Dear Angie: We have a room that smells like an animal died in it, but we've checked everywhere and can't find a cause. What do you suggest? — Pamela N., Parkton, N.C.
Answer: Putting a finger on what's causing you to hold your nose will take patience and possibly some professional help.
You might be correct that an animal, such a mouse, has died within your walls, in the chimney or some other hard-to-access location. If that's the case, within about two weeks the body should decompose to the point that the smell decreases and disappears.
But don't overlook other possible causes of foul odor, including mold, pet urine and natural gas. Sometimes, the source is as simple as food decomposing under furniture or between cushions.
If you're confident the cause is an animal, seal all holes and gaps around pipes and entrances with caulk to prevent further encroachment. You might want to consult with a pest-control expert or exterminator.
If an animal doesn't seem the likely cause, and you've exhausted other possibilities, consider talking to companies that clean up after water and smoke damage. Even if water or smoke isn't the source, damage-restoration experts might be able to point you in the right direction. Also, a reputable remediation company has experience in dealing with odors in ways that cause the least damage to a home.
Expect to pay at least $150 for someone to find the odor source, and possibly more for any cleanup and prevention measures.
If you decide to wait and see — or smell — if it goes away, consider applying household cleaners in the room, along with a bowl of vinegar.