Workers have demolished the rundown Cleveland house where three young women were imprisoned and tortured for roughly a decade.

The razing came less than a week after Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years, for holding Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry captive in his home on Cleveland's west side.

The house was torn down, amid cheers, on Wednesday as part of a deal that spared him a possible death sentence. He apologised but blamed his addiction to pornography.

Michelle Knight was on hand for the demolition handing out yellow balloons to onlookers and neighbourhood residents. Knight said the balloons represented all the missing children out in the world.

There was applause as a relative of one victim took the controls of the wrecking crane for the first strike. Later, as the house debris disappeared into the basement, church bells rang.

Castro's family members, including his son, Anthony Castro, went to the house on Monday, to retrieve personal items.

Ariel Castro, 53, signed the deed to the three-story house over to Cuyahoga County when he pleaded guilty to 937 charges, including aggravated murder for causing Knight to miscarry by beating and starving her.

Knight, 32, Berry, 27, and DeJesus, 23, went missing from the west side of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004.

They were rescued, along with Berry's six-year-old-daughter by Castro, on May 6 after neighbours heard Berry's cries and helped her break through the house's front door.

Police found more than $22,000 in a washing machine in the basement. The money will help pay for the demolition.

Source: Agencies