Rid of Odor
June 27, 2005 5:52 AM   Subscribe

A friend recently passed away in his sleep and it was several days before he was found. The smell in his apartment was unbearable and permeated everything fabric and upholstered. Most of his furnishings were less than a year old and in barely used condition, including a brand new sofa and love seat. Is there any way to rid them of the smell? So far we’ve tried Odorban and currently have them covered in a thick layer of baking soda. Any other suggestions, or is this a futile effort?
posted by kyrie416 to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are professionals who deal with this sort of thing. I think there was even a MeFi link about it. The smell of death can permeate a house, but there are methods of dealing with it. Sorry 'bout your friend.
posted by Doohickie at 5:55 AM on June 27, 2005

i know, i used servpro when my apartment burned, to get the smoke smell out of the furniture.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:06 AM on June 27, 2005

Unfortunately, I am familiar with a similar situation.
There are several variables here, so your situation may not be identical. My friend had to hire a professional, who brought in a very powerful air filter and an ozone generator, and in the end they had to throw away a LOT of stuff anyway. It also took several days. Making the apartment bearable is one thing, saving fabric items is a whole nother ballgame.
Like I said, there are variables here, the specific fabric types, length of exposure, how bad it was - I think it's hard to judge.
Even if possible, it's going to cost.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 6:35 AM on June 27, 2005

A friend of mine works at a vet clinic, and was looking around for cleaning products. She went to a specialised janitorial equipment store (I was tagging along), and I was shocked at the vast depth of knowledge the proprietor had. The cliche of Eskimos having 300 words for snow, this guy was like that with smells - a professional who delt at the trade level with professional cleaners all day. He spent 30 minutes giving her the benefit of that wisdom. Anyway, I don't know the product name, but he strongly recommended this enzyme stuff designed to break down the organic matter behind organic odours, and worked really well. (She was using it more for feeces, blood, etc, but I imagine your use falls squarely into what it was designed for too). It wasn't much good for other kinds of cleaning - it was too specialised, but it was good at what it was for.

So, I can't remember the name of the store (it was somewhere around El Monte near LA), or the product, but maybe check the phonebook for a local janitor supply store - kind of a cheap way of getting professional help and products to use yourself.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:01 AM on June 27, 2005

"the smell of feeces, blood, etc," I should have said.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:02 AM on June 27, 2005

I'm very sorry for the loss of your friend.

There's a company called Aftermath Inc. that specializes in cleanups for the situation you're in. "Unattended Deaths" is one of the services they list, which is probably the type of cleanup you'll need.
posted by echolex at 7:12 AM on June 27, 2005

ExStink is a product widely considered to be excellent for the removal of decomposition odor. I use it for other things, but it is advertised for that purpose among others.
posted by majick at 7:32 AM on June 27, 2005

[removed off-topic post & response on Sapir Whorf hypotheis]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:57 AM on June 27, 2005

Anti Icky Poo claims to be able to get out the smell of decomposition. It is an enzyme based product, and if it works half as well on decomposition as it does on cat urine, you're in luck.
posted by gokart4xmas at 9:13 AM on June 27, 2005

You might like to read about a similar situation tested by the MythBusters.
posted by splice at 9:44 AM on June 27, 2005

Sorry about your friend.

About the smell: I've recently had a similar problem. I rent a 1-room appartment, which used to be part of a larger appartment that has been split in two. The owner of the other half was a lady in her 70s / 80s who rarely had any contact with her neighbours and who I had never met. When she died it took between 1.5 and 2.5 weeks before her body was found. The smell in the hallway of the appartment building (and in my own hallway, which is adjacent to the old lady's appartment) was pretty bad.

What was done in this case:

all windows in the appartment where the body was found were left open for one or two weeks to get rid of the worst;
this meant that, while this was going on, I couldn't open any of my windows to get rid of the smell in my hallway. A product called Oust, made by SC Johnson, provided some relief;
as long as I couldn't use my windows to ventilate I used one of those electric "room perfume" things to cover up the worst of the smell.

To summarise: in my limited experience a generous supply of fresh air (rain seems to help, possibly because it flushes away the foul-smelling air directly outside the windows) is key; removal of all materials that absorb smell (curtains, carpets) may also help.
posted by rjs at 11:05 AM on June 27, 2005

(Sorry, misread your question. I'm not sure whether the furniture can be saved - removal from appartment and exposure to fresh air, and / or getting specialised help would be my guesses.)
posted by rjs at 12:02 PM on June 27, 2005

Sorry for your loss.

Get rid of the bad smell: Carpet, drapes, slipcovers, furniture, etc should be cleaned. Have the apt. thoroughly cleaned. Use scented furniture polish on wood surfaces, scented windex on windows, etc. Fresh paint will help.

Replace with a good smell: Buy some whole cloves, allspice and cinammon sticks; put 1 tablespoon or so each in water, and simmer. Orange peel is a nice addition. When it gets worn out, start a fesh batch.
posted by theora55 at 12:22 PM on June 27, 2005

The smell in question is technically known as fetor mortis, although googling for that term doesn't produce anything useful.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:43 PM on June 27, 2005

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