That Hoarders Smell

This Room Became My Girls’ Bedroom

The house I bought was not as bad as some of the houses you see on Hoarders, at least the whole house wasn’t.   But the third floor attic bedroom was as bad as those hoarders’ houses.  This is where the man who I call PissMan, his girlfriend and their cat (sans litter box) stayed.  The cat just relieved itself on all the stuff up there — clothes, cardboard boxes, etc.  I needed this room to be a bedroom for two of my kids.  It had to be completely transformed.

The master bedroom that became my room was the second worst. That is where the family matriarch stayed until she was confined to a hospital bed downstairs, and eventually passed away.  See What Happened In My House? Murder?   It was in  this room where at least one cat was confined with a litter box, sans litter.   This cat threw up a lot on the old hardwood floor.  Nobody cleaned it up.  Old hardwood floors –150 year old unmaintained hardwood floors–  have many cracks, they do not have thick coats of Polyurethane to repel liquid.  They act as sponges, soaking up whatever is dropped on them.  Cat urine, feces, canned food and cigarette ashes had been dropped on them and left there in the Summer months, with no air conditioning or adequate ventilation.

Enough said.

This house had been a house of smokers for many, many years.  The walls and ceilings had once been white but had turned a brownish-yellow.  So, underneath all of the animal and human excrement smells was the smell of years of cigarette smoke.  In addition, there had been some water damage in some of the rooms.

Notice the rug.

This added another smell —  wet plaster, wet rugs and mold.   Hmmm Hmmm Good!

Some rooms were worse than others as far as the hoard goes, but the whole house stunk.  The smell was bad, really bad.  It was so bad that I could smell it from the outside, while I was on the porch roof painting the exterior of the house with oil based paint.

Imagine — a beautiful  Spring day, being up high in the sunshine — flowers blooming, birds singing — yet I could still smell the inside of the house — and it was enough to make me nauseous —  and seriously question my decision to purchase that house.  What was I thinking?   (Well, I was thinking I had to move, I wanted to keep the kids in the same schools, and with five children and no money I had very little choice . . . but I digress . . . )

Paint fumes?  Not a problem.  Fumes from in the house?  Problem.

The smell is difficult to describe, but  I’ll try.   You know when a smell is so pungent that you begin to taste it?    Have you ever smelled a diaper after days in the trash, or after it has gotten wet?   Are you familiar with that  neglected service station bathroom smell?    Cat urine?  A litter box that hasn’t been  cleaned in  — months?  Well, that shouldn’t happen, but just imagine.  Adult human urine and feces?   Has anyone ever let milk or cream go bad — like until it gets lumpy? Let’s see what else — food.  The family cooked in a kitchen with absolutely no ventilation.   Oh yeah, and soap.  These people washed, but the usually comforting smell of soap just added to the soup of nastiness.  The home’s overall smell was sour and sweet and nauseating, stronger in some areas yet pervasively throughout everything.

It was nasty.

Eventually, however, the family who had lived there for four generations, left.   Five people,  two cats –at the time (previously there had been many more cats, I’m told, and various other pets.  The mom/grandmother loved her animals.  See Accidental Exhumation;  Be Careful For What You Dig For) plus  human urine, feces, trash, piss soaked carpet remnants  — all gone, though not in one trip.

Finally, the only thing left was their security deposit.   Given the items they tried to leave me,  i.e.  bottles of urine, and various other debris including used adult diapers and crack, yeah, I kept their money.

So they were gone.   Their stuff was gone.

The odor, however, remained — not surprising considering all the piss bottles and all.    See Piss, Puke and Porn.

The Obligatory Piss Picture

Damn, thinking back on all of this.  I can almost taste that smell again.   Ew.  

Anyway, the following is my public service announcement and my personal account of  how I got rid of   . . .

That Hoarders Smell:


Hard scrubbed with good old-fashioned Pine Sol, barely diluted,  rinsed and wiped down with water, repeat.  Repeat until   layers of dirt and smoke were removed.  Spackle, sand.

