How to Identify and Get Rid of Dead Mouse Smell

That smells really bad. Close up portrait of young funny dark-skinned man with afro hairstyle closing nose with fingers, feeling ad from disgusting smell from rubbish dump in city. Copy space.

There’s something rotten in the state of your home — more specifically, it’s the smell of a dead mouse wafting from your vents. But you don’t have to suffer through it. Here’s how to identify and get rid of dead mouse smell: Let your nose guide you to the source, remove the mouse’s body, disinfect the space, ventilate, deodorize, and prevent future issues.

What Does a Dead Mouse Smell Like?

A dead mouse smells like any other dead animal — rotten, sulfuric, and decaying; some say it’s reminiscent of rotten cabbage. The temperature and humidity in your home, as well as the size and number of dead mice, will determine when the animal will start to smell and how long it will smell. In general, a dead mouse will smell until its body is fully decomposed/dried up, which could be anywhere from one day to a few weeks.

How to Get Rid of Dead Mouse Smell

The best way to remove dead mouse smell? Find the dead mouse and remove its body from your home. If you’re able to locate the dead mouse on your own, don some gloves, wrap the mouse’s body in a paper towel or plastic bag, and dispose of it in an outdoor garbage can immediately. You’ll then need to ventilate and disinfect the area where you found the mouse; the latter will help curb any potential disease spread. 

But what if you can’t find the dead mouse? Well, you’ll have to mask the odor and call in the pros. We’ll discuss this route in step 4. 

Step 1: Find the Dead Mouse 

droppings of mouse on the floor
Photo Credit: PictureLake / Canva Pro / License

Follow your nose.

It’s really as simple as that. If you smell something funky in your house, you won’t know if it’s a dead mouse or other type of animal until you sniff your way to the source and find out for yourself. 

There are some signals you can take note of along the way to give you a few hints, though. Telltale signs the smell could be coming from a dead mouse include:

  • Seeing mouse droppings (look similar to grains of rice; dark brown in color)
  • Having seen the actual mouse run across a room (smaller than rats at 1 to 4 inches long; light colored, pointy noses, large ears)
  • Observing mouse tracks (less than half an inch and most noticeable in dust; four front/ five back toes with tail drag marks)
  • Finding nesting material (e.g., shredded paper/fabric)
  • Discovering chew marks
  • Hearing mouse sounds in your home (e.g., scratching, scurrying, squeaking)

As the scent gets stronger — for example, it’s helped you narrow things down to a room — start looking for the critter in the usual places. A few areas mice like to hide in your home include:

  • Under the couch
  • In cabinets/pantries/closets
  • Underneath floorboards
  • In attics/crawl spaces
  • In ducts/vents

Can’t find the dead mouse? Skip to Step 4

Step 2: Dispose of the Dead Mouse

So, you’ve found the mouse — congrats, the hardest part is over! Now, all you need to do is remove its body from your home. If you’re squeamish and can’t bear the thought of picking up a dead mouse, get a friend or family member to help you, or just close your eyes, use some old tongs to grab at the mouse, and get it out as fast as you can. To safely remove a dead mouse from your house:

  • Wear gloves and a face mask (protects against disease).
  • Put the mouse body and any nesting materials/droppings in a garbage bag.
  • Double-bag everything if you’d like, tie the bags shut, and toss in an outdoor trash can.
  • Disinfect the area where the body was found, along with any other areas you suspect the mouse to have been.
  • Throw away gloves and other items used during the disposal process.
  • Wash your hands.

Step 3: Remove Remaining Odor

woman opening windows of a room
Photo Credit: Africa images / Canva Pro / License

After purging your home of the dead mouse carcass, the first step to eliminating any lingering odors is to open up windows and doors throughout your house. This ventilation will allow fresh air in and stale air out; running an air purifier with activated carbon filters will also help extract leftover smells from your space.

Further, you can use air fresheners to give your home a pleasant smell — try candles, plug-ins, incense burners, or sprays.

