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How to Eliminate Bad Odors from Your Home

The way that your home smells can have a huge impact on how other people feel when they visit. This can be especially true if you are looking to sell your home. Although many smells are often something that is easy to fix, potential buyers may have trouble looking past it when they walk through your home.  If you aren’t selling, the way your home smells can still have an effect on how your guests feel when they stop by.

Boise Real Estate Pros Blog: How to Eliminate Bad Odors from Your Home

Pet, smoke, musty/mildew, and pungent food smells are probably the biggest nose offenders. These are the hardest to eliminate as they can penetrate your furniture, walls, and carpeting. No matter what the situation is, we all want a home that smells fresh and inviting. Fortunately, there are ways that this can be achieved.


This is a list of the most common household odors, and how you can get rid of them:

Food/Kitchen Odors:

  • To keep food odors from permeating your home when you cook, use your range hood vent.
  • Empty the trash can right after disposing of food, double bag if necessary.
  • Keep air neutralizers in your kitchen to get rid of odors as you make them.
  • Keep dishes clean and don’t allow them to pile up in the sink.
  • If you have a burnt-on food spill, sprinkle some salt on it to absorb the burn smell and make it easier to clean up later.
  • Placing a bowl of white vinegar on the stove when you are cooking foods like cabbage, fish, and mushrooms will help absorb some of the odor.
  • Make sure you run the garbage disposal any time food is in it, don’t let it sit.
  • Run fresh lemon wedges through the garbage disposal regularly to keep the drain smelling clean.
  • To keep wooden cutting boards and counters from smelling bad, scrub them with a mixture of lemon juice and salt or baking soda then rinse well. Season with mineral oil.
  • At least once a month, wash your trash cans with hot soapy water to help remove debris and smelly bits of food that may have been left behind.
  • Leave used fabric softener sheets in the bottom of your trash can to help absorb odors.
  • One way to deodorize a musty freezer is to place a sock with dry coffee grounds inside.
  • Microwaves can smell, especially after something has burnt inside of it. This burnt smell can linger for quite a while, but will eventually go away on its own. To help speed up the process, Goodhousekeeping.com suggests you fill a microwave-safe bowl with 1 ½ cups of water and three or four chopped lemons and some cloves. Bring it to a boil in the microwave, then let it sit and steam in the microwave for about 15 minutes. Then open the microwave door and leave it ajar for about an hour to air the microwave out.
  • To keep a dishwasher from smelling bad, make sure the drain hose isn’t crimped and that food isn’t lodged in the bottom of the machine. Once a month use, dishwasher cleaner and run the dishwasher on its clean cycle.

Pet Odors:

Pet odors can come from pet stains on furnishings, or your carpet, or can even come from wet fur. If you own caged rodents or birds of any kind they also have an odor.

  • Every three months have your carpets steam cleaned to help keep them smelling fresh.
  • Vacuum regularly and use a carpet powder when you do.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on furniture and vacuum it up.
  • Make sure animals are adequately house trained.
  • Scoop litter boxes daily and completely replace the litter once a week. Use warm soapy water to clean the box every couple of weeks.
  • Add baking soda to litter to help absorb odors.
  • Sweep and mop, or vacuum around the litter box every couple of days to keep any stray litter off the floors.
  • For rodents, scoop their bedding daily and replace completely once a week. Once a month use warm soapy water to clean the cage.
  • Sweep and mop, or vacuum around the cage regularly to keep any loose bedding from spreading.
  • Consider cedar bedding for rodents to help control the smell.
  • For airborne pet odors, use a HEPA filter and change the furnace and A/C filters frequently.
  • Wash your pet bed or bedding at least once a month.
  • Clean a bird’s cage at least once a week, and wash it with warm soapy water at least once a month.
  • Fish tanks can smell if not cleaned regularly, so make sure you are keeping up with tank maintenance.

