Dead Mouse Smell at a Dinner Party: "Why, yes, our home does have its own supply of L'Eau de Souris"
July 25, 2012 4:49 PM   Subscribe

We're having a dinner party tomorrow night, and now it seems there's a dead mouse in one of our walls. What can we do to mitigate the smell? We can't go into the walls.

I'm in a pre-war Brooklyn apartment with my girlfriend. The smell is noticeable in front of one wall of the kitchen, and nowhere else at the moment. We've looked everywhere the dead thing could possibly be, so it seems it's in the wall, and we just have to wait it out. Our guests won't be in the kitchen, but we'd like to do whatever we can to keep things smelling nice and fresh. What are our options?
posted by (The Rt Hon.) MP to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bake cookies. This was a frequent recommendation from our realtor when we were trying to sell a condo that smelled of our pet pig.
posted by Straw Cab at 4:54 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Some people advocate a coffee filter filled with fresh-ground coffee grounds to help with the odors.

I would also bake something sweet and maybe cook something pungent (onions and peppers with lots of garlic, maybe?) to fill the house with competing scents.
posted by xingcat at 4:55 PM on July 25, 2012

Buy multiple boxes of baking soda, the kind intended to put in fridge or freezer. Set up containment area wiith several in the impacted area and one in the doorway into the kirchen.
posted by Michele in California at 4:55 PM on July 25, 2012

Fan blowing out the kitchen window.

Also, you can find it, especially if you have a pet (drill a 1" hole in the base of the wall where they stop to obsess over the smell - You'll at least get the right span between two studs). If you don't have a pet - Borrow a friend's dog.

/ Had the same problem
// Eventually realized the cats knew exactly where it came from
posted by pla at 4:59 PM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

It can also help to try to seal up light switches, wall outlets and vents that might be helping the smell flow more freely into the room.

In addition to coffee grounds and baking soda, I've heard that charcoal briquets and/or white vinegar are good at absorbing this type of odor. Can't hurt to set out a few bowls/trays of each.

Good luck!
posted by argonauta at 5:02 PM on July 25, 2012

odor sponge - you can get them at hardware stores or at places like Bed Bath & Beyond link to an example product
posted by quince at 5:03 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

If dead mice smell like dead humans, Douglas Coupland recommends artificial cinnamon.
posted by feral_goldfish at 5:05 PM on July 25, 2012

Ozium spray may help.

Air conditioning up high slows down the odor.
posted by coldhotel at 5:15 PM on July 25, 2012

Careful with the vinegar; after I had the oven catch fire, I put bowls of vinegar all over to absorb the smell and then the place smelled of smoke AND vinegar. It was worse. Cookies would be better.
posted by Pomo at 5:31 PM on July 25, 2012

Aaagh, the smell of death is a tough one. One thing to try: simmer a chunked-up apple and a few cinnamon sticks for a few hours on the stovetop. This REALLY helps.
posted by julthumbscrew at 5:38 PM on July 25, 2012

Won't you be cooking, if it's a dinner party? That should cover the smell unless it's really really bad. Be sure to make something aromatically savory (caramelized onions!) or a flavorful dessert.

Also there will be drinking, no? After a few glasses of wine nobody will be able to tell.

The worst that could happen would be that someone would murmur, "what on earth was that SMELL?" upon leaving your apartment. Unless your friends are judgy germophobes nobody is even going to care, let alone remember in a week.
posted by Sara C. at 6:50 PM on July 25, 2012

Coat strips of beef in Rooster Sauce and stir fry. This creates a kind of tear gas effect which will cover up the order and deter anyone from sniffing too deeply in the kitchen area. Put the beef strips out with skewers as a party snack.
posted by humanfont at 7:07 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I hate to admit that I speak from experience, but dead rat smell is atrocious and once you've smelled it, it's cemented in your brain. If your guests have never smelled it before, they may not even notice and just think your entire apartment has a weird smell, but if they do know what it is, they may be squicked out and not want to eat your food. Like I said, I only say it because I've been there. Sorry!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:36 PM on July 25, 2012

It's New York. People have smelled it. Most are familiar with the notion of vermin crawling into the walls to die, and that this doesn't mean the owner (or renter) of said walls is dirty.

We see rats on the subway platform every day. It's not as big of a deal here as it would be in the suburbs.
posted by Sara C. at 7:44 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't do coffee if you like coffee. It didn't make our post Katrina rotten refrigerator smell any better; it just made me associate the smell of coffee with the smell of rot for a long time.
posted by artychoke at 7:58 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Having had this issue and smelled that smell... Oh don't mask it. It will smell like cinnamon and death. Or cookie and death. Or air freshener and death. Or if you try to ventilate it out, more faintly of death.

Reschedule your dinner party. Have a really good best friend who is invited? Call them, explain, and ask to bring the party to their house, with you providing food and cooking and cleaning services and an extra bottle of wine or two to boot.

You are unfortunately, through no fault of your own, incapable of being an excellent host with that particular smell in your home.
posted by slateyness at 10:50 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I think Sara C is just a little more in-your-face-I-like-my-dirty-city than I am. Yeah, there are rats in the subway, but usually they're cute and alive and not smelly. And yes, you can always recognize the smell of death, but the first assumption will not be "mouse in the walls." They may try to be polite, but it's really hard to hide. I second having it elsewhere.

If you must, make mulled cider, with cinnamon sticks and cloves. Make most of it in one big pot not too strong, but have another pot with just enough apple cider not to burn and stuffed to the brim with the scented stuff. Simmer both.

Also, you say pre-war Brooklyn apt, and I think cracks and crevices. Fill them with sealant. The death smell is coming from the holes.

Good luck!
posted by corb at 11:32 PM on July 25, 2012

Are your guests close enough friends that you could just herd them away from the wall if they get close and say "Oh, there's a funny smell coming from one of the walls in the kitchen, we're getting it checked out on Tuesday?"

Basically, if the guests are the kind of people to whom you could admit and laugh over having a bad smell in one part of your apartment, you should be OK as long as it stays contained. If you'd be incredibly embarrassed having to explain this to them, and if you're going to be stressing all evening over whether they can smell it, reschedule.
posted by ostro at 11:36 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

If possible to drill a hole small enough to get the thing out and a shop vac to suck the thing out. Works for us when one bites it in the RV vent.
posted by stormpooper at 9:36 AM on July 26, 2012

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