How to Have a Nice Smelling Living Room

In summer, life should be easy and relaxed but many of us are experiencing dangerous heat waves. Before I get into today’s topic, I’d like to say a few words about extreme heat. Last year I wrote about trying to stay healthy during extreme heat. If you are having trouble with the heat, do check out the ideas, stay hydrated, and stay safe.

Today I want to discuss fragrance in the home especially the living room. The living room is usually the first room visitors enter when they visit. Family members and pets sit, relax, and walk in and out all day. It’s a busy place. You want it be inviting right down to the air you breath. I know when I come home after being away 3 or more days, there is a faint odor like stale air and something else. I’ve stood at the front door and “fanned” the door to move the air around. I don’t like that smell.

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. Some years ago I wrote Natural Ways to Make Your Home Smell as Good as It Looks. Now I’d like to do a small review and add a few thoughts on the subject. As usual, I love using natural remedies as much as possible. 


Adding fragrance in a space is often the first idea many home owners have when trying to eliminate a smell. Although there are several ways to make a room smell nice, cleaning your living room is the quickest and easiest way to establish a fresh scent. I suggest you first find the source of the odor and eliminate or control it as much as possible. My top tip is to make use of the everyday products you already have in your kitchen cupboards. Baking soda, lemon juice and white distilled vinegar are some of nature’s greatest natural cleaners, and they work wonders for a whole host of common cleaning tasks – including freshening the air. Remember the box of baking soda in the fridge?

Below are steps to consider for a nice-smelling living room.

1. Deep clean carpets and rugs

Most of us have been trying to replace carpets with hard surface floors like wood, but the first thing most of us do with our wooden floor is put an area rug on it. Let’s face the fact that we like adding softness to our surroundings. The deep fibers of carpets and rugs are notorious for holding onto bad odors, especially if your family wears shoes indoors. Deep-cleaning carpets and cleaning area rugs is the best place to start when trying to make a living room smell nice. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove microparticles from your carpets and soft furnishings. If bad scents are coming from drains, vents, or electric outlets, get these investigated. The smell of last night’s dinner may still be lingering in the air. Whether it’s a pet smell or mustiness from a leak, remove the problem and clean, clean, clean. Good Housekeeping has an informative review, 11 Best Vacuum Cleaners.

If your rug has some stains, use a homemade solution of vinegar diluted with water and some baking soda to help lift the stains and deodorize the area. This solution is natural and non-toxic and will remove any lingering smells caused by dirt or stains on the carpet, in addition to removing the stain itself.

If you choose to use commercial cleansers formulated to deodorize, make sure you protect family members or friends with a sensitive nose or allergies. Go for one that is scent-free and use lemon juice and baking soda to get rid of any residual, unwanted smells after cleaning.

II. Ventilate rooms

Cleaning is the first step but commercial cleansers can also lead to another problem of a chemical scent in the air. A build-up of cleaning products and everyday odors can layer the space and lead to a musty smell. The next step is adding fresh air. Remember to ventilate your home by opening all windows at least once a week. If there is a family member with hay fever, check out the various filters for windows. Activated carbon passive window air purifiers can be used in most double hung windows and are adjustable to fit windows. My sister has used one for decades for her son’s bedroom in the fall.

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.  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.

Turn on a fan when cleaning or open a window to help circulate air and reduce moisture. You may also want to use a dehumidifier or air purifier too to help keep the air in your space balanced and clean. This is especially true in the colder months when opening the window may not be the best idea. Freshen your home’s air with a HEPA-filter air purifier to eliminate unwanted odors indoors and breathe clean air. This appliance traps and reduces the air particulates, like dust and pollen, that can harm health, especially the respiratory system. Since COVID, air purifiers added to HVAC systems are very popular too. 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. Instead of an air purifier, I personally use a HEPA filter in my central air/heating unit and change it frequently. They’re more expensive but really help my problem with dust and pollen. Note: opening windows may be a problem if you live in a high traffic urban area with lots of car exhaust or industrial odors. You’ll need air filters.

III. Wash soft furnishings

Soft furnishings, such as curtains, throw pillows, and upholstery, can absorb odors over time. Wash or dry clean these items regularly to keep them smelling fresh. Fabrics and fillings of our furnishings can trap odors. Obviously you can’t put the chair in the washing machine, but you can vacuum the fabric regularly. Additionally, you can sprinkle baking soda on upholstered furniture, let it sit for a few minutes, and then vacuum it off to neutralize odors effectively Don’t forget to include curtains and drapes too. I’ve shared before that I like throw pillow covers. Most of us don’t have the storage for loads of different pillow for seasonal or holiday changes. I’ve hand washed pillow covers and hung to dry. A brief bit of pressing with a hot iron and I’m ready for the pillow change. After a few years of using the same pillow inserts, last year I replaced the inserts with fresh new ones. They smelled dusty to me and I like a fresh from the package clean. I’ve also found that washing pillow inserts can lead to misshapen pillows.

If your soft furnishings have a lingering odor after the baking soda, then you can opt to have it professionally cleaned or use a great steam cleaner to help steam clean a couch and other delicate items to kill bacteria and freshen up the smell of your space.

