Smells from Neighbor's House

Parent Q&A

  • I know this is a super trivial question given everything going on right now, but because we're home pretty much 24/7, we spend way more time time in our backyard. The problem is that our next door neighbor runs her dryer seemingly constantly and our backyard always smells like dryer sheets, which give me a headache and makes me have to go inside. Either this neighbor is somehow upwind of us at all times, or our backyard is some kind of vortex that sucks all smells towards it, because there's just a continuous blanket of dryer sheet smell hanging over our yard. I can't discuss this with the neighbor because she stopped speaking to us over street parking issues years ago. Anyone have any suggestions? I know I'm lucky she doesn't smoke, but gosh I hate the smell of dryer sheets!!

    This sounds awful but I think you are going to have to just deal with it as best you can.  If you were friendly with her, you could ask her what days she does laundry so you could do backyard activities on her off days. But given the situation, you'll have to just avoid your yard when she's running the dryer. Maybe put lights up in the back so you can enjoy the outdoors at night when the dryer isn't running? Keep telling yourself that it could be worse. She could have barking dogs or smoke a lot of cigarettes or play loud music!  Look forward to windy days that disperse the smell. Hang in there.

    Would it help to turn on a fan in your backyard, blowing the scent back where it came from? Maybe an oscillating one? I have a tall one on a stand that blows pretty strong (from Lasco, I think). It wasn’t very expensive. You could make your own breeze, and see if that helps.

    I'd suggest talking to her, and trying to rekindle a relationship.  There is zero way around that, and taking any kind of legal action or filing a nuisance claim will exacerbate your problem (I could see her throwing in 5 sheets vs 1 out of spite).  We are not on great terms with our next door neighbors, and definitely hit a rough patch 18 mo ago.  But we've actively tried to make peace.  When we asked that they not let their new adopted dog out alone (she howls and is 100 lbs) after 9pm, we also dropped off organic dog treats, and acknowledged she was a special, precious member of their family and we hated to ask, but wanted to know if they could "help" us get more sleep with our fussy reflux baby who is a light sleeper.  Framing it as - you're a good person, I think you're a good person who could help me out, and here's something for you in gratitude" is a great place to start. 

    If you all have bugged her with street parking habits previously, maybe now is the season for a mea culpa (maybe you now realize you value a scent-free backyard more than parking in "her" spot?).  Perhaps you can reach out via a handwritten note - wish her well, say you hope she/her family are healthy, and say this season made you realize how interconnected we actually all are.  Ask forgiveness (use that word) for how you got mad/discounted her needs/whatever you can apologize for over street parking in the past, and say you wonder if you can begin to XXX (whatever she wanted before) now?  Then say, in this spirit of mending things, we were curious if you'd be willing to not run your dryer between X-Y o'clock each day, or at least most days?  We're sensitive to scents and would really love to be outdoors more but your dryer exhaust is in direct line with our outdoor space and your laundry fragrance (like all fragrances for me) causes severe headaches.

    If this doesn't work and she's a renter, you can try reaching out to the building owner for help.  They might be able to ask her to only do laundry at X hours or not use fragrance.  We got a landlord to ask the tenant of their ADU to quit opening their windows when they smoked pot, as it drifted right into our backyard and made it miserable to be outside - and it was going on from 6am - 10pm every single day.  Now it rarely happens.

    Good luck!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Neighbor's smelly food

March 2013

I am a homeowner in Berkeley and have lived in my current house for over 25 years. About 6 months ago, a new family rented the flat next door. They installed a fan in their kitchen window which faces my living room windows. The fan moves the kitchen odors out of their home and into mine. They are meat eaters and the odors emanating are very strong. I have a very strong sense of smell and often the odor makes me nauseaous. Today I was out in the garden, in front of my house and I could smell the odor from the kitchen at the back of the house. A women walked by and asked me what the terrible odor was!My husband advised not saying anything to the neighbors, whose first language is not English. I would like to figure out a way to talk to them in a positive way. please weigh in. A distressed woman

Oh my do I commiserate with you. I, too, have a very acute sense of smell and I smell EVERYTHING. I surprise people by my extraordinary (and cursed) sense of smell.

There may not be a whole lot you can do about it, but you could certainly tell them something about where the fan is placed -- tell them as carefully as you can that the smells from their house are coming into yours and you'd appreciate it if they moved the fan away. You can do absolutely nothing about the smells that naturally emanate -- nor should you. Heck, they may think your food stinks, too, but you certainly have a right to ask them to move the fan.

Alternately, you could put a strong fan in YOUR window and blow it back out.

I completely understand your angst, but this is a hard one. Just hope they are friendly and understand what you are asking and that they comply as much as they can. Smelly McSmellerton

My suggestion would be to treat the problem as a technical issue.

Does anyone in the neighboring family speak English? Try to get across the idea that there is a problem with ''strong kitchen odors'' coming into your house.

Maybe you could get a Grainger's catalog and show them a ventilation pipe and fan listing, while you point to the offending fan in their kitchen. In many immigrant families, there are one or more members who are savvy about technical fixes. Offer to pay half the cost of them repairing the problem.

If that fails, try a neighborhood mediation service.

It is best to stay away from any discussion of vegetarianism or any implied judgement of what the neighbors cook, unless they are from a culture where vegetarianism is not uncommon. Anonymous