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How to Get Rid of a Smell in the Ceiling

James Clark

Ceiling odors are typically caused by water damage that has resulted in mold, but ceiling odors also can occur if an animal becomes trapped in the attic and dies. The resulting decomposition can create an intense stench that will linger until the creature has dried up or you take steps to remove it. Stagnant water smells may be easier to remove since the source of the problem can often be identified quickly. Ventilation and an air freshener to absorb odors will make the job go faster.

Identifying the source of a ceiling odor is the first step in removing it.
  1. Turn on and shine a flashlight on the ceiling to look for any stains, discoloring or other evidence of water damage.

  2. Enter the attic if the odor is emanating from a ceiling with an attic above. Shine the flashlight around the attic, lifting insulation while wearing work gloves to check for standing water or possibly a dead animal. Remove any vermin you may find, placing the remains in a plastic garbage bag.

  3. Press old towels or absorbent material such as an oil pad, available at automobile parts stores, on the area where you smell odors. Blot up all water or liquid.

  4. Place an electric air freshener as close as possible to the source of the odor, plug it in and turn on the appliance.

  5. Plug in and switch on electric fans to ventilate the area below the ceiling and in the attic, if possible. Air movement will help evaporate water and dry out the area emitting an odor.

  6. Sprinkle baking soda on the area in the attic where you detect an odor. Baking soda absorbs odors naturally and can be vacuumed later.

  7. Clean the ceiling with a cleaning product suited to the surface of your ceiling. For example, ceilings with enamel paint may be cleaned with a towel dipped in warm water and a mild liquid soap.

  8. Spray scented air freshener or open a solid air freshener to mask the odor while your other removal techniques are working. Scented air fresheners do not remove odors but can mask the smell until it evaporates.