Step 4: If You Can’t Find the Mouse, Call a Pro or Mask the Odor

brown mouse on a wooden surface
Photo Credit: Pixabay

What if, no matter how hard you look, you just can’t find the mouse’s body? How do you get rid of dead mouse smell then? The rodent may have died inside your walls or in some other location that’s out of your reach. Your best bet is to call a rodent control pro, as they’ll have the proper equipment to locate and remove a mouse’s body inside a wall.

Of course, that’s not always a viable option for everyone when you consider the cost of busting through a wall and having to fix it back up. If budget and demolition headaches are a concern, your only other option is to wait out the smell and cover it up by:

  • Burning your favorite scented candles
  • Spraying some air freshener 
  • Using an air purifier
  • Setting out a container of coffee grounds
  • Using charcoal deodorizer bags. You can even find all-natural, odor-removal eliminators made specifically for neutralizing dead animal smells.

Note: Simply covering up the smell will help get rid of the odor, but leaving a dead mouse to fester can also attract insects that feed on dead carcasses, which can then cause a whole other problem. If you start to notice an insect infestation, you can pick up insecticides and traps from your local store to tackle the problem yourself, or go ahead and contact a pest control company.

Besides attracting insects that feed on decomposing bodies, the smell of a dead mouse can also attract other live mice. This is especially true when those live mice are having trouble finding enough food. If necessary, they will eat other mice, and that smell will lead them right to their feast.

FAQ About Identifying and Eliminating Dead Mouse Smell

Is dead mouse smell harmful to your health?

The smell of a mouse alone is not harmful to your health. However, some people are more sensitive to smells than others, and the decaying odor may cause some to feel sick to their stomachs. 

What’s more harmful is if any bacteria from the mouse’s droppings or other excretions is breathed into a person’s lungs, as they may be contaminated by diseases like hantaviruses, salmonellosis, or rat-bite fever.

Is it OK to leave a dead mouse in a wall?

It’s true that eventually the smell of a dead mouse trapped inside your walls will dissipate. But, its remains will still attract maggots, fleas, and other insects. These insects can then make their way out of your walls and into your living spaces, where they can bite you and your pets or contaminate your surfaces and foods.

How can you get rid of dead mouse smell in a car?

If you live near a wooded area and you park your car outside, odds are good you’ll end up with a mouse in your car at some point. Mice are drawn to the warmth of a car’s engine or air filter and often gain access through the car’s ventilation system, pedal shafts, or steering column. And once a mouse has died in your car, they’ll leave behind a potent stench. To get rid of that smell, follow these steps:

  • Dispose of the mouse as you would in your home/disinfect the area.
  • Open all car doors/roll down all windows for ventilation.
  • Change the air filter/consider replacing with activated charcoal filter
  • Remove and clean all floor mats/wash upholstered interior with mix of water and detergent
  • Use an air freshener

Let’s say you’ve followed those steps, and the dead mouse smell still lingers. You’ll want to take your car into the pros — they’ll have access to commercial quality cleaners, including steam cleaning, deodorizing, and antibacterial solutions.

How can you get rid of dead mouse smell naturally?

Besides candles, disinfectant sprays, and other artificial fresheners, more natural methods of ridding your home of dead mouse smell include:

  • Charcoal deodorizer bags
  • Baking soda and water mixture sprayed around affected area
  • Vinegar set around space in cups
  • Coffee grounds set out in cups
  • Reusable, dead animal odor neutralizers 

Hire a Pro to Tackle Dead Mouse Smell

If your situation is cut and dry — you noticed the odor, found the source, and eliminated it — you should be in the clear (as long as you seal entryways and keep your yard free of attractive nesting sites). 

But, if the body of the dead mouse still eludes you, hire a rodent control expert near you. They’ll come equipped with the necessary tools to locate and remove the dead mouse, be it inside your walls, underneath your floorboards, in your attic, or anywhere else. You’ll not only be free of the foul stench, but you’ll help avoid a larger pest problem, as dead mice attract a host of insects and even other mice.

Main Image Credit: cookie_studio / Freepik

Andréa Butler

Andréa Butler has a passion for writing and editing — but a phobia of bees and wasps. Living near the woods, she's dealt with her fair share of mice, skinks, and other outside critters that sometimes find their way inside. Besides learning new ways to keep homes pest-free, she also enjoys singing, reading, and binge-watching just about every show that ever existed.