No one likes a home that smells bad. Beyond just creating an uncomfortable, environment, bad odors can also be a sign of indoor pollution problems. Surprisingly enough, the air inside your home can be more polluted than the air outside – this is thanks to our habit of building homes that are sealed so tight that fresh air from the outside sometimes has a problem making its way indoors.
Some smells, such as that old musty smell we described in this post, can be indicators of household pollutants that can actually cause serious health problems. Luckily, most odor problems are temporary annoyances that just make your home a little less pleasant. Even so, it is better to get rid of the temporary smells before they become a bigger issue. Here are some tips for getting those stubborn smells out of your home for good!
Identify The Source
The very first step to getting rid of stubborn household odors is to identify the source. This will help you to create a game plan for dealing with the issue.
In the case of a musty smell, it is very likely that the issue is mold or mildew, which mean there is an issue with too much moisture in the home. If you think this is the cause of your odor issues, check out the link above for detailed information on handling the problem.
For smells that are food based, check the usual suspects: the garbage can, the refrigerator, the oven, the garbage disposal, and even the dishwasher. For all of these areas a good cleaning with a vinegar and water solution (one part vinegar to one part water) can help to get rid of lingering bacteria or oils that are causing the problem. For dishwashers, sinks, and garbage disposals, the problem may actually be in the pipes or drainage hoses, so check those areas in the event that a thorough general cleaning doesn’t eliminate the scent.
For pet smells like urine, the solution depends on where the odor is coming from. If you have a litter box that is problematic, make sure it is being cleaned on a regular basis – we mean cleaned, not just emptied. For urine smells in carpet, treatment depends on how old the stain is and how often a pet has messed in one spot. For new accidents, patting the area to remove excess moisture and then spritzing with white vinegar should do the trick. For old stains, you will likely need to treat the subflooring to permanently remove the odor.
Ventilate, Ventilate, Ventilate
Helping to remove pollutants that cause odors from your home is the best way to prevent a problem from occurring! Whether it is a kitchen smell, a bathroom smell, or a smell from household projects, be sure that you are using your ventilation system to get rid of those fumes. Without air movement from the inside to the outside of your home, potential odors just build up inside your home, leaving things smelling not so fresh.
Another thing to check? Ensure that your ventilation exhaust isn’t near your HVAC intake. This is a common issue, which means that all the smelly air you are getting out of your home can come right back in again through your ductwork.
Nix The Strong Cleaning Products
If you have ever taken a stroll down the cleaning aisle at your local grocery or big box store, you know that there is a product available for every possible cleaning issue you could ever have in your home. But before you start purchasing every product under the sun to rid your home of odors, take a step back and think about how your great-grandma used to clean her home. Did she really need all of this stuff?
No, she didn’t. This is an area where we can take some advice from our ancestors – leave the strong cleaning products on the shelf unless absolutely nothing else works. The reason is that a lot of cleaning products contain harmful VOCs, which can cause indoor air pollution issues and health problems for some vulnerable people. The American Lung Association has a whole page on which products you should watch out for (although we do know that sometimes only bleach will do).
White vinegar, water, and baking soda are the big three items that can be used to keep your home clean without causing health issues. Baking soda is especially great for getting odors out of carpet – sprinkle it on the carpet before going to bed and then vacuum your floors in the morning. Two other odor-absorbing products that won’t harm your health? Kitty litter and coffee grounds – both can be placed in a sock and hidden near problem odor areas for a quick fix.
Don’t Forget To Clean Your Walls & Fabrics
When cleaning, homeowners often forget that walls can offer an area where odors can cling. This is especially true when it comes to smoke, either from a fireplace or tobacco usage. For most painted walls, gently cleaning with a little water and vinegar will help to remove any residue that is clinging to the outer surface. Don’t worry about the vinegar smell – it will go away after the solution has dried.
Fabrics, such as window treatments and upholstery, can also be a source for trapping odors. If window treatments or other household fabrics can be machine washed, be sure to do so on a regular basis. For upholstery that has absorbed odors, the baking soda trick for carpet will also work on fabrics as long as you have a good upholstery attachment for your vacuum. Spritzing with a light mist of that good old vinegar and water mix can help as well – just be sure that whatever odor you are dealing with hasn’t soaked into the cushions of your furniture. If so, those may have to be replaced.