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Showing posts with label cabins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cabins. Show all posts

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How to Get the Stink Out of a Cabin

After an eleven-day sabbatical from blogging when I was in a self-induced contemplative coma, you might expect me to return to Preppy Mountain Farmhouse with a profound, philosophical post.  I thought about that, but I decided instead to share the miracle solution to a very earthly problem we've been tackling around here: getting rid of the stench in our cabin.

If any of you have a cabin in the woods, an old house in the country, or some other structure that doesn't get used much, you're probably familiar with that closed-up, musty smell that you get a whiff of when you first walk in the door.  We were certainly acquainted with this when we first started cleaning out our newly-purchased cabin two years ago.  It had been an unused hunting cabin for decades, and it was full of clutter, layers of carpet that had gotten wet from broken water pipes, and some mummified mice caught in traps.  After filling a dumpster with all the stuff we didn't want or need, hiring Molly Maids to do a thorough cleaning, and ripping up some of the damaged carpet, I made my own carpet freshener that I sprinkled generously throughout the rooms and let sit for a few days before I vacuumed it all up.

That simple recipe can be found in my first month of blogging here.

And that did help somewhat...but not enough.

So my mother-in-law brought me some Resolve Fabric Refresher spray, which I have used on the carpets, furniture, curtains, and bedspreads.  She also bought me a bottle of wonderful smelling lavender linen spray for my birthday, which immediately got toted up to the cabin and gets used every time I go up there.  Both of these products mask the musky smell for a day or so.  However, they also make the inhabitants smell rather perfumey.  If I go up there and stay for a few hours, I come back to the house, and everyone says I smell like the cabin: a unique blend of mustiness and lavender and perfume.  It's really not the fragrance I'm going for.

Little did I know two years ago that the musty smell would later be considered a mild odor---almost pleasant even---in comparison to the horrible stench we smelled last spring when a groundhog dug a tunnel under the center of our cabin...and then died under there.  I thought it was coming from the chimney because the stench seemed strongest in the one bedroom where the flue connects to the furnace.  We searched everywhere and couldn't find a dead animal anywhere, so I eventually called a chimney sweep to investigate.  By the way, this all occurred right before my parents were to come for a visit, and they would be sleeping at the cabin, of course.

The chimney sweep came and took things apart and checked out every possible nook and cranny, but he found no dead animal.  He did discover, however, that our chimney needed repairs and a cap on the top of it so nothing could possibly fall down there in the future.  That wasn't the bad news though.  The bad news was that something had crawled under the cabin and died, and there was nothing to do but wait out the next four weeks or so until it had decomposed.  Thankfully, this was early May in the Alleghenies, and it would be another month until we experienced any summer heat, so the odor wasn't as bad as it could have been had the animal died in August.  Fortunately we had a month until any other visitors were expected, and my parents had to sleep on sofas in our farmhouse with the trough full of three-week old chicks, who really didn't smell too great themselves.

Since there wasn't really anything I could do to speed along the biological process of decomposition, I did the next best thing and buy some strong scented candles and went up there periodically and lit them.  The pine fragrance was my favorite.

As we began this year I was feeling much better about the smell of the cabin.  Between the bowl of cinnamon scented pinecones, the candles, and the linen spray, the place wasn't smelling too bad.  My coat and hair didn't reek of the cabin smell too much when I returned from an excursion up there.  After two years of being cabin owners, I felt rather proud that we had actually overcome the odor problem.

That is, until we had out-of-town guests coming to visit a couple of weekends ago.  A day before their arrival (which coincided with the two feet of snow Stella had just dumped on us), I trudged through the snow to do my ritual spraying of the fabrics, take up clean towels and stock the fridge with breakfast items, and clean up the sinks and shower.  I even brought a book because I thought I would finish my tasks and have about two hours of leisure to read and reflect.  But as soon as I opened the cabin door, a fresh wave of dead animal stench hit me, and I was then on a two-hour mission to find the offender and try to rid the place of yet another horrible smell.  

This was a mystery because I had just been up there finally taking down the Christmas decorations just a week earlier, and all was well.  The cabin had been closed up and locked up, and the chimney was supposed to be capped in a way that absolutely nothing could fall down inside of it.  I did see that a window was cracked slightly, and I vaguely recalled my husband going up there early one morning looking for a wrench.  Did something sneak in while he was rummaging around in the dark?  As I walked toward the back of the cabin, the smell got stronger.  Then I found a pile of feathers.  Why were there just feathers and no bird?  I used my nose to search everywhere, but I couldn't find a carcass---just those feathers.  I vacuumed them up, practically emptied the bottles of linen spray, lit the candle, but I could still smell it.  It was strongest back by the chimney again.  I located a flashlight and started shining it everywhere.  Still nothing.  It wasn't until I sat on the floor by the bedrooms in the back of the cabin that it occurred to me that the stench was strongest near the air hockey table.  So I managed to pull that away from the wall, move all the storage bins we had stashed under there, and then I saw the culprit: a dead sparrow.

I'm still not positive how it came in.  It was lying at the foot of the chimney where there was an opening cut out of the wall that I never noticed before because it had been hidden under the hockey table.  From the looks of every windowsill in the cabin, it had been flying around looking for a way out, and leaving bird droppings everywhere.  So I went on a cleaning spree scrubbing everything and using whatever disinfectant that was on hand to clean woodwork, fabric, windows, carpet, EVERYTHING.  I disposed of the bird and vacuumed up the feathers with an ancient vacuum cleaner that came free with the cabin.  But then I noticed that the entire place smelled like burnt roadkill.  Because the relic of a vacuum wasn't used to handling this much carpet cleaning, and the motor on it decided right then to burn up and die.  So I removed the full vacuum bag (which aren't even made anymore, by the way) and took all the trash outside and hoped that the cabin would air out in a day or two.

No such luck.  And it didn't smell any better a week after that.  So I took matters into my own hands again, and I finally found the miracle cures for this ongoing problem: Kids'n'Pets Stain & Odor Remover for cleaning that spot on the carpet where the bird actually died, and Airwick Scented Oil Warmer Plugins.

This odor-removing spray is simply sprayed, or dumped, directly onto the smelly area and left.  That is my kind of cleaning, and it worked great!

But these AirWick scented oil diffusers that you plug in are the miracle cure I've been searching for.  I bought four of them and plugged them in all over the cabin.  Within a couple of days the cabin smelled better than it ever has, and a week and a half later, they're still going strong with plenty of oil left in them, and I don't even need to light any candles or spray any more fabric freshener.

They come with quite a variety of different essential oils and fragrances, which are usually sold separately.  I got a deal and bought the combo packs with the diffuser and two bottles of oil in each.  I think I went with the above "fresh waters" scent because I just didn't think "cinnamon apple" or "sugar cookie" would mix well with "scorched dead bird."

I am so incredibly relieved to finally have this cabin odor dilemma resolved.  If I had only tried these AirWicks two years ago when we first got the cabin, I could have saved myself so much time and money on other methods.

And that, my friends, is what I want to share with you today.  After an eleven-day break from Blog Land when I was wrapped up in a contemplative cocoon, I come back to shout out the odor breakthrough I've recently had.  I'll keep my profound, soul-searching discoveries to myself for now.

Have a great week full of sweet spring scents!

P.S.  This post does contain affiliate links to Amazon.  If you click on one, it will take you directly to that product on  Any purchases you make (whether they're the products pictured here or just about anything else) within a day or so of clicking through, provides me with a small commission at no extra cost to you.