Many factors can lead to a stinky home: pets, kids, food odors, mildew, recirculated stale air – and air freshener companies know this. There’s no shortage of new scents on the market and new ways to dispense them: sprays, candles, plug-ins, potpourri. The thing is, they all simply mask the odor itself. Whatever’s causing that odor is more than likely still there. Meanwhile, you’re saturating the air in your home with synthetic chemicals, many of which are unregulated…and could therefore contain a whole host of mysterious ingredients, many of which are irritating to sensitive lungs and trigger allergies.
In order to make your living environment smell like a fresh fall day (or something like that!), uncovering the source of the odor is always key. Leaks and high humidity can lead to smelly mildew. Overcooked salmon can linger for days. Well-worn sneakers can stink up a closet like nobody’s business. Increasing ventilation, drying out damp spots, frequently emptying garbage, and washing offensive items are all steps to a better-smelling house. To keep the air in your home optimally clean, continuous use of a high-quality air purifier can keep allergens and dust at bay.
After you’ve identified (and tackled) the odor source, you can start to think about natural, chemical-free ways to making – and keeping – your home smelling good.
Coffee Grounds or Beans
How: Place dry grounds (or beans) in a clean, unused sock
Where: Freezers, closets, basements
Ever pass by a perfume counter and see a little dish of coffee beans sitting out? It acts as a way to clear one’s olfactory senses between sniffs of perfume so they don’t all smell the same. The point? Coffee can neutralize an odor.
How: Use the juice or zest the rind
Where: Garbage disposals
Everyone’s garbage disposal can get a little funky, especially if you forget to run it daily. You can buy scented pellets specially designed to de-stink your disposal, but they’re awfully pricy. Instead, zest an entire lemon into your disposal. Add ice and cold water, turn on disposal, and grind until ice is mostly ground up. Instant freshness!
How: Sprinkled, sprayed, placed in an open dish
Where: So many places: fridges, coolers, sink drains, thermoses, shoes
Baking soda is one of those wonderfully cheap, ubiquitous home staples…and for good reason! It does a great job of absorbing bad odors and preventing odors from cropping back up.
Loose green tea
How: Cut open any cheap tea bag
Mixing dry green tea leaves in with fresh litter can keep your cat’s…ahem, toilet…fresher. It, along with baking soda, can help reduce odor.
How: Spritz it, spray it, soak it, put it in a bowl, boil it
Where: Everywhere! Kitchens, basements, drains, bathrooms, fridges, microwaves, coffee makers, freezers, laundry, toilets….
Burn dinner and now your kitchen reeks? Mix a cup of water with 1 T of vinegar, and bring to a boil. Apple cider vinegar works wonders for stinky drains. To reduce odors in any general area (kitchens, bathrooms, basements) place white vinegar in a shallow dish and set out. Lingering smoke odors? Soak a hand towel in vinegar, wring it out and walk through your house while holding it; the smell should diminish significantly. We could go on forever about our love of vinegar!
How: Soak a cottonball
Where: Fridge, freezer, small spaces
Vanilla extract is a beloved scent and completely natural! To remove funky smells that somehow appear in small spaces, soak a cottonball in your favorite vanilla extract and place in the corner. (If you’re worried about stains, clear vanilla extract should do the trick!)
How: Flat sheets or wadded up balls
Where: Musty drawers
If you’ve ever bought an antique dresser, only to be blown away by the musty smell of the drawers once you get it home, a newspaper might be your best bet. Wad up sheets and stuff the drawer; close it and wait a few days (or even weeks), and the odor should be reduced greatly.
How: sprinkled, placed in a sachet or paper envelope
Where: dresser drawers, shoes, cars
Nothing evokes a sense of calm and tranquility quite like lavender. You can get decent deals if you buy it dried, in bulk, at health food stores. Divvy it up into homemade fabric or paper sachets, or sprinkle it (if you don’t mind its remnants!) in any places that needs freshening.
Pine or cedar shavings
How: Place in fabric or paper sachet
Where: Closets, trunks & suitcases
Not only will musty, stale odors be reduced, the chips themselves also absorb moisture, which makes them great in trunks or storage spaces.