This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in February 2015.
Let’s talk about home smells. Can you say… awkward? We all deal with having to manage our home’s “personal scent,” so let’s dish. Shoes make my hall closet smell. The cloth diaper stash makes the bathroom smell. The disposal in the sink makes the kitchen smell, and the dog… oh, well, he makes everything smell. I’m sure you can add your own items to the list, because we’re human and different lifestyles create different odors.
What are your best tips for neutralizing unpleasant scents?
Smelly gym bag?
Reserve a pair of socks to be your “gym bag deodorizers.” Place a piece of natural charcoal in each (i.e. not the “easy light charcoal”), knot the end, and tuck them inside your shoes at the end of each workout. Charcoal will help absorb the unpleasantness!
Shoe closet not so fresh?
A follow-up to my gym shoes: make sure your shoes have had a chance to air out before they are put away at home so that the insides aren’t sweaty and the bottoms are dry (wipe them down with a moist rag for bonus points, because dirt you track in smells too). I’ve found some success installing a motion-activated air freshener at the bottom of the closet, so you might want to look into that too.
Spill coffee or milk in the car?
Terrible news. Rule #1: No more lattes/chocolate milk/milkshakes in the car. If it caught on your rubber mats, you’re in luck – rinse and wash and you’re as good as new. If it soaked into the carpet and foam seats (practically inevitable, like the pacifier dropping mouth-piece down on the floor at the mall), you’re not going to be happy, but you can do this detail cleaning yourself.
- Learn how to remove the foam seats in the car. They can usually detach and pull out, although I’m only talking from experience with our Subarus, so I can’t vouch for all models.
- Use a rag (I recommend microfiber, paper towels or terrycloth rags, all of which are absorbent), and use your body weight to blot the liquid out of the foam. Stand on the towels, rotating in new cloths until they longer pick up moisture, and I mean NO MORE MOISTURE.
- Pull the carpet up too; scope out the edges of the carpet, and you should be able to find where the carpet ends and the foam of the seat or the plastic interior begins. Pry the carpet upwards (you probably won’t need to remove it entirely), and reach beneath it with towels to absorb any liquid that has soaked through. Prop the carpet so that it doesn’t fall back into place, and with the help of anti-bacterial sprays and/or baking powder, clean and allow your vehicle to ventilate for… well, I’ll be honest, you’re going to want to air it out for several days.
- Keep the windows down if in the garage, or during the days in the driveway as possible. It will return to normal – the important part is getting to it all as soon as it happens, and alternating allowing it to dry completely and disinfecting to combat rotting milk smell or stale coffee smell.
Cleaning a grimy garbage disposal?
Ice, baking soda, and citrus are all popular disposal cleaners. Take it up a notch, and every time you squeeze a lemon or eat an orange, save the rind and peel, and chop it into small pieces. Divide the pieces in an ice tray, and freeze them with water. Every few days, run the empty disposal with 3-4 cubes to clean the inside of it while also freshening the air.
Battling pet smells?
Sprinkle baking soda on all carpets, and allow it to sit to absorb smells before vacuuming. You can buy a scented baking soda too, which absorbs smells while releasing a fresh scent into the home when it’s vacuumed (Arm & Hammer has one marketed for pet owners – a dog and cat are on the label. It works.). You can also drop a little essential oil into the baking soda for a pleasant scent, just be aware that pets can sometimes be affected by the use of oils. For more tips on carpet maintenance, check out this article.
I don’t really like the idea of simply masking a smell, but short of washing our giant dog every day, musky dog is hard to conquer. Using a lightly-scented floor cleaner helps, as does creating your own stovetop diffuser by simmering water and common kitchen ingredients. Think: citrus and cinnamon sticks, vanilla or almond extracts, peppercorns, or fresh basil or rosemary. As long as you continue to monitor this DIY diffuser and add water, you can allow this to simmer for hours, which takes the edge off in the same way as baking cookies that’s why realtors do it at open houses. Or just bake cookies every day, that works too (related tip: cookies freeze well!).
- Put a tablespoon of baking soda in your vacuum bag or canister before use to help prevent dusty smells from emerging.
- Vinegar eliminates odor from the air too. Mix together 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Keep it in your pantry in a labeled spray bottle, and spray it lightly as needed.
- Clean your bathroom without chemicals… go green with these simple cleaning tips.
- Tea tree oil serves double duty by freshening your home while also killing germs, if you’re looking for an alternative to chemical cleaners. I shared a tutorial on making your own disinfecting spray, so please reference it if you’re interested!
- Vodka seems like an unlikely air freshener, but if you dilute 1 part with 3 parts water (and add citrus for scent) it works.
- Take advantage of a warm spring day. Turn off the heat and air conditioning, and open up all the windows from morning until evening. Pull your comforters, pillows, and harder-to-wash blankets and hang them outside on a clothes line to air out.
- Transplant your favorite aromatic herbs into pots so you can continue to cultivate during the cooler months. The presence of a rosemary plant will do wonders for your home.