It turns out that air fresheners in the hallway were the least of our problems. :(
The condo directly across the hall from ours was sold earlier this fall and the new owners took up residence in early October. It was mid-late October when the air fresheners were installed (and then removed, a few days after dh moved the one outside our door further down the hallway).
It soon dawned on us that perhaps the air fresheners were being used to mask another smell. Several times, in late October/early November, I thought I smelled smoke. One night I actually woke up; I could smell smoke very strongly, and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. One night, when we were sitting in the living room, dh asked me if I thought I smelled smoke. I said yes, and I'd smelled it before too. It got stronger & stronger, to the point where we were both coughing. My eyes were stinging & my nostrils and throat were raw. There's a strong air current around the door frame of our unit, and when we sniffed around the frame, we could distinctly smell the smoke outside.
So it looks like we have some chain smokers living across the hall from us. (As someone said to me when I told them about this, "How much must they be smoking if it's bothering you that much from across the hall, with two closed doors between you??"). GREAT. :( Some evenings have been better/worse than others, but there have been a few evenings now where I've been sitting on the couch with my T-shirt pulled up over my nose because the fumes are so strong. We generally sleep with the bedroom door almost fully closed; the other morning I opened the bedroom door & the stale, burnt smell of stubbed-out cigarettes hit me like a brick in the face. :( Pretty awful when neither of you smoke yourselves, right?
To say the least, this has been incredibly frustrating & disappointing, because we've really been enjoying condo living until this point. Unfortunately (as at the house!), we can't choose our neighbours.
The effects of second-hand smoke on bystanders' health has been well documented. I was tested for allergies as a child and told tobacco smoke was one of them (although my father continued to smoke in our home -- things were different in the 1960s...!); dh had asthma when he was growing up, although it hasn't bothered him in years. Beyond health concerns and just plain old discomfort, I am furious at the thought of my nice new furniture (not to mention my many books, & my clothes) absorbing and stinking of smoke.
(My mother hasn't permitted smoking in the house for many years now -- besides my dad, my sister & her boyfriends both used to smoke -- but before she implemented the ban, dh & I would arrive home from a visit and open our suitcases to the smell of smoke. I would have to toss everything into the laundry whether it had been worn or not, because it reeked so badly.)
We've tried a number of different things to alleviate the situation. We've kept the balcony door open for as long as we could in the evening to air the place out -- and thank goodness the weather has been extremely mild -- although I am sure we are not going to be able to do this much longer...! (One night we opened the door to let in some fresh air & instead let in the distinct aroma of a skunk outside. Yikes!!)
Last week, we bought a diffuser and some essential oil blends, which add a pleasant natural scent while helping to cleanse the air. I figured they would be less irritating than commercial air fresheners (full of chemicals), and so far, so good, from that perspective at least. Re: the smoke, it's helped a bit, but hasn't eliminated the smell, which can be pretty overpowering at times.
Today, we bought & applied weatherstripping around the doorframe, which has eliminated the draft and will hopefully eliminate, or at least help to minimize, the smokey smell. If that doesn't work, our next step will probably be to check out air purifiers. (Any thoughts or recommendations on those?)
So why don't we just speak to the neighbours directly? (1) I am probably the most non-confrontational (cowardly??) person you will ever meet. The very thought makes me cringe. (2) We aren't 100% sure it's the people across the hall (although we are pretty sure). We know some of our other neighbours smoke too -- although they were there long before these guys were, and we never noticed a problem before they moved in. (3) We haven't met these people yet, and we don't want to get things started on the wrong foot. (4) We know smokers can get quite defensive about their habit. Yes, I suppose people have the "right" to smoke in their own units -- but I believe we have an equal right not to have that smoke infringe on the clean air in OUR unit too.
I checked the status certificate and other documentation we received when we bought this place, and there is a rule about how owners, tenants, etc., “shall not create or permit the creation of or continuation of any noise or nuisance which, in the opinion of the board or the manager, may or does disturb the comfort or quiet enjoyment of the units or common elements by other owners” etc. etc. I think this would qualify as a nuisance, don't you? Should none of our other efforts alleviate the problem, I suppose we will bring it up with management/the board. It could be that other neighbours have complained too (who installed those air fresheners in the hallway & why?). This could also have been an issue for other owners in other parts of the building. I'd be curious to know if that's the case and, if so, how the issue was resolved (or not).
Do you smoke or have you smoked in the past? (I assume that most of you don't, since most of you, like me, are or were trying desperately to get pregnant at some point.) How do you feel about being around smoking/smokers?
(I did experiment a bit with smoking as a teenager, as I'm sure many of us did -- mostly as a half-hearted attempt to ditch my good-girl image -- but I was never serious about it & rarely inhaled. By the time I went to university, where I would occasionally bum a cigarette at parties, I realized was being ridiculous, and haven't touched the stuff in well over 35 years.)