How can I get rid of this smell?!
March 21, 2008 7:14 PM   Subscribe

A rat died in my wall (or ceiling), and it smells terrible. I'm leaving town for a week, what can I do to make sure the smell is gone (or greatly diminished) by the time I come back?

My house had a rat problem, and my landlord opted to put bait in the attic. When asked about what would happen if one died in the walls, he insisted that the bait would make them thirsty and leave the house. No problem for a few months, but now there's definitely something dead.

I noticed that my bathroom was smelling sour a couple days ago, but I didn't think it would be a big deal. Now it's beyond belief nasty. The window is all the way open, I've taken everything out, and I've sealed off the bottom of the door to halt the stench.

I'm leaving town tomorrow, so Ive planned to leave the window open while I'm gone and put down some fly traps. What else can I do to help this awful process along, and will the smell die down over the week? If I were going to be around, I'd try and have my landlord do something about this, but I would prefer not to have him in my house if I'm not here.
posted by Orrorin to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
It depends what the ambient temperature is. If it's warm then the smell will be gone in a week or two. If it's still cool, it could be longer.

I feel your pain. We had an animal die in the crawlspace of a house we were renting a couple of years ago and it took months for the smell to die away. We had a guy crawl in on his belly and try to extract the corpse but he couldn't get to it. A couple months later a mouse crawled into the impeller fan of my truck's AC unit and got sliced to bits. The stench was unbearable and I had to take it to the shop to get the unit cleaned out. The guy who did it said it was the worst job he had ever done.
posted by unSane at 7:26 PM on March 21, 2008

Burhanistan is right - if you can't find it/access the corpse before you leave, it's better to just let the circle of life take care of smell. Which, I would add, probably means you shouldn't put out the fly traps, since maggots will do the cleanup work if the ants do not.

What you might want to consider is wedging rags or laying duct tape sticky-side-up by any cracks or seams near where you think the smell is emanating from. This might help prevent said maggots/creepy-crawlies when they exit the wall and into your room. Expect bugs when you get back home.
posted by krippledkonscious at 7:30 PM on March 21, 2008

The smell is going to happen no matter what you do.
And then the flies come. The flies come in numbers that you won't believe.
But ya, you (or I guess the landlord) have to find where they're getting in or it will keep happening. Walk around the house and fill every hole you see with that polyurethane foam if you can't brick it over/nail it shut/re-shingle it.
posted by chococat at 7:52 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you can localize the smell (know anyone with keen olfactories?), cut into the drywall and fish it out of there. I think that's more preferable to knowing there's a decomposing animal a few feet away every time you take a shower. And patching drywall isn't very difficult.
posted by hjo3 at 8:07 PM on March 21, 2008

Biological-Ecological Solution: If you can get the right kind of ants to find their way to it, they will devour it. Any Pharaoh ants in the yard? (the common little tiny ants)
posted by coffeefilter at 8:40 PM on March 21, 2008

There's not much you can do short of trying to locate the smell and tearing out the drywall to get at it. If it was a raccoon or possum in the wall (like my friend had) I would recommend that, but for a rat, I'm afraid have to just let it desiccate. It will fade with time. Open the windows and plan on using a lot of air fresheners or incense for the next few weeks.
posted by wsg at 9:43 PM on March 21, 2008

If you can get the right kind of ants to find their way to it, they will devour it.
Perhaps, but then you have a colony of ants in your house!

So? Then get some spiders... and then birds... and then cats. It ends with horses.

Nthing the "just leave it" brigade. It'll rot and dry out before you find/figure it out anyway.
posted by rokusan at 11:27 PM on March 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm leaving town for a week

That's the better part of your solution right there.
posted by sourwookie at 12:11 AM on March 22, 2008

If your bathroom has an exhaust fan, leave it on for the week you're away.
posted by flabdablet at 3:31 AM on March 22, 2008

I don't know about leaving the exhaust fan on while gone. Those things can overheat and catch fire. Maybe not but something to consider.. I'm kinda paranoid about such things.
posted by pearlybob at 7:43 AM on March 22, 2008

Nthing the fact that the smell should be gone in a week. We get dead mice in the walls at work a couple of times a year, and the smell lasts at most 3-5 days. A rat may take longer, but probably not by much. Also, this thread may be relevant.
posted by mediareport at 9:33 PM on March 22, 2008

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