IV. Dust regularly and thoroughly

Although it is highly unlikely you will be able to completely get rid of dust in your home, dusting regularly and thoroughly can help to freshen up your living room’s fragrance. Make sure not to miss or skip any shelves, decor items, or picture frames.

Don’t forget your curtains. 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. 

Grease, dust and smoke in the air will cling to every surface and not just upholstery, carpets and curtains, but to lightbulbs, too. When you switch on the lights, they’ll warm up that greasy combo and it will smell. So, wiping over lightbulbs every month or two as part of your cleaning routine will keep the room fresher. Then if no matter how much you clean, dust keeps coming back fast, it may be your HVAC isn’t filtering the air properly. Change your filters regularly and use a quality filter to see if there is a difference. See Spring Home Maintenance Checklist and Fall Home Maintenance Checklist for more ideas.

V. Wipe down the smaller high-touch areas

Although you might not think of your TV remote and light switches causing a bad smell, an overall build-up of grease and bacteria in high-touch areas can contribute to bad smells over time. I always wipe down surfaces like remotes, light switches, and end tables. Don’t forget door knobs and electronics. It works great on most hard surfaces throughout your home.

IV. Add real plants to freshen the air naturally

Although not as powerful as an air purifier, real plants can help to purify your home’s air and reduce humidity, in turn preventing a musty odor. Plants not only add beauty to your living room but also act as natural air purifiers. Select houseplants known as good air cleaning indoor plants, such as spider plants, peace lilies, or aloe vera. These plants can help eliminate pollutants and improve air quality while infusing the room with a natural, fresh scent. Remember to consider plant toxicity if you have pets or young children. Check out Air Cleaning Plants for more plant ideas and safety information.

 Adding a scent

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.
  • Designers even suggest making your personalized scent with essential oils to spray in your home. Lavender, chamomile, or eucalyptus essential oils work wonderfully for a relaxing and soothing ambiance.
  • Drop a few drops of essential oil on your air conditioner filter every time you change it. As your a/c cools your home, it’s send those delicious aromas throughout. In the winter, do the same thing with your furnace filter.
  • Bake spices in the oven at a low temperature for a comforting aroma. Not only will this make your home smell heavenly, toasting the spices makes them taste nuttier and richer, when you use them in your baking.
  • Bake vanilla extract on low in the oven: Find an oven-safe dish, coffee mug, or pan to use for this process. Turn your oven to about 275-300ºF/140-150ºC. The dish or pan should be made of preferably ceramic, glass or terracotta materials. Rearrange the oven racks so that you can place the pan with the vanilla on the middle rack. Pour two tablespoons of vanilla into the cup or pan. Heat the vanilla in the oven for up to 20 minutes until you smell a change in odor. 

Summer is a great time to add a bowl of herbs to your rooms. Luckily I live in a warm climate where I can grow rosemary outside, but many people grow herbs on the window sill. Recently I trimmed the rosemary bush and put the cuttings in a vase in the living room. It smells amazing.

Adopt some fragrant house plants like lavender, mint or rosemary—to keep odors away. To make a simple air freshener, add lemon and rosemary to a medium pot of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer until your home smells awesome. Or try 4 tablespoons of dried basil in the boiling water. Remove from heat and let steep as the fragrance grows. For more ideas, see Natural Ways to Make Your Home Smell as Good as It Looks

Establishing a good cleaning routine and picking a fresh scent for your home is one of the best ways to make your home feel welcoming. Set a good cleaning routine and try to stick to it the best you can. Include scents of the season like apple cinnamon in the fall, evergreen in the winter, and herbs any time. Consistency is the secret power of those who have nice smelling homes.

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I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

18 thoughts to “How to Have a Nice Smelling Living Room”

  1. I agree with you. Living room is special, when visitors come, they typically step into the living room first, making it the primary entry point. Throughout the day, family members and pets constantly move in and out, keeping it is smelling good, organized and clean is really important. Thanks for all these tips. Have a great week!

  2. This are great tips for staying cool in extreme heat and keeping our homes fresh and smelling good!

    Thanks for sharing with us.

  3. Amazing Carol. I copied this one and my wife just loves all of your ideas. We have used some of them before but your have given us many new ideas. THanks.

    Cruisin Paul

  4. My husband and I struggle since I love adding artificial scents (particularly any of the sweet food ones from Yankee Candle) yet he can’t stand artificial scents… so I try to limit them to rooms we don’t use every day. These are some great tips!

  5. I’ve got to tell you that I needed to read this today. I live in a small apartment and have a beagle. I can smell dog, but nobody else can. I do the same thing with the door faning it back and forth. I have hard wood in my living room with an area carpet and use pet fresh on it. It helps but doesn’t last long enough. I bath my dog and clean my floors thoroughly. But I’m happy to have read about natural things that I do have on hand to use for cleaning that will help with the dog smell.
    Visiting today from Hearth & Soul #14&15

    1. I’m so glad it helps you. I understand your concern and I bet your furry family member is worth the cleaning. Good luck!

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