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Conquering the Stinky House, Part 1

What an adventure we’re having!

For those who keep close tabs on me via facebook and whatnot, you know that our family just moved into a larger house about two weeks ago.  But for those who don’t know, let me give you a little background (and for those who wonder if this article will have any meat besides public interest, stick around, because it will):

We live in a small town, but it’s a good town.  Our last house was quite possibly THE CUTEST little house in town.  It was an old log cabin that someone had renovated into this beautiful designer mix of modern chic and rustic western on the inside, and Victorian dollhouse on the outside.  It was the kind of house that people would walk by and stare at on a regular basis.  It was adorable in every possible way.  We loved it!

This old house, however, was a three bedroom home, which was fine when we moved in.  Unfortunately, as our kids got older we noticed that our oldest son (who has high-functioning autism) needed a quiet space because his sensory issues would make his brain overload easily.  Our third child (who has ADHD) is very loud and would often trigger our oldest, so his brain was constantly over-stimulated.

With the ADHD, our third child needed a place to run around A LOT.  Our old house didn’t have room for that, summer or winter.

What we needed was a larger home with a large yard in a neighborhood of people who are supportive of special needs kids (because no matter how often it happens, it hurts when people blame your special needs child’s behavior on your inability to parent).

We knew which neighborhood in this town would be the most supportive of our efforts with our children, because we had lived in this neighborhood before!  We loved the people there, and there is a tight-knit feel that is becoming so rare anymore.

So, we got on Zillow and looked at the old neighborhood.  But there was nothing – no rentals, no sales…except one.  One house.  And this house…it had everything we needed.

It had a huge Great Room that was added on the back, with enough room for us to put in all sorts of physical therapy items to challenge our ADHD boy and work well with his motor skill needs.  It had a bedroom in the basement that was insulated so well that it could be a quiet space for our oldest no matter how loud everyone else is.  It even had a room that I could use as an office!  And room to grow if we have more babies.

And the yard!  The house lot is twice the size of other lots in town.  It has trees and an established garden, and a back gate that goes right to a park.

We told our kids to start praying, because it would take a miracle for us to get the house!

Well, I tell you now that miracles happen, and this is the house we bought.

Within three days of living there, there was more color in our oldest child’s cheeks.  He was calmer, and didn’t start the day off in an attack of overwhelm, anxiety, and depression.  That alone makes everyone we had to do to get here worth it.

One of the reasons the house was able to be on the market for so long, though, is a bit of a struggle.

You see…the house stinks.  I mean, it’s a great house, and, sure, it’s old and has issues, but it smells BAD.

The last owner had someone living with her who smoked in the house for years.  In a town where the majority of people don’t smoke, it was a major downside to the house.

But we had dealt with getting rid of smoker odor from a home before, and we figured it would be as simple again.  Not so.  This house is much bigger, the smoke is much older, and the sheer volume of smoke is much, much larger than the other house we worked with.  But we’re winning!

So, in case you’re dealing with a stinky house, I thought I’d share the methods we have used and are using and are going to use to get our home smelling nice and fresh.

When It’s Not That Bad

Vinegar and baking soda are awesome.  They’re my absolute favorite green cleaners!  And, for the most part, they work on smoker smell.

Step 1: Rub-Down

First, grab the vinegar (white distilled, of course), and use clean rags to wipe down every solid surface.  And I mean EVERY solid surface.  You want to wipe down the ceilings, walls, doors, frames windows, shelves, everything.  If it’s solid, wipe it down.

Step 2: Powder the Carpets

Go to your favorite warehouse wholesale store and get a large bag of baking soda (I like the 13.5lbs bags, myself), and begin to sprinkle it all over the carpets.  This may take several bags, depending on your squarefootage.

Wait 30 minutes, then vacuum it all up.

Step 3: Overnight

Next, put out open bowls of the white distilled vinegar in each room of the house overnight.

The next day, you should notice a significant decrease (or even elimination) of the smell!

This worked great for our small house where the smoking hadn’t been that bad.  But it didn’t work for our new house.

When It’s Worse

The next thing you may want to try is getting rid of the carpets, carpet pads, and wall-paper that may be holding the odor in.  The odor likes to stick to fiber, so if the smell is still around, it means the baking soda couldn’t get it out.  If you are planning on renovating a bit anyway, this is a good time to bump up the jobs.

We had a couple rooms that we wanted to rip the carpet out of anyway, so we went ahead and did that when we noticed the smell was still pretty strong after our scrub down.  The wall-paper wasn’t our style at all, either, so we were just fine with saying Bon Voyage.

However, there are rooms that we can’t pull the carpet out of.

So, as it stands now, our house (which was overpowering when we first bought it) now has a subtle but noticeable smoker smell.

When It’s REALLY BAD…What’s Next?

Our next steps are to paint the front room where we ripped our the carpet and wall-paper.  That should greatly help with the odor there, but it won’t have any influence on the rest of the home.  So, we will be renting an ozone machine and getting to work on some hard-core treatment.  Ozone machines are what the professionals use in home restoration.  I’ve never used one before, but I’m excited to see the results.

The fact is, our senses cause us to have emotional responses to things.  If you’re constantly around a smell, a color, a taste that we don’t like, you’re going to begin associating negative feelings with that space.  To have a house that’s peaceful and happy and fulfilling, getting rid of those bad sensory inputs are essential.  So if you’re in the same boat as me and you’re putting up with a stinky house, don’t despair!  I’m bound and determined to get some answers.  Stick around and see if I can find them when I write Part 2, after the painting and ozone treatment.

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