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10 Things Making Your Home Smell Bad

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Have you ever walked into your home and caught a whiff of an awful smell? I’m not talking about the puddle your new puppy made or the after-effects of last night’s chili.

I’m talking about the times your home stinks and you wonder how long it’s been smelling that bad. These odors happen to everyone at some point. We once had a mouse die in the wall when we lived in military housing, and let me just tell you that smell was fierce!

Read on for how I learned to deodorize a house, plus my tactics for fixing the problem when you have no idea why your home stinks.

1. Airborne Buildup

Stuffy air in your home makes you tired and even makes it difficult to breathe. It’s caused by a combination of stale air, indoor air pollutants, and carbon dioxide, and is especially hard on those of us with asthma.

Fortunately, this is an easy problem to fix: open a couple of windows on opposites sides of your home for a few minutes each day. Yes, even in winter.

Five minutes isn’t enough time to cause you or your plumbing to freeze, but it is enough time to dilute the bad stuff with fresh air.

2. Soft surface Traps

I once got a whiff of the previous week’s curry dinner when opening my bedroom curtains. Ever since, I’ve been fastidious about dealing with musty odors in soft furnishings.

To eliminate the odors in your home’s upholstery and carpeting, sprinkle on a homemade carpet deodorizer containing your favorite essential oils, let it sit, and then vacuum.

For cooking odors or dust buildup in window treatments, launder your curtains every 3-6 months. I like to do both when the seasons change, kind of an “out with the old, in with the new” ritual.

Did You Know?

Soft furnishings like upholstered sofas, mattresses and carpeting can harbor thousands of dust mites and allergens, contributing to musty odors in your home.

3. The Grimy Drips

One of my (many) pet peeves is waking up to a smelly kitchen. That’s usually a sign the trash didn’t go out the night before. But sometimes it means the bag had a hole in it that let gunk collect in the bottom of the can.

Unfortunately, that nasty smell won’t go away without washing the trash can in hot, soapy water. Once it’s dry, line the bottom of the trash can with paper towels and sprinkle in a little baking soda to deodorize it and keep future spills from stinking up your home.

4. Stuff in Cold Storage

Expired food in the refrigerator is another common source of household odors, but it’s not the only reason your fridge may stink up your home. Purging leftovers, expired perishables, and wilting produce before you go grocery shopping will also help.

Did You Know?

A faulty refrigerator seal not only causes odors but can lead to higher energy consumption and rapid food spoilage.

5. Sleep Sweat

You might not realize it, but bedding begins to stink after just a few days. Eventually, you’ll walk in from being outdoors and realize your home smells like sweat and morning breath.

When used bedding is the source, deodorizing your home is simple: wash your sheets in warm or hot water every week to rid them of body oils. Then, at least every three months clean and deodorize your mattress, too.

6. Biofilm

Sinks are a common source of household odors. This happens because grease and food residue build up in pipes and drains and provide a food source for bacteria. And when bacteria breed, they create unpleasant smells.

Most of the time, a combination of baking soda followed by vinegar can deodorize a drain, but don’t overlook the power of using a plastic drain snake monthly to keep the line clear. And if you have a garbage disposal, run it after every meal to clear away food particles.

7. Your Fancy Appliance

A washing machine with inadequate ventilation can make your entire home smell horrible. To freshen up a sour-smelling washer, add 2 cups of white vinegar along with a couple of washcloths and run a hot cycle with the highest water level. The washcloths will help scrub the washer drum and the vinegar will deodorize it.

Leave the washer door open afterward so it fully dries out. To deodorize stubborn odors, or if you find signs of mold, you’ll need to deep clean your washing machine.

8. A Smoke and Soot Situation

Cigars and cigarettes are obvious sources of smoke odors, but so are candles, dirty ovens or gas stoves, fireplaces, and even burning toast. Anything that creates smoke also creates soot particles that collect on your walls. Since soot is sticky, it will trap dust and other odor-causing particles that stink up your home.

To get smoke and soot off of your home’s walls, mop them with equal parts warm water and white vinegar, adding 1/2 teaspoon of a degreasing liquid dish soap to cut through the soot. Rinse with a clean mop dipped in fresh water and .

9. Your Best Friend

Once, when I’d been laid up for several weeks and unable to keep up with cleaning, my home developed a strong animal smell. Changing the litter box and washing the pet beds didn’t fix it. I was stumped! Then I saw my cat rub against the edge of the sofa and my dog scoot across the living room rug.

Mystery solved: my house smelled like animals because my animals smelled. That’s why those of us with pets need to be good about brushing and bathing them routinely. It’s not just pet hair they spread around, it’s their body oils and odors, too.

Did You Know?

Pets have unique scent glands that secrete natural oils which get transferred to surfaces in your home. Over time, the accumulation of these oils creates a distinct aroma in your home which marks their territory.

10. The Skeleton in Your Wall

The absolute worst odor I’ve ever smelled in a home was the stink of a dead mouse rotting in the walls of our military housing. At first, it was only unpleasant but after a few days it grew unbearable. Of course, cutting open the drywall to find the carcass wasn’t an option.

To deodorize your home when you can’t find or tackle the source, set out bowls of white vinegar or damp coffee grounds—or even separate bowls of both. The vinegar’s acetic acid will neutralize the odors in your home’s air while the coffee grounds will help disguise it.

Once You Eliminate the Smell

Most of the time, deodorizing your home is a matter of discovering and eliminating the source of the smell. But to keep odors away, make a habit of opening windows to let in fresh air every day.

A good cleaning never hurts either, especially if you use cleaners with a lemon or citrus scent. For more ways to create a pleasant aroma, check out my tips about how to make your home smell amazing.

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  1. I feel you on the dead rodent smell. As a teen, my pet hamster escaped her cage and got trapped between the floor of my mom’s bedroom and the ceiling of the downstairs and died. Mom had to sleep on the sofa for a month! It’s hard to believe how badly one little decomposing body can smell!

  2. Thank You for this . This always seems to be an ongoing problem for me unfortunately for me. Ugggh

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