If you live with pets or teens, or in a climate that requires you to close your windows through much of the year (or all three, as I do), then you’ve probably found yourself wondering how to make your home smell better.
Scented candles, wax melts, and air fresheners can only do so much. They mask odors more than anything. Once their fragrance starts to fade, those odors will return. And if you have indoor allergies, you already know how much worse they are when you use such products.
The good news is that, with a little sleuthing and some elbow grease, you can get rid of the odors and make your home smell better.
How To Make Your Home Smell Better
Most of us become nose blind to the smells in our home. If you can quickly identify the source, you’re already ahead of the game. For the rest of us, it’s a good idea to go through the house tackling these areas one-by-one as part of a regular house cleaning routine.
CLEANING IS THE KEY
I know, I know — no one likes the thought of having to clean more or more often. But, the truth is, most house odors are the result of skipping steps in the cleaning process or only doing them half-heartedly. So, review this list and make sure you’re cleaning all of the smelly spots and that you’re using the right method to clean them.
In the kitchen:
Most kitchen odors are the result of cooking. You can’t entirely give that up, but there are a few steps you can take to minimize smells.
1. Run your range hood fan when using the stove.
2. Tuck half a lemon in an oven-safe bowl and put it on the upper rack after roasting meat. The lemon scent will spread in your kitchen as the oven cools.
3. Empty then clean the trash can. Make a habit of rinsing meat wrappers and cans before tossing them, and bagging strong-smelling foods like cantaloupe rinds.
4. Purge expired foods and leftovers from your refrigerator before you go grocery shopping, then wipe the shelves and drawers with a clean, soapy rag.
5. Clean your garbage disposal weekly and run it every time you do the dishes.
6. No garbage disposal? Your kitchen drain can cause odors, too. Clean it.
7. Line your refrigerator’s meat drawer with paper towels to catch drips. Change them every few days.
8. Keep your sink free of dirty dishes. Wash them after use and give the basin a daily scrub, too.
9. Even with regular use, dishwashers can grow mold and food particles stuck in the trap start to stink. Clean your dishwasher at least once a month.
10. Make sure the source isn’t a smelly dish rag.
11. Wipe up food spills from the floor nightly. No one is saying you’ve got to mop the whole room, but a quick wipe with a damp towel will help.
12. Don’t forget to check your potatoes and onions! Most of us store those in closed cupboards where, if we ignore them, they’ll sprout or turn into a liquid, nasty mess. Check your stash before grocery shopping and toss anything that looks like it’s about to spoil.
In the bedroom:
13. Don’t leave the dishes or food wrappers from your midnight snack sit around. Take them to the kitchen in the morning.
14. Empty your bedroom trashcan at least once a week and give it a quick wash.
16. Dirty clothes and damp towels don’t belong on the floor — they’ll sit there and stink. If you’re the type who wears jeans more than one day in a row, consider installing a hook on the wall or back of the door and hang them up. Ditto for towels.
17. The biggest thing in your room can be the biggest source of odors, too. Clean your mattress to eliminate sweat smells, mold, and mildew.
18. Wash your sheets weekly; your duvet covers every two weeks; your bedspreads monthly; and your pillows every two months. You’ll be amazed at how much stink they acquire.
19. Keep soft furniture like chairs and ottomans vacuumed. Dust traps moisture and in soft furnishings that turns into mildew and odors.
20. Wash your bedroom curtains every season.
In the laundry room:
21. Wipe your laundry hampers with a disinfecting wipe after washing a load. This keeps smells from your dirty clothes from transferring to clean things that you take out of the dryer.
23. Check beneath your washer regularly to make sure it’s not leaking or hasn’t overfilled. Water beneath a washer can grow mold, start to smell, and eventually ruin your floor.
24. Forgetting about laundry in the machine leads to mildew. Get that smell out of your laundry before running it through the dryer.
In the living/family room:
25. Open your windows and let the room air out on pleasant mornings.
26. Pets don’t just jump on furniture; they often leave stains on it. Find out how to clean pet stains to freshen your furniture quickly.
27. Don’t let food wrappers or dirty dishes accumulate. Do a quick tidy up nightly to make sure the room is picked up.
29. Even if your carpet is stain-free, it still picks up foot odors. (Hello, fellow parents of teenage boys!) Vacuuming correctly will go a long way toward getting that funk out.
30. Avoid overwatering houseplants. They’ll die from too much water, and before that their soil will grow mold and mildew that stinks up your home.
31. During warmer, sweaty months, consider using throws or slipcovers on your sofa and chairs. They’ll keep moisture (sweat) from seeping into cushions and growing mildew, and they’re easy to wash.
In the bathroom:
32. Run your bathroom fans after every shower or bath. They’ll reduce bathroom humidity which means you’ll reduce mildew and its odors, too.
33. You know when else you should run your bathroom fans? Of course you do. If you can, install a timer so people can run them for 5 minutes after doing you-know-what.
34. Speaking of… keeping a bottle of Poo-Pourri Before You Go Toilet Spray handy lets people stop odors before they start.
36. Like their counterparts in the living room, bathroom rugs pick up foot odor. If you have males in the house, they pick up other things, too. Wash your bathroom rugs weekly.
37. Of course, a dirty toilet and other bathroom grime can certainly produce smells. Use a homemade disinfectant to get them clean every week, and homemade wipes between cleanings, to keep the bathroom fresh.
38. Check your walls for mold, too, especially if you don’t have a bathroom fan.
In the Garage
A smelly garage lets a cloud of odor into your home every time you go through the door. Pay attention to these areas to keep your garage — and thus your home — smelling fresher.
39. Rinse recyclables before sorting them. Be sure to wash the bins weekly, too.
40. Slip kitchen garbage bags into a larger outdoor trash bag to contain odors.
41. If you use garbage cans, keep their lids shut tight. You might even consider using bungee cords to make sure the top stays closed.
42. Wash your garbage cans thoroughly using soap and hot water at least once a month.
43. Keep the floor swept. Dust and dirt trap moisture which leads to mold and mildew. And at least once a year do a garage deep-cleaning.
44. Keep your pets bathed and dry them thoroughly afterward.
45. Have a towel handy to give pets a quick rub down when they come in the house on rainy days.
46. Get rid of musty smells in closets, basements, and cupboards by leaving an open box of chalk tucked in one corner. The chalk will absorb moisture, so mildew doesn’t grow. Replace it monthly.
47. Bathe. If you’ve been working outdoors, or you just came home from the gym, take a shower before sitting down on your furniture. Otherwise, you’ll transfer your smell to your furnishings, and they’re not so easy to clean.
48. Let the light shine. Sunlight controls moisture and kills many odor-causing organisms in the air, so don’t keep your house shut up and dark all the time. Open curtains (and windows, if weather permits) daily. If it’s hot out, do it first thing in the morning then close them before temperatures climb to keep the heat out. If it’s cold, open them later in the day but close them before the sun sets.
As you can see, the real way to make your home smell better is cleaning without skipping the small stuff. If that’s a challenge, or you don’t know where to start, grab my printable cleaning checklists — they’ll guide you through every step!