Question Details

Jordan Gouger, Real Estate Pro in Austin, TX

How to remove strong smells from a house?

Asked by Jordan Gouger, Austin, TX Thu Feb 20, 2014

I've recently encountered several homes that had a smell of curry in them. In a few cases the smell was enough to convince someone to move on to the next house. What are some strategies to remove this smell or other strong smells, like cat urine?

Help the community by answering this question:


You can try baking apple pies and chocolate cookies 24 hours a day for a week, but that will just temporarily mask the odors. Same with painting. A friend who does crime scene clean-up told me that strong smells that permeate wall or flooring materials can only be removed two ways: 1) use a cleaning product that permeates as deep as the odor to eliminate it or 2) remove however many layers of the wall or flooring material have been saturated with the odor. Removing walls doesn't make a lot of sense for strong spices, so the ozone generator is usually the best choice. I know many brokers who keep one in the office for their agents to share. They cost from $250 to $400. Most manufacturers say to close up the room for about an hour, I usually let it run 3 or 4 hours.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 20, 2014
Thanks, I didn't think about an ozone generator. It's not curry in my case, but there is a strong cat smell in the entire basement. We haven't even owned a cat for about six months, but the smell has really sunk in. I'd like to get rid of the odor before putting my house on the market.
Flag Fri Jun 26, 2015
Carpets and Paint would be my first suggestion, some smells really get into the walls and are stubborn. I would assume you want to permanently get rid of these smells and in that case there may be some local companies that specialize in this. I would ask my broker.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 24, 2014
Good old baking soda, works better than anything and costs less.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 20, 2014
Hi Jordan

Febreeze might do the job
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 20, 2014
Food and pet smells can be tough. Replacing carpet and painting walls is a good place to start, but no one will guarantee results. I had an ozone generator which has helped in some cases in the past, but it broke. Urine smells can be reduced with an enzyme treatment you can get at pet store. Treat the area and let it soak in.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 20, 2014
I have used professional cleaning services. It can be a delicate subject with sellers but I think is one you need to have to better serve them.
Flag Fri Feb 21, 2014
Being a painting contractor, we run into a lot of homes, rentals with cooking, musty, pet and tobacco smoke odor problems. Painting the inside walls will not remove the odors as they are impregnated in the drywall, carpet, upholstery and drapes making the home harder to sell, or rent looks good smells badly. If you have to repaint, the inside walls add the Ionic Paint Additive, one treatment will continue to remain effective for 8-12 years.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 29, 2016
Odors can be mean reducing your listing by thousands of dollars. Rather than taking the lowest offer and having disappointed home sellers give BioSweep of Austin, TX a call. We have commercial grade machines that have been used for removing smoke odors out of clothing and furniture after fires. Rather than throwing away all the items that smell like smoke, Biosweep was able to eradicate the odor. The same technology can be applied to households that have any sort of organic odors such as cigarette smoke, mold, pet urine, cooking odors (fish or curry) and even post trauma odors. We have had major success with curry odor removal and have surprised real estate professionals with just how amazing the results are. BioSweep of Austin guarantees 100% customer satisfaction. The treatment is eco friendly, and does not utilize any harmful chemicals. Most projects can be completed in 12hours or less. Check out our website for more details:
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jun 23, 2015
Diluted bleach is best- then a Kilz paint job
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Nov 14, 2014
I have had this same problem when trying to sell houses. There has been a few times that I have had to bring in an animal removal company to help me get animals out. It usually smells really bad after that. I have had to redo the entire carpet. This is not a fun job at all.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Nov 13, 2014
One thing you might want to try is getting the carpet professionally cleaned. Odors like that can get down deep into the fibers and padding, which makes them linger. A professional cleaner should be able to get that up and freshen the carpet to like-new condition.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 4, 2014
Cat needs an odor neutralizer plus carpet cleaning and wall cleaning with the neutralizer. Food smells are better removed by opening all the windows and giving the kitchen a thorough cleaning (top to bottom and walls).
I did sell a house this year with terrible cigarette smoke that actually stained the walls and coated light fixtures. We had to use a professional service and they used a hydroxyl / ozone generator. Both are professional and they create molecules which can follow the smoke into tiny spaces, and both processes effectively remove the smell.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 4, 2014
While I do enjoy the smell of curry, I know not everyone does. Removing the surfaces that have absorbed the flavor is one way to go. It would all depend on what the smell has been trapped in and how easily that can be done.
Michael Foster
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Nov 4, 2014
These are all great tips. I'm glad I was able to review recommendations as I've encountered a few properties with smoke smells so I will recommend some of these remedies to my clients.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 24, 2014
I just recently experienced this with a listing. I would recommend having the carpets cleaned. I heard that repainting the interior can help. Fabrice disinfectant will work for about 10 minutes. Not an easy remedy, depending on the nature of the smell. Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 21, 2014
Hi Jordan, I agree with Y.Diaz. Baking soda usually absorbs odor but I don't how much you would have to use for a house.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 21, 2014
There is a wonderful product call Fresh Wave that you can purchase at ACE Hardware stores and I think Bed Bath and Beyond also carries it. There is a spray and a gel - I used it to rid my home of skunk odor! As an agent, we've used it on cat urine, and smoking odors. It has an initial pine scent and apparently it absorbs the "odors" you are trying to eliminate, the pine smell goes away very quickly. I think it takes several times/applications - but I think it works the best of anything I've tried. You can spray it right on fabrics, furniture, carpet without damage!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 21, 2014
I like the formula for removing Skunk spray from a dog that has been sprayed. Dawn Dish- baking soda- Hydrogen peroxide. Use equal parts. Scrub your floors and even your walls and brick it works.
Betty Carroll
Home Realtors
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 21, 2014
Hi Jordan,
I don't know if you've already tried, failed or succeeded, but in the future - open a bottle of white distilled vinegar. Pour it into an open bowl. Set it in the middle of the room. (Use one full bowl for each room)
Walk away for 24 hours. Be amazed at the loss of "that smell" when you come back!
Cat urine - hardest smell of all! Even when you eliminate it from human detection, another animal will be able to smell it! Soak it in the vinegar. Let dry thoroughly, then hope for the best.
Best to you! GhostbloggerMarie
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 21, 2014
I've learned the hard way on a listing w/ cat urine smell that the only way to take care of it is to remove the flooring, scrub the sub floor and put in new flooring.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 21, 2014
Cat Urine, I think is one of the hardest to remove. I'm highly allergic to cats and I have been unable to enter several homes where the cat smell was overbearing. Most buyers feel the same way and leave immediately.
Flag Fri Feb 21, 2014
Thank you for the responses, everyone! I really like the idea about an ozone generator and will look into that.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 21, 2014
If you can find the source of the smell, I.e. cat urine that soaked into the wood sub-floor, you can paint the floor with a primer product like Killz which "encapsulates" the foul smelling area. An ozone generator works great as well, and for food smells, typically something as inexpensive as white vinegar and/or baking soda mixture will clean the walls and get rid of the smell.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 21, 2014
The best way I have found to permanently remove curry odors from cooking in a house is to give the appliances a good cleaning, prime walls before painting them, and have the carpets professionally cleaned. This seems to do the trick
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 21, 2014
removing the first coat of paint in the kitchen, repaint, eventually the odor may dissipate,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 20, 2014
Thanks Dan and John! Your responses were helpful to me as I encounter the curry-laden odor too frequently. Best wishes!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 20, 2014
Search Advice
Ask our community a question
Email me when…

Learn more

Copyright © 2016 Trulia, Inc. All rights reserved.   |  
Have a question? Visit our Help Center to find the answer