Primed with oil-based primer.  This is the kind you cannot wash off with soap and water.  This is the hard stuff.  If you get it on your clothes, they are ruined.   If you get it on your skin or hair,   either suffer through washing with turpentine or paint remover, or wait until it wears off on its own.  The oil-based smell is strong.  A mask is required for safety.   Given the smells I was trying to eradicate, I welcomed the chemical smell of the paint, though, I admit.

Paint.  I bought the thickest (and unfortunately the most expensive) paint I could find.  Paint, repeat.  The walls  and ceilings required two coats of paint to deal with the smell and smoke stains.


Scrape the cat feces and vomit, and tape residue (they used tape for many repairs),

Sand the floors (some floors I had professionally sanded, but taking off a layer of floor did not, unfortunately, take away the smell, it some areas it made it worse).

Seal the floor (and odors) by painting with oil based floor paint.  (The floors were in pretty bad shape, staining and them and covering them with clear polyurethane probably still would not make them look good, plus there was a time issue, since we had to move in immediately and therefore needed to be able to walk on the floors right away.)

All in all, smell removal was a huge process.     Though it was nice to choose wall colors for my new digs, my painting of every surface of the house had very little to do with decor.   No, my painting  had to do with odor control.  It had to be done.

Not surprisingly, now  I enjoy watching the show Hoarders on A&E, though I had never heard of it when I was cleaning  my house.   Watching now I’m never surprised when those Hoarders houses  get a fresh coat of paint.  It’s not a makeover, it’s a smellover.

Now?   Now my house smells good.  But it’s a freaking miracle.  A miracle brought about  by hard work and some angels, very extremely cool people who volunteered to help me.  A post dedicated to these folks is forthcoming.

Just Me With . . . no more smell, and  a sudden urge to clean.

Related, Goodbye Hoarders  — The television show Hoarders has been cancelled.

One of my daughters wants a cat.   I have nothing against cats, but after going through what I did to clean this house, I can’t do it.  I just can’t.  I don’t want to smell a litter box, even just to clean it.

31 responses

  1. Once again, you are a total home improvement super hero. TLC should make a show about YOU.

    1. Aw thanks, but they would need to be able to broadcast it in Smell-a-vision.

  2. I’m feeling skin crawl after reading that…you have some serious fortitude to get that all fixed and deodorized. 🙂

  3. Yea, that’s some serious skin-crawling. Holy good lord. Can’t wait for lunch 🙂 Kidding. Anyway, GO YOU for getting this smell out. I can’t imagine the amount of elbow grease that must have required.

  4. […] a busy street, in the neighborhood of “The Help”  that I had to work my butt off to get the Hoarder smell out of ,  it seems that no matter what transpired and how well the children have adapted to and […]

  5. Help me PLEASE!!!!! | Reply

    I so feel your pain. I’m constantly fighting and desperately need help with a similar problem. Unfortunately, my husband and I live with my mother in law who is disgusting and her room has “that” smell, sans the cat pee and feces, but with a constant barrage of human pee and feces, more nastiness and NO bathing (she takes a bath once a year if we’re lucky). Since she is female that automatically means an added smell that is enough on its own to make anyone gag. Combine that with the gross old women’s perfume she adds to the mix and it’s impossible to even be in the same room/car with her. Multiple people have lovingly approached her with the issue and she doesn’t care one bit how detrimental to her health it is or how miserable she’s making everyone around her.

    Anyway, we’re stuck here for now so we just try to keep the smell down because it makes the rest of the house stink, which we work very hard to keep clean and odor-free. I’ve tried everything to make her room stop stinking up the rest of the house. She freaks out if she even thinks we touched or moved anything in there so we can’t just empty it and clean it like it needs to really get rid of the smell. We have cleaned it for her several times in the past and she just piles it right back up within a few weeks. There’s a path around the bed to the bathroom and that’s it, the floor is barley visible and only in spots where I’ve picked up items that I know are just trash like food wrappers and bags and things, and even the bed is piled 4-5 feet high except for the spot she sleeps. I go in there every few days and bleach every surface and wall I can get to and spray it down with lysol and various other products to try to keep the smell at bay, but nothing helps for more than an hour or so. If anyone can recommend products or other ways to keep the smell down until we can get out of this house, PLEASE let me know asap!!!!! Surely there is a product that absorbs horrible smells in crime scenes or hospitals or something that I can leave in there or spray in there, right? Thank you everyone!

