Exhaust fans and open windows only go so far toward eliminating foul odors. Making your sniffer happy oftentimes requires something extra, like baking powder, vinegar or special charcoal. For smells that make you run out of the room holding your nose, try these tricks:
1. ID the source and remove it
"The key to odor removal is removing the source of the odor," says Bob Smolka, restoration manager for ACR, Inc., a specialized cleaning services company in Wheeling, Ill. If mold, mildew, faulty plumbing or an animal carcass in your chimney is causing the smell, then spraying air fresheners and burning candles will only temporarily overpower the stench. You need to eliminate the source of the problem for a true fix.
2. Wash away foul dishwasher smells
Fill a dishwasher-safe cup with white vinegar, place it on the top rack, and run it through a cycle without any dishes. If you don't have a safe cup, pour two cups of vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher. Be prepared for the vinegar to smell for an hour or so, but then all smells will be gone.
3. Cover temporary kitchen odors, like burnt toast and fried bacon. Turn on the exhaust
fan, open the windows and spray an air freshener.
4. Tame pet odor, including the kitty litter box
Activated charcoal, which is a form of carbon that has been "activated" to make it extremely porous, is great for absorbing a range of odors, especially those caused by pets. You can buy activated charcoal specifically designed for pet odors for $7. Put them in or near your litter box to help mitigate the stink.
5. Eliminate washing machine mold smells
The door on front-load washing machines seals so tight that air never circulates inside, allowing mold and mildew to grow-and stink up the laundry room. Wash away the mold and the smell by running a cycle with
only two cups of bleach and warm or hot water. Or buy tablets like Affresh (three for $8) that you stick in the washer to clean it. Whichever method you choose, leave your door open between washings.
6. Keep your garbage disposal from smelling like garbage
Just because you stick waste in your disposal doesn't give it permission to foul up your kitchen. Cut a lemon, lime or orange into chunks and drop them into the running disposal. The citrus will get rid of most odors. If not, follow up with half a cup of white vinegar with cold water-if you can put up with a brief round of vinegar smell.
7. Deodorize the fridge
The age-old solution to tame fridge odors is to open a box of baking soda and stick it on a shelf or along the back. Change it annually and keep it away from vegetables since the sodium bicarbonate in the baking soda can cause leafy veggies to wilt quickly. Sodium bicarbonate has a unique chemical property that attracts and absorbs odors.
8. Rub out urine and bacteria smells in carpet
Vinegar is highly acidic, which enables it to kill bacteria and also remove urine smells. Mix one part vinegar with three parts water and rub it on the carpet with a cloth. Then rinse the carpet with water and let it air dry. Then train your pet to stop peeing on your carpet.
9. Overpower curry, fried fish and other food smells
If you do a lot of spicy or fried cooking, the smells can become ingrained in your cabinets, which you'll need to wash with warm water and soap. But for immediate relief after cooking, boil a cup of vinegar on the stove. The vapors that release into the air cut the other smells, although the vinegar will cause the kitchen to smell bad for a bit.
10. Remove cigarette smoke stink
For an occasional infraction of someone lighting up in the house, an air freshener and open windows will eliminate the smell. But heavy smoking over a long period requires washing, sealing and painting the walls, Smolka says. It may also require cleaning the duct system. "There's no magic solution," he says, but there is a misconception that clean air machines—also known as air purifiers and ozone machines—are a good solution for getting rid of these types of heavy, ingrained smells. But Smolka recommends against those units; they can produce dangerous levels of ozone that can kill plants, deteriorate rubber and cause eye irritation and other health problems at high concentrations.
11. Hide embarrassing bathroom stank
Your fan can only do so much. For goodness sake, light a candle. Or better yet, use a long-term odor remover, like a Glade PlugIn.
12. Be proactive
To keep odors at bay, regularly use an air freshener like Febreze not only in the air, but also by lightly spraying, or misting, curtains or couches in a room. Be sure to read the label first—some products will stain cotton.