Unpleasant odors in your home can cause all kinds of issues: Friend loss (they won’t tell you your house smells like Eau de Wet Dog, they just won’t come over again), sneezing attacks, nausea and headaches, and last but not least, some major stinky distractions.
Happily, there are a number of 100% natural options to help you successfully eliminate these nuisance odors. That’s right, no nasty chemicals necessary.
Of course, the best house odor eliminator is an air filter specifically designed to remove lingering odors, like Colorfil. Their NASA award-winning filters even change color as they absorb odors and chemicals from your air so you know they’re working. Colorfil has been proven to reduce odors 5x more effectively than other air filters — including every unpleasant smell on this list! — and costs as little as $15.
A quality air filter is helpful because, truth is, a bad-smelling home is simply the result of poor air quality. The best remedy is to get fresh air circulating, but unfortunately, not everyone lives in a climate where you can leave windows and doors open year-round. So, for those of you on the wildfire-prone West Coast or chilly North East, never fear—we’ve got tons of solutions that will work to remove household odors in often-enclosed environs.
#1: Pet Odors
Aka “...and your pretty dog, too”
We love our pets so much we wrote a whole blog about them. What we don’t love is how stinky they can be. Pet litter, pet food, and romps in the dirt all bring out the smells.
So how can you keep your house from smelling like your pooch?
Caroline Biggs, on behalf of domestic goddess Martha Stewart, says, “Start with vinegar.” She explains that urine stains can easily be removed with the help of spraying vinegar directly on the stain. Just rub until the stains and smells disappear.
To keep air circulating and reduce the chance of a wet dog smell, you can pick up an air purifier. We’ve covered the top five air purifiers for pets, but the best air purifiers are pricey. If you can’t factor one into your price range, just make sure to skip the fragrance sprays which just try to mask smells, and instead pick up some highly effective air filters like Colorfil.
#2: Cooking Fumes
Aka “Dinner for 2... days straight”
Mom’s cooking is the best smell in the world. Until it’s not anymore.
When it’s way past dinner -like two days past dinner- and your kitchen (and your bedroom and your office) still smells like Sunday roast, something has to be done. Well, actually, let us back up a bit; the best course of action is to go back in time and stop the smells before they happen.
“Ventilate before you start,” insists Sarah Jampel of Food52 for Business Insider. However, per the EPA (yeah, we went there), fans, hood ventilation, and air conditioning can give you a major leg up on keeping smells out. As they explain, “For most indoor air quality problems in the home, source control is the most effective solution.” Investing in a quality range hood or vent fan system means more air can circulate in your kitchen and less of that dinner smell lingers.
The addition of a high-powered air purifier or a portable fan can cut down on smells, but starting with better air filters for your HVAC makes a huge difference when it comes to house odor removal. Try using an air filter that changes color when it’s reached max odor absorption capacity, and ensure its efficiency by swapping it out before the normal 3-month mark to help keep your air clean.
#3: Bathroom Stinks
Aka “Don’t let the nursery smell like a truck stop”
Some smells hit like a ton of bricks. We don’t need to describe what a gas station bathroom or stinky diaper pail smells like. And we won’t. But we will give you a few tips on how to stop it from stinking up your home.
Winnie Yang for Wirecutter from The New York Times says, “by the time your bundle of joy is three years old, you will have tossed out about 5,000 dirty diapers.”
That’s A LOT of smells. It calls for the big guns.
Yang did their research and came back with some tips for parents dealing with loaded diapers.
She notes the best course of action is tossing the offensive diaper right away if you can, but the next best thing is a diaper pail that actually works to hold in smells.
“You can mask stink with a baking soda puck,” says Yang, as some diaper pail companies, like The Munchkin Step did.
But what about adults? Is there a way to keep their bathroom smelling fresh? Again, the rule is: preventative treatment works. We’re big fans of Poo~Pourri, a spray made of natural essential oils and other top-secret ingredients that you spritz into the toilet before you go so it smells like an angel was in there.
However, masking smells is a no-go for us. We’ve ruled out all chemical sprays that claim to hide odors. And matches? They only do so much.