    1. Oh you poor thing. I don’t know what to tell you. My hoarders had left but you have an ongoing situation. Can you sneak stuff out and wash it and put it back? Or, maybe use sealant around the door to keep the smell from coming into the rest of the house, you know how people weatherproof doors and windows? Do it on the inside door to keep the smells out. Do you have carpet and curtains throughout the house? Maybe decrease the amount of cloth in the house, anything that holds smells. Ugh. I hope your situation changes soon.

      1. Help me PLEASE!!!!!

        Thank you! It’s just nice to know that someone knows what it’s like and even cares lol! The entire family just pretends like it doesn’t exist since they don’t have to deal with it, and on top of that, WE’RE the looked down on like we’re the problem. A few of them fuss about it when they have to deal with once or twice a year, but then when they’re not around they actually encourage her to be a bigger problem by telling her she can do whatever she wants because it’s her house etc., and just purposely exacerbate the problem… but WE take care of this house and do everything that gets done in it, and his dad (who left a billion years ago – wonder why) pays for it, so it seems to me that she’s kind of 3rd in line as far as all of that is concerned. Funny how the tables turn so quickly, huh! The only real answer is to get out, and we’re doing everything humanly possible to make that happen. I’m literally killing myself working day and night trying to fix it, which makes it even more frustrating. I have weatherproofing and a draft guard blocking as much nasty smell as possible from oozing out from under and around the door, but it just keeps coming. Every time the door is opened I have to spray lysol to stop it in its tracks before it gets into the rest of everything in the house. I’ve been using a diluted bleach spray to spray down all of the surfaces and the air and even the fabrics and curtains in there, but all of that only kills the smell for about 30 minutes or so, then it just comes right back. Eventually, I’m going to get fed up enough that I’ll just let everyone say what they want and bag it all up and put it all in the trash. They already treat us like dirt, so I might as well give them a reason and actually get something out of it lol! Thanks again! I really appreciate it! 🙂

    2. There is a product called Consume (by Spartan Chemical Company) that is made for this purpose. It worked wonders on one of my rental properties. Go to a commercial cleaning supplier to purchase it.

      1. I’m someone else, but THANK YOU! This Consume – it neutralizes, or tries to cover the smell? ‘Cause the coverers, they just make it worse! 😀

  6. Great post! Good to hear that you can turn a disaster into a loving home. We found this post after thinking about buying a hoarders house. You give us hope that it might work out.

    1. Thank you. Hoarders houses make for great before and after pictures. I wish they could come in smellavision. Good luck. Can’t beat the price of hoarder’s houses either.

  7. Did you not see the inside of the house before you bought it?

    1. I did see it. But it was Fall so the smell wasn’t quite as bad, it was so filled with stuff I couldn’t see the piss or water damage, or some walls, closets were completely full — like on Hoarders. I never could see the floor in some rooms. Didn’t actually see the floor or walls until after they moved out. I was an “as-is” sale on the only house I could afford and keep my kids in the same schools. Other people interested in the house never got past the front room (which was the least smelly). Even with all that, there was a bidding war for the house, because of the schools. They had a lot of things hanging to keep out bad spirits. Weird.

  8. […] my house painted this week. I know I’ve written about painting it myself, describing how That Hoarders Smell  inside the house was so bad that it engulfed me even while I was painting outside.  So yeah, I […]

  9. […] took a paint scraper to get it up the big chunks and later a full sanding of the hardwood floors.  See, That Hoarders Smell   Not to mention the cat urine which had soaked into the floors and the wet cat food in there  […]

  10. […] but I needed to be around to supervise, and continue my round the clock cleaning and painting, see That Hoarder’s Smell, and also try to organize our belongings —which were stored in stacks of boxes that could not […]

  11. […] birth to five children in three and a half years.  Wow.  And she has moved into a house which used to be inhabited by hoarders.  Who peed in Coke bottles.  Which they hoarded.  Wow indeed.  Check her […]

  12. Sarah Clemment | Reply

    Congrats on getting that cleaned up. I’m sure your house appreciates you for that, Iin return it will keep you safe and warm.

