I need suggestionns for exorcising pet odors from a rental house.
September 6, 2006 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Last weekend, we (young engaged couple and 2 cats) moved out of our apartment and into a house. Unfortunately, the previous occupants of this rental were bad tenants and poor dog owners. Now the house suffers the results of their treatment. Will we ever be able to enjoy this house?

In the course of their stay, their dog urinated and defecated on almost every carpeted surface in the house. The pet stains became ground in over time and while the odor must have subsided over time, the carpet cleaner they called the day before moving seems to have revived and amplified the smell of pet waste. When we first opened the door on Saturday, the smell of ammonia from the basement burned my eyes and nose. The dining room carpet was sodden (probably from the carpet cleaners) and smelled deeply of dog.

The carpets are obviously destroyed with no hope of salvation. In order to try and restore the house to inhabitability, we have ripped out the carpets and padding, scrubbed the floors underneath and the walls above, and have flooded the drain and sump with an enzyme solution (Nature’s Miracle) designed to eliminate pet stains and odor. Unfortunately, the smell still lingers though less potent than before. As is, the house is currently unlivable. We are staying with friends while we store our belongings in unaffected areas of the house.

Will we ever be able to fully move in, or is this house doomed? Are there any methods for ridding the house of the odor in a week? At that point, we would just start looking for another place to live.

For background:

The house belongs to friends who are currently traveling and is managed by another friend here in town. Backing out of the lease would not be an issue as they would understand. However, we do like the house and would like to help nurse it back to what it was before these hideous tenants damaged the house.
posted by Verdant to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd say ventilation may be your friend at this point. A good long (several days) airing out to start and then maybe chart a course after that. Fortunately, you have cooler September weather on your side whereas mid-July heat might just acerbate the stink issues.

You may also want to consult a professional cleaner that specializes in this sort of thing (as opposed to a regular carpet cleaner).

Any chance of having the owner/manager get after the previous tenants for repair/cleaning and carpet/floor replacement?
posted by jerseygirl at 9:36 AM on September 6, 2006

You should wipe every surface down with some sort of cleaning solution (diluted vinegar, diluted ammonia). I would also paint all the paintable surfaces. Remove all cloth/rugs et al from house and destroy. If the heating is forced air, get someone to come and clean the duct work and vents. Leave all the windows open for a few days too.
posted by sulaine at 9:38 AM on September 6, 2006

What are the "floors underneath" which you have scrubbed? If they're wood, you're out of luck. I've never heard of successfully removing pet odors from wood. My parents got rid of cat urine reek from a basement concrete floor with many applications of a cherry-scented solution-- no ide what it is, unfortunately.
posted by orangemiles at 9:45 AM on September 6, 2006

First: Talk to your real estate attorney (I'm assuming at this point you own the house). There are laws about the condition a place must be left in. You may be able to seek monetary compensation.

Next: Call around and hire a professional to get that smell out.

Nature's Miracle only goes so far. The smell is likely below the carpet padding and in the concrete or wood or whatever's there at this point.

It won't be cheap, but assuming you own this house it will be worth the investment even if you can't recoup damages from the previous owners.
posted by twiggy at 9:48 AM on September 6, 2006

Sometimes you have to reapply Nature's Miracle over and over and let it evaporate fully each time. I had a closet where my cats started (secretly) peeing and I had to do that-- make sure it is well ventilated during the evaporation period.

That said, unless the floors are really nice wood I'd probably rip 'em out and start fresh. Seems like a lot of work for a rental, even if your friends own it. I really don't think itt's your responsibility.
posted by miss tea at 9:53 AM on September 6, 2006

Painted surfaces and vinyl/linoleum floors should be washed with a strong, hot, TriSodium Phosphate solution. You can get TSP anywhere that sells paint. Be careful with TSP and exposed wood as it can have a beaching effect. Any textured coatings on walls or ceiling may have absorbed the smell and might need to be removed.