Bathroom Odors:

  • Keep the bathroom ventilated. Airflow helps remove smells. Don’t only do this after you use the toilet, but after a shower as well. Hot, moist air from the shower can cause mildew to build up which results in a musty smelling bathroom. Keeping it well ventilated will help with this issue.
  • Clean the bathroom weekly. Clean the toilet bowl, lid, and the sides of the toilet. Mop the floor. Clean the bathtub and shower, as well as the sink. You can use over-the-counter cleaning products or your own mixture of baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar (see recipe lower in this list).
  • To help deodorize a toilet, you can pour one cup of vinegar into the bowl and let it sit for five to ten minutes. Then, scrub the toilet and flush.
  • Keeping cotton balls dabbed in essential oils in a bowl in the bathroom will help eliminate odors.
  • Dab essential oils on the cardboard part of your toilet paper roll to help with bathroom odors.
  • Leave used fabric softener sheets in the bottom of your bathroom trash can to help absorb odors.
  • Keep odor eliminating air fresheners in the bathroom.
  • Don’t let water sit on the floor. This could result in mildew and a musty odor.
  • Keep wet, used towels out of the bathroom as much as possible.
  • Clean shower mats and floor rugs, hanging decorative towels, and shower curtains at least once a month.
  • Consider keeping an air purifier in the bathroom.
  • Clean out drains. Remove the drain stopper and clean off any hair, dirt, or debris on the stopper. Clean out clogged drains with a “snake”, wire coat hanger, or by plunging. Flush the drain using hot water, leaving the tap running for several minutes. Once a month, mix half a cup of vinegar with a half a cup of baking soda. Pour this down your drain to clean it out, help remove clogs, and neutralize odors.
  • A mixture of baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar may work well to eliminate set-in odors that are causing a bad smell around your toilet. WikiHow suggests the following: Make a paste of equal parts lemon juice and baking soda. Fresh lemon juice is best. Mix the substances together until your paste has the consistency of pancake batter. Spread this paste along the bottom of the toilet and the toilet seat using a damp rag. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Place some vinegar in a spray bottle. After 10 or 15 minutes, spray the vinegar along the paste. Let it fizzle for a moment and then wipe off using your rag.

Musty Odors:

These odors are most common in older homes. The smell is the hardest to get rid of as it is typically imbedded in the home. Sometimes a remodel is the only way to completely eliminate such odors.

  • In an older home, painting the walls, replacing carpet, refinishing wood floors and changing wall paper can help eliminate musty smells.
  • If the musty smell is coming from older furniture that you don’t wish to part with, you can read this article on Freshome about how to remove musty odors from furniture.
  • For a musty mattress, spray it with a disinfectant spray, like Lysol. This will kill odor causing bacteria. Once a month, sprinkle baking soda onto the mattress, let it sit for about 15 minutes then vacuum.
  • To help eliminate odor from a dingy rug, you can sprinkle some baking soda over it and let it settle for about a half an hour then vacuum it up.
  • For dank basements, you can use open containers of activated charcoal (can often be found at pet stores) to absorb moisture and help to eliminate mildew smells. If mold and mildew are a serious problem, you may want to invest in a dehumidifier. If problems persist after this, seek professional help.
  • If you have musty, stale closets, hanging clean socks with coffee grounds in them helps.

Smoke and Poor Air Circulation:

  • Open windows as regularly as you can to let fresh air move through your home.
  • Change your heating/air conditioner air filters regularly. You can even buy scented inserts made for venting systems to spread a pleasant smell through your home.
  • Use ceiling and floor fans to keep air circulating.
  • Smoke settles into furniture and finishes and can take years to eliminate. Sometimes it takes extreme measures like replacing baseboards and even drywall and flooring to get rid of the odor. If you smoke, you should consider not smoking in the house.


You can keep your home smelling clean and fresh by diligently identifying the source of your odors and taking the proper measures to eliminate them. Taking the time to make your home smell fresh will not only make you more relaxed, but will make it a more inviting experience for your guests. And, if you want to sell, it makes it easier for your potential buyers to focus on the finer aspects of your home.