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Help!!! Sourdough smells like "Nail polish remover"

Thaichef's picture

Help!!! Sourdough smells like "Nail polish remover"

Good Morning:

   My confession: I am not new to sourdough baking but I did not bake with sourdough much this year. I also get some sourdough starter from a baker friend when I wanted to bake..

Since I want to start a new sourdough starter anew, I follow one successful starter blog  religiously( the added flour is a combination of rye flour and AP flour) .  At the 4th day the starter went crazy rising and bubbling excellently. At that time, I realized that I did it wrong( instead of taken out most of the sourdough starter to leave the content of jar weight +40 g. starter, I took only 40 gram out of the bottle).   Day 5, 6, 7 religiously follow the instructions. Nothing happen. No bubble, no rise, the starter drop to the bottom on the floating test.

Now on its 9 days, my starter smell like a nail polish remover!   My question:

1. Is my starter now "gone bad" and I need to get rid of it. or

2. It is still good , continue with the feeding?

Please help. Thank you.


Ford's picture

Acetone (the active ingredient of nail polish remover) is usually a sign of underfeeding.  I would just keep feeding in the ratio of 1:1:1 (by weight) = starter:water:flour .  Things should improve shortly.

I, personally, prefer the pine juice solution for preparing the starter by Debra Wink.


Thaichef's picture

Good afternoon Ford:

  Thank you so much. I will do it right away and hope that I can not get my starter back to normal.  My Fresh loaf family is the greatest. I am always find help immediately .  Thanks.



Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

First, your starter is behaving normally. Various things happen at different stages as the different kinds of bacteria, and then yeasts, start to develop and grow. As a general rule the acetone smell means the bacteria are hungry. :) Just keep going.

Second, read this excellent post here, and any of Mini Oven's comments (she's a starter expert) in this post. You might want to bookmark them (I have) for future reference!

Ambimom's picture

Feed it at least  twice a day until it gets "foamy and creamy."  After it is restored to robust health, store it in the refrigerator.  If you're not going to use it again for more than two weeks, either freeze it or "dry it."  To dry it, spread a thin layer on parchment paper until it is bone dry.  Flake it off the paper and grind it into a powder (method of your choice:  mortar and pestle or food processor).  Store it in a jar at room temperature indefinitely.  When ready to use, follow the King Arthur flour recipe for starter.  It takes a couple or three days but it will be as good as new and ready for action.

HansB's picture

That may be unnecessary after only two weeks. I routinely leave mine refrigerated, untouched for 4-6 weeks and it always comes back great. Six months refrigerated is not uncommon...

Thaichef's picture

I learn new things everyday.  Thank you.


In the mean time, my starter remain the same. No bubbles, nothing. I did not feed it twice /day but only once a day.  I started  out with 50/50/50 gram and today it is 40/40/40.  

@Hans B. That is amazing. I will be out of the country for two months and was worried about  the lack of feeding.  If this starter comes back to life, I will see if mine will get back to life after my return.   Thanks all. 

phaz's picture

Don't feed it until you see activity - like some expansion or formation of bubbles. If there is no activity, there's really no need for more food/water. Things need to get acidic at this point. Extra food/water can dilute that and then things take longer. One way or the other, keep going, shouldn't be long now.