Dear PoPville – Tracking Down a Horrible Smell

Photo by PoPville flickr user Néstor Sánchez Cordero Photography

“Dear PoPville,

I think I have a dead mouse in my bedroom (can smell it but cannot find it, so nasty). I was wondering if anyone had any hints as to finding and dealing with a dead mouse that might be behind a wall or under the floor.”

What a horrible situation. Sadly I can remember what that smells like and it is brutal. Anyone else ever experience this smell? What would you do in this situation – start ripping up floor boards? Or just febreeze the hell out of the room until the smell goes away?

32 Comment

  • The only way out is to go deeper in. Find more, worse smelling dead animals and place them strategically around your bedroom. Leave them there for 48 hours and go about business as usual. Then remove all of the aforementioned dead animals, and I promise you’ll no longer notice the dead mouse smell behind your wall.

  • When I was a kid and we put poison down we had this same problem when the critters would go back into their hiding places, usually in the walls and die. My advice is to use a lot of air freshner and anything else to mask the smell until it goes away. Or you can tear up your walls.

  • From my experience is if it’s in the wall (which, if you can’t find it, it probably is) you can only let it be. It should stop smelling eventually.

    • This is exactly right- you have to wait for the dead animal to basically dry up. For small field mice, the smell usually lasts for less than a week. For larger mice or rats, it’ll be a bit longer.

  • I haven’t tried it with dead mice, but I’d try using baking soda. Just put leave an open jar/bucket with baking soda close to the source of the smell (if you can find it) or anywhere in the bedroom if you can’t. Baking soda is very cheap so in the worst case scenario that it doesn’t work, you’ll have just wasted a couple of bucks.

  • Ride it out. The smell will grow on you.

    My experience with dead mice in undetermined locations is they don’t smell that long. How long has it been? Two hours or two months?

  • White vinegar is another option. Put a bowl of it out in your bedroom and, like baking soda, it will absorb odors. Maybe not enough to completely eradicate the decomp, but might alleviate it enough?

    • Another option is to add the vinegar to the baking soda…who would’ve ever thought the dumbest science fair idea was so practical!

  • Usually, I just tell my sons it’s time for them to take a bath, wash their sheets, and do their laundry. That pretty much takes care of the smell. : )

  • If you have carpet, try Carpet Fresh. Another good deterrent to stank is Pine Sol.
    Good Luck!!!

  • My dead animal in the wall eventually turned into a maggot fest. Fingers crossed that the smell really is the worst of it!

  • if it’s in the walls, you might just have to wait it out. this is why i’m a fan of traps instead of poison… with traps you clean it up and let it go… febreze and baking soda until then…. good luck!

  • This tends to happen a lot this time of year. When people turn on their heating system, whatever critter was living in your ducts gets an unhealthy dose of heat or gas and dies. The smell will go away in a couple weeks if you can’t find the carcass, but be on the look out for carrion flies. If they show up you really need to try to get the animal out of there.

  • One more thing, if you can afford them, invest in Rat Zappers and bait them with Resse’s Cups. That will help to get rid the critters.

    • I bought a Rat Zapper but haven’t set it up yet.

      Do I really need Reese’s Cups?? I was planning on baiting it with ordinary peanut butter. (I want to save the Reese’s for myself!)

  • We had a mouse that died behind (or maybe in) our HVAC unit last year and we couldn’t get to it to remove the carcass. We put one of those odor absorbers that’s a tub with some kind of gel inside in the closet and it really helped with the smell. It didn’t totally eliminate it, we had to let time work it’s magic on that, but it made a noticeable difference. I can’t remember the name of the product, but if you search for odor absorber, you’ll see a lot of results like I’m talking about.

  • I used to rent an appartment and had mice issues from time to time. I half trained by Chihuahua to sniff them out or at least indicate their latest path where I would then place traps. I wonder if she could pin point an area of the smell? She still goes hunting around when I ask her, “where’s the mouse”. Cutting a hole in the wall and patching it back up is probably going to take an hours worth of a handy man’s time, so it wouldn’t be too expensive…if you knew the area of the smell. Got any friends with dogs who hunt mice?

  • Use snap traps indside and poison outside along possible entry ways (door jams, ground level window sills)…we used poison once inside and had similar issues with a couple f’ers that died behind the range. Nasty removal process. And ALWAYS leave a snap trap or two set at ALL times. It blows to have to live this way but our house is like a dentists office and we still have mice from time to time.

  • First, make sure you didn’t leave a package of meat on top of the refrigerator two weeks ago when you were cleaning out/reorganizing the freezer. Not that I speak from experience or anything.

    Second, before we tore up carpet, we found that the gel-style odor absorbers that Honey Badger recommended above worked pretty well for dog pee stink. We used one that didn’t have much of a smell itself, so it wasn’t just adding another layer of on top of the dog pee stink.

  • I tried to wait this out in our finished basement. After a few months I finally demoed everything, and found a rotting rat carcass the size of a small cat.

    I’m saying, if it’s a mouse, you might be okay. If it’s a rat… maybe not.

  • Find the mouse body..since covering up the smell won’t fix the problem. Check the attic as well. Good luck.

  • Been running your HVAC, could be in the duct work near the vent to the room as well.

  • We had a dead rat smell coming from behind our sink (at least that was what we though). On daythree we found out he snawed his way from behind our plastic bin of dog food and died inside. Atleast he died happily. I am just thankful our dogs didn’t die too.

  • If you can find anyone local selling these, they work remarkably well:

    The Petco website offers them, but when I needed one, none of the dozen Petcos within 30 miles of DC had them.

    Second best is one of the gel odor absorbers you can buy at Home Depot.

  • Maggots are actually good in this case. They speed up the process. It only takes them a day or two to completely devour the carcass of a mouse or small bird, then they mature and fly away. Of course, then you have flies for a day or two, but it’s better than waiting the week+ that it would take for the thing to dry up and stop stinking without maggot assistance.

  • austindc

    We didn’t have a dead mouse, but one time I accidentally fried some fish in our apartment after the fish started to turn. Long story short, the apartment and all of our belongings and clothes smelled like rotten fish for four friggin months. I also had to deal with the volcanic anger in my wife’s eyes. We tried everything to get rid of the smell: baking soda, vinegar, and that stuff you sprinkle on the carpet and then vacuum up to get rid of pet smells. None of that worked. We eventually worked on masking it. Before we had company over, we would boil a pot of water with cinnamon, coffee, and other good smelling stuff.

    Anyway, if that thing’s in the wall, leave him there to send a message to other mice.

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