How to get rid of pesky home odors

How to get rid of pesky home odors

Did you know that most people are able to distinguish at least one trillion distinct scents? So, when your house isn’t smelling quite right, your nose knows.

Hard and soft surfaces in your home can hold surprisingly unpleasant odors. Rather than mask them, here are some tips on how to identify and remove pesky household odors.


You can only attack home odors efficiently if you know where they’re coming from. Some are obvious—like stinky refrigerators—and some can be a bit more mysterious and require a hunt.

After you’ve found the source, it’s time to clean. Most odors can be eliminated with household items such as lemons, coffee grounds, baking soda, and vinegar, but some tougher smells may require harsher cleaners. 

Freshen the air

If the air in your home feels stale or musty, open your windows! Let your house breathe; push bad smells out, and let fresh air in. Another easy remedy for scenting the air is to simmer things like citrus peels, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, or mint on your stovetop.

Deodorizing fabrics and carpets

If it can’t be thrown in your washer and dryer, how do you clean it? Soft surfaces such as couches and carpets are heavy-use items that often start to smell unpleasant—and spraying them with fabric deodorizer isn’t a long-term solution.

Spot cleaners and special upholstery cleaners are great options for cleaning these items. Another tip is to sprinkle baking soda on carpets, rugs, and upholstery a few hours before vacuuming if they are particularly odorous.

Tough stains like urine or vomit can be especially difficult to deodorize. Start by blotting the area with a towel and then spray 3-parts cold water and 1-part vinegar on it and blot again. Repeat the process until the smell disappears.

Cleaning the kitchen and bathroom

Kitchens and bathrooms are a common source of home odors. They’re both popular areas for germs, so cleaning them regularly can help keep your entire home smelling fresh. Here are some tips for eliminating odors in these areas:  

  • Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of your trashcans to neutralize odors.
  • Leave an open box of baking soda in your refrigerator and freezer.
  • Use half a cup of baking soda and 2 quarts of water to clean the fridge, and scrub tiles, sinks, drains, and toilet bowls.
  • Leave fresh or leftover coffee grounds in tight spaces such as cabinets or refrigerators to absorb unpleasant smells.
  • Boil a microwave-safe bowl with two parts water and one part vinegar in the microwave to loosen stuck-on food. Wipe with a soft cloth.
  • Cure a stinky garbage disposal with citrus rinds or half a cup of salt.

Maintaining appliances

Appliances are often overlooked when it comes to cleaning. Sure, you wipe off your cooktop and clean your microwave occasionally, but did you know most appliances require frequent maintenance? Most appliances have filters you should be cleaning regularly.

  • Dishwasher filters are located inside the appliance and should be cleaned every three to six months. Roll out the bottom rack and unscrew the filter, then clean it thoroughly in your sink.
  • Stove vent hoods have a grease filter that can start to smell musty if it’s not replaced or thoroughly cleaned every one to three months. Remove the filter and let it soak in a mixture of water, dish soap, and baking soda for 20 minutes before scrubbing it clean.
  • Washing machines have a filter that traps dirt, dust, hair, and grime from your clothes during the washing process. This filter should be cleaned at least four times a year to keep your clothing smelling fresh. The filter’s trap door is usually located on the front of the machine and can be accessed easily. Be prepared for approximately a cup of water to drain from the filter when you remove it.
  • Dryer lint buildup is a leading cause for house fires, so be sure to clean the lint filter after every wash. You should also clean dryer exhaust vents at least once a year.

Additional appliance maintenance:

  • The inside of your oven should be cleaned at least every three months. Most ovens are self-cleaning, but make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before you start the process.
  • Refrigerators are a hotbed for germs and should be wiped down once a week. Leaking raw meats and dairy products are especially prone to spreading germs so be sure to clean up spills thoroughly.

Tackling tough odors

Odors that come from pets or cigarette smoke, and musty smells in older homes may require more than just a healthy scrubbing. Consider replacing carpets or coating the walls with fresh paint to eliminate these odors.

If you find signs of mold, mildew, or rot, you may need to call the professionals. Beyond the unpleasant smells they emit, these issues can be serious health hazards.

The bottom line

Being a homeowner is a lot of work, and cleaning and deodorizing your home should always be included on your list of important home maintenance tasks. After you’ve deodorized your home, sit back, relax, and breathe in the fresh air!