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TOPIC: Boat stink? Head stink?

Boat stink? Head stink? 07 Oct 2017 01:01 #1

  • Cool Beans
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Chasing that stank!

Not really sure where it comes from, but it is there...sometimes bad, sometimes not at all...and I can't pinpoint it by sniffing. I've stuck my nose into the forward holding tank compartment and it smells like what faint holding tank smells like. This smell I'm smelling is like rotten onions! Very sharp and pungent, but not what I would expect from leaking effluent. And I can't really pinpoint it :pinch: It's strongest in the guest head, especially when it is closed up for awhile and seems to leak out into the guest and forward staterooms from there...the master head doesn't stink. The engine rooms bilges are clean and have a faint "engine" smell so I don't think it's that...

I've stuck my head in the toilet and it really just smells like old seawater...I've pulled the plywood out of the guest head under cabinet and it kind of has a musty and holding tank smell...around the toilet doesn't really smell...but at head level? Fookin' stinks like rotten onions!

Hints? Tips? Suggestions? I've got a steam cleaner and I'm going to hit the carpet and ceilings with it...I've pulled the toilet due to a clog in the macerator (and it still isn't that smell) and I think I'm going to replace the head line (another thread). Btw, why is there, how far does it go, and can I remove the existing carpet that is under the bathroom?

Thanks!

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. . .It places the lotion in the Basket. . .and that basket happens to be in a 1987 Bayliner 3870 w/ Hino 175's

Boat stink? Head stink? 07 Oct 2017 01:09 #2

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Just guessing...could it be mold or rotten wood from a leaking windshield bolt?

Greg
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Boat stink? Head stink? 07 Oct 2017 02:07 #3

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I've just replaced all my waste water lines and vent, threw out the macerator , installed a new electric head and that solved my problem but that kind of problem you'd know what the smell was right from the get go. How big of water heater do you have?
Is there one or two water heaters on your boat? There is a sacrificial anode tube in water heaters that will give off that rotten egg smell when its time to replace.
We always called it egg fart smell. Its only a guess but that might be the culprit.
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Dan
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Boat stink? Head stink? 07 Oct 2017 03:16 #4

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When was the last time the waste lines were replaced ?? And with what kind of hose??...my guess is a leaky waste line or lines are saturated.also using salt water to flush will cause that "Rotten Egg" smell if the water sits in the lines.
Just remember your nose is not as sensitive as a women's, my Admarial tell me that a lot .
Good luck Brad
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Boat stink? Head stink? 07 Oct 2017 09:27 #5

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I'd bet the waste lines are permeated. I had the same problem with my boat in 2011 when I bought it. No amount of cleaning anything and everything helped. I read about permeated waste lines here on BOC, so I installed new ones. Bingo! No more stink, except the old lines in the driveway, until trash day.
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Boat stink? Head stink? 07 Oct 2017 15:36 #6

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Hmmm...can't say I have ever experienced the smell of rotting onions but it sure doesn't sound like it is coming from the holding tank or from permeated lines.

Prior to our 4788, we owned a 2000 3258 that developed a heavy mold buildup on the underside of the plywood that the water tank was sitting on. The plywood had begun to rot so I cut the water tank into pieces to remove it, cut out the plywood and replaced it and installed a plastimo bladder tank. I don't recall that it was all that smelly but there was certainly an odor. The culprit was air-conditioning condensate draining directly into the bilge -- essentially this is the softest water you can possibly have in your bilge and wood will soak it up like crazy. Re-routed the AC condensate lines into the shower sump (which became the ABYC standard sometime in the mid-2000s). AC condensate drip pans can get VERY smelly, especially the old powder-coated steel ones when they start to rust. I bought some little blue tablets to put in the condensate pan that didn't help much. Smell went away when I replaced the AC unit with a newer model with a stainless steel pan.

If it doesn't smell like poop, it's very probably not poop, but it is absolutely something you want to track down. One thing I have experienced is a 'rotten-egg' smell and other foul odor when the toilets are using sea-water for flushing. I have smelled this on my boats in both seawater and fresh water. Another place to check is your shower sump...
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Boat stink? Head stink? 07 Oct 2017 15:40 #7

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One more thought comes to mind...the more I think about this I begin to suspect you may be smelling wet 'treated' plywood. When that stuff gets wet it starts leeching out some ugly brown water and the glue that holds the plys together also gets smelly when wet. So I guess I would put wet plywood high on the list of likely suspects...

