I have survived living in a totally disgusting dirty house, and have turned it into a home that’s totally livable for my germaphobe self, toddler and husband. And I don’t even cringe when I touch the light switches anymore!
Here’s how it all went down.
One year we were crazy and bought a 120-year-old dirty house. It smelled a little funky when we were house shopping, but then, after closing, we walked in and it reeked of smoke. Where was this smell while we were house shopping?!
Then we came to find out that the house we bought had been rented out for 8 years before the previous owner. Yikes. And the guy bought it for $40K, so I can only imagine the type of renters that were in the house before he bought it. Needless to say, this place was GROSS. (And the before picture doesn’t do it justice. At. All.)
Here’s how I made this old place feel fresh and new again.
Clean the Bathroom
The first thing I did was clean the bathroom. Actually. I’ll be honest and tell you my mother in law cleaned the bathroom. The tub was moldy, the toilet was totally disgusting, and the brick floors (yes, brick!) were pretty gross. If you don’t feel like you can get clean somewhere, then you’ll never feel any relief from the gross. She scrubby bubbled everything (even the floor!!!).
One big change we made in the bathroom was to replace the toilet for $100. We got ours at Home Depot, but you could save yourself the headache of hauling it home if you get it from Amazon with Prime (which is stinkin’ awesome (get it?) if you have a tiny car!!). It took Nathan and his dad about 5 hours to replace the toilet (they, of course, had some problems with the 120-year-old house plumbing). But then, I could let our toddler actually sit on the toilet without worrying about him touching the nasty hiding in there (even though it was cleaned!!). Plus, it looked way more beautiful!
This is what we took out of there. Yep, we left it in the yard for a day. We wished someone might need a free broken toiled and just pick it up for us.
Clean the Blinds
The whole house reeked of cigarette smoke. Sniffed around the house and found that the windows were extra smelly, so I figured the mini-blinds might have absorbed some of the smell. I took each set down and washed them in the bathtub with some Dawn. You wouldn’t believe the gross that came off those things!!
Clean the Light Fixtures
I knew which light fixtures we would keep, so for those lights, I cleaned all of the chandeliers and replaced the light bulbs. You wouldn’t believe how just 15 minutes of cleaning with soap and water could make a dirty house feel so much brighter and cleaner. Clean light fixtures really do make a big difference, even if you don’t look at them. And light bulbs!! Don’t even get me started! Just-right lighting is amazing for freshening up a room!
Clean Ceiling Fan Blades
We also took off the blades on the lone ceiling fan in our house. We cleaned the ceiling fan and the lights like all the other light fixtures in the house, but the ceiling fan blades were so stained with tar that we ended up cleaning them and then spray painting them. Now they look so fresh and white. You can also buy replacement fan blades, but that wasn’t in our budget.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. To clean a gross house, you have to (HAVE TO) either clean or paint the walls. Seriously. They are grosser than they look. We opted to repaint and I’m really happy with that decision. For a long time we left the trim as it was (since there was so much to do), but when we finally did finish the trim, it felt worlds cleaner.
Trust me. You want to paint.
We also painted most of the ceilings in the house. We used the cheapest contractor paint we could find at Home Depot (at $11 a gallon it was a steal), and it still looked better than what was there before!
We painted the brownish ceilings in this hall way. And replaced the light switch covers. Which brings me to my next point…
Light Switch Plates
As I painted each room, I replaced all the light switch plates and outlet covers. Matching fresh white covers made it feel like I could actually turn the lights off and on without having to make sure I didn’t miss the light switch. Just one more thing in my house I wasn’t afraid to touch anymore.
After you get all the ceilings and walls freshened up, you can give the floors a really good scrubbing. If you have carpet, this is where you’ll want to have a carpet steamer handy. (Mine is just like this and I still love it after 5 years!). It will disinfect your carpet as it cleans as a bonus, too.
Rip out the Kitchen
You get lots of bonus points if your kitchen is so gross you have to tear it out. Don’t worry, you’re not a princess if you’re so grossed out by your kitchen that you replace it. It probably isn’t as scary as you think it will be, but it is probably a lot dirtier than you think it will be. After we ripped out our kitchen, it was super gross in places I never could have cleaned. Needless to say, I felt totally validated when I saw all the grime. I’m so glad I don’t have to feed our family out of that kitchen. All in all, we replaced our entire tiny kitchen for about $3,000. If I had it to do over again, I would have done the same thing. 🙂
So, if you’re a germ freak like me, and you have to move into a gross place to live, have hope! You CAN have a clean happy home with just a little bit of money and a lot of elbow grease.
8 thoughts on “What to do if you move into a dirty house”
What a great kitchen. Good information. Thanks so much.
Hi I bought a filthy smelly house built in 1963 recently, Your list is spot on, I don’t think it had been cleaned since “63”, It was so awful we brought in a 10 lb bag of charcol and 2 gallons of white vinegar opened windows and let the home air out for 48 hours before going in …and threw in a few bug bombs as it had been vacant for 6 months.
we poured vinegar in the bathtub, toilet and sink, then every ceiling and walls were sprayed with Kilz, it was really bad but we had encountered one worse in our years of property management. Then did just as you had point by point including removing the broken toilet…we were lucky someone had stolen the kitchen appliances and cabinets including the kitchen sink before we viewed in and the price was so low it was Perfect for all new easy no tear outs no filthy appliances to clean to donate…
and then and than and Wow we have a beautiful brand new like home saved a historic Mill house and are going to live our happy ever right here.
to sell our last home? 3 full price offers as it was a vacation rental as we transitioned..it looked Just like a Clean Hotel I mean spotless clean, neat, and everything did have a purpose,,,if all a seller can do is to begin to pack, then pack as much as you can. If unable to really deep clean the 100 or 200 paid to housekeeping to do all will come back in the thousands,,,,,,,,,,Clean windows and home is a must, and no plug in smelly things either if you want to pop in a bread, cookies or frozen apple pie thats perfect i was a good 4 hrs drive away so i could not but even so Clean HOMES sell fast……….one’s that appear to the buyer as though they could stay tonight overnight is the Goal, ……….thanks for all the information it took a bit to have learned by doing
Thank you so much for this. I have been freaking out, but now I feel i have some where to start.
Great info on how to refresh an apartment too, thanks for sharing!!
So glad it was helpful, Diane!
So glad I came across this. Let’s just say when we went to view this house I ran through it and LITERALLY held my breath for the 5 mins I was inside. We bought the place for the land.
It has 10 dogs and 20 cats… Inside. Yikes!
We are planning on ripping everything out. Literally everything even the light fixtures.
I have confidence now after reading this that we can get the smell out without a hazmat pro.
You’ve got this, Maggie!! It’ll smell amazing once you start adding in the new pieces. If not, look into an ozone machine. They’re amazing as long as you’re careful with them. <3 Good luck and let me know how it goes!