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odor, smellVincent Abbey, Alamy

Have certain areas of your home been smelling a little funky lately? Here are the most common household offenders, and how to eliminate them.

The warm, sometimes humid weather of early fall is the perfect breeding ground for the mold and bacteria that cause most household odors. Rather than covering up your stinky garbage pail, stale upholstery, or musty basement with a room spray, try these techniques to tackle the root of the problem.

cigarettes, ashtrayAFP/Getty Images

1. Cigarette smoke in upholstery and carpet
The smell of cigarettes lingers in carpet and furniture fibers long after the smoke clears. Sprinkle baking soda over the offending surface, let it sit for several hours, and clean it up with a HEPA vacuum, which traps small particles. If odor lingers, take a day to deep clean your carpet or upholstery; you can rent a Rug Doctor machine in your area. Then take preemptive measures: ban smoking inside the house.

garbage pail, trash can, kitchenCorbis

2. Garbage can odor
After a while, even throwing out the garbage every day isn't enough to eliminate the odor of rotten perishables; the smell clings onto the can itself. Toss whatever is in your garbage and give the trash can a good scrubbing inside and out with a disinfectant cleaner. If you'd rather use natural methods, clean the can with your favorite eco-friendly cleaner and then deodorize it by spraying it with white vinegar. Let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe clean. If your trash can requires more desperate measures, bring it outside, spray it down with detergent, and spray it thoroughly with a garden hose. To prevent odors in the future, clean your pail at least once a month and consider switching to garbage bags that block odor from seeping out. Pour perishable items into a smaller sealable plastic bag before tossing them out, and take the garbage out more frequently.

3. Garbage disposal odor
Are offending odors rising from the depths of your sink? Pour white vinegar down the disposal, or freeze it into ice cubes and let the disposal chop them up. Or try this solution for cleaning the garbage disposal with oxygen bleach. If you're not feeling particularly inspired, you can just pick up a cleaner specifically designed to freshen garbage disposals. To stave off smell in the future, flush the garbage disposal with soap and hot water after every use.

cleaning refrigeratorCorbis

4. Refrigerator odor
You guessed it -- that old standby, baking soda, is the best offense when it comes to fridge odors. But if you still sense that something's awry, try doubling up with some activated charcoal, available at home and bath stores. Routinely check your fridge for expired or spoiling food, and give the interior a good wipe down with soap and water every week or so.

