9 Ways to Rid Your Home of Bad Odors

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Man smelling bad odor
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In a perfect world, your home would smell like delicious food waiting to be eaten, or maybe like your favorite flower.

Life generally isn’t perfect, though, especially when it’s sweltering outside.

Stale cooking odors, diaper pails, infrequently scooped litter boxes and overflowing trash cans — all are a lot more noticeable when we keep doors and windows closed due to running the A/C or heat more.

Time to clear the air!

Use one or more of the following tactics for a more comfortable, welcoming living space.

1. Make your own reed diffusers

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In effect, a reed diffuser is a handful of wood sticks in a jar of fragranced oil. The oil seeps up through the sticks, dispersing the fragrance of the oil into the room. You can pay more than $20 for these things — or you could easily make your own.

It’s not rocket fragrance. You can use any narrow-mouthed glass container and buy diffuser sticks on Amazon. The blog Apartment Therapy offers “recipe” options.

2. Use homemade freshening spray and air freshener

DIY bottle of air freshener
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Instead of using a commercial fabric freshener like Febreze, you can make your own. It’s pretty simple:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix of water and inexpensive vodka.
  2. Add a dozen or more drops of your favorite essential oil, and shake.
  3. Spray it on anything that smells funky, from armchairs to gym bags.

Pro tip: Spritz the furniture before you leave in the morning. It’ll be dry — and nicer to be around — by the time you get home.

That miracle cleaning agent known as white vinegar also works as an air freshener. Purchase a spray bottle with a fine-mist setting, fill with white vinegar and spritz away.

3. Stay on top of basic cleaning

Man cleaning counter
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Dirty places smell bad. The solution is cleaning, so do it.

Load the dishwasher immediately after eating. Sweep the entryway to keep mud and muck from being spread throughout the house. Start laundry before dinner, and put it in the dryer afterward.

4. Pay attention to carpets

Spot cleaning carpet
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If it’s been a while since your carpet was last cleaned, consider hiring a service or renting a carpet cleaner and doing it yourself.

If the carpet smells musty, baking soda can help: Sprinkle the sodium bicarbonate all over, wait an hour and vacuum. Keep pets out of the room until you’ve finished.

Area rugs can be treated the same way. Many throw rugs can be laundered if they start smelling bad.

5. Clean the furniture

Man cleaning a couch
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Leather, faux leather and upholstery all can collect bad smells and pet hair. Vacuum furniture every so often, using a soft-brush attachment on nonupholstered items.

If more cleaning is needed for leather furniture, talk to the dealer about the safest options. Fabric-covered furniture can generally be cleaned with a mild soap solution and a soft upholstery brush, and then wiped with a cloth dipped in distilled water to rinse off any residue.

6. Clean the pet beds

Dog in a dog bed
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Sometimes you walk into a room and immediately know that a pet spends lots of time there. If that comfy pillow or plush kitty-cot is washable, clean it before it gets sniffy.

PetMD suggests washing pet beds every week or two. Nonwashable beds generally can be vacuumed and spritzed with that freshening spray mentioned previously.

7. Wash or air out throw blankets

Family lounges on the couch and enjoys snacks
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Pets aren’t the only culprits here. Accidents happen to humans who like to eat or drink in front of the television.

Some throw blankets are super-washable. Yours might not be. If it can’t be cleaned easily, put it outdoors.

No clothesline? Drape it over a porch or deck railing. The fresh air, breeze and sun will do it a world of good.

8. Air out your bedding

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I live in Alaska, and we put our bedspread, blanket, top sheet and pillows outdoors once a week or so. They come in smelling like fresh air, and the entire room smells marvelous once the bed is remade.

9. Open the windows

A young woman smiles while opening a window and curtains to let fresh air and sunshine inside
MJTH / Shutterstock.com

Let in some of that fresh air — perhaps during the early morning or late evening when it’s not as sweltering outside. You’ll be startled at the difference made by even a few minutes’ worth of infiltration.

Yes, it will cost you a little money to cool the rooms back down again. But the boost to your indoor air quality will be worth it.

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