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Getting Rid of House Odors

05/12/2010 6:51 AM

The property in question was rented to people who had a large dog. The two story house, with a full concrete basement, is now vacant. A strong unpleasant smell is present throughout the house, but more especially on the main floor near the front entrance door. I tried sopping the entrance area floor (ceramic tile) with a strong bleach/water solution but it made very little difference. I have a lot of other (unrelated) work to do to get this house back in good shape so it will remain vacant for a few months.

My questions: Will house odors, whether due to a dog or not, dissipate over time without any kind of chemical or other treatments?

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#1

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/12/2010 10:30 AM

Change the carpets, Captain.

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#2

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/12/2010 6:02 PM

not likely, Dog urine most likely has soaked through the grouting and along the edges at the wall. The smell may also have a mold component also. You may want to check the basement for moisture intrusion. If there is open concrete an/or block walls take a square of aluminum foil or plastic tape it down to the bare floor/wall locations for a day or two. Then remove if moisture/water is present the floor/wall will be darker/wet under the square. This will add to the ability for mold growth in the house especially in areas were a dog may have used for relief.

There are some enzymes products designed to break down urine smells But not sure it would work on old stains though. Most likely way to remove the odors is to strip/remove stained damage areas. If mold is found then to keep from spreading mold spores proper containment or removal service should be used. Then control source of moisture to keep mold at bay.

Sounds like you have your work cut out for you. And most likely your not able to collect any additional money for damage from the renters.

Charles

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/12/2010 11:15 PM

The enzymes don't work on old dried urine. It is almost impossible to chemically convert the stuff to something odorless or anything else for that matter. Perhaps long term exposure to all the microbes in the outdoor environment will work; but nobody so far has duplicated that process in a commercial product or any of the hundreds of "answers" you'll get in an internet search.

The only answers are to remove the solid material that the urine has soaked into or completely seal it up airtight. I have tried many different approaches to removing old urine stains from carpets without any real success. I do my testing with UV light, by the way. If it has remained on the surface long enough to dry then guaranteed it has soaked down deep into the surface. Once it has dried it is permanent. And will come back to haunt you on a winter day with the heat on or if you bring an unhousebroken new dog into the house.

How would I know this? We're on our 7th dachshund, a relatively difficult breed to housebreak. Believe me, I know.

Ed Weldon

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#12
In reply to #3

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 1:04 PM

I completely agree about wiener dogs. I've had them all my life and have the same problem. They are house broken and have a doggie door, but they are stubborn and sometimes decide not to use it...especially if there is any precipitation outside.

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#4

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 1:47 AM

clean well with soap then apply diluted sodium hypochlorite for disinfection and also for oxidizing odor or you may use ozon for oxidation the odor after that keep good ventalation then over time the bad smell will dssiapear.

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#5

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 2:08 AM

Have you checked your sewage line for cracks/leaks?

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#6

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 4:22 AM

That smell is only eclipsed by cat urine (Keep Del out of the basement). Got to agree with Mohamed, clean as best you can and then park an ozone generator in the basement for a week use a fan to circulate ozone as best you can.

Go for 400ppm+ generator. You should be able to hire them in bigger centres. Check with companies that do smoke damage restoration and crime scene clean-up. Then move it through the house from room to room for a few days at a time. Ozone in high concentrations is toxic so avoid undue extended exposure to it. Also remove things that oxidise easily from the room, like natural rubber products, they will perish with extended exposure to ozone. Ozone should sort out just about all the smells for you. Good luck.

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#7

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 10:05 AM

WE have one of those infamous 'big dogs'! If it is carpet, it and the pad MUST GO, period. If it is another surface such as tile, laminate flooring or linoleum, then a mixture of 25% household ammonia (lemon scented if you prefer) and the rest water will work handsomely. Application may bring tears to your eyes! Suitable breathing protection for large applications is advised. Also, honey's dish washing gloves unless you wish to find every cut and nick you've gotten in the last month...

While you are there, please check the sub-floor. Any areas of discoloration (and with big dogs, furniture, etc., they will be localized and most likely right before the front door) may be lightly sanded and covered with a urethane ("Diamond") finish/sealant. Make sure to go beyond the discolored area.

Ozone generation works quite well, but after the application of the above. If you tackle this project on a room-by-room basis (with appropriate sealing such as painter's sheet masking) you may be able to borrow the ozone unit from any local hotel/motel. These are not high utilization equipments and bribes most often work. Out here in "End-of-the-Earth", Oregon, the going rate is one plate of the 'better half's" oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies...

Try the ammonia on the hard surfaces first. I'm sure you will be surprised at the efficacy!

Best o' luck!

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 10:46 AM

Good answer as were a number of posts above. I would add one thing to the suggestions above. Shellac.

