My apartment is a fish-maggot hell-world.
July 2, 2014 2:01 AM   Subscribe

My fridge broke. Turns out the terrible smell was because my roommate left some fish in there. For a week. I need to get the smell out of my house.


It smells like dead, rotten, disgusting fish in the apartment and up the hallway and down the stairs. The smell is everywhere. Febreeze et al. just makes it smell like floral dead fish.

The fridge broke about 6 days ago. We took all the stuff out, except for, inexplicably, the fish in the freezer. It has been evacuated. The fridge is totally dead and on the balcony, will be hauled away at some point.

Important! I am living in Central Africa and I do not have access to the vast majority of consumer goods. But if you tell me to cover my floor in vinegar and baking soda and then dance around on one foot depending on the position of the stars, believe me, I will do it.
posted by quadrilaterals to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Forgot to add - the entire apartment is tiled and has cement walls (painted). There are a few windows; they are open. We have air conditioning units in the bedrooms only. The whole apartment is probably 600-700 sq ft.
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:04 AM on July 2, 2014

I knew someone in a similar situation (fridge got accidentally shut off, they were away on holidays, a frozen fish in the freezer thawed and went rotten). She cleaned the fridge out and then put baking trays with heaps of ground coffee on each shelf and in the freezer. She swore it worked and their fridge was usable again.

Do you have access to a ton of cheap ground coffee? It's worth a try. Put bowls of it all over your apartment and put baking trays of it in the fridge and freezer until it can be hauled away...I bet some of the smell is coming back in to your apartment from the stinky fridge on your balcony.

Though I've not used them on rotting fish odour, I have used coffee beans (not ground) to deodorize sports shoes that were so stinky I refused to have them in the house. I filled each shoe with coffee beans, left them for a couple of days, and then when I dumped out the beans, the stench was gone. It was like a miracle.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:16 AM on July 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

One thing that works quite well is to boil vinegar in the house. Most types of white vinegar - whatever's cheap - will work. Keep it boiling until the whole place is eye-wateringly vinegary.

Initially your house will stink of vinegar, of course, but that fades quite quickly and should take most of the bad smell with it. Air the house thoroughly and repeat daily until the smell is completely gone.
posted by pipeski at 2:42 AM on July 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

You said you could get Febreze - can you get this?

It worked in our house with our unhousebroken dog.

Have you tried plain baking soda and letting it sit on the carpets for an hour or so? I'm assuming they made that product to capitalize on something people already used it for, and added some perfume.

Also incense? Washing everything textile based that can hold an odor, including hallway carpets, dishtowels from the kitchen, etc -- everything porous?

These are the things we have thrown at this problem. Well, not fish. Dog pee. Principle's the same I would imagine.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:27 AM on July 2, 2014

Book a 4 day holiday--before leaving shut up the apartment and put copious amounts of baking soda in each room, if that does not work book another holiday and do the same with vinegar, if that does not work mix the baking soda and vinegar together and get the hell out before the flat explodes. Seriously--baking soda and then try vinegar. If all else fails time will heal it. I would be interested to see what people say about whether to keep the windows open or closed while actively treating the smell. Best of Luck
posted by rmhsinc at 3:34 AM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Go buy the cheapest shittiest coffee maker you can find, and then buy the cheapest shittiest dollar store coffee you can. Overload the ground holder, and hell throw some extra grounds in the pot. Fill it up to "12" or whatever the max is.

Turn it on, and just leave it. Let the coffee brew, and let it completely boil/burn dry and just burn. Leave it on until it has utterly turned beyond tar into a solid paint-like substance and no smells are being emitted.

I've heard from several people this is something the dead-body-left-in-apartment cleanup companies do, although some bring stale cold coffee and just boil it dry on a thrift store pan on the stove. Failing the coffee maker method(and the coffee steam from that helps), just boiling several bouts in a pan and really letting it burn dry would probably go a long way.

I would keep doing this over and over until it quit stinking. I'd get a hot plate and do it multiple locations simultaneously in the apartment if i could.

You'll be shocked at how permeating the smell of burning coffee is. It can overpower anything. Dead animals, rotting garbage smells, anything.
posted by emptythought at 3:49 AM on July 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

(Having dealt with a dead body cleanup company dealing with cleaning up after a dead body, no, they use industrial strength ozone generators, which are probably not readily available in central Africa.)
Based on my experience: wash everything down. If it is soft, launder it; if it is hard, mop it or clean it with a sponge; if you can't clean it, dispose of it or at least air it out for a long time. Consider repainting. If you can't repaint, thoroughly mop down the walls and ceiling.
Baking soda and vinegar both work on the principle of literally neutralizing odor molecules. They work great but only on things where they can absorb as readily as the odor vapors did. Hence the need to clean.
posted by gingerest at 4:32 AM on July 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I can tell you that the smell does eventually go away- once my family went on vacation and our foot-long pet fish flopped himself out onto the floor and died. In the summer. It was truly heinous for several days, but this too shall pass.

A word of warning: if there is a smell you really like, don't try to use it to cover the fish smell up. Apple cinnamon candles still mean "rotten fish" to me almost 15 years later.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:40 AM on July 2, 2014 [12 favorites]

I would think that your first project would be to get the rotting fish off the balcony. If your windows are open and the fish is still there, just right outside the window...

Ok. Your best bet here is to thoroughly clean everything and boil vinegar on the stove until your eyes water. And put baking soda in the fridge. And leave the apartment for a few days with the windows open. The smell will dissipate eventually.

So sorry.
posted by sockermom at 5:40 AM on July 2, 2014

Ammonia is also good at absorbing smells, if you leave a bowl of it out it should absorb some of the odor.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 6:06 AM on July 2, 2014

"I would think that your first project would be to get the rotting fish off the balcony. "

It's the fridge that is on the balcony, not the fish.
posted by tdismukes at 7:15 AM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I once burned my dinner badly enough that smoke filled the house and the smell lingered for days. I aired the place as much as I could and also wiped down surfaces with vinegar - used a sponge mop to get the walls. It helped.
posted by bunderful at 8:30 AM on July 2, 2014

Use a sprayer with a mild bleach solution, about 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Spray all washable surfaces - don't forget ceilings - then wipe down. Wait 1 day, then do the same with white vinegar, about 1 part vinegar to 6 parts water. Cedar oil is a good de-odorizer.
posted by theora55 at 5:28 PM on July 2, 2014

« Older Can you dig it? Can I?   |   Preparing for a lumpy hundred Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.