10 Ways to Clean and Remove Odors
It doesn’t matter if it is trash, pet smells, or simply the smell of mildew. Odors can wreak havoc on one’s nose and they are simply nerve wracking!
Commercial deodorizers can help, but the truth is, where there's stink, there's something unpleasant that you need to clean up.
Clean the troublesome area first, otherwise you are wasting your time because you'll only be masking the odor, rather than remove it.
So, before you get frustrated or hire an expensive odor removal professional, let's take control of those odors before they take control of you.
In many homes, odors come from kitchens, laundry, pets, dirty carpets, bathrooms, and garbage. And in most cases can be dealt with with some simple home remedies.
1. Removing General Odors
Use your nose to determine where the pungent smell is coming from. Once you find the item that is causing the odor, clean it with hot soapy water, using an antibacterial cleaner or detergent like Dawn dish soap.
After cleaning, fill a bowl with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup white vinegar and go over the surface you just cleaned to disinfect the area. Once the area is completely clean, open the windows to let the clean air in.
Note: Some surfaces should not be touched by vinegar such as marble and natural stone surfaces. Vinegar is acid and could etch and dull the surface.
You can follow all this up with a a nice homey smell like oranges and cinnamon. Take two tablespoons of cinnamon and some orange peels and simmer them gently in 4 cups of water. This fresh scent will permeate throughout your house.
2. Removing Smoke Odors
Smoke can be tough to get rid of depending on the buildup and frequency of exposure. There's a lot to be said about opening the window to let a some fresh air circulate through a room.
For general freshening:
- Sprinkle baking soda over the carpets and let sit overnight, vacuum in the morning.
- Fill a nylon stocking with cat liter to absorb odors. Place discretely behind the TV, furniture, etc.
Heavy Duty Cleaning with Ammonia and Water
If the buildup is heavy, a heavy duty cleaning of carpets, furniture and wall washing might be necessary. Tar and nicotine gets stuck on surfaces like walls.
To clean and deodorize walls and cupboards, use non-sudsing ammonia.
- In a bucket add 1 gallon of warm water and 1 cup ammonia then stir to mix.
Lay down towels or old sheets (depending on the size of the area you're cleaning) to catch excess drips and keep the floor dry.
Ammonia can burn if you get it in your eyes so wear protective eyewear and gloves. Ammonia also has a strong odor, so open windows when you have a lot of cleaning to do.
You may also have to wash draperies, furniture and carpets.
For peace of mind - get your smoker to go outdoors!
3. Removing Pet Urine Odors
If you smell it but don't know where it's coming from, you’ll need to follow your nose or find the target area with a black light. Body fluids and certain vitamins contain phosphorus. Black lights emit an ultraviolet light that makes phosphorus glow.
Turn out the lights and close the curtains to block out as much overhead light as possible. Shine the black light over the carpet and any biological material will come to light, highlighting the area where your pet urinated.
Cleaning the Urine Stain
- Blot with white paper towels until you've gotten as much liquid out as possible. Do not rub - you don't want to spread the stain.
- Liberally apply (not too wet though) a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water. Let sit a few minutes then use clean towels or more paper towels to soak up the liquid.
- Cover with a clean towel until dry to keep dirty feet, pets, and kids off the spot.
- If there is any odor remaining after cleaning, generously sprinkle baking soda over the spot and work into the carpet with your fingers. Let sit several hours then vacuum.
As we talked about in Removing Smoke Odors above, ammonia is good for some odors but do not use it to clean urine stains. Your pets urine breaks down into the same components as ammonia. If you clean with ammonia, your pet will come back to pee there over and over again!
4. Removing Carpet Odors
Why can your carpet smell?
- If you have pets they may have had an accident on your carpet as we discussed above. Your pets can also bring in wetness, dirt and other debris when coming in from outside.
- Other causes of carpet odors may be from spilled food or beverages that may not have been cleaned or not cleaned thoroughly.
- It's possible your carpet is old and is causing a musty odor.
Carpets or carpet fibers seem to hold on to odors and linger for days. One of the first things you can do (and yes, I've mentioned this before) is to open some windows to air out the room and give it a good vacuuming. All little fresh air never hurt anyone and it's great for battling odors.
Vacuuming on a regular basis can do wonders too. Don't forget to change your vacuum cleaner bag, a full dirty bag can cause dusty, musty odors. If you have a bagless vacuum, clean the dirt chamber often.
What other options are there to battle carpet odors?
- Baking soda. With baking soda you won't have any residue or lingering scent. Baking soda is clean, safe, deodorizes, and is quite effective at removing odors. Sprinkle baking soda liberally over the carpet then take a broom or carpet rake (or something similar) and gently work the baking soda down into the carpet. Allow this to sit on the carpet for hours, over night, or even a couple of days if possible. Vacuum thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.
- White vinegar and water. Plain white vinegar and water is another way to remove odors from smaller sections of your carpeting. Follow steps 2 through 4 as outlined under Cleaning Urine Stains.
