One little mouse...
December 24, 2007 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Something inside (the walls) just died right near our heating pipe, and we can't get it out...

It is most likely a mouse, and it smells putrid whenever the heat kicks on in our apartment building. So two questions: (1) If you have first-hand experience with this kind of odor, how long is it likely to last, and (2) what will be most effective at neutralizing the smell, in the meantime?
posted by yellowcandy to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Ugh, that sucks. In my experience, the smell lasts about a week or so (depending on the size of whatever croaked - bigger animals take longer), and the only thing that I've found that gets rid of the smell early is to put some Vicks under your nose, open the wall, and remove the corpse, then burn enough incense to make a hippie's eyes water.

I'm assuming that you own this apartment building, and don't have a super or landlord to do this one for you? Because if there EVER were a reason to call your landlord, this would be it.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:52 PM on December 24, 2007

Calling the landlord isn't an option.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:23 PM on December 24, 2007

If it were me, I'd cut open the wall, and remove the creature, and then cover the (small) hole with a cold air return cover that you can pick up at Home Depot for a couple of bucks.
posted by Neiltupper at 9:33 PM on December 24, 2007

bruce wagner's 1996 novel i'm losing you featured a "dead animal guy" whose job, full time, was to solve problems just like yours. could your veterinarian refer you to a real-life analogue?
posted by bruce at 9:44 PM on December 24, 2007

We recently bought a house that was a flip and had a mild mouse infestation. We had a pest control company come out and set poison and they died one by one. Each one brought the smell and lasted about a week. I think we had three or so total.

One of the things we found was that it was very difficult to locate the body by smell. We'd sniff and it would seem very, very strong, but try as we might we just couldn't locate the body. The point is there are a lot of crevices and crannies inside walls and attics. You might not get as close as you think if you start poking holes in the walls.

Just my .00002.

posted by tcv at 10:07 PM on December 24, 2007

Happens a couple of times a year at work; it takes 3-5 days for the dead mouse smell to go away. I've never noticed one last longer than 5 days, and I'm told I have a pretty sensitive nose for that kind of thing. I had a squirrel die in the chimney of a cabin I rented years ago, and that one took a full week.
posted by mediareport at 1:16 AM on December 25, 2007

If you think you can get near to where the critter is – even with a small opening, try using an enzyme deodorizer liquid/spray. Full service hardware stores, janitorial supply stores, or pet stores may have it available in your area. As I understand it this type of product does not just mask the odor, but uses enzymes to break down the organic material that is decomposing to produce the odors. Even spraying the air near the smelly area can help.

A three story apartment building I maintained developed a horrible smell in the enclosed back porch stairwell area that seemed equally strong on all three floors. I finally found an opossum who had holed up underneath the vinyl siding on the lowest level, breathed his last, and was causing breathing problems for us the living. Removing the carcass was gagging, but the smell lingered. I used quite a bit of an enzyme product (sorry I don’t recall the name) and within a couple of hours the apartments were habitable again.

A web-search for “organic enzyme deodorizer” turns up quite a few products.

If the critter is near the heating duct, it will likely decompose faster.
posted by tronec at 2:27 AM on December 25, 2007

If it was that bothersome, I'd make a fist-size hole in the wall to get it out. Patching it over is not that big a deal unless the walls are pristine and highly visible or uses something besides plain drywall. If you cut out a square chunk of drywall carefully, you can easily reinstall the chunk, plaster around it, and get it nearly back to where it was.
posted by chips ahoy at 3:25 AM on December 25, 2007

Even if they are plaster walls, you can patch them with some success using sheetrock90 and a bit of patience... don't try to do it all in one go. Leave it almost flush with the original wall, then fill the last couple mm with regular drywall mud and sand it flush with the wall, and paint over the patch... I've done it enough times due to my propensity to punch holes in the wall. Here's one page that mentions sheetrock if you're unfamiliar with the product (no association with sheetrock btw)

But, as the poster above mentioned, I think you might end up with a few holes to patch if you aren't certain where the critter has croaked. Good luck.
posted by glip at 8:08 AM on December 25, 2007

Burn a candle near the stench. The stink comes from the gases released during decomposition. In my old farmhouse, I found that a candle would dissipate the stench rather quickly.
posted by kat at 12:49 PM on December 25, 2007

Happened to some friends of mine. The dead animal guy they called couldn't guarantee he'd be able to find it without really tearing up the room (ie what others said above, a simple hole where you think the smell is coming from isn't likely to work) and basically he said, leave the room closed up for a couple weeks and the problem will resolve itself.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:53 PM on December 25, 2007

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