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How to get rid of bad smells in the house

Updated February 21, 2019

While a clean house shouldn't have a bad smell, the activities and events of normal life such as cooking odours, bodily functions and pet odours can create a variety of smells that are less than pleasant. Don't attempt to remove the smell by dousing your house with air freshener, as this only masks the odour. Determine what is causing the smell, then take steps to remove it.

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  1. Open the windows and leave them open as long as possible. Cross-ventilation is often enough to air out cooking odours and other bad smells.

  2. Use baking soda to neutralise bad smells. Place a container of fresh baking soda in your refrigerator to remove refrigerator odours. Replace the baking soda with a fresh container every month. Sprinkle baking soda over upholstery or carpeting to remove pet or cigarette odours. Allow the baking soda to remain for an hour before vacuuming. A small amount of baking soda sprinkled in a pair of tennis shoes will help to eliminate "stinky feet" odour.

  3. Empty all garbage cans regularly, as they are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to generating bad smells in a house. Disinfect garbage cans once every month, using an all-purpose cleaner or a mixture of 10 parts water and 1 part bleach.

  4. Cut a fresh lemon in half, and place it in a pan of simmering water for five to 10 minutes. The lemon neutralises cabbage or fish smells in your kitchen. Allow the lemon to cool, then run the lemon through your garbage disposal, where it will remove any lingering odours.

  5. Eliminate musty smells with activated charcoal. Fill an open plastic or glass container with the charcoal, then place the container in closets, basements, or other areas that tend to smell damp and musty.

  6. Distribute bowls of vinegar throughout the house to freshen the air and neutralise cigarette smoke odour. Allow the bowls to sit out for up to 24 hours. Vinegar can also be used to make a neutralising room spray. Just mix 1 part vinegar with 8 parts water, then spray into the air as needed. The vinegar spray can also be used to remove odours by wiping down surfaces such as kitchen counters, shower curtains, or the inside of your microwave or refrigerator. The vinegar neutralises the smell, and the vinegar scent dissipates quickly.

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Things You'll Need

  • Baking soda
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Bleach
  • Fresh lemon
  • Activated charcoal
  • Vinegar
  • Spray bottle

About the Author

M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.

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