How to Easily Rid Your Property of Terrible Smells

I usually cringe when it comes to Monday morning, but not today; unit 3B is officially empty and I have never been more relieved. The worst tenants I’ve ever had are finally gone! They rarely paid on time and flicked cigarette butts off the balcony as if the common area were their personal ash tray. Even more annoying, the people below called me weekly to report them for blasting music after 10 pm and because their dog never stopped barking. Everybody out there has had the awful and draining experience of bad renters, but the worst part of all are the disgusting smells they leave behind.  Whoever thought up the idea of security deposits was a genius!

Some of the worst things I have ever smelled were left behind by obnoxious renters.  Rotting food garbage and dirty diapers in a hot unit is awful. Depending on how long it’s been in there, it can be accompanied by fruit flies and other pests. Fortunately, like any other trash it’s a quick fix. Open every window, then get your rubber gloves out, double bag the trash and get rid of it. Scrub the area with some good old-fashioned soap and water and finally spray some Lysol to disinfect the spot where the bags were resting. This usually takes care of the problem and those pesky flies go away on their own since they have a very short life span and need food or fruit to live. 

Much worse than rotting putrid garbage is animal urine. That smell gets into the carpets and even the paint on the walls.  It punches you in the face the minute you open the door, and if it’s humid out, forget it! There have been times where the smell was so potent, it burned my eyes. Over the years, I have tried a lot of different remedies. When I first started in the business, we would pay a ton of money to have the carpets replaced and the units repainted. Sometimes we would have Stanley Steamer come out and do the carpets and just have the walls washed. You can also use a company that specializes in odor removal like Fresh Foam. They can deodorize the unit and save you money because you won’t have to replace the carpets or repaint. 

Depending on the community where your units are located, you may also run into some very strong food smells and or spices. They have a way of getting into every nook and cranny of a space. I find the most effective way to combat this is to hire a thorough cleaning company and repaint. Depending on the strength of the smell, you can sometimes get away with having the carpets cleaned and, in some extreme cases, you may have to replace them. 

Smoke is a typical one and while it smells strong, you can eliminate it without spending a lot of money. Having the surfaces washed with vinegar and the rugs steam cleaned will usually get rid of the smell. Then, you can just air out the apartment for a few days, and it should be good as new.

The difficult thing about odors is that they can get anywhere there is an exposed surface: the ceiling, the light fixtures, even the window panes. They stick to everything making it seem like an impossible task to eliminate them. Usually, some elbow grease, patience and using a trusted outside contractor will do the trick. 

Have you dealt with horrible smells left over from residents? Tell us in the comments?

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  • Comment (1)
  • A great article. I gather information from everyone’s experiences. You refer to carpet… steam the carpet, clean the carpet etc. Here in my local of Gainesville, Florida I can tell you the first thing to go in my owned rentals is ………… carpet. Our problem is not staying warm it’s just the opposite. Homes with hard surface flooring like ceramic or VCT or (vinyl) plank are easier to cool. Next is the disgusting mess that all renters make in the best carpet. Do yourself a favor and get out of the carpet business. First time it needs to be replaced remove the pad , tack strip and go with some kind of hard surface flooring. Its easier to clean, healthier because it does not trap pollen, pet dander, allergens and you name. If the tenant wants carpet they can go to Sam’s or Costco and get some then when it gets gross they can pitch it or preferably take it along with them. I myself am not a big fan of wood laminate but some other people I know do use it.

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