How to de-stink our rental deck?
June 17, 2014 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Because of Reasons, Mr. Blues and I rented an apartment sight-unseen. We moved in last week. It is generally quite nice, but the balcony/deck absolutely reeks of urine. Evidently a previous tenant seriously neglected her dogs (and potentially cats? it smells like cat pee to me) and they used the balcony as a bathroom. It absolutely reeks. How can we and or the management company fix this?

The balcony is really more of a small deck; it's slightly elevated and made of wood decking material. As far as I can tell, I can't access the space underneath it. There are small gaps between the boards and visible planking running underneath. There was enough urine on the deck that it ate through the paint leaving several large unfinished spots.

The smell is bad on a cool, cloudy day and absolutely overpowering on a sunny one. When we moved in, I washed it with Mr. Clean floor solution and rinsed with lots of water, which didn't help at all. I've been applying copious amounts of OUT! Hard Surface, which seems to be helping somewhat but there's still a smell. Also, the stuff is fairly expensive and I'm tired of buying it and spending my time on this, and I'd like to be able to use the deck during the short summer we have up here.

The management company has offered to prime with Kilz and then re-paint (though they seem to be in no hurry to actually do it). Will this be sufficient? I'm concerned about the gaps in the planking and whatever is going on under the decking. Also, is it reasonable to ask for a reduction in rent until they get it done, as the outdoor space, a big selling point for the apartment, is unusable? Finally, one of the reasons we chose a pet-friendly apartment is that we're hoping to adopt a dog in the reasonably near future. I'm concerned that, even if we get the deck to the point where it's ok for humans, future dog will still be able to smell the urine and want to use the deck as well-- any truth to that?
posted by charmcityblues to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
Maybe more of a stopgap solution than an answer to your question, but Anti-Icky-Poo - despite the stupid name - is extremely effective.
posted by capricorn at 8:53 AM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kilz won't do anything if they don't clean the area underneath. If you can't get them to do that then I would do what you can and move when your lease is up. Don't get a dog while you're here.
posted by emjaybee at 8:54 AM on June 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have some experience with trying to get cat urine out of wood and carpeting. In short, I was not able to reduce the smell by more than about half, which still made it basically intolerable, and I had to throw out affected materials.

My dog did not seem interested in peeing on the affected material.
posted by deadweightloss at 8:56 AM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe try large amounts of hot water with lots of baking soda mixed in? Pour that on the decking so it drains through and soaks the ground underneath. I suspect, as emjaybee says, at least part of the problem is the ground underneath.
posted by Beti at 8:59 AM on June 17, 2014

Best answer: I don't think there is much you can do, especially without access to underneath. If there is porous material (like wood) under the main deck, nothing you do to the top is going to matter. even if it was confined to the top layer, it's dicey. My uncle had an untrained dog who destroyed his hardwood floors inside the house. Even stripping and sanding the floors down and refinishing them didn't make the smell go away entirely.

Depending on where you live, there might be some recourse you can take with landlord. If it's as bad as you say, I would call the local housing authority and ask them if there is anything to do. At the very least, it's an unusable space, so perhaps you can renegotiate the rent.
posted by archimago at 9:03 AM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Nature's Miracle Ultra Cat pee version is exactly for this. But don't overpay at Petco. Get it 5x cheaper on Amazon.

It will need to saturate and dry completely. This will take time. But it will work.

I would saturate old towels or rags lying on the deck, so that the liquid has time to really really soak in.

I would treat the dirt under the decking with copious amounts of vinegar. Or just hose it with water every day until the other process was complete on the deck.

NO. Killz will not totally work. You need to treat the wood before sealing it with Killz.

It may take a week for the wood to dry out after treatment, FYI.

Also FYI - cleaners, especially those with bleach will not not not work. I don't know why, but that's the truth.

You might also soak the decking with a mix of Vinegar & Vodka, followed by Hydrogen Peroxide... But hat will take multiple saturations & the Nature's Miracle will take one or two.

This all has to do with chemical reactions.

