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How to Get Rid of Those Tough Odors in Your Properties

by Sharon Vornholt on November 5, 2012 · 19 comments

  
smelly odor

The Smell of Money

If you’ve been investing in real estate for any amount of time, I’m sure you have come across properties that just smell terrible. Now I’m not talking about regular odors such as dampness or mustiness; I’m talking about the ones that you just can’t get rid of with regular cleaning products. I think that one of the worst things you can ever deal with is pet urine, but there are other odors that are almost impossible to get out of a property such as curry, and cigarette smoke from a long term heavy smoker.

What do real estate investors like to say that those odors are?

You guessed it; “The smell of money”. 

3 Surefire Ways to Get Rid of the Odors

There are a number of products that you can use to attack this problem. Here are three that I know you can count on.

Nilium

One of the best products I have found for odors is called Nilium. I love this product! I have personally used in rental houses to get rid of odors.

This product is a highly concentrated, water soluble liquid. It can not only be used for cleaning, and water extraction systems, but it can added to paint to get rid of long standing odors in drywall such as cigarette smoke. I have used it in paint with great success. Nilium is very economical and there are several pleasant fragrances to choose from. In my area, a quart of this product costs roughly $10.00-$12.00 and you can purchase a gallon for less than $35.00. You only use about 1 or 2 ounces per gallon of water or paint so a little goes a long way. You can find this product locally without any problem.

Hydrocide

One of my daughters is a professional property manager who currently manages over 500 units. Her carpet cleaning professional regularly uses a product called Hydrocide. As you can imagine, they have a lot of issues with pet odors in carpet and also from problems that occur after water leaks.

It’s important to know that pet odors often remain even after the carpet has been replaced. You can use Hydrocide to seal concrete floors in slab houses before installing new carpet. It eliminates odor permanently on contact. It also destroys odors in carpet, upholstery, mattresses and grout. Hydrocide works on urine and just about any other really bad odor you can think of.

Hydrocide costs about $24.00 for a pint or about $90 for a gallon of this product. You can look online to see where these products can be purchased in your area.

Ozone Machines

Ozone machines are the last line of defense in a many cases. Ozone machines change oxygen (O2) into ozone (o3) by the high voltage electrical charge the machine produces. Professional grade machines can only be used in unoccupied rooms.

Not only will these machines permanently get rid odors that are hard to remove like curry that have a tendency to permeate areas, but they kill surface and airborne mold in unoccupied rooms. These machines are particularly useful for places like apartment communities where they a larger volume of water leaks.

These machines are light weight and easy to use, but professional quality machines can set you back $1500.00 or $1600.00. If you have a lot of property, this still might be something you would want to invest in.

There is one thing I need to caution you about regarding these types of machines. You can only use them in unoccupied properties.

Because they remove all of the oxygen from the room, not only do you need be sure no animals are left behind but it will damage anything that once was “part of an animal”. By that I mean leather and suede boots, shoes, belts, bags, sofa’s etc. These items will be seriously damaged or ruined if not removed or put in a tightly closed garbage bag. Large items like sofa’s can be wrapped in plastic or kind of “shrink wrapped”. The professionals that use these machines can give you more information.

You can find information about all of these products online.

Photo: Christian Guthier

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim Delp November 5, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I’ve used a mixture of vinegar, baking soda and water to remove the nicotine residue that gets on the walls, windows, cabinets etc. Worked well and with time the vinegar smell disipates.

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Sharon Vornholt November 6, 2012 at 6:54 am

Tim – That probably does work. You should try Nilium too. No cleaning, and it takes a way all the odor. You just put a little in your paint.

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Karen Rittenhouse November 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Another thing to consider is having the air ducts cleaned. They can capture and amazing amount of yuk!

Thanks for the great tips, Sharon.

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Sharon Vornholt November 6, 2012 at 6:55 am

Hey Karen –

To tell you the truth I never thought of that. I have had duct cleaning after doing a rehab, but not just on a rental property. Great tip.

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Al Williamson November 6, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Sharon,
You taught me a thing or two again. I haven’t faced order issues, but I really like the Nilium paint additive tip. You’re the best – thanks!

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Sharon Vornholt November 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Thanks Al!

I love that product. It just takes a little bit – an ounce or two in a gallon of paint, and the odor is gone for good. It has a lot of other uses too.

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Ned Carey November 6, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Great tips, another one i learned about here on Bigger pockets was coffee grounds. I had an oil furnace where the tank overflowed and the oil smell was awful. The coffee grounds took care of it.

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Sharon Vornholt November 7, 2012 at 6:59 am

Thanks for the tip Ned. I didn’t know about that one.

