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  #1  
Old 08-24-2012
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Musty boat smell under floor

So after months of fixing issues and dealing with smelly sanitation hoses etc. I have also discovered the nasty Musty/mildew smell under the floor in the keel bolt area. Now that I have smelled it I am noticing it a lot more throughout the boat. What are my options in killing this smell? What has worked for you?
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Old 08-24-2012
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Re: Musty boat smell under floor

either drying out the area completely...or using spa chlorine tablets in the bilge...

best of luck
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Old 08-24-2012
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Re: Musty boat smell under floor

I've been tempted many times to chlorinate the bilge, however, that just has to be bad for the bilge pump, hoses, and anything else submerged.

About twice per year, I turn the bilge pump off, fill the bilge with water and Starbrite citrus bilge cleaner and go out for about 30 mins of tacking and jibing. Let the foam settle and pump it all overboard. Then do one more rinse, by filling the bilge again and pumping and let it all dry.

Sitting water is a odor maker, so try to be sure it has a way to get to the pump, if possible. If you want to drop some real money on a solution, they make pumps with pickups you can put all over to be sure every nook and cranny is dry.

I think the most likely cause of bilge smell is condensation drip from refrigerators. It seems like it is just water, if you didn't spill anything. But milk containers, etc, usually have trace amounts of stuff on them that wash off and accumulate. A little chlorox and water down that drain, which follows whatever path to the bilge pump can help. Be sure to flush with a lot of fresh water.

Of course, a leaking holding tank would do it too, but there wouldn't be much question over what is causing it, if that's the culprit.
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Old 08-24-2012
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Re: Musty boat smell under floor

Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
I've been tempted many times to chlorinate the bilge, however, that just has to be bad for the bilge pump, hoses, and anything else submerged.
decent hoses, pumps and don't over do it and there is no problem....my hot tub is over 6 years old and is way more chlorinated than the bilge....doesn't take a lot to kill the germs...

it is all fiberglass down there, just like the hot tub...
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Re: Musty boat smell under floor

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Originally Posted by kd3pc View Post
decent hoses, pumps and don't over do it and there is no problem....my hot tub is over 6 years old and is way more chlorinated than the bilge....doesn't take a lot to kill the germs...

it is all fiberglass down there, just like the hot tub...
The fiberglass is not a concern that I know of, but you made me wonder about keel bolts or other fittings. Hot tubs are designed to be exposed to chlorine, bilges are not, nor do I think the diaphragms/seals in bilge pumps. Chlorine, even dilute amounts, is very corrosive, especially over a long time.
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Re: Musty boat smell under floor

The bilge was pretty grotty when we bought our boat and everything was covered with a mix of diesel residue, oil and slime.

I drug in a hose and flushed the bilge with fresh water. Shop vac-ed it dry, then hit everything with Tilex. Let it sit for a few minutes then with the pump turned off filled the bilge with fresh water, flipped the pump on and pumped it out again. I did this a couple of times and it made a huge difference in the smell. That was in '08 and the bilge pump is still going strong.

The biggest difference in boat odors was going to a dripless shaft seal. No seawater in the bilge now, just condensation from the AC. This winter I'll add a shower sump and plumb the AC drain into it; and the bilge should pretty much stay dry.

You might also try some canberra gel on board to kill odors. The stuff's not cheap but it works wonders.

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Re: Musty boat smell under floor

Plenty of Citrus based products u can use
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Re: Musty boat smell under floor

In addition to the above suggestions, If you've had a wet bilge...you might also have slime, mold, growth growing on the underside of the floor and floorboards. Do you have floorboards in the head too..for a shower? You might want to rig something to reach in under the floor and scrub the underside as far as you can reach. If you can.

Bene's suggestion of filling the bilge with bilge cleaner and going sailing should get the rest.

I took my shower floorboards home one season and scrubbed them and cetoled both sides...the underside was just raw wood... ?

It took me several seasons after buying the boat to get all the musty odors out. Last weekend I had guests aboard and they commented on how dry and odorless a boat it is now.....it took a lot of work cleaning, and hunting all the sources down.
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Old 08-24-2012
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Re: Musty boat smell under floor

"or using spa chlorine tablets in the bilge..."
Minne, I've had the same temptations to pull a blanket over the keel and chuck the tablets in to kill critters. But also the same reservation, chlorine tends to make things come apart. Stainless keel bolts should prove that very quickly.

A musty smell is likely to be mildew. Plenty of threads about how to get rid of that. Clean it, dry it, keep it ventilated, no magic there. No shortcuts, either.
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Old 09-01-2012
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Re: Musty boat smell under floor

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Originally Posted by old-sailer View Post
Can I pass on a little chemistry that was given to me.... take the advise of leave it. Up to you....

When fighting mould chlorine actually feeds the mould. It bleaches the mould so it appears to disappear but in fact it's still there and will return quickly.

Vinegar, plain white vinegar kills 95% of mould on contact. Buy a garden weed sprayer and a 4 litre jug of white vinegar and using a fine spray do all those hidden places on your boat. Yes it will smell like french fries for a couple of days but with good ventilation that will dissipate.

Follow up with a mould preventer sold at any good marine store.

Mount a solar fan in the top of a hatch to ensure good continuous ventilation and you will keep mould to a minimum.

Try it..
I like this idea, it's not actually my bilge that I am talking about. Its the area under the floor Forward of the bilge. I did install a mini 12v computer fan to a through hull passive vent line in the engine compartment area. This seemed to really help with the overall smell so far.
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