Odors Around Our Homes: Tips for Freshening Up!

Odors Around Our Homes: Tips for Freshening Up!
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Even a perfect housekeeper has an occasion to sniff a few times and say "What IS that smell?". Odors are in and around our homes, caused by pets, kids, wildlife, weather, and just life in general. The trick is discovering what will get rid of the offensive smell and not just cover it up.
First off, there are A LOT of products out there---too many to even count. Some cover up the odors and some work to eliminate the cause of the odor. When it comes to pet smells and problems you can visit a pet store in your area and see what they recommend. If the store smells badly, that's probably a hint they don't know what they are doing:) I use Watkins products --there are 6 odor eleminating products, including one for pet odors.

I also have some things to try for specific situations:


The first DON'T DO tip: Don't use ammonia-based cleaners to clean up pet urine. It will just make the problem worse and could actually keep pets attracted to that area.


Basements seem to be a housekeeping nightmare. While we all don't expect them to smell of potpourri, we would at least like them to be free of offensive smells. The problem is lack of air, lack of sunshine and concrete! Concrete is porous, a little like wood, and the odors get right into those pours.

The first, easiest and cheapest thing to try is washing the concrete down with white vinegar where the pet urine has been left. Scrub with half vinegar and half warm water. Use rubber gloves, and if you can ventilate the area it will help. At least run a fan in the area. Open windows if you can--blow in fresh air by putting the fan in the window.

If you do this, and it doesn't work, then try making a paste of baking soda and vinegar--place it on the area, allow it to dry and clean it up. If this STILL doesn't do it, then paint it. Kilz has a primer that is made for this type of thing. It will seal in the odor. Yes, it's some extra work, but it should do the trick. The floor and basement area will need to be completely dry for the primer to work


The refrigerator can be a scary thing if you don't take control of the contents and the smells. Start by checking dates on dressings, sauces and anything that's been there awhile. Remove everything from the shelves and clean it with a good friendly cleaner. Clean every little space, and use a toothbrush to clean the rubber around the door and all the corners. Wash everything!

Clean the drain pan located below the refrigerator. Yes, there is a drain pan. You will need to remove the lower panel in the front or back to find the pan. It catches extra moisture and can grow some pretty interesting mold if it's not cleaned. Remove it and clean it well, rinse, dry and replace. While it's out clean in that space where the pan was too.

Now you can replace all the good items, wiping them off as you go if they need it, and organize them if they weren't before. Whew...it's almost like buying a new refrigerator!


Baking soda: Sprinkle it on carpets or furniture..let it sit for as long as 15 minutes to a half hour, then vacuum.

Cat litter: Sprinkle a couple of inches in the bottom of the garbage can. Replace at least monthly. You can also put cat litter in empty coffee cans and place them in areas like the basement, garage or shed to get rid of odors.

Vinegar: Plain, cider, or herb--whatever you have on hand is good. Pour it in bowls or small containers and put it wherever you need to soak up some odors. If it's a bigger area use more containers. Works for smoke, musty smells and some pet odor. If you have a trunk or dresser that has an odor to it, place a small cup or bowl inside, close and let it sit for at least 24 hrs.

Charcoal: Break it up, place it in a container and put it where the odors are. Don't use the "fast light" charcoal--it has lighter fluid in it--not only is it flammable but it smells.

OLD FASHIONED TIPS from The Watkins Company Household Hints--1940:

To Remove Odors from Bottles: First rinse in cold water, then wash in soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and air in the sun. If odor still remains, half fill bottle with cold water, add one-half teaspoon baking soda, shake well, and let stand one to two hours. Rinse, then wash in hot water and soap. Rinse in hot water.

Odor from Fish or Onion in Pans: Boil vinegar in the pan or rub well with cut lemon rind. Wash in hot soapy water. To remove odor or fish from the hands, use a strong salt water solution, dry and rub with a cut lemon.

Kitchen Odors: Lower windows a few inches and have cross ventilation. An electric fan is effective. For a strong odor boil a small amount of vinegar and air the kitchen well. Or burn an orange skin. Air kitchen thoroughly before and after each meal. Cook sauerkraut in a covered casserole in the oven and there will be no odor from its cooking.

Odor from freshly Papered Rooms: Close windows and doors. Place red hot coals in an iron container and strew handfuls of juniper berries on the coals. Keep room closed for 12 hours, then open doors and windows for draft. (Note: I thought this would still work well in a house with a fireplace)

Odor from Chimney Smoke: Dip a towel in equal parts of vinegar and water. Wring out the towel and whirl about the room. (I would love to see a picture of one of my visitors trying out this tip!)


Adding about a teaspoon of vanilla to paint is reduces or completely eliminates the odor. ~Lynne

One more tip on removing fish smells from your hands. Rub your hands on anything stainless steel a few strokes and it's gone. I am amused when I see in catalogs for sale a stainless steel bar to do this, usually for about $10.00. I use my sink. ~Jean

Catherine on Whirling a towel: If you have never done this, if your smoke detector goes off, but it is not a fire, like you burned the toast- take a wet towel and whirl under the detector - it shuts it off almost immediately. It must be the same principle as the chimney soot tip. ~Catherine, The Herb Lady

I'm afraid I don't have a picture of myself, whirling towel in hand, but I did want to share something with you. As funny as it sounds, it really does work. No one is allowed to smoke in our home anymore since we have a child, but before she was born and before I was pregnant with her, when my family would come to visit they would smoke while here. My father in particular is a very bad, heavy chain smoker. My husband was an occasional smoker but we weren't used to having every room reek of cigarette smoke, so when my family would leave, the apartment would stink. I read the same towel trick and one night after they had left, I wet a towel with cold water and wrung it out. Then I sprayed a bit of vinegar on it and I walked through each room doing a helicopter impersonation. Amazingly enough, it actually worked. The smoke smell was cut down by at least 75%. Before going to bed I set out a bowl of vinegar in the living room where the worst of it had been and in the morning I did one more quick run-through with the towel again. It smelled fresh and smoke-free whereas in the past it had taken a few days and open windows to clear it out. You might not want to try it in front of anyone since you do feel silly whipping a towel around over your head, but it definitely works! ~Sherry

Waving a vinegar-soaked towel is a sure fire way to clear out burned smells. It does work and doesn't cost an arm and a leg. You know the smell from burned toast or even a small fire? Well try it the next time. ~Carol

Odor from Chimney Smoke: Dip a towel in equal parts of vinegar and water. Wring out the towel and whirl about the room." - Hey - this works - I've tried it - no photos to prove it! It actually helps to remove smoke and odor. ~Denise

If you have those big dumpster containers (not the huge ones but the typical home trash-pick up one) made from plastic and it starts to smell really bad - I put a layer of fresh cut grass clippings in it and leave it for several days - closed. The chlorophyll takes away the odors (including cat litter residue). Depending on your ordinance for trash you may be able to leave in for pick up or tip out into a trash bag. ~Catherine, The Herb Lady

A good tip I use to take musty odors out of the basement is charcoal briquettes, and Epson salts, put the briquettes in a box, bucket or container, pour the salt on top and set in corners, change once a year. It is great for musty removal. ~Maxine

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About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at Harvestmoongazette.blogspot.com.


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