, bleach (although never together) or possibly some baking and your house will smell pleasant and clean.

When I walk into a property and I smell anything else, I am on full alert!

What is wrong with scented candles or air fresheners? In a word, lots. Odor masking is a fanatical activity in our society, drag a dog turd in on your shoe or drop your hockey bag in the closet and people immediately break out the heavy artillery. Smoke  dope and then try to mask it with scented incense and problems lingers in a different form.

Our olfactory senses are out most easily fatigued, they get used to bad smells quicker than we get used to, say, not being able to see in the dark or living beside a train track. Things that smell bad to some don't bother those frequently exposed, which in large part is why people are able to work in hog barns to make bacon.

As a kid I grew up in the smelly end of Edmonton, my neighborhood, was downwind of the Stock Yards, Canada Packers, Gainers, Swifts, Burns, Alsask Processors and the Edmonton rendering plant.  We kids knew what kind of critters had walked the stairway to heaven by the way the air smelled. Tuesday was the worse as that was hog butchering day at Swifts. The rendering plant, which boiled dead horses to make soap and leather, always had it's own unique smell depending on the age of the corpses. The stock yards, used to haul manure about once a month and that day was always putrid, even by our own rather low clean air standards.

What we learned, however, was to live with it. Being kids of parents who couldn't afford to live anywhere else, what choice did we have?

We did not have NIMBY committees complaining about the smell since most of the Dads in our encampment worked in one of the aforementioned plants. Except mine, he was a bus driver.

The point is we got used to it, my uncle the lawyer moved away as soon as his legal practice allowed and their new house in the south always smelled fresh and clean.

Smell was thusly considered, a fact of life.

To today:

When I enter a property and I smell anything super scented  I always wonder what is being covered up here?  And I  add sourcing the smell to my list.

A backed up sewer is easy to smell, as is excessive marijuana or tobacco use, so is a lack of proper ventilation. Often the best way to make a home smell better is to clean it and open the windows.  Heavy scents seldom achieve their desired outcome. Mildew, dirty laundry, full garbage cans and unclean fridges all contribute to bad smells. Dogs, cats, babies, teens and men in general contribute as well. Women usually smell pretty good so I give them a free pass on creating bad smells, I don't however, give them a pass on creating pleasant masking smells.

Here is how your air freshener works:

The common ingredient in ALL air fresheners is some kind of oil and it does not matter which kind of oil because they all do the same thing.  The oil is usually diffused by heat in a candle or other heating appliance and diffuses itself by air movement throughout the space. Spray air fresheners also contain oil that is diffused by a propellant when you press the spray button. In either case the same things happens:

The minute particles of oil,  ultimately, being heavier than air collect on surfaces where they  leave behind an oily residue, often so fine you can't even tell.

Try to repaint:

The most popular  paint is latex which is water based and as you know from science class; oil is lighter than water and tends to float to the top. The result for your walls is that when you repaint, the latex cannot make good contact with the surface as the oil on the wall is trying to stay on top. 

You might recall that it is very hard to paint latex over oil (alkyd) paint for this very reason. There is a lot of chemistry involved in paint making so likely there are those who won't agree about this.

People don't like oil paint because of the way it smells and that you need turps to clean it up, yet it's ideal for repainting a wall that has oil paint on it already. But then unless you painted that wall yourself last time, how would you ever know what kind of paint is on it? In practical terms you can't be sure.

So use a  primer and take advantage of it's ability to dry on any surface and create a firm base for oil or latex top coats. 

The poorer the surface adhesion is, (the more oil present) the heavier the primer  needs to be and you will still run into trouble if you are not judicious in how you apply the primer.

The best solution? There are many, all really involving removing the oil from the surface. Finger prints or your dog rubbing on the wall also contribute to the problem. I have had great success washing walls with  Tri sodium phosphate.  In fact any time I have not pre-washed a repaint job I have regretted it. Ammonia can be used but it's very harsh and like TSP MUST be rinsed off. Ammonia is an urea (cow pee) derived product that has remarkable properties. Any time you see a cleaning product labelled "with ammonia"  save your money and  just buy the ammonia. DO NOT SNIFF IT, you'll learn why not about 2 seconds after you do.

Bleach will kill mould, ammonia  and TSP won't, but as a base solution for eliminating bad, or good smell residue TSP cannot be beaten.  Use it before you paint wash and rinse your walls then apply a proper primer and buy good paint.  This is the best way to combat the olfactory war being fought on your walls between the competing interests of oil and a new paint job.

I have seen places that were so perfumed with scented candles that the new paint would not stick to the wall at all or where it did you could knock it off with a fingernail. It's very disheartening to go to all the trouble of painting only to find out that your paint won't stick.  We used to  find this to be a universal problem in kitchens and bathrooms because of the grease and oil loads in those rooms,  thanks to the use of scented candle air fresheners and such  we have successfully made this a problem for the whole house.

And the house inspector asks: What are they trying to hide?

There was a recent civil lawsuit in the United States involving a homeowner suing an inspector for not reporting that the previous owner smoked, the homeowner lost.  It however a clue when you get a highly scented home that the owner is trying to mask something.  Fresh air is the best, no matter how many "spring time fresh" dryer sheets I use , my laundry always smells better when it's dried outside, now anyway. When I was a kid, not so much.

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