We can spend a lot of time finding the right furniture, making the perfect accessories, and overall creating the right atmosphere for our homes, but if there’s a bad smell, then our humble abode is far from perfect. While a pleasant aroma can’t make a home beautiful, a bad odor can turn even the most beautifully decorated home into a place to avoid. Below, we take a look at the reasons our houses might have a bad smell, and things to do for a fresh scent. As usual, I love using natural remedies as much as possible. Some simple home remedies use plants and basic cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, salt, and other natural cleaners.
Open the windows and doors and get fresh air. Have you noticed when you return home after being away a few days that your house has a stale odor? I hate that smell. Open the windows and get a nice circulation of air through your home.
Clean The Air With White Vinegar and/or Lemon Juice
Place a bowl of white vinegar in the room to absorb odors. I have a bowl on the counter in my kitchen at all times. It helps dissipate old cooking odors.(This is NOT RECOMMENDED for homes with cats or dogs as vinegar is toxic to cats. Lemon juice is toxic to both) For years, my sister has placed bowls of vinegar around the rooms when having a party. It helps absorb cigarette smoke too. If you want to clean the air and add a fresh scent, boil lemon peels in water. Remove from stove and when cool, put strained lemon water in a bowl. Place in room that requires freshening. Add a small fan if necessary.
Absorbed Odors & DIY Carpet Odor Removers
If you’ve been living in your home for a while, then it has probably absorbed plenty of smells. The carpet, stuffed furniture, and walls are magnets for smells. If you’re not periodically removing the trapped smells, then they can affect your quality of life.
Carpets and Rugs
This is particularly the case for carpets or large area rugs, which are always put through the ringer with spilt drinks, foods, and other smelly substances. Many products made to clean carpets have too many chemicals and strong artificial perfumes. I don’t like that and neither do my allergies. You can remove smells from your carpet with a simple, ecofriendly DIY carpet odor remover using household supplies. The simplest method is to liberally sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and let it sit at least 15 minutes. You might even sprinkle a room at night before you go to sleep and vacuum in the morning. I’ve done this for some years. If you’d like a slight pleasant smell with the odor removal, add a little cinnamon to the baking soda. When you vacuum up the baking soda, your family will wonder if you’re baking. Works perfectly for a pre-holiday cleaning for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Salt and cornstarch also work, but I do truly love using baking soda throughout my house. This should be a regular task especially if you have a cat or dog.
If your pet or child has an accident in the house, and you have urine in the carpet, grab your bottle of cheap white vinegar and 2 old towels. Blot the wet urine with an old towel to soak up as much urine as possible. Sprinkle white vinegar on the wet spot, sprinkle baking soda on top of the vinegar, and allow to dry. After it dries, vacuum up the baking soda. Repeat if necessary. (Always do a patch test of vinegar on your carpet in an area not seen such as under your furniture.)
If you need to replace your carpet, go with wood or tiles. You’ve made upkeep easier and taken a giant step at a room makeover at the same time.
For your upholstered furniture, wipe your couch or chair with a clean cotton cloth or a stiff clean brush to get dust and dried particles off. Sprinkle baking soda over couch and let sit for at least 25 minutes. Vacuum baking soda off couch. I find that washable slip covers, chair and couch protectors, and large throws on the furniture are very helpful in protecting the furniture in homes with small children and pets. Wash them frequently to remove any odors from spills etc.
Draperies and Curtains
Draperies and curtains should be cleaned on a regular basis. For weekly care, use the upholstery brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to vacuum heavier weight curtains. The tops of the curtains along the rod are especially susceptible to dust accumulation. You can use a long-handled dusting tool to gently brush and dust the area or the wand of your vacuum cleaner. Delicate and light weight curtains should be shaken not vacuumed. Washable curtains should be laundered frequently following care instructions on label. Draperies requiring dry cleaning should be professionally cleaned periodically.
All Natural Cleaning of The Appliances
Our heavy use appliances can also give off bad smells, specifically our refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers and hot water tanks.
You might think that it’s unusual for a dishwasher to smell bad as it should be “self-cleaning”, but it makes sense: all the food and grease that’s being washed off dishes have to go somewhere, and not all of it will drain away. At a minimum, you should be cleaning your dishwasher once a month. Check your drain at the bottom of the dishwasher daily for utensils and at least weekly to remove any bits of food too large to drain. Monthly clean the dishwasher by running a full hot water cycle with a mug of white vinegar in the top rack. Follow with a cup of baking soda sprinkled in bottom of the dishwasher and a short hot water cycle. This will keep your dishwasher fresh and clean.
A refrigerator can smell because of the food we place in it. If food is forgotten and spoils, you can have a smell even after the offending item is thrown away. Deep clean your refrigerator by removing all items and cleaning the inside with a thick paste of baking soda and water. Rinse with clean water and dry. Frequently maintain the fridge by wiping up spills with white vinegar and water. Place an open box of baking soda in the back of the refrigerator to absorb odors. If you want to add a pleasant aroma, place a cotton ball soaked in vanilla in the back of the refrigerator.