If you can't get the smell out any hardwood floors you could try encapsulation by refinishing with a varathane.
posted by Mitheral at 10:01 AM on September 6, 2006

twiggy - The question said "the previous occupants of this rental" and "The house belongs to friends who are currently traveling and is managed by another friend here in town. Backing out of the lease"

I don't think the OP owns the house.
posted by raedyn at 10:19 AM on September 6, 2006

There is are a few companies who deal with cleaning up properties after unattended deaths. Severe saturation of wood by bodily waste is one of the many things they have to deal with. You may find some advice through one of the services and/or sites which is more thourough than what you have on hand.

Here is the google search if it helps.
posted by slavlin at 10:43 AM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Sorry, you are gonna have to sand and refinish those floors. (Used to work in a rental department.)
posted by konolia at 12:12 PM on September 6, 2006

Response by poster: "What are the "floors underneath" which you have scrubbed? If they're wood, you're out of luck. .."
posted by orangemiles at 12:45 PM

The floor in the basement is unsealed concrete. We may be in luck since the padding beneath the carpet was non-absorbant and repelled the moisture. The dining room was carpeted with padding underneath and, below that, linoleum flooring. This has been the room most reponsive to treatment so far.

In terms of legal action, the house's owner will most likely pursue some kind of legal action against the former tenants.
posted by Verdant at 12:21 PM on September 6, 2006

We purchased our home knowing it had the problem you described. We were able to buy during a forclosure so we saved enough to do the work we had to do. The answers has been given. Get rid of all carpeting ans sand/refinish the hardwood. If there are not hardwood floors then I would think painting might work. The stains in the hardwood remained but after sanding and refinishing it had an attractive "stressed" look. Good Luck
posted by rmhsinc at 12:31 PM on September 6, 2006

Nature's Miracle needs to be applied and allowed to evaporate to fully complete its neutralizing cycle. I would use a garden-type pump or battery-operated sprayer to lay an even mist (undiluted), and then allow that to dry slowly - no fans - at least overnight. It could take several rounds. If the baseboards and doorframes suffered from leg-lifters, though, they may be part of the problem.

I would suggest washing the walls if you can. I used to do make-ready, and you wouldn't believe the difference a day with some mops and Simple Green spray would do for a house's smell. There's stink clinging there, I guarantee it. If you can't wash, then paint (if the smell is still really strong, Killz it first), and you may need to paint in the end anyway.

Get a black light to help you see if there's still actual urine anywhere. You don't need the "special" ones from the pet store - any will do, but get something portable enough that you can get it pretty close to the floors and walls.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:41 PM on September 6, 2006

Verdant writes "The floor in the basement is unsealed concrete."

Concrete can be painted as long as it isn't subject to vapour pressure. To find out: duct tape a square metre of clear plastic to the floor (you may want to check a few locations). Wait 24 hours. If moisture appears under the plastic paint is not going to adhere very well.
posted by Mitheral at 1:28 PM on September 6, 2006

I'd wash the concrete repeatedly with distilled vinegar and water 1:4 solution. Then maybe bleach and water 1:8 solution. Concrete is porous and has absobed some pee. After several washings, and a thorough drying, seal it with whatever the hardware store recommends.
posted by theora55 at 2:31 PM on September 6, 2006

This product claims to work on wooden floors as well and has a guarantee: justrite.

Our toilet seal broke and leaked onto the wooden subflooring. I'll let you know if anything works.
posted by craniac at 2:47 PM on September 6, 2006

Mythbusters to the rescue. Episode 16 Eliminating skunk smell.

Hydrogen peroxide + baking soda + liquid dish soap: it worked. Apparently the mixture releases oxygen compounds that bond with thiols and neutralize their smell. confirmed

Commercial skunk remover: worked, but not as well as the hydrogen peroxide mixture.

I used the comercial skunk stuff, Natures Miracle, when I moved in here (severe cat pee problem) and it took a few weeks of liberal spraying before there was no longer a trace.

If I had to do it today, I'd use the peroxide mixture.
posted by snsranch at 4:47 PM on September 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

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