Q: Many old houses I see could be dream homes if they weren't plagued by the ingrained lingering odor of pets. Neither sellers nor buyers know what to do. Can anything be done to remove pet odors? It's a shame that these old homes are wasting into disrepair because of this problem. If nothing can be done, that will be useful to know as well. – Barbara, Baltimore, Maryland

A: Steve Thomas replies: Pet smells are among the most pesky and tenacious problems confronting homeowners. The extent of the treatment depends on the magnitude of the problem. Try cleaning up the affected areas with vinegar or a urine neutralizer, available at pet stores or from veterinarians. If the smell persists in drywall, plaster, brick, paneling, masonry, or woodwork, cover the area with a fast-drying sealer (available at home improvement stores), which should encapsulate the smell and keep odors from spreading. If all else fails, call an environmental cleanup firm. They'll be able tell you the chemistry of cat urine and other unpleasant pet smells, and whether there's anything you can do to counteract it.
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