The oven is another area of the kitchen which can produce lingering odors from baked on grease. Clean your oven regularly. I use an aluminum liner on the bottom of the oven to catch spills. Periodically I recycle the liner and replace it with a new one. I don’t use the non-stick liner because it outgasses as the oven heats up. I avoid strong chemicals as much as possible. Use a natural, eco-friendly method to clean. Use 1/2 cup of baking soda to about 3 tablespoons water to make a spreadable paste. Wearing gloves, spread paste all over oven interior avoiding heating elements. Leave it for 12 hours or overnight. Wipe down interior walls. Spritz vinegar on any patches of baking soda. If you need to scrape, use a spatula. Use more vinegar or water as needed to wipe interior clean.
For garbage disposal and kitchen sink upkeep, see How to Prevent Kitchen Clogs.
There’ll also be a lot of sulphur in your hot water tank, which can cause smells. If you think that’s the culprit then have it checked out by a plumber.
Under the Surface
Those pipes that flush away your water and waste are connected to a much larger, much smellier system. While these tubes are supposed to only flow one way, from time to time, you might notice a sewage smell, which usually occurs when the seal breaks that prevents sewage smells from entering your home. In this event you’ll need to have it repaired. Once it’s fixed, you should notice the smell disappear when the room is aired with open windows.
Add Plants To Clean The Air
We love plants for their beauty and texture in our homes. NASA studied houseplants’ ability to reduce indoor air pollutants. Many items in our home, like MDF furniture and rugs, outgas chemicals for years after production. Since the release of the initial 1989 study, further research has been done including a 1993 paper and 1996 book by B. C. Wolverton, the primary researcher on the original NASA study. A different study in 2004 has also shown that the micro-organisms in the soil of a potted plant remove benzene from the air, and that some plant species themselves also contribute to removing benzene. Note some of the plants are toxic to cats, dogs, or other pets. If you are a pet owner, check the toxicity of the plant before bringing it home. I personally always have a Peace Lily in the living room. I like the way it looks and love the way it absorbs 5 of the chemicals NASA listed. If you also want to add a pleasant fragrance with cleaner air, consider geraniums, Arabian jasmine, eucalyptus, gardenias, corsage orchids, and Cuban oregano. Try jasmine in your bedroom. See my post, Air Cleaning Plants, for more information.
It a foul odor persists despite these cleanings and maintenance, it might not be anything within the home, but the air itself. This is a common problem for most of us who have HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems in our homes. If the air filter hasn’t been regularly cleaned or replaced, then the appliance will be transmitting dirty – not to mention unhealthy – air into our rooms. Change or clean the filter frequently. To save money and be eco-friendly, buy a washable AC Furnace Filter. No need to spend money on throw away filters; just clean the filter regularly and pocket the money.
The Old Nemesis
Foul odors in the home might indicate that you have a problem that all homeowners try to avoid: mold. A little bit of mold won’t cause too much damage, but if you’re beginning to smell it, then it’s got to a point where it needs to be removed. You should be looking for musty, damp smells, like those found in basements. Once you’ve found the moldy area, deep clean it. Most websites suggest you mix one part bleach with three parts water in a bucket and scrub. I DISAGREE. DO NOT USE BLEACH. According to home maintenance expert, Henri De Marne:
Both distilled white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide will do an effective job of killing mold spores in porous materials. Bleach can only kill mold on non-porous surfaces, as it does not penetrate porous surfaces; so mold roots are left to grow again.
I like that vinegar and hydrogen peroxide are natural and not toxic to people. (If you have a cat, hydrogen peroxide is highly toxic if a cat ingests it.DO NOT LEAVE IT OUT.) If mold has permeated a large section of dry wall, replace the dry wall. Extensive mold invasion requires a professional mold remediation.
Some of our homes smell because of our lifestyle choices. If you smoke inside your house, then it’s inevitable that it’ll always very lightly smell of smoke, even if you’re opening the windows to air the place out. It is possible to deep clean your furniture to remove the smells, but you’ll have to do it regularly if you’re planning on continuing to smoke indoors. Instead, if you can’t quit smoking for your health, then just go outside to smoke. Also, as much as we love our pets, it’s hard to deny that they have issues when it comes to their smell. Regularly bathe your pooch, and use laundered protectors for cats and dogs to sit on the couch and other furniture.
In the Fireplace
Finally, if you have a fireplace, it’s recommended that you make sure it’s not giving off any bad smells. Excess moisture, debris, and soot that hasn’t been removed can all create bad smells. After each winter, have your fireplace serviced by an expert to make sure it’s clean and in good working order.
Add Seasonal Fragrance
To add natural fragrance to your home, use potpourri, natural candles, essential oils in diffusers or simmer pots of natural herbs and fruits. My Fall Stovetop Potpourri and my Holiday Stovetop Potpourri are simple recipes to fill your home with the smells of the season.
By following these tips, you’ll have a home that smells as good as it looks!
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