Karen B. Gibbs for The Today Show has a few ideas for how to avoid The Smells. “First and foremost, reduce odors by flushing the toilet as soon as you can,” she says. “A "courtesy flush" is not only courteous, it’s smart.”
To ensure that the bathroom stays fresh all the time, Gibbs says, “Ventilate!” We may sound like a pushy mom, but truly the best way to keep your home smelling great is to have a ventilation system that actually works, whether it’s a window you can open, a great exhaust fan above the toilet, or a color-changing air filter that tells you when it’s reached max odor absorption capacity.
#4: Mold and Mildew
Aka “Spore air quality”
It’s your grandma Bette’s basement that you know and love, but a few hours in your throat hurts and you’ve developed a cough. And also, what’s that smell? There’s a lot of misinformation about mold, but nobody can deny that musty fragrance in the air means trouble.
We’ve got you.
First off, the EPA (our friends!) says whatever you do, don’t use bleach. It just doesn’t work. You have to stop what’s causing the mold, not just kill what’s there. Bleach only works for non-porous surfaces and not, for example, the burrows of wood. Instead, the EPA suggests the key (once again) is ventilation, ventilation, ventilation.
Ventilation and a constant turnover of air is important because stopping mold begins with moisture control. If things get out of hand, there isn’t a lot a portable fan can do for a rotting piece of wood covered in spores. So the EPA advises you to look out for water problems or leaks and try to catch them before they create mold issues.
For those who just need to keep their spaces dry during humid months, Sally Adee from The New York Times suggests a dehumidifier “to keep your home under 65 percent humidity, which prevents most molds from gaining a foothold” (and those smells from taking over your life).
There’s also one more trick The EPA has up their sleeve: try “ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) cleaners.” Sure that sounds futuristic, but that’s because it is. The process uses ultraviolet radiation from UV lamps to destroy those pesky “indoor biological pollutants.” AKA, mold, bacteria, and viruses. AKA the stuff that smells as bad as it makes you feel.
#5: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Aka “Don’t let your home become a toxic waste zone”
Per the EPA, “Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.”
In other words, it’s why your new couch smells weird or the curtains smell like plastic or your freshly painted living room makes you feel a little lightheaded.
The EPA's Office of Research and Development's "Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study" found “levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside.”
Not to fear, aside from employing BFFs good ventilation and fresh air as a house odors eliminator, there are tons of great, new companies that can deliver low-to-no VOC paint and other non-toxic materials straight to your home. Do just a little research and you’ll find examples like this non-chemical rug company or this certified non-toxic curtain company. You can even have special NASA-awarded color-changing air filters sent to your home. The possibilities are endless!
You may pay a little more for your home goods after being an educated consumer, but that’s the price you pay for not getting a headache from your brand new pillows.
#6: Body Odor & Sweat
Aka “Stay fit (and fresh)”
The smell you’re trying to cover up? Yeah. That one. It might be your shoes, sports equipment, or the pile of laundry you’ve been avoiding for two...okay, three...weeks. (No judgment. It happens.)
Elizabeth Mayhew from The Washington Post explains, “Musty smells can settle into your rooms and, like an unwanted houseguest, refuse to leave.” When people try to tackle house odors removal with “air fresheners that only mask odors” you can’t “fully eradicate them. “
To get rid of it for real, we have a few, easy solutions. We hate to admit it, but doing the laundry does help. So does adding scent-boosters to your detergent. You can even do it naturally. Alina Bradford of CNET recommends using an old (but clean!) sock you’ve dampened and then dabbed with two drops of extract, such as vanilla, turning it inside out and throwing it in the dryer with the rest of your clothes. “The [extract] will only leave residue on the sock, not your lint trap,” she explains.
If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge with the pile of clothes, at least try not to air your dirty laundry. Instead, store it in an airtight container to avoid having to take a whiff.
Washing your sports equipment can also be helpful in reducing smells, but stopping odor before it starts with a really effective deodorant like this one works, too. And a pro tip: deodorant can be used anywhere on your body.
Of course, keeping a room well-ventilated never hurts anyone, and it’s much easier on the HVAC system. An air filter that is specially formulated to absorb odors gives your home one more layer of protection in the fight to eliminate household odors.
Have more questions about how to eliminate household odors? Ask us in the comments below!
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