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Boat stink? Head stink? 07 Oct 2017 15:45 #8

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Could it be from the holding tank/s? Do several flushes & pump out with fresh water. Then add a good enzyme treatment, NoFlex or similar. Make sure the tank vent line isn't blocked. Shower sumps can really stink if not cleaned regularly. Pour some white vinegar down sump/s and sink drains. If all that makes no impression change out the hoses as others have mentioned. How are the bilges, good clean and wash with Lysol or similar. Any damp carpet, that can really stink?
Machog

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Boat stink? Head stink? 07 Oct 2017 18:10 #9

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I guess what tipped me off to think of something else away from the holding tank was when Beans said sometimes the smell is there and sometimes it isn't. If the hoses are permeated the stink is there all the time. If it doesn't stink like the holding tank then I'd look for something else.

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Boat stink? Head stink? 08 Oct 2017 04:10 #10

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Many thanks for all the suggestions!

The chunk of carpet under the guest bathroom cabinet is damp. It reaches to under the toilet platform. Can this be removed? The cabin carpets are not wet, though they are old (but not original) and humidity tends to make things sticky and might bring out some stink?

Today's project was to pump, rinse, and shop vac out the holding tank. Tomorrow I'm going to start removing/replacing lines. I've bleached and scrubbed the bilge under the forward berth and around the holding tank as best as possible. I did that a couple months ago and it seemed to help, then it's back to normal. The short line going to the macerator is green and black on the outside, so it might be bad lol. The macerator is coming out as is the "y-valve". I'm going to run a single 1" line from the guest head around to the forward head to Y into it and then to the tank. Probably move the pump out line to the top if I have the room. May or may not be "the smell"...or maybe it contributes to something else that stinks and gives me this weird odor?

Next project will probably cut an access hatch to the area under the guest room floor that is between the 2 stringers. Maybe a window leak could collect nasty water in there? Either way, good storage area to be able to access! I'll also check the floor underneath for nasty crap that might be growing...

The only part of the bilge I can't scrub is under the water tank. But I've rinsed a lot of bleach thru there. The rest of my bilges are clean enough to ladle soup out of to feed to homeless children ;)

The shower sump I haven't really messed with. It is an ancient diaphragm style pump and no actual sump. Pump sucks straight from the shower drain and then over the side. I will dump some bleach down it unless there is a better way?

Yall are the best! Thanks!

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. . .It places the lotion in the Basket. . .and that basket happens to be in a 1987 Bayliner 3870 w/ Hino 175's

Boat stink? Head stink? 08 Oct 2017 04:12 #11

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Do you have a sump box for a shower or sink to pump grey water overboard.

If so, they need to be cleaned regularly or they will emit an odor. There is usually a screen to stop hair etc. that needs to be cleaned.

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Boat stink? Head stink? 08 Oct 2017 14:48 #12

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Our black water lines are original. They were really smelly when we bought out boat in 2014. I started using Noflex treatment for the holding tank. It helped a lot and it works well. Start with a tank that you have flushed really well. Use no other chemicals. Make sure your tank vent is clear and breathing. Our heads are vaccuflush with fresh water. I put about a tablespoon of Noflex down each head every other day alternating, even forward, odd aft if that makes sense. If it smells, use more.

Another cleaning tip is to mix some Noflex with water in a spray bottle. Spray it on the hoses and let it sit. It could also probably be used on other surfaces like the bilge, etc. the Noflex seems to react with organic material to neutralize it.

We started also using a complimentary product called Biotol. It was recommended by Marine Sanitation out of Seattle. It works well for cleaning the heads. It also works well to clean other organic. We have started using it to clean the sinks, countertops, showers, floors in heads. It keeps things smelling nice. It does have a mild perfume which is not objectionable.

We still get a little odor from time to time coming from behind the glass sliding doors in the hall. I am trying to avoid replacing the black water hoses if I can keep the odors under control. My admiral can smell a fly fart from a 100 yards so it is an uphill battle. So far so good!
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Boat stink? Head stink? 08 Oct 2017 15:00 #13

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Cool Beans wrote: Many thanks for all the suggestions!

The chunk of carpet under the guest bathroom cabinet is damp. It reaches to under the toilet platform. Can this be removed? The cabin carpets are not wet, though they are old (but not original) and humidity tends to make things sticky and might bring out some stink?

Today's project was to pump, rinse, and shop vac out the holding tank. Tomorrow I'm going to start removing/replacing lines. I've bleached and scrubbed the bilge under the forward berth and around the holding tank as best as possible. I did that a couple months ago and it seemed to help, then it's back to normal. The short line going to the macerator is green and black on the outside, so it might be bad lol. The macerator is coming out as is the "y-valve". I'm going to run a single 1" line from the guest head around to the forward head to Y into it and then to the tank. Probably move the pump out line to the top if I have the room. May or may not be "the smell"...or maybe it contributes to something else that stinks and gives me this weird odor?