If the carpet has not been vacuumed regularly and stains have been allowed to sit, it may be time to hire a professional or replace the carpets.
5. Removing Refrigerator Odors
For odors in your refrigerator, it may be as simple as going through the contents and removing old and smelly foods. That being said - if the old or expired food items or spills haven't been cleaned up and have been in the fridge for a long period of time - you may need to take everything out and give it a good cleaning.
- Mix together 1/4 cup baking soda to 4 cups of warm water.
After throwing out the old items, remove the rest of the remaining items and clean the sides, shelves, and drawers. Wipe down when finished. Reload the refrigerator and leave an open box of baking soda in your clean refrigerator. By doing this, you’ll ensure that your refrigerator stays fresh-smelling.
Keeping Odors from Coming Back
Here are some things you can do to keep odors from coming back.
- Clean up spills as they happen.
- Seal leftovers tightly and throw them out after a few days.
- Make sure the temperature is accurate to keep foods from spoiling.
6. Fixing a Stinky Sink
The sinks in our homes get used many times throughout the day. It's not a wonder you might occasionally catch a whiff of something stinky now and then. With body oils, hair, toothpaste, soaps, etc. going down the drain - yeah, it can stink. Here are a couple of things that can cause odors and how you can clean them.
Removing Hair from the Sink Drain
Take out the drain plug and use a hair-clog removal tool (I use the Drain Weasel) or use a metal coat hanger that has been straightened out with a hook at the end.
Cleaning the P-Trap
The p-trap can accumulate grease, soap scum and other debris that can cause odors. To clean it, turn the water off and clear everything out from under the sink then:
- Put a towel or bucket under the p-trap.
- Get a pair of pliers and remove the nuts on either end of the trap.
- Clean the inside of the trap by running a wash cloth through it until it's clean.
- Screw trap back on.
7. Stinky Garbage Disposal
It's a disposal for food waste. Of course it can get a little stinky! But it's easy to fix. One of the first things you should know is don't run hot water while using the disposal. Hot water only causes grease to liquefy, accumulate, and cause your drain to get clogged. Always run cold water while running the disposal.
To remedy a stinky garbage disposal:
- Keep it clean. Most of us rinse/wash our dishes off before putting them in the dishwasher, so when I'm done removing food and ready to use the disposal, I squirt a little dish soap in the disposal and let it run an extra minute or so.
- Use cold running water continuously while using the disposal.
- Don't pour grease down the drain.
- Putting citrus peels down the disposal can keep the drain smelling fresh and clean.
- Instead of using plain ice cubes, freeze white vinegar in an ice cube tray and run them through the disposal. This will help keep bacteria at bay and help to dislodge stuck on pieces of food.
- Pour baking soda down the drain, let sit for a few hours before pouring water down the drain.
- For very stinky odors, pour 4 tablespoons Borax down the drain and let this sit for an hour. Rinse with hot water.
- When cleaning the kitchen sink, don't forget to clean the rubber stopper. The underside can get a little slimy. I use a baby bottle brush for this so I don't have to stick my hands in the drain.
8. Cleaning Stinky Sponges
To remove odors from sponges, you can run them through the washing machine or the dishwasher on the top rack. You could also soak them in one gallon of water and 2/3 cup of household bleach. Not only will this get rid of odors smell but it will also help to get rid of germs. Kitchen sponges should be changed often, regardless of how well you think you are sterilizing them.
I actually use a dish rag that I can throw in the dirty clothes basket at the end of the day.
9. Removing Dishwasher Odors
You might think by using your dishwasher on a daily or almost daily basis, it cleans itself. Not so. They should be cleaned just like anything else around the house. Here's a few things you can do to prevent dishwasher odors.
- Be sure to scrape all food off plates and silverware. If you don't rinse the food away before putting dishes in the dishwasher, bits of food can get trapped.
- Occasionally clean around the seals on the inside of the door. Use a drop or two of liquid dish soap mixed with warm water.
- Clean the trap from the dishwasher.
- Fill a coffee cup with plain white vinegar and place it in the top rack. Run a hot water cycle.
- Sprinkle baking soda around the bottom of the dishwasher and run a hot water cycle.
10. Removing Toilet Odors
If you want to eliminate toilet bowl odors, first and foremost - clean on a regular basis. When you clean, make sure you not only give the toilet bowl a good cleaning but clean around the outer sides, around and under the tank, and the floor around the toilet.
You can also add 1 cup bleach to the water in the bowl and let that sit while you clean the rest of the toilet, then clean the inside of the toilet.
Another place toilet odors may be coming from is the wax ring. It may have eroded and needs to be replaced. If this is something you are not comfortable with doing yourself, call a professional plumber.
You can safely remove all types of household odors, including sponge, cooking, pet and general odors by simply following these tips. By doing so, you’ll not only save yourself a ton of grief but you’ll be the envy of all your friends and will soon develop the reputation of having the best smelling house in the group!
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