I've just recently been dealing with this (long story) and this was what worked for me.
posted by jbenben at 9:03 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

My GF has 2 cats, one of which was afflicted with diabetes, in her previous apartment, and would just go anywhere and everywhere with abandon. When moving out, she hired a guy to clean and paint, and he suggested large mixing bowls or buckets with hot water, loads of vinegar and cut onions. He would leave the bowls for a day or two, then change the bowls out on his next appearance.

She needed access to the affected areas directly though. Basically the acid in the vinegar and onions neutralises the alkaline in the pee and thus the smell too.

She then applied Kilz liberally. There was still a touch of a smell, but it was cut considerably to the point where it was really not an issue. However, the management ended up just removing the affected wood areas completely.
posted by northtwilight at 9:11 AM on June 17, 2014

Best answer: How small is small? Manufactured (fake wood) decking is not too expensive - it might be easiest in the long run to do the sure thing -- pull up that decking and replace it. You should at least price that.

On the other hand, I've been really impressed by the oil-based (there are two kinds) Kilz and its ability to block smells. But your wood is probably quite wet and saturated because of all your cleaning attempts; I don't know how well you could paint that with anything right now.
posted by fritley at 9:11 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

The KILZ, in this case would do nothing. I've refinished a deck and here's what I'd do.

1. Get a hose and one of these nozzles. AS SEEN ON TV! (It works really well!)

2. Then strip off as much of the old finish as possible. Use the high power hose nozzle for this too. It really works!

3. THEN saturate with Nature's Miracle. I might do this twice. Saturate, dry, smell, saturate again if necessary.

4. Buy SUPER Wood Cleaner.

5. Do the wash with the wood cleaner, blast with the high power nozzle. Get up on the edges if any.

6. Rinse and let dry.

At this point you should be stink free.

You may not want to put KILZ on it now. The wood might be pretty. Under the horrible barn red paint, mine was old redwood, so I sealed and that was that.

With materials the cost should be under $100. It doesn't take a lot of time to be honest. I did mine in an afternoon. Most of it is just waiting for the products to sink in and do what they do. I rolled the sealer on with a paint roller. It was stupid simple.

Good luck.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:18 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

The cat piss could potentially be in the area underneath the decking which you can't access but cats might be able to.
posted by Mistress at 9:36 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

The cat piss could potentially be in the area underneath the decking which you can't access but cats might be able to.

Hence, it may be a notion to block off the under-deck to keep critters out. (Cats, raccoons, etc.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:48 AM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: it's slightly elevated and made of wood decking material. As far as I can tell, I can't access the space underneath it.

The wood decking will need to be ripped out and replaced after the space underneath is cleaned.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:33 AM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We've had success treating wood cabinets that had been peed on by a cat for many years with a mixture of baking soda, oxy clean, and dish soap in water. We found a recipe online somewhere that gave proportions, but it didn't seem to matter too much so eventually we just started dumping things into the water and not measuring. This mixture worked better than vinegar or enzyme cleaners (like Nature's miracle).

Because wood is porous and you have a major stink problem it will take many treatments. I'd plan on at least a dozen. The wood will need to dry in between. This will be a long process. If I were you I would try to convince the landlord to replace the deck. Getting rid of the smell will likely take months.
posted by medusa at 11:11 AM on June 17, 2014

Response by poster: I just talked to the manager and he seems at least somewhat willing to consider replacing the deck. He's really puzzled because the interim tenant lived in the apartment for several years and never complained. Possibly he too let his dog pee out there? A mystery indeed.
posted by charmcityblues at 11:49 AM on June 17, 2014

If the new deck doesn't work out, it would be worth trying repeated applications of this stuff, which is a miracle substance in our multi-critter household. (Nature's Miracle changed their formula in 2003 and has been coasting on reputation ever since.)
posted by usonian at 12:14 PM on June 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think the cat pee specific Nature's Miracle is still effective, because FOR SURE the regular Nature's Miracle doesn't work for sh$t lately.

Nthing usonian on this.
posted by jbenben at 1:49 PM on June 17, 2014

Maybe MisterMax Anti IckyPoo?
posted by stormyteal at 12:06 AM on June 18, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the answers! I managed to convince management that the deck had to be replaced. However, the process has been glacial and they have yet to even measure the deck. At this pace it doesn't look like we'll get to use the space this summer, which is a major bummer.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:42 PM on June 28, 2014

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