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Old 05-15-2011, 08:26 PM   #1
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Red face Help! Our '71 Overlander Smells!

We bought a '71 Overlander on Craigslist 2 years ago. It was in excellent condition & was obviously well cared for over the years. Right away, we noticed a strange smell (a smell I've NEVER smelled before) that seems to have permeated the entire Airstream. It's not a rotten smell (like a dead mouse or animal); it's not a toilet/human waste-type smell; it's not a mildew or mold smell. It's just a yucky noxious smell that sticks to clothing, hair, etc.

I use the Airstream as an office/guest room. It is heated in the winter. We do not use the propane stove or heater--so it's not a propane smell.

I tried to get rid of the smell by pulling out the old carpeting, cleaning the walls and cabinets. I tried a mold-sealer on the walls (just in case it was mold). The smell was a little better after all of this--but not much better. I am seriously thinking of getting rid of the trailer because I am concerned the out-gassing (or whatever it is) could be a health risk.

Help! Has anyone else out there encountered anything like this? Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 05-15-2011, 08:32 PM   #2
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Firstly, welcome to the forums.....have you replaced the foam, upholstery and curtains?
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Old 05-15-2011, 08:51 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum!

Are you exchanging the air in the trailer or just letting it set closed all the time. A little ventilation may help.
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Old 05-15-2011, 08:56 PM   #4
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Well this is way left field, but check the battery! We had the same problem only to discover that a faulty converter was boiling out our batteries.

Once that was solved, and a year later, some lingering smells were finally pin pointed during renovations... Floor under both beds had mildew from too many leaks.

Good luck... Let us know what you discover.
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Old 05-15-2011, 09:10 PM   #5
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I've had two 70's units and they both had the exact same distinct odor. From working on the shell I have discovered that it is the odor of the Vulkem sealer used to seal the shell seams and all the openings in the trailer. While cleaning off old sealer with a wire brush attachment on a drill the smell became quite strong. It permeates anything porous like fabrics, carpet, upholstery foam and the insulation in the walls. Good ventilation is the only way to minimize the effect.
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Old 05-15-2011, 09:13 PM   #6
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Welcome to the forums! I don't know of any old Airstreams that haven't had a complete restoration that don't stink a little. The only way to get rid of it completely is to do a complete shell off restoration replacing all of the insulation, flooring, cushions and textiles. Short of that, some good cleaning, air fresheners, candles, and proper fresh air exchange can make it bearable. There is just too much stink, mold, rotting wood floor, insulation that is holding all these smell in there for it to go away completely. The cool, wet climate in Oregon won't help it any either.
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Old 05-15-2011, 09:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wasagachris View Post
I've had two 70's units and they both had the exact same distinct odor..
I noticed this in my 73 too. This trailer was parked in one location most of the time. In warm weather I always left a vent just open and a window barely open. That made it better.
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Old 05-15-2011, 09:58 PM   #8
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I looked at a couple Airstream trailers before I bought mine. They both smelled like the inside of swamp boy's water boot. My current trailer had a neglect odor. When I removed the drapes, the sofas, the beds, the cabinets, the countertops, the plumbing, the fixtures, the air conditioner, the furnace, the water heater, the cooking stove, the closets, the bathroom walls, the other walls, the floor covering, washed the inside skin with TSP, and painted the wood floor with Kilz Original, the neglect odor went away. Sort of like a miracle:-)
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Old 05-15-2011, 10:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Splitrock View Post
I looked at a couple Airstream trailers before I bought mine. They both smelled like the inside of swamp boy's water boot. My current trailer had a neglect odor. When I removed the drapes, the sofas, the beds, the cabinets, the countertops, the plumbing, the fixtures, the air conditioner, the furnace, the water heater, the cooking stove, the closets, the bathroom walls, the other walls, the floor covering, washed the inside skin with TSP, and painted the wood floor with Kilz Original, the neglect odor went away. Sort of like a miracle:-)

LOLROTF - What didn't you remove!!!!!! Quite frankly if its that's bad IMHO it's in the walls and at the very least the original poster is going to have to remove the interior walls....
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Old 05-15-2011, 11:30 PM   #10
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See if you know some one, or even purchace your self a PEAK 0-3 AIR PURIFIER...hotels and hospitals use them and they 'IONIZE' the air and kill dust and bacteria. leaves the room smelling oxygenated, be sure to let the treated room (or your Airstream) air out for a short bit. These machines are loved and admired by some, and bring critical remarks from others. They cost new - about 225.00 and there are two glass like plates that slide in and out for easy cleaning and re- use. Cherrywood cabinetry ...Good luck with the cleaning.
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Old 05-16-2011, 12:14 AM   #11
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Thanks for all the info about my smelly Overlander!

Thank you all so much for your input on the "mystery smell" in our '71 Overlander. To answer your questions...yes, we got rid of the (smelly) curtains, upholstery, and foam, as well as the carpet--soon after buying the Airstream. They reeked of the mystery smell.

We are not using a battery--so it's not a battery smell...and it's not mildew--i have a good nose for mildew. My husband was wondering if it's the vinyl wall covering that might be causing the odor. He said it could be breaking down with age and causing the smell.

wasagachris said that it might be the Vulkem sealant. Yikes! My husband and I are going to investigate the seams of the trailer tomorrow in the light of day, and see if we can find some sealant to do a "smell test." If it is the old sealer that's causing the odor--does anyone know if it is toxic to breathe? (Note: it doesn't have a 'chemically' smell--just a gross, yukky smell.)

Another person mentioned getting an air purifier--thanks. I am using an Ionic Breeze and I do think that helps a lot. The trailer is mostly closed up in the winter but I usually keep a window cracked for ventilation. Now it's warming up finally in Oregon, so I can really air it out.

So now I'm just wondering if my trailer is poisoning me...When I nap in it, I think I'll sleep with the window open. : ) Thanks everybody for all of your help!!!
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Old 05-16-2011, 05:38 AM   #12
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My '82 had a funnny smell when I bought it. After removing all the couches, curtains, flooring, etc i found minor leaks behind/around the refrigerator that had gon unchecked for quite some time. I fixed that and othe leaks, cleaned it out, and it is much better. I also keep a dehumidifier (with t-stat and auto pump) in the AS when it is not being used. This really seems to help.
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Old 05-16-2011, 06:14 AM   #13
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We did a tear out because we want a new interior. I think a lot of the smell came from a loose toilet to floor flange connection which saturated the floor under the floor covering. The connection of the vent line to the black tank was also very loose.

Someone before us had removed carpet and painted accessible floor with Kilz to no avail.

Jim
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Old 05-16-2011, 06:17 AM   #14
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Wink Vulkem toxic?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wasagachris View Post
From working on the shell I have discovered that it is the odor of the Vulkem sealer used to seal the shell seams and all the openings in the trailer.
Yes Chris et al, Vulkem stinks. It isn't the usual solvent type smell, but a more subtle long lasting odor. I doubt that the smell of VULKEM 116 or TREMPRO 636 is in any way toxic. That is why I prefer Sikaflex 221 or 3M 540 polyurethane sealant. Just the smell
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Old 05-16-2011, 06:42 AM   #15
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overcoming old smells

Here's a tip that actually works for us and has worked for me in the past with rebuilding old cars... go to the store and purchase some Irish Spring soap (I sure the Irish Green) cut the top out of the soap boxes and place the opened soap boxes around in several locations. I will give you a pleasant smell thru-out the unit and when the aroma is gone, just use the soap for bathing...and replace with more as needed...cheap and effective..
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Old 05-16-2011, 08:15 AM   #16
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Thanks everybody for your suggestions... @wasagachris, I read the Vulkem product info. This is from the info you sent: "Keep
container closed when not in use. Since emptied containers retain product residue and vapor, observe
precautions even after container is emptied"
(I'm no chemist...but doesn't that suggest that the dried sealant could still be omitting toxic vapor?)
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Old 05-16-2011, 04:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zilpha View Post
Thanks everybody for your suggestions... @wasagachris, I read the Vulkem product info. This is from the info you sent: "Keep
container closed when not in use. Since emptied containers retain product residue and vapor, observe
precautions even after container is emptied"
(I'm no chemist...but doesn't that suggest that the dried sealant could still be omitting toxic vapor?)
Emitting vapors, yes. But toxic I doubt. There are workers at Airstream that use the stuff every day. I doubt that any studies have been done on the long term healt effects of Vulkem exposure.
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Old 05-16-2011, 05:06 PM   #18
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Like the old joke about the guy who had to get rid of skunks under the porch so he puts lutefisk under there and now he can't get rid of the Norwegians.
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Old 05-16-2011, 06:03 PM   #19
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Try your local Dollar store - look for VOLCANIC ASH odor eliminator packs (they are volcanic ash - aka. natural odor eliminator) They absorb all yuckie smells ! When we bought our Excusion it had some unusual odors, and I was skepical but after placing one of these packs in the truck all the odor has gone !!
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Old 05-16-2011, 07:38 PM   #20
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I had no idea how helpful you Airforum folks are! Thanks again. A couple of people have suggested ways to soak up or mask the odor. I have 2 bags of the volcanic ash--they help, but they don't stop the odor from sticking to everything in the trailer. (It really is kind of a sticky odor...hard to explain--it's not like anything else.) I've tried Dove soap--but not Irish Spring! I bet that does work well. I've been using natural incense, which works fairly well. "Top" I hope you're right about the smell not being toxic. Thanks Airstreamers!
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