Here's some background:

We bought this house in July of 2017. The previous owner left a hall closet full of GNC-style product (it was packed with pills of all kinds). It primarily smells of those heavy iron supplement type of odor if you can imagine. We called our realtor, and he came and emptied it.

To our unpleasant suprise, the closet smelled like the products a month after it was emptied.

It is now December of 2019 and it still smells, it's at least tolerable but that is hard to say, especially when any towel brought out of it carries the smell, or walking past the door in the hallway (with it closed) you can catch a whiff.

The house was built in 1986. It is a Ranch. The closet door is a solid closet builder door, with a dark stain and coating.

What We've Tried:

  1. First Month with nothing in it: Vaccuum and bleach, as well as Lysol.
  2. Washed down all walls, ceiling, woodwork, and shelves.
  3. Soap and water, bleach treatment two, dried, and began using the closet for items such as linens and toilet paper
  4. Tolerated the smell for 6-9 months.
  5. Emptied the closet, and re-did #1 above.
  6. Used Simple Green as in #2.
  7. Washed all linens and put back in closet.
  8. Tolerated the smell for about another ~9-10 months.
  9. Re-did #5.
  10. Removed all shelves and painted the enitre closet. Ceiling, Walls, and the shelves, as well as the woodwork securing the shelves.
  11. Used Pine-sol on the Door and Door Frame & Trim.
  12. Re-did #7 & added Cedar cut-outs.
  13. It smelled more of dried paint for a few days-weeks, but still had an odor of vitamins.
  14. Tolerated it for another ~9 months and here we are....

I've considered ripping out the drywall. Is this where I am now? Should I buy Killz and go at it again or is such an approach a waste of time? Can I seal it or lock it out? Can I neutralize it, if so, with what chemical? I'm not asking for a product recommendation per-se, but any approach or solution you may have some experience with I'll give it a shot.

I've considered that it isn't the walls or shelves at all at this point *(since they are painted). I have considered it may be the DOOR & Framing, or the wood the framing is mounted to breathing into the space.

The closet has no ventilation outside of the DOOR entry points, which the smell is ONLY in the closet. It is not in the hall. Do I have to remove the door framing and replace it or do something to it, or is it actually still able to breath through the acrylic paint?

  • 1
    Most odors will penetrate paint. If you go the repainting route you want a shellac-based primer, synthetic or natural. But if vacuuming means carpet then there's a really good chance the odor is from stuff spilled and absorbed by the underlayment. Dec 30, 2019 at 21:45
  • @MatthewGauthier; there is a carpet extended into the closet adjoined with the hallway carpet. It doesn't reek when I press my nose against it but that doesn't mean Im not nose blind. We are going to replace the carpet soon, but in the meantime I can maybe plastic & tape that area off to see if it isolates the smell at all. Thank you for the suggestion.
    – noybman
    Dec 31, 2019 at 1:09

1 Answer 1


Your closet is going to be considered a small enclosed area, a perfect description for a low-cost ion generator. They are frequently used to eradicate pet odors, smoking smells and even fire damage smells. A family member once sold tool-box sized devices and also rented them out for circumstances similar to yours. It was more of a whole-room device due to the size, power and volume of air moved.

You'd be able to get away with a smaller unit for the closet. A caution with the device is that people are to be vacated from the area being treated, not a problem for your closet troubles.

eBay and Amazon sell various devices. I'd consider even to use a motor vehicle sized device designed to plug into the accessory outlet formerly known as the lighter socket, if you wanted to save money or reduce the risk that it would not work as needed. Of course, with a tiny unit, you'd expect a longer period of recovery.

Using "ion generator" as search terms, many devices are returned with prices from the tens to hundreds of dollars. I would be suspicious of any device that does not specify that one should vacate the area, as that would be an indication that it produces low or insufficient levels of ions for your purpose.

  • Awesome, I will totally go do some nerding and see what I can find on this subject.
    – noybman
    Dec 29, 2019 at 18:42
  • So, adding "commercial" or "ozone" gets some results along the lines you mention.
    – noybman
    Dec 29, 2019 at 19:12
  • I tried this method. Given how bad it was I ran the unit a few times over the course of a few days for 20m to 1 hour. Honestly, it has made a world of difference. We still get a vague smell but it doesn't smell of GNC, it smells more like a hint of chlorine. MUCH bigger improvement, your answer killed it, thank you.
    – noybman
    Jan 7, 2020 at 13:22

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