Dead Animal Smell

By Robert Robillard on Home Maintenance



Dead Rodent Smell

Clients often call me and tell me they have they think is a dead animal smell. Often times, this smell is very strong, lasts a day or so, then goes away and comes back again a week later.

Decomposing Animal In House

A dead animal smell can take weeks to dissipate and disappear.  The dead animal can take weeks to months to decompose, depending on its size.

Common Culprits

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Squirrels
  • Opossums
  • Raccoons

Probably the biggest problem is that many animals will crawl into small spaces to die, making the carcass very difficult to find. A foul smell and flies are usually the only clues you get, so knowing the kind of places animals will try to hide is a skill generally developed with experience.

Locating The Animal

If you’re handy and have the stomach, you can try this yourself, but a pro will locate and remove it, or, if need be, cut a small, precise hole in the wall for retrieval.

The first thing you need to do is locate the animal. Sometimes looking for a point of entry helps. Common areas to check are:

  • Crawlspaces
  • Chimneys
  • Basements
  • Attics

On older homes, the walls are often balloon framed, which means the wall-studs basically run from the basement to the attic, giving an animal a lot of places to move around. Many times you can look down these cavities from the attic.

What To Do If You Find the Animal

If you do locate a small dead animal like a mouse, put on gloves, place it in a sealed plastic bag, and dispose of it in the trash. If you don’t know what the animal is or if it’s big, call in a professional.

Soiled Insulation

Be sure to remove any soiled insulation and wash the area with a special enzyme-based cleaner that destroys biohazard waste (BioShieldcq, for example).

Waiting It Out

If you’re unable to locate the animal and don’t call in a professional, you can just wait it out. Ionic air cleaners have been used with some positive results, as have enzymatic candles designed to remove pet odors. Area sprays will probably just add another odor rather than lessen the bad one.

If your home is in a humid location, you should consider the use of a dehumidifier. Odors tend to be stronger in high humidity and heat.

If it were me, I’d hire a professional.


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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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