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Rachel November 7, 2012 at 7:14 am

Great tips here, Sharon! This is the first I’ve heard of these products – very good information to know. Both the smoke and curry odors on the walls are things I’ve encountered in the past.

I’d be curious to see if there are any products that could take out odors in carpets especially those with pet odors. These kinds of situations have always been challenges and replacing the carpets have usually been the norm in my experience. Though, it would be great if there are other options available. Thanks for sharing!

p.s. I’ve used coffee grounds before too, it’s worked sometimes and others it has not. I guess it just depends on the situation! :)

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Sharon Vornholt November 7, 2012 at 8:17 am

Hi Rachel –

I personally have found that pet urine doesn’t come out of the carpet completely. My daughter manages a large apartment community with 500+ units. Their carpet professional uses a black light to determine if their is pet urine in the carpet, and if there is the carpet gets pulled out. (And they get charged). They also always seal the floor too (concrete slabs). If you don’t seal the floor, the smell is still there.

The makers of Nilium says that it can be used on carpet to remove pet odors. Here are some suggestions for using it from the manufacturer:

It can be used on:
Carpets
Kennels
Drains
Floors and walls
Automobiles

It can be added to:
Paint
Bleach
Cleaners
Insecticides

Hydrocide is really valuable after water leaks. It prevents bacteria and mold growth. In those instances you pull out the carpet pad and throw that away. If the carpet is still in good shape, you can clean it with Hydrocide and the mold, bacteria and smell will be gone. It really helps with the costs if you don’t have to replace the carpet after things like a big water heater leak.

If all esle fails, the zone air machine will get rid of every odor.

I would definitely go get a bottle of Nilium and just add it to your paint and cleaners. I used this with great succes in a rental that had a family of heavy smokers. A bottle goes a long way.

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Rachel November 7, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Wow, thanks for the info Sharon! Very good tip about using Hydrocide after water leaks — definitely a common issue. Will be sure to check out Nilium, it sounds like a great product to have around! :)

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Sharon Vornholt November 8, 2012 at 7:40 am

I think you will like them. Good luck.

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Matt Ringer November 11, 2012 at 11:37 am

Our investor group is involved in buying and restoring foreclosure homes; most of the properties have sat empty for a year or more. Stale air, smoking and pet odors can get pretty bad. Selling a house with odor problems takes longer and affects the resale value. Painting the interior does not remove all odors as the odors are embedded in the carpets, carpet pads and drapes. A painting contractor mentioned a product called air-renu a paint additive. If it did work, we would save money by not having to replace the carpet and carpet pads. It took several days before all the odors were removed; now we use it for very house that we have to repaint. If you are having an odor problem, you might consider.

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Sharon Vornholt November 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Matt -

If it is a paint additive, it probably works like Nilium.

You can cover up the smell of pet urine, but you usually can’t get rid of it in carpet. If it’s a rental, you might be able to get by with it; I really don’t know. Once a tenant moves into a rental and the pet urine smell comes back, you will be hearing from them.

If you are flipping houses, I would recommend that you always install brand new carpet. Folks expect that.

I will look into the product you are recommending. Thanks!

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Matt Ringer November 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm

We have been using this product for over two years with no complaints. I also have repainted my own home and added the Air-ReNu paint additive with good results. Matt

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Michelle McCallister January 30, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Hi Sharon. I’ve used Nilium but I switched over to a product called Freshana Organic Solutions. Have you tried it?

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Sharon Vornholt January 31, 2014 at 7:54 am

I haven’t Michelle. I will check it out. Thanks!

Sharon

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J August 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Nilium is new to me. I will have to give it a go next time I have to paint cigarette smelling walls. Great tip there.

For Ozone machines you have some very safe options out there. I use a product called CritterZone from a company in my home state of MN. This works great at fully removing urine smells from carpets and hardwood floors. Works well on just about all odors from rental properties that I can’t get out after tenants leave. It beats spending lot’s of time and money on chemicals to do the cleanup.

I also like Anti-Iki-Poo for urine stains and smells. I’ll often use that instead of CritterZone if it’s just one area. However if the whole room or house smells like cat urine or an animal odor I just use Critterzone as it’s simpler.

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Sharon Vornholt August 4, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Nilium is great. Ozone machines are really great for things like curry, but there are definitely some things you need to do like remove pets and anything leather before turning one of those on. Pet urine is almost impossible to get out of carpet.

My daughter that manages over 500 units usually pulls it out and seals the concrete floor below it. No one wants to sit on pet urine do they?

Sharon

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