How Long Does It Take for a Dead Rat to Start and Stop Smelling?

It is no secret that dead animals will start to smell at some point and eventually, that smell will be gone. But how long do you have until a dead rat starts to smell bad? And how long would you have to wait for the smell to dissipate naturally? Learn the answer to those questions as well as what you can do to help get rid of the smell.

The General Timeline

As an average, dead rats will start to smell about three days after the rodent dies. The smell will likely last for two to three weeks, on average. The most important factor to remember is that these are averages and generalizations. Numerous factors affect how long it will smell for and how long it takes to start smelling. 

What Influences the Duration of the Odor

By learning what influences how long the smell associated with a dead rat lasts, you can work to minimize the amount of time you have to deal with it, or at least prepare yourself for the future bad smells. 

It depends on where the carcass is as well as the size of it. Temperature and humidity also play a role. So does the ability of flies to reach the carcass so maggots can start consuming it. 

For example, hotter climates can make the rats start to smell sooner while colder climates may give you an extra few days of a grace period. Higher temperatures are also associated with the body decomposing more quickly, as is humidity. That accelerated decomposition can mean that you smell the rat sooner. Unfortunately, humid and hot areas can also extend the duration of the smell. 

The golden rule is that any dead animal, including a rat, will continue to smell until it has decomposed completely or dried out. 

What Do Dead Rats Smell Like? 

The smell of decomposition is putrid and once you smell it, you will never be able to forget it. It is a combination of chemicals that includes methane and sulfur dioxide. After the first time you smell it, you will likely associate this odor with rotting and death. 

How to Minimize the Smell

As mentioned, there are some things you can do to help reduce the duration of the smell from the dead rat. Some of these methods will also decrease the intensity of the smell. 

Remove the Dead Rat

The most important and obvious step is to remove the dead rat and dispose of it. Always be careful when you remove a dead rat as you do not want to touch the rodent or its fluids as they can contain disease. Before disposing of the rat, make sure to double bag it, at a minimum. 

Unfortunately, removing the dead rat may be easier said than done, especially since these rodents are prone to dying in walls. You can try to figure out where the dead rodent is by using your nose and finding out where the odor is the strongest. You may also be able to spot a damp area on the wall or ceiling. 

Of course, the easiest way to remove the rat would be to hire someone to do so for you. Professionals’ experience should help them find the rat quickly with minimal damage to your walls or ceiling. 

Ventilate the Area

After you remove the dead rat, you should start ventilating the area immediately to help dissipate the smell. 

Neutralize the Odor

There are several ways to actively neutralize the odor from the dead rat, and you will likely want to use a combination of them. You can find odor neutralizing products for sale in many places. These products work by breaking down the organic compounds which are responsible for the odor in question, with enzymes or bacteria helping with that break down. 

You can also use an air cleaner that features an absorbent filter, with silica gel and activated charcoal both being good options. As the air in the space circulates through the filter in question, it will remove particles as well as absorb them. 

Cover the Smell 

Yet another option is to just mask the smell until it disappears. There are actually specific masking deodorants with highly concentrated fragrances. These are specifically designed to mask smells instead of eliminating them. As such, they can be irritating and some people find them offensive. They also only hide the problem instead of solving it, so use them with caution.  

You could also take a less extreme approach and use standard air fresheners or scented candles. 

Sanitize the Area

You should not forget to sanitize the area as well, both for safety reasons and to help reduce the smell. This will help prevent disease and it will encourage the scent to dissipate. A solution of bleach and water is typically enough to sanitize the space, although you can also buy a specialty cleaner or hire someone to clean the space for you.