Question

The underside coating of our stainless steel sink has a strong odor. Is it toxic? What should we do?

Asked by Nancy Chen
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

We recently installed a new stainless sink with granite countertop, along with new cabinets, and found the moment we open the cabinet under the sink, a strong chemical smell comes from the underside of the sink. Is it toxic?

Answer

Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Answered by Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Bainbridge Island, WA

A Kitchen That Works LLC

October 11, 2010

Dear Nancy,

The smell could be originating from one of three sources:

  1. sound absorption pad
  2. caulk
  3. cabinetry

Sound absorption pad

There is most likely a sound absorption pad on the underside of your stainless steel sink. The smell could be chemical offgassing coming from the pad and/or the adhesive used to stick the pad to the sink.

For the average individual this offgassing will not be toxic, just annoying. However, for the individual who suffers from chemical sensitivity, it can be harmful, causing headaches, sore throat, itchy eyes and other symptoms.

Caulk

The caulk used to seal your sink to the countertop and/or the caulk used to seam the granite countertop may be offgassing and getting "trapped" in your sink cabinet.

Again, it may be smelly and annoying, but the average homeowner will not suffer any long-term ill effects.

However, in the future when you are doing renovation or repair work on your house, make sure you use or ask your installer to use low-VOC caulks, glues and sealants to protect your home air quality.

Cabinetry

Another possible culprit may be your cabinetry. If your cabinet boxes are made of particle board with a melamine interior skin, then you can have formaldehyde offgassing from these two materials.

Again, smelly and annoying but does not pose a long-term health threat to the average person.

 

Your best remedy is to open the cabinet doors and the closest window for an entire day and allow the gas to escape.

 

For more information:

Read GreenHomeGuide's tips "Improving Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality: From Basic to Bigger and Better Steps."

Tagged In: home air quality

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.