Why Do Chute Rooms Smell?

There is little worse than leaving for work in the morning, going into the hallway to wait for the elevator and getting hit with the smell of old gross garbage.

Why do the hallways smell of garbage?

This is a common occurrence in many multi-residential buildings due to how air circulates. The phenomenon is called the stack effect and below we will explain how it works.

The stack effect is caused by two laws of physics: The Bernoulli Principle, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Bernoulli Principle states that a fluid moving faster has less pressure than a similar fluid moving slower. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that high pressure and low pressure systems look to balance out. The reason they create the stack effect is because the outside air, considered a fluid in physics, moving over the top of the garbage chute is lower pressure than the air inside the chute since air inside the chute moves slower. Thus, the air inside moves upwards to “balance” the pressure and in the process pulls the lower air in the chute up, creating an updraft. This updraft is the stack effect.

The stack effect means that the air flowing through the chute has to be pulled from the garbage room and thus smells like garbage; as it flows through the gaps in the chute doors it enters the chute rooms and hallways around them making them smell.

Untreated Odours Waft Upwards and Out Chute Rooms

Is there any way to mitigate this? There are currently two methods to battle the smell associated with the stack effect: you can mask it, or you can eliminate it. To mask the garbage, perfume is pumped over the bins and up the chute. This allows the air to mix with perfume and cover up the smell. Also, scent blocks can be placed in the chute rooms. This is the industry standard approach and is effective in certain applications.

Using scents to mask the garbage smell improves the smell.

The other method is to use a natural chemical reaction to eliminate the odours at their source. Since the garbage will not smell in this situation, the air moving up the chute will not smell either.

Eliminating the smell of garbage at the source leaves buildings scent-free.

Pro-Active Odor Control