You don't have to be an aromatherapy aficionado to know that smells have the ability to trigger strong emotions and associations. Baking bread can bring you back to the comfort of your grandmother's cottage while freshly cut grass can return you to childhood summer camp. Unfortunately, it also works in the other direction: a neglected garbage can under the sink may take your mind to the city dump on a hot day.
Everyone has been unlucky enough to come home to a house that smells less-than-perfect. There's the curry you cooked up a couple of nights ago combined with the leftover fish that was scraped into the garbage this morning. Oh, and then there's that pesky pet odor. It's enough to instantly drain away any excitement you had about coming home.
Walking through the door needn't be an assault on your olfactory organs. Preventing and eliminating odors can be achieved quickly, naturally and with stuff you probably already have around the house. And forget those fake-smelling canned air fresheners—you can do much better than that without spending a penny.
The Garbage Can
Is your garbage can frequently unpleasant and stinky? If so, throw a couple of dryer sheets into the bottom of the can to help keep odors at bay. Coffee grounds make the garbage smell a little more bearable, so when it really stinks toss grounds in the trash instead of saving them for the garden. A few scoops of cat litter will work, too.
We know cleaning the garbage can isn't the most satisfying of chores, but taking the hose to it outside will make it a little less gruesome.
Nothing traps odor more than your carpet. Ask a stranger to put their nose to your carpet and they'd probably be able to deduce that you have three dogs, a cat, and that someone in your house used to smoke.
Never fear, baking soda is here! Sprinkle the stuff liberally through a sieve and onto the carpet. Let it sit for a half an hour and then vacuum. For particularly smelly areas (like the spot where Spot relieved himself, twice) wet the area with warm water and a few drops of essential oil or white vinegar, and then sprinkle with baking soda. After the spot is dry, use the vacuum again.
Ever treat yourself to a scoop of ice cream only to discover that it tastes exactly like your freezer? We have all had this gross-out moment but it needn't happen again.
To eliminate freezer-stench in a jiffy, simply put a rolled-up newspaper in the freezer overnight. The paper will absorb any foul odors. (The newspaper method will also work on your cooler). If this doesn't do the job completely, pour a little vanilla extract onto a rag and wipe down the shelves.
Keeping a box of baking soda in the fridge is one of the best ways to absorb lingering leftover odors. Remember to change the box out every couple of months because it will stop working. If the smell really packs a punch, drastic measures must be taken. See if you can clear a rack of your fridge and sprinkle the baking soda onto a couple of plates or a cookie sheet. If this isn't possible, pour some into a few small dishes or into coffee filters and place them on every tier.
Cleaning the fridge is never fun but get in the habit of tossing out anything remotely suspicious regularly and you'll keep foul odors at a minimum. Do this at least weekly, ideally the night before the garbage is collected. That way those leftovers won't sit in the trash for too long.
When you go for the all-out clean (which we recommend at least every 3 months), combine equal parts white vinegar and warm water and go to town. If it really stinks, use it at its full strength. Vinegar is a great sanitizer and deodorizer.
Nothing says rot like a few days of garbage disposal neglect. Who would have thought all those little orts could transform into such a giant stench?
First, run extremely hot water down the drain for a minute or two. (This will help flush out debris and is great for preventing clogs in your pipes.) Then, toss lemon and/or orange peels down the disposal and let it grind until it's all gone. You can find more strategies for a sweet-smelling disposal here.
The Whole House
If a funky smell has moved in and wants to stay, fight back with vinegar. Pour a little vinegar into a number of glass jars and place them throughout the house. Let them sit overnight and the odor should be gone by morning.
For that "I just baked cookies" smell, rub vanilla extract onto your light bulbs. When the lights are turned on the sweet aroma will seep throughout the house.
Boil water and a few sticks of cinnamon on the stove for a half an hour. Citrus rinds, mint and cloves will also work.
Look into different essential oils. They smell lovely and can lift the mood, heal, even keep insects away. One of the best parts about essential oils is that you can mix them to create a personal combination based on the scents that most appeal to you.
Escape from Smell Hell
Even the cleanest people encounter foul odors around the house now and then. The good news is that these smells are easily destroyed with everyday household items rather than perfumed aerosols found at the grocery store. Baking soda and vinegar will clean and deodorize just about everything and anything. Tackling bad smells the natural way actually absorbs the odors instead of just covering them up. So, don't keep running from that funky stench; kill it off once and for all.
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