The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter smells like nail polish remover.

Mira's picture

Starter smells like nail polish remover.


I've neglected my poor sourdough starter in the refrigerator for far too long...I'm ashamed to admit that it could have been left as long as 3 months.  When I took it out to refresh yesterday it had gray hooch on the top and smelled like nail polish remover.  I mixed everything in and proceeded to refresh by taking out 20 grams and adding 40 grams water and 40 grams flour.

Is my starter safe to use?  Or should I throw it all out and start again?

Thank you,


Mira's picture

Thank you. It IS looking and smelling better today:) I was fearful of poisoning with my next loaf!   I AM relieved I don't have to throw it out; I had struggled when I first made it 2 summers ago. 

Maverick's picture

I wouldn't use it until the smell has become more pleasant, but your starter should be fine. Just leave it on the counter and feed it like you normally do. After 3 months, it will take a few days of feeding to be back to normal. Try to feed it just after it begins to fall. This will help get the smell back to normal.

ehanner's picture

I find that if I wash the kept starter amount with a little water and then keeping 25 grams of the washed solids, it becomes active within a couple feedings and has lost the acetone smell. I also dump the hooch but I don't think it matters in the end.


MangoChutney's picture

It just has ketosis, like a person who is burning fats instead of sugars during a diet.  As mentioned above, feed it and all will be well.  *smile*

copyu's picture

...even without leaving the starter in the fridge for a really long time.

Once I started weighing my ingredients, the problem (diagnosed here as 'under-feeding') disappeared totally. Now I tend to get mold on the upper edges of the jar and sometimes, on the surface of the starter, if I neglect it for a few weeks in the fridge. It always recovers, though after 2-3 feedings. You'll be fine, but use weights for the feeding, if you're not doing so already!