I discovered a mouse infestation inside one of the walls of my house during some renovation of the the downstairs water closet. The smell of mouse urine would gag an old Dad who changed many thousands of diapers while raising four kids. After vacuuming out the piles of droppings, I found the interior side of the sheathing and studs were stained with mouse urine. I used a cleaning solution (either 409 or Clorox Clean-Up) with a sponge and a bucket of rinse water and I did a light cleaning of those wood surfaces. Once dry, I used spray shellac and put a wet coat on all the affected surfaces. Shellac is a very light bodied finish so it penetrates well and gets into all the nooks and crannies. Once the shellac was dry, I could not detect any trace of odor. One other nice thing is that at my local home improvement store, the shellac finishes were considerably cheaper than the polyurathanes and varnishes.

If it's easy to remove the tainted surface, I prefer removal. But when that is impractical, I found shellac to be very effective odor blocker on porous surfaces like wood. Might be worth a try.

Good luck with your quest.

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#8

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 10:39 AM

If nothing works, try to distribute a big bag of "vanilla enriched sugar" in the area where it smells most awfully. We had a small fire in the house and the fire brigade gave us this hint. The burning smell was gone in 2 days. We used 2 bags with 25Kg each. This special sugar you can get from Bakery supply stores or vendors who serve large kitchens. I do not know whether normal white sugar works if the baking vanilla additve is added later.

Take a vaccum cleaner and collect the sugar - but don't eat it!

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#10

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 11:25 AM

I found, quite by accident, that coffee kills (at least some) other odors. I bought a car whose previous owner was clearly a smoker, and I am not... Shortly after buying the car, I accidentally left a supposedly sealed 2lb bag of whole-bean coffee in the car for a couple of hot summer days. When I returned to the car, it smelled of coffee, not cigarettes. If I recall correctly, I then left the still sealed bag in the car for a couple of weeks. Once I did remove the coffee from the car, the coffee smell slowly faded, but the cigarette odor never returned. I did use the coffee later, for its usual purpose, with no perceptible problem.

Can't hurt to try it! In your case I think I'd use ground coffee, sprinkled around and left there for a week or two, then vacuumed and discarded. Caveat: possible stains!

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#17
In reply to #10

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/15/2010 4:08 AM

This coffee trick is commonly done in Germany to get rid of car smells, a saucer of freshly ground coffee (any type and brand) seems to do the trick......a hot day or two helps...

You have been given lots of good advice here already but:-

I personally would get rid of any carpets if a really good carpet shampoo system fails to help. I would also completely redecorate the house from top to bottom.....most houses need that anyway when you first move in.....even just painting the walls and ceiling will get rid of a lot of the doggy smell, even after the paint has dried and the smell of new paint has gone.....All floors need scrubbing with a good dose of good disinfectant in with the water and cleaning agent.....really infected floors will need to be ripped up - sorry......I hope that the house was cheap.....

Lots of air moving through the house will also help but slowly.....

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#11

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 12:48 PM

I actually have some applied experience in odor mitigation at an industrial level... our facility had a concern along these lines. The concern passed our fence line and was elevated to a regulatory level.

As a result I have done quite a bit of research into the science of odor, its detection, and mitigation.

Odor detection varies person-to-person and is dynamic, stealthy, and misleading... Depending on the characteristic and intensity of the odor it may or may not be detectable adjacent to its source. If the odor is too intense, you will not be able to detect it until after its Dilution to Threshold limits have become low enough.

Check out ASTM E679-04 and ASTM E-544-99 if you are so inclined.

The relationship between odor intensity and concentration is psychophysical... Steven's Law (Dose-Response Function)

We got pretty deep into it here... chemical analysis, formulization of counter/dispersion agents, etc.

At a homeowner level, taking what I have learned at an industrial level, here's how I would combat it...

First, you have to find the source which isn't always where you smell it. Odors linger in stagnant air and increase in intensity over time, making it hard to find the actual source location. If you detect it when you first walk by the main floor front entrance that is where it has been diluted enough to be detected, but not necessarily where the source is.

A real world extreme example, I could not detect the odor standing unknowing right next to the source within our facility, or anywhere within our facility for that matter. It was not detectable until it reached about 1/2 a mile away from our facility and could continue to be detected up to 7 miles away.

Based on your description, and the little impact cleaning had in that area, odds are that is not where the source is but rather, with the opening and closing of the entrance air drafting has caused sufficient dilution of odor intensity for it to be detectable in that area.

As you progress closer to the actual source, you will loose 'detect-ability' due to either increased intensity or desensitizing, or both. The key here is to well ventilate the entire main floor of the home. Purge the whole floor for at least 24 hours, during that time do not expose yourself to similar odors.

