Do we have to smell that smell?
May 18, 2012 7:46 PM   Subscribe

We're looking for a new home and found one we like, but the odor is a bit overwhelming. Can it be fixed?

The house had air fresheners, scented candles, incense, all over. It was inescapable. Is that likely to fade rapidly once all the odor producing materials get packed up and shipped out to the previous owners new Llama retreat or will we be stuck with it? What can be done? Will we have to rip out all the carpets and wipe down the walls?

Wife has super nose and was started to get a headache from the smell, so this could be a deal breaker. Ideally there'd be no odor at all. Thanks.
posted by roue to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
Best answer: My concern would be for what odor was all this effort used to mask?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:49 PM on May 18, 2012 [28 favorites]

It can certainly be fixed, but that carpet and pad may indeed have to go. If you can, air it out for a few days before you move in.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:49 PM on May 18, 2012

I think that's pretty common in showings. I would be more worried about what odors they might be masking with all those scents. I think, though, that any odors will likely dissipate with a good air-out/carpet removal/full house cleaning, with cat pee and cigarette smoke being the worst I can imagine and could require all three.
posted by two lights above the sea at 7:50 PM on May 18, 2012

Best answer: Ugh. I've got a super nose and have been house hunting as well. The minute I walk into a house and smell air freshener/candles/incense/etc. I immediately think "What disgusting smell are these people trying to hide?" Unfortunately my experience is that that shit will never come out of textiles of any kind, including carpet. I think you need to budget for new carpet and paint at a minimum. Hopefully it's not cat pee soaked into the hardwood floors under the carpet, or a moisture problem. Personally I just pass on these stinky houses because I'm not willing to take a risk. And, ironically, I think the real estate agents are advising people to light a scented candle or whatever before a showing, the idiots, when they should be telling them to clean their damn house.
posted by HotToddy at 7:57 PM on May 18, 2012

Best answer: I always assume that with a new house, I'm going to have to do a round of heavy cleaning before move in - I don't care how clean the cabinets are, I clean them anyway. So with that in mind, you can plan to steam clean the rugs (you'll never have a better opportunity!) and TSP the walls. If TSP works on cigarette smells and nicotine build up, Eau de Glade will stand no chance.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:31 PM on May 18, 2012

When the house across the street from us was shown, it was always with all windows flung wide open, and the front and back doors of the house wide open, too. This is because the owners were elderly and had let their cats pee all over the house. The new owners knew they'd have to replace the carpets, but in the end, they had to rip up all the hardwood floors underneath, too, since the urine had soaked through and completely ruined them. It has been... expensive.

So, yes, it's not the lingering scent of Glade; it's what the realtor knows about and why she brought all those fresheners with her for showings.
posted by palliser at 8:38 PM on May 18, 2012

Best answer: Yes, you can certainly get rid of the smell. I'm not sure where you're located, but this deodorizing company gets rid of any biological smell - pet smells, urine, cigarette smoke, cooking smells, etc. Here's the link:

I'm not sure if they're in that area, but you could always email them and ask if they can direct you someplace.
posted by Jade_bug at 9:11 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ask to re-visit the house with as much of the air fresheners and candles out as possible. Ask for some amount of money to be in escrow to cover any costs of resolving a masked smell or the scent. When you by a house, you can offer what you want, and see how they respond.
posted by theora55 at 10:40 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You probably want to rip out the carpets regardless, unless it's brand-new and you love carpeting and the sellers can prove to you that they really just ADORE air freshener candles, etc.

Wall to wall carpeting is pretty much intrinsically unsanitary and both the carpets and pads can and will hold on to odors (biological and otherwise) no matter what level of steam-cleaning or enzyme treatment you might apply. And with all the air-fresheners and whatnot I'd be inclined to think the sellers are trying to cover up *something* gross. I read an account once of a cat behaviorist who went to a house that stank to high heaven of air freshener and scented candles...only to discover that the resident cat had been dragging dead mice and birds and what-have-you under the guest bed for months. Not saying you'll find anything like that in this house, but UGH.
posted by aecorwin at 10:49 PM on May 18, 2012

Yeah seriously, take a cat pee detector UV light to the floors. What are they covering up?

My mom's old condo had one room (my bedroom) where the PO let her old cats pee all over the floor. My mom had the carpets pulled out, the floors sanded, liberal application of Nature's Miracle, then the floors sanded again and sealed and I could STILL smell the pee pretty strongly.

But that deodorizer smell will probably fade. If they're burning smokey incense, that might last a little longer.

Could your agent ask the other agent to ask the owners to stop stinkin' it up for a few days so you can come and smell it?
posted by MonsieurBon at 12:34 AM on May 19, 2012

When I bought my flat the air freshener scent did indeed vanish quite quickly with airing. The smell of dog pee emanating from the carpet in the hall less so......
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:40 AM on May 19, 2012

Before we bought our house, we toured the house directly behind it as well since both had open houses on the same day. The house we passed on was one of those super scented candle houses, the air was thick with the stuff. Despite the optimism of the realtor, scented candles could not hide the distinct hound odor that had permeated the entire house. Later I found out there are 3 wolf hounds living there. These are huge hounds. They seem to spend half of the time in the house and half in the yard. I never see them walked. On a hot day, their yard smells so bad it makes your eyes water. I think if you bought the house you'd have to dig out the whole yard and cart it away but they managed to somewhat mask it for the open house. I am guessing that the scented candles should be your sign to pass if you don't want to do all of that work.

You could try getting down on your hands and knees and sniffing the carpet to see if it yields any clues.
posted by dottiechang at 2:22 PM on May 19, 2012

Best answer: The commercial-grade solution is this:

First, have someone check the basement/crawl space and make sure there's not a problem with water/sewage or something horrible.

Next, have the people who own the house use a chlorine dioxide deodorizing treatment. That will do a great deal.

If the smell comes back, it's entirely likely the carpet - and possibly even other flooring - will have to be taken up and the sub-floors (wood AND cement) sealed with a product like (oil-based) Kilz or even something thicker.

You also may have to re-paint.

That generally fixes even the worst smells, but of course there are some horrors that require stripping out even more material, so get something priced into the contract.
posted by tristeza at 2:40 PM on May 19, 2012

Response by poster: Maybe I'm not suspicious enough, but every single person I mentioned this too replied with the "what are they hiding" option. I can't believe that a few days airing out will clear the odor sufficiently to make me confident that I won't possibly be buying my wife a permanent migraine and with a super nose it's too much of a gamble. Ah well. It was nice and in our price range, too. Maybe we'll live in a tent.
posted by roue at 3:05 PM on May 21, 2012

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