What to Do When a Rodent Dies in Your Ductwork

Here’s How to Handle a Dead Animal in Your Vent

It’s a horrifying thought, but it’s nevertheless a situation many homeowners face: a mouse, rat, or other small animal has died in an air duct and is spreading foul air all over the home. While the process of removing a dead animal from the vent is unpleasant, the good news is the area can be completely cleaned and the odor removed.

However, before you take the first step, know that you can outsource this entire job to a professional if you just can’t stomach the thought of handling it yourself. You should explain the situation when you call for service; some HVAC service providers may refer you to an animal control provider instead, but many HVAC technicians will be able to remove the dead mouse or rodent properly.

Tracking the Smell in Your Home

It’s usually the unmistakable smell that first tips off homeowners to the possible presence of a decomposing animal. Sometimes the smell can be so strong that you might suspect the animal is in the ductwork, when really it’s in an attic, basement, or crawlspace. Unfortunately, to pinpoint the source of a dead rodent in the vents, you’ll need to follow your nose.

It may be that your sense of smell will lead you directly to a specific HVAC vent in your home. If so, carefully remove the vent cover and use a flashlight to peer inside. If you can see the animal, you can proceed. However, if searching and sniffing turns up the distinct smell of death but no source, you may need to turn to the professionals to find and remove the animal.

Get the Dead Animal Out

With the animal located, you’ll need to remove it carefully. You’ll need a garbage bag, rubber gloves, paper towels, and disinfectant spray at a minimum. If the animal is out of reach, you may need other tools to reach it. This could be a long hose attachment on a vacuum cleaner or something as simple as a bent coat hanger—just as long as you can use it to bring the dead mouse carcass within reach.

Carefully use a gloved hand to deposit the animal in a plastic bag and immediately remove it from your home. Contact your local waste disposal authorities to ask about policies involving the disposal of dead animals.

After the source of the smell is removed, thoroughly clean all areas touched by the dead mouse carcass with disinfectant spray. This may be difficult if the animal was initially out of reach, but you may be able to use a small mop to clean the area.

Plug the Leak in Your Ductwork

Once the animal is removed and the area is cleaned, you should consider follow-up steps. A thorough inspection of your system and ductwork could reveal how the animal was able to enter your ductwork in the first place and is likely to uncover duct leaks that are also robbing you of energy efficiency. If your next system tune-up is still several weeks away, it’s a good idea to go ahead and schedule an inspection of your vents.

You might also want to schedule professional duct cleaning, which can thoroughly scrub and disinfect most duct surfaces. This is often the best way to get rid of any lingering odors and offer peace of mind about bacteria or viruses the dead animal may have left behind.