Once your olfactory glands have been purged and the whole floor of the home has been purged, close up the main floor, to include all the curtains... sunlight heats air in various rooms unevenly and causes minor drafting. Then just start walking around until you detect it... this may take awhile. This can narrow it down to specific rooms, then rinse and repeat, to narrow down to specific locations.

Once you find the location you should be able to narrow it down to a cause... i.e. confirming that it's from a large dog, and that spot right there is where to always urinated because I can see the stain.

After we got to that level in our facility, we went all out and performed a chemical analysis of the odor and formulized a counter agent to 'clean' with and then resealed the surfaces. Our surfaces varied from steal to concrete to plastic to insulation... as the owner of a rental property, you probably don't have that luxury or ability.

Your options would included... if it's carpet or sub floor... replace... if it's concrete or structure... clean thoroughly then seal. You have already received excellent suggestions on measures in that regard. And, I'm sure once you finally confirm the source and identify the material that the odor causing agent has permeated that you will get even more excellent suggestions.

To answer your final question, yes odors will dissipate with time, but most of those that are emitted from solidified compounds will not diminish in any measureable degree within your lifetime so your focus should be to locate and replace or locate, clean and seal.

JavaHead

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#13

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 3:30 PM

Thanks all for your suggestions - great stuff. Just today I was in touch with a professional in the cleaning business and he brought an "industrial" dehumidifier and set it up in the basement. Will keep this running for a few days and observe the results. And I did find signs of mice and have taken steps to eradicate same. I noted the comment re mice droppings and sealing appropriate areas with shellac. I've removed most all of the carpets/underlayment and intend to remove the rest of them soon. Most of the main floor is covered with laminate (with plastic underlay), it was installed about 4 years ago. I'm hoping that this is not the source of the problem and, of course, I can't help being concerned with treating this floor with sodium hypochlorite + water as, I believe, excessive moisture can damage the laminate. Possibility that the basement floor drain is plugged - perhaps this is the cause and I'm checking it out as well. I will take up the ceramic tiles in the entrance area and replace later. The wx here has been cold and damp for some time but I will open windows and doors whenever it's practical (keeping in mind the dehumidifier is currently operating). Expect this odor situation will take time to resolve but I will follow-up with the results of my efforts on CR4.

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/14/2010 7:39 PM

Get another dog to find the source for you.When he cocks his leg up to pee, you stop him and take him outside for a break.Treat the spot he indicated.Try meat tenderizer mixed with water to break down the proteins.Let it sit overnight.Next day, wash with dishwasher detergent, not regular dish detergent.

After a couple of days of drying, retest with the dog.Repeat as nescessary.

If the dog gives the all clear, you can bet a human cannot smell it.

Simple solutions to complex problems.

HTRN

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#16
In reply to #13

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/15/2010 2:12 AM

good luck, the shellac idea sounds good I think chemical VOC odor is accepted and can pentrate into and stay in the carpet tex. You may also use these oriental smoking stuffs like Bakhor or oud (pieces of wood) it is nice permanant smell.

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#14

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

05/13/2010 8:21 PM

Please, Keep in touch! Many workable solutions (N.F.) here. Would like to know the ultimate source and mitigation.

Thanks,

GB

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#18

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

06/04/2010 12:15 AM

Try a hot water blast of the affected area, then follow detergent finishing with hypochorite.

Hot water blast will often bring out and remove dried materials, like urine, from such porous materials as concrete, or wood.

Use it as hot as possible so it penetrates well.

Lots of sound advice above.

Good luck.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

06/04/2010 6:46 AM

Have had an Industrial dehumidifier running since my last entry to CR4. The dehumidifier has reduced the RH (now running between 35 and 40 %) AND the odor has decreased as well. The odor however is still too high and as I progress with the renovations, etc. I will be trying other methods to reduce it to a "normal" level. I've removed all carpet and underlay, removed most of the wall panels and ceiling tiles in a basement room (detected mice in this area and droppings were mainly on top of the ceiling tile). It's a work in progress for sure.

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#20
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Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

06/05/2010 4:49 AM

Many thanks for the update, please do that again from time to time.

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#21

Re: Getting Rid of House Odors

12/19/2010 7:33 AM

Well I'm nearing the end of the renovations on the property. Just wanted to conclude with what I believe was the main source of the odors. The OSB sheathing was rotted and still wet around all of the windows and exterior doors. The smell from the wet and rotted OSB was powerfull. The vapour barrier was in bad shape so the gases entered the house without too much obstruction. The rotted sheathing was replaced. All carpeting and flooring has been replaced as well. The only remaining odors are from the new construction materials.

Further evidence that the OSB was the culprit is the odor from an identical house next door - the smell from the outside of the house is very familiar.

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