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Cleaning after a Hoarder Leaves

cleaning carpet

By Jerry L'Ecuyer & Frank Alvarez

Removing the carpet is a good first step.

Dear Maintenance Men:

The stench in the rental unit following an eviction was overwhelming. The tenant smoked heavily and collected all sorts of garbage. The unit was a disaster. We have cleaned the unit, including the carpet and painted the walls. The place still smells bad when we show the unit to a prospective resident. Because of the lingering smell, this unit is un-rentable. What do you suggest?


Dear Jessica:

Rancid smells, nicotine, animal and organic odors are very hard to remove, even after painting the walls and cleaning the carpets. Chances are, if the resident was a long-time hoarder, carpet replacement is inevitable. Remove the carpets, pad and tack strips. The tack strips are wood and can absorb and release the smell of smoke, urine etc. Thoroughly clean the floors with soapy water mixed with bleach. After cleaning the floors, it is not a bad idea to paint or use a primer to coat the flooring. One of the best ways to remove the odors from the walls is using old-fashioned elbow grease! Before painting, wash the walls with soapy water using a brush or rag. Adding TSP (a powdered cleaning solution available at most hardware stores) or using a degreasing agent will help in the cleaning. If you have flat ceilings, wash them too. If you have “acoustical” or “popcorn” type ceiling, that’s a problem. By its nature, acoustical ceiling material is difficult to clean. Encapsulating the acoustical ceiling with spray paint may solve the problem. You will need a primer coat and a minimum of two coats of paint. If the smell is still present, give it another coat of paint and let the unit air as much as possible. Don’t forget to wash the windows and window frames as they can retain nicotine odors. Replace any HVAC filters and vacuum dust from furnaces and A/C units.