Edited by skillina - 10/17/13 at 3:08pm
Oh, I feel so sorry for you! I'm extremely sensitive to chemicals and fragrances, so I totally feel your pain. I don't know anything about air purifiers (filters? ionizers?) but maybe you could look into that? The baking soda and vinegar is a good idea...but I know how strong those smells can be. They're hard to cover up! I don't think there's legally anything you can do to make them stop.
On another note, single family homes are not immune to this either. Depending on how close your neighbors are, fumes from drier exhaust and stuff like that can be a huge issue as well. Probably better than where you are now, though.
I'm not sure what you mean by air vents...kitchen, bathroom, furnace, AC, or other? Anything you can block off or re-route? What air systems are you sharing with your neighbor?
I'd also look at the walls where pipes and outlets go in...some of it may be coming from there. Tape or insulating foam or outlet gaskets might help. Also, weatherstripping around and under your door if you share a hallway. (Assuming those items don't have bothersome chemicals themselves.)
I'd think about air flow too...try to bring in fresh air with fans and get it moving toward your neighbor, if you can, rather than from your neighbor to you.
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Is it possible to tell whether they're coming from all your air vents, or just a few of them? It may be it's mainly 1 or 2 and you might be able to block them somewhat.
I think opening a window and turning a fan on for 15-20 minutes may be the best solution, aside from an air purifier (which may or may not work - I've sometimes find they don't do really great with odors).
I believe there are also filters you can get for air vents, yes?? I believe I've seen them before. Regardless of whether they actually work over your vents, you might be able to rig them up with tape and that may help minimize the odors/chemicals.
I've run into this one before too! What I did: got a hold of blueprints of the building to check vent systems. Initially, they denied that there was any central venting, but when I looked I saw that some of it crossed over. I got those black filters (just a couple of bucks) like what might be on an AC intake and lined the vents with them. Then, I found out that some of the residents were using the dryer vents inside (which was worse than outside venting in terms of chemical issue) for winter heat. In the summer I often had to shut the windows when I started to smell dryer sheets to prevent the headaches. If you have dropped ceilings...sometimes the offender chem is coming from above, and me? I'd move over that, since the blocking would be a nightmare. Check bathroom fans also--sometimes they duct out the same path and if they are on the same one, then if they are both off...well, you know the drill. We just covered ours up with tape and an old piece of shower curtain liner cushioned with leftover black filter stuff. I can handle the smell of our household sh-- more than I can handle the neighbor's chem sh--
Check holes in the back of your bathroom and kitchen cabinets too...sometimes a little fill in there helps tremendously. Could she be using glade plug-ins? Like, on the opposing outlet from yours? A little air crosses over there, too.
Do you have a fireplace? Is the dryer vent in line with the chimney? That would suck.
Gosh, I hope you all don't have basements. That would be really rough.
A really, really, nice air purifier (runs around 600) will usually do the trick, and my highly allergic family members could hang out in our home without too much difficulty despite Ms. Fancy Perfume and Miss Yankee Candle and Mr. Drakkar and the stepford woman with 100 cleaning products down the hall. And the cat next door. And the row of ladies with big huge bouquets of mfing lilies during Easter. They were trying to kill me, I'm sure of it. Some woman was also sprinkling vacuum powder in the hallway to "cut down on the mildewy smell"...which was there because the air in the hallway never.freaking.moved.
We used face masks once a week when I finally figured out that the 8 hour stench in the hallway was the perfume of the home health aide that came to a woman down the hall on Tuesdays. That crap was making coming home miserable and there was really nothing that could be done...even after I left a very kind note on all the doors about needing information on a mystery smell beginning at 9 am and lingering throughout the day and please call with any info to help avoid asthma attacks (okay, a little white lie, but still!!!)
A bowl of vinegar on the counter will cut down on odors, but won't do a whole lot for the chem stuff.
Check shared walls and closets...sometimes folks like to douse it on in their rooms, etc., and then the crap comes right through the closet areas because the walls are not all that insulated (and sometimes even a bit open to each other...yikes!)
And then, you could always tell the neighbor that there is no need to use such methods to cover up the fact that she smokes pot. You won't call her in.....Ironically, that was my one neighbor-smell that didn't make me want to vomit.
When you get the single-family home, get one in the boonies (like, no ticky-tacky) so that you can be at least an acre or so away from a neighboring house. The dryer sheets. Yeah. Just point the big fan towards it and it seems to help a lot.
I totally feel for you. We live in a camper now. It's quite nice. We just move it if things are nasty. Like campfires. ugh.
You have my sympathies. Perfume smells(body care products AND cleaning products) give me a headache as well. I had to outlaw scented fragrances in my home with my girls unless they are essential oil based. Anything synthetic makes me ill. I hold my breath walking through the mall. And it's near impossible for me to sit near anyone with a perfume on in a restaurant or whatever. Thankfully there's separate ductwork and concrete walls between my house and my neighbor's house.
One thing you might want to look into, is activated carbon air fliters. I am not sure if they specifically trap phthalates (which is what causes fragrance smells). I tried googling it briefly and saw that activated carbon will trap phthalates for drinking water.....didn't get so far as to see about air. BUT, if anything will, it's activated carbon. Carbon traps VOC's in the air from things like paint and carpets (like a freshly painted house). What you are experiencing would be phthalates for the fragrance. If it's pinesol, or bathroom cleaner, it could be VOC's too.
If you have central heat and A/C, controlled by a thermostat, those units take a filter that you are supposed to change every 3-6 months-ish. You can go to Home Depot and instead of buying the typical filter, buy an activated carbon filter. Ask someone there, they should know what it is. Activated Carbon filter for an HVAC system. Normally they are labelled to get rid of smoke and pet odors. Don't bother with the fancy Filtrete or HEPA stuff....get activated carbon. Then you'll need to figure out how to get that filter in. You can probably google it, if you don't already know. Normally you take your dirty filter into home depot so you know the size you need. In this house, the carbon filters didn't really slide into our HVAC, so hubby somehow stapled it up so the air going into the system passes through it.
The other alternative, or you can do this too, is to buy an actual stand alone air filter that contains activated carbon. I have looked for them, and they are pricey, like $300-$600. It will probably have a HEPA too, but that isn't really the key here. The carbon is what traps those smells/chemicals. I can't recall brands, but you can google it.
One other idea, is you could buy your neighbor some cleaning supplies. Buy them a bottle of fabric softener and a box of dryer sheets they sell at Whole Foods....7th Generation...that have some kind of scent like lavendar. I wouldn't buy them unscented, they prob wouldn't use it. Smell it first, and see what best matches whatever they are using (if it's floral, piney, etc). You could just give them one or two items (the fabric softener is always the worst so go with that as one), and say that you don't want to inconveinence them at all because of your sensitivities, but since the smell comes into your home and bothers you, you thought you would buy them something, and if they want to use them, great, if not, take them anyways (and hand them to them, don't ask and let them say no). Maybe if they are sitting there, they will try them next time they do laundry. Find stuff that's an easy replacement, not something really complicated to use.
If you notice they do use them, then later on, offer to keep buying them for them when they run out, very nicely. Tell them you don't mind the cost, you just want to do something that will make life easier on both of you. (maybe you do mind the cost....I would...but it's cheaper than suffering all the time or buying a really pricey stand alone filter. The HVAC filters are pretty cheap though, so do that).
Like I said, in my experience, it's the laundry chemicals, esp softeners and dryer sheets, that smell the worst and travel the furthest and just linger, because that is what they were designed to do. For PineSol, there are some good alternatives there too....just whatever you buy them, make sure the packaging is attractive/flashy and it smells like something at least. GOOD LUCK
ps---if you buy one of those carbon HVAC filters from Home Depot I mentioned (they are flat-ish large squares about an inch thick), you could possibly just tape it up anywhere the air is coming in from.....as long as you feel it isn't blocking airflow in some kind of dangerous way, but don't see why it would. It may look kind of ugly, if you duct tape it over a ceiling vent, but oh well...... I would tape them up where-ever the air's coming in from, AND put one in my H-VAC system for when my A/C circulates air around the house.
Honestly, if you are that sensitive then you should move to a single family home. It is not realistic to expect to dictate to your neighbors what perfume they can wear, cleaning supplies they can use and their laundry supplies. It sucks, but you are the one with the problem, not your neighbors.
Ha, I just noticed lanamommyphd mentioned black filters to put inside vents.....that is probably activated carbon. Cool. I didn't read the replies thoroughly before responding. That is probably exactly what I was mentioning....HVAC, AC intake, same thing. Carbon filters are supposedly the greatest thing ever, and trap stuff HEPA just can't get, because they work in a different way (not as a physical barrier but chemically?). Same concept with water filtration.
In a way, it's neither your neighbor's fault (that is probably why they feel they shouldn't be penalized for it by having to cut back on their cleaning products) nor your fault for being sensitive to fragrances and/or not wanting someone else's air in your place....it's the fault of whatever genius designed the place. If it is coming in through vents....is it coming in from neighbor's inside-to-outside air-to-your inside, or some kind of inside-to-inside setup? If it's the latter, maybe a contractor could re-route the venting (though that could be costly?) or put a carbon filter in a place you can't get to.....or you can just put it right by your vent.