    1. Thank you. Yes, the house needed the TLC. I think the neighbors appreciate it as well. I’ve had strangers stop and compliment it and I appreciate it so much. Once even the pizza delivery person said how different the house was inside. I’m not sure but I think she was talking about the smell. I also talked to a woman who thought about buying the house but when she walked in and saw the cats and the smell she just walked out. She didn’t even go all the way inside. The smell was bad, really bad.

  13. […] I’ve also written before about how I moved into a hoarders home and had to clean it, see That Hoarders Smell, and that I’m also trying to clean out my parents’ home, which is too full of stuff. […]

  14. […] would bring color back.  As that little hoarders house smelled so badly, I painted right away, see That Hoarder’s Smell,  and I went bold: I had red living room, and the TV (family room) was a dark slate […]

  15. I rented a scary little house to keep my kids in their same schools. Later when I started dating the Good Man, he noticed the electrical wiring hazards I hadn’t…and when my landlord thumbed his nose at me, Good Man fixed the electrical.
    Your oil-based paint is a Brilliant solution. My friends has more money to deal with their post-hoarder home, and gutted it. I wouldn’t have been able to do that.

    typo: “my painting of every service of the house” for “my painting of every surface of the house”

  16. Thanks, nothing like a five year old typo!! haha Now I’ll want to proof everything again. Thanks for reading and commenting. I looked at another fixer recently. I real mess, but it didn’t sell, so I was like — cool!

    1. Just Me…. My mother left me a trailer with add ons in CA…. Awful.. same condition, roof leaked, 12 cats in house, dog in house and Urine feces all over. Not to mention a true hoarder, not a space avail from ground to 4ft, except walk way. I had no idea as my mom would not let me come over. She passed in July 2015 and still I have not gotten anything done .. only child and just finished with probate!! Now I want to basically give this trailer away… for price of Land 5900.00 in Salton Sea CA. Any suggestions ? Im afraid to even put on market. I live in WA.

      I know this is many years later, just happened to see this post… and it’s spot on!!!

      Thank you!

  17. Hoard-Anon Should Totally Be a Thing | Reply

    You have no idea how helpful your sharing your experience and info has been and will continue to be for me in my current situation—wait, no, of course you do, duh. Who would know better what a wealth of information you’ve mined from overcoming these many encumbering difficulties and obstacles than you?! 😁

    Anyway, thank you so much for all of this. My parents have been hoarders/ had hoarding tendencies to varying, but ever increasing, degrees since I was very young (I just turned 37 last month), and probably before.

    In the years since the kids have left and Mom and Dad’s house has gone drastically downhill, beyond just disorganized and junky, to the point of their multiple cats taking over and destroying carpets and letting the stench of their urine and feces permeate every pore of their home’s comprised materials. It’s actually not as bad right now as it had been several years ago when the only trash/waste management company servicing their rural area took advantage of their ability to charge whatever they wanted without being checked by competition, which led to my folks’ inability to afford having a service haul away ANY garbage for several months at a time, including the used kitty litter their four cats went through. They would burn what they could in a barrel out back, and just stack up and store old kitty litter pales with used kitty litter IN THEIR HOME. This has, of course, had a lasting effect.

    At that point in time, just being in the house and breathing in almost straight ammonia for 20 minutes or more would leave me with scabbed over burns in my nostrils. About ten years ago when they went out of town and asked me to feed their pets and give one cat the insulin injection he needed every 12 hours to live, I hauled off the entire cache they’d amassed and not long after instated an unspoken policy of no longer entering their house, for the sake of my own physical, mental and emotional health.

    I can’t fathom how they’ve managed to live in these conditions for so long. It ties my stomach in knots to think of what this has done to their health, never mind all the heartache and sleep-stealing anxiety that comes from just knowing they live in such squalor and think they deserve that kind of existence.

    When I learned the house had fallen to such disrepair that the ceiling was caving in and being held in place by a in the den, a garage that had been converted 30 years ago,

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