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Boat Odor

Old 09-12-2018, 02:32 PM
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Default Boat Odor

I grew up on diesel boats and find I am completely nose blind to the smell in a diesel boat. However, my wife is not. So I am looking for suggestions. In the way of background I have a 2001 Bertram 390 with twin volvo diesels. My wife describes the unique funk as diesel with a hint of mold and sewage. I have meticulously cleaned the bilges, the engine room, holding tank, shower sump, floors, walls, ceilings, carpets, soft goods and anchor locker. She has said it is better but still so off putting that she isn't very interested in being on the boat. I welcome any suggestions that might bring the sweet smell of a grassy pasture in spring to my boat, or at the very least freshly laundered gym socks.
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Old 09-12-2018, 03:25 PM
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Are you able to see in the forward bilge, middle bilge, transom bilge. I've seen water overflow from shower boxes, etc and go down into the lowest section of the forward hull and sit there. Also if you haven't would recommend totally flushing out the black water tank several times. I put a water hose down my pump out connection and let fresh water start filling the black water tank. At same time turned on macerator and kept pumping it out of boat. Did that for an hour. Also put damp rid in boat as well as run ac's all the time.
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Old 09-12-2018, 03:39 PM
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Our wives must be related. I about went crazy looking for the smell that I couldn't smell. I eventually found a small leak in the air conditioning fan hose that was near the bilge and shower sumps. The fan would pick up the smell of the bilge water and pump it throughout the boat. I repaired it and also cleaned the bilge with odor off liquid. It made it better but she says she still smells it. She still hung air fresheners all over the boat. I sold the boat so that solved the problem permanently.
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Old 09-12-2018, 03:50 PM
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The common cause for stink is waste hoses and the good stuff is expensive. Not only expensive but eventually even it will stink. I am into my second boat, first a sailboat and now my Silverton 40’ aftcabin. Both of these boats I removed ALL waste hoses except of very short lengths needed to make connections to tanks and toilets. The rest of the hose I replaced with PVC pipe, the same stuff used in homes.

I did add clean outs and I avoided using 90 degree elbows, the common stuff ordinarily used in plumbing systems. Instead I use 90 degree electrical PVC sweeps which of course are not allowed in plumbing codes but this stuff is used in my boat where plumbing codes do not apply. The sweeps provide a smooth flow around corners whereas a sharp elbow could cause unneeded headaches.

Beauties of PVC are that it is very inexpensive and it is also very strong.

Last edited by foggysail; 09-12-2018 at 03:56 PM.
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Old 09-12-2018, 03:55 PM
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One way to find out if it's from your waste hoses. Wrap a wet rag around them in diff locations. Let them dry and smell them.
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Old 09-12-2018, 03:58 PM
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Here is a quick and easy one. Pour some white vinegar in a small open dish, close up the boat for a couple days. I did this on my old 1982 trawler, it (almost) completely did away with the diesel smell.
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Old 09-12-2018, 04:05 PM
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If you can smell diesel inside then there is a leak somewhere or there is a problem with the tank vent.
Malt vinegar or vanilla will kill the diesel smell.
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Old 09-12-2018, 04:16 PM
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water will really get a boat to stink. There may be places that do not drop to the bilge. Get a good camera or light and start hunting. My Fountain, I found water under my water tanks that never drained. After I sucked it out , problem solved.
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Old 09-12-2018, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by fireisland1 View Post
water will really get a boat to stink. There may be places that do not drop to the bilge. Get a good camera or light and start hunting. My Fountain, I found water under my water tanks that never drained. After I sucked it out , problem solved.

Shower sumps are good for this if not used frequently
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Old 09-12-2018, 05:44 PM
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Lots of bleach in every place possible. MY boat reeks if bait drips into bilge. It just sits there if boat in water and turns nasty as all get out. Have to bleach like mad.
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Old 09-13-2018, 05:45 AM
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Good suggestions all. Thanks for the ideas.
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Old 09-13-2018, 05:51 AM
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sell the wife, after pics of course
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Old 09-13-2018, 06:05 AM
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Ozone generator gets rid of the stink.
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Old 09-13-2018, 06:09 AM
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my guess would be the hoses to your holding tank as well.
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Old 09-13-2018, 06:13 AM
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Originally Posted by billinstuart View Post
Ozone generator gets rid of the stink.

Yes along with any rubber products
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Old 09-13-2018, 06:52 AM
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Replace the vacuuflush hoses first. To deal with odor, you have to remove the source. Providing the smelly stuff, ozone generators, etc is a temporary solution. Any upholstery on the boat should be cleaned thoroughly including carpeting and cushions as these can trap and hold odor. Maintain the boat at a reasonable humidity. Mold and odor causing bacteria grow above 50%. Use a dehumidifier if you have to or run the ac in dehumidify mode.
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Old 09-13-2018, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by kawakx125 View Post
sell the wife, after pics of course
Yeah, that would be too expensive.
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Old 09-14-2018, 03:20 PM
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Second the suggestion to replace every sewage hose you can with the best you can buy.
Thoroughly pumping the tank basically every time you us it will help. Pump and flush.
There have been suggestions that the hoses last 10 years before weeping. The handkerchief test is sounds great.

As stated, there are many odors which can originate in the bilge.
Shower sump tanks are one of the worst.

If you have food, you will have roaches and rats if you do not keep at cleaning and control.
Spilling fuel stinks too and diesel lasts.

It is a constant job.
Good Luck


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Old 09-14-2018, 04:45 PM
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Check and clean your air conditioning condesation pans for standing water, and check for any standing water and/or clogs in the drain hoses. Clean the pans with the old hot water and bleach solution. If you have any ductwork, make sure there is not any standing water in there from condensation as well (if you can get to them.)
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