Next project will probably cut an access hatch to the area under the guest room floor that is between the 2 stringers. Maybe a window leak could collect nasty water in there? Either way, good storage area to be able to access! I'll also check the floor underneath for nasty crap that might be growing...

The only part of the bilge I can't scrub is under the water tank. But I've rinsed a lot of bleach thru there. The rest of my bilges are clean enough to ladle soup out of to feed to homeless children ;)

The shower sump I haven't really messed with. It is an ancient diaphragm style pump and no actual sump. Pump sucks straight from the shower drain and then over the side. I will dump some bleach down it unless there is a better way?

Yall are the best! Thanks!


Don't forget to replace the holding tank vent with marine sanitation hose. Bayliner often used clear vinyl tubing on vents and it can be a source of smell. Inadequate venting can also be source of smells. While you are at it, get rid of the standard vent thru-hull and replace it with a plastic, straight through thru hull. Not only will it vent better, but it will allow you to clear the vent line with a water hose.

As you surmised, rotten wood can also smell. My previous boat had a non-structural piece of wood that served as a base for a bilge pump fiberglassed to the bilge. The wood was not completely encapsulated. It was rotting and it smelled badly. Since I could not get to it without pulling the engine I poured a strong water/bleach solution in the bilge and let it sit for an hour before rinsing it out. This stopped the smell.
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Boat stink? Head stink? 08 Oct 2017 15:41 #14

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I replaced the bulk of my sanitary hoses with schedule 40 pvc pipe as recommended by Marine Sanitation and Fisheries Supply in Seattle. Deleting the Y valve left a through hull available to use as a vent so I kept the 5/8 line and added the inch and a half as an additional vent so that there is in and out circulation.
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Boat stink? Head stink? 08 Oct 2017 16:11 #15

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Ok...sounds like there is at least a suspicion that there is some wet plywood down there.

I suggest you do not use chlorine bleach. It will kill mold but also is destructive to the wood and leaves it more vunerable (porous) than when you started. The best way to kill mold/rot spores is with ethylene glycol.

1) First, dry out the wood as much as you can -- I used a houshold dehumidifier and it does a fantastic job. If you can keep your humidity inside the boat under 50% for a few weeks (with the bilge areas ventilated into the cabin) the wood (and any actively growing mold/rot) should dry out pretty quickly.

Here is the one I used: link to Frigidaire dehumidifier

2) This is a good time to re-route your AC condensate drain pan hoses so they are not filling up your bilge with distilled water -- which is a primary cause of 'dry rot'. ABYC now mandates that condensate drain hoses be routed overboard or into a sealed sump and never into the bilge. The reason for the change from ABYC is that your AC unit creates a low pressure area that literally sucks bilge air up through the condensate hose and into the air handler and (if there is CO down there, or stink, or mold spores) all of this is being circulated throughout your boat any time you run the A/C. A beneficial side effect is that you no longer have all that water dripping into your bilge.

3) Use a standard tank-type garden sprayer and the cheapest "full strength" automotive grade ethylene-glycol antifreeze you can buy. Note: Do NOT use propylene glycol, it is useless precisely because it is non-toxic! Do NOT use used engine antifreeze, it has heavy metals picked up from circulation through the engine and is considered a dangerous pollutant in all 50 states. Use a fairly low pressure because you do not want to atomize this stuff into a mist, it is toxic when inhaled so a respirator mask should also be used. Saturate the dried out wood and any gunk with the ethylene glycol. It is not necessary to remove the gunk that you can't easily reach as long as you were able to get it somewhat dried out, once the ethylene glycol saturates, the stuff is totally dead. Do NOT scrape the dried out gunk, you will only be releasing active mold spores into the air. If you must use a shop-vac, get a hepa filter on it -- you do not want to be blowing active mold spores out the exhaust of the vac and spreading them around. Note that ethylene glycol does not evaporate easily, pourous areas of the wood (and moldy gunk) will soak it up and it will stay in there pretty much indefinitely and so this is a permanent cure. Over time, the wood will suck up all of it and exposed surfaces can be painted within a few months.

For the curious (or skeptical) there are some excellent technical articles that explain this "chemotherapy for wood rot", I will find and post the links if anyone is interested.
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Last Edit: by riverguy42. Reason: Fix the link, warning about used antifreeze, history

Boat stink? Head stink? 09 Oct 2017 02:09 #16

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Good ole anti-freeze! I remember that in a article in wooden boat from when I was a kid, lol. Does work though, that stuff is deadly to anything.

I have today removed both heads which are sitting in my aft cockpit. I've removed all waste hoses and tossed them in the dumpster. Oh the smells I discovered! And some of them were familiar to the over all smell I'm experiencing. I'm thinking the macerator and pump out lines were bad. I wonder if this is going to have to be a multi-pronged approach? Change toilet lines, look for and fix any rot, clean the carpets and monkey fur, clean bilges better, clean behind any and all cabinets, etc...

With all the lines out of the boat now, I scrubbed and shop vac'd everything I could reach under the galley with Dawn dish soap then again with bleach. I'm not sure if I want to put the Master head back in and just run a line around for the guest head. No macerator and no direct discharge. I'm going to order one of those kits that puts the pump out on the top of the tank instead of drawing from the bottom. I'm also thinking of rerouting the tank vent to a 1" line and into the sink cabinet in the master head.

All the suggestions and additives noted here are gold, thank you!


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. . .It places the lotion in the Basket. . .and that basket happens to be in a 1987 Bayliner 3870 w/ Hino 175's

Boat stink? Head stink? 09 Oct 2017 04:27 #17

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Just in the middle of changing out all the lines myself. Took the tank right out and cleaned the whole area. Allowed me to completely empty and rinse the tank with fresh water and some bleach. Now the tank is sitting out and being allowed to vent out properly for a few days until the new hose shows up. I found my issue was not only a plugged thru hull vent but i unthreaded the vent fitting from the tank and found it was 90% plugged also. I did change the thru hull vent a month ago and blew thru it with compressed air. But the stuff that was plugging the vent at the tank end was dried up and pretty solid. So make sure you check both ends of the vent system.

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Boat stink? Head stink? 09 Oct 2017 13:56 #18

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Doug, I should replace my hoses too, where are you getting yours from?

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Boat stink? Head stink? 09 Oct 2017 14:57 #19

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I used corestock here in pg. I ordered green line premium sanitation hose and they carry a standard sanitation hose in 5/8 that i will use for the vent line. (The premium sanitation hose did not come in 5/8). My boat had a clear vinyl hose for vent line which is terrible for odor permeation. It was very discolored and ready to be replaced.

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Boat stink? Head stink? 09 Oct 2017 17:25 #20

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Cool Beans, I know that the Head lines and carpet are not original in your 38XX. Ocean Marine in Norfolk changed the lines I want to say 6 years ago. Here are 2 causes of smell I notice from my own experience.

1. If I leave hot water in hot water tank and leave it for awhile( week). When I return,Smells like rotten eggs when I run hot water.
-Solved problem by turning of water heater and running hot water until it is cool when I leave the boat for the week.

2. Using river water to flush toilet, can be very stinky.
-solve problem by only using fresh water to flush.

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Boat stink? Head stink? 09 Oct 2017 23:56 #21

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Then mine will be the same. Will see if old fat boy can fit in there to change them.

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Boat stink? Head stink? 10 Oct 2017 01:12 #22

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Captain Blair, those hoses were really only 6 years old? The macerator waste line has been soaking in liquid feces for that long and was turning translucent and discoloring...I can't believe the hose only lasted that long :(

Definite improvement in the smell! Left the boat closed up today and I noticed an improvement. Once I finish bleaching and cleaning the bilges, check for leaks and wet wood (and dry it out) and finish shampooing the carpets and monkey fur...boat might be smell free ;)

Those that have mentioned the water heater. It itself doesn't smell, but I have noticed a wiff of "oh, that's not right" in the mornings when I shower. Goes away in a few seconds. But, if I'm reading your suggestions right, that is a sign the anode is bad and/or the tank should be flushed?

Thanks! Yall are the best!

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. . .It places the lotion in the Basket. . .and that basket happens to be in a 1987 Bayliner 3870 w/ Hino 175's

Boat stink? Head stink? 10 Oct 2017 01:51 #23

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could be a anode tube but when you sanitize the potable tank and water lines make sure you don't forget to sanitize thru the hot water heater. If you found your problem congratulations. I know what you've just gone thru. After becoming the second or third owner of a boat and having the luxury of doing a complete change out of the hoses and rinsing the tank you've earned your captains status.

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Boat stink? Head stink? 10 Oct 2017 14:14 #24

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For hot water odor

What I have found and I learned this 2 boats ago is if I turn off the breaker for water heater and just run hot water until it is cool. Not leaving any warm or hot water in the water heater itself. NO more odor. The first time I sanitized the water heater and then started draining before I left.
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Boat stink? Head stink? 11 Oct 2017 16:05 #25

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After my fuel tank went bad, I discovered that the smell was a combination of the shower sump, being left to dump in the bilge, and rotten wood from that, and water leaks. I had changed the hoses to no avail, didn't discover the source until I took the boat apart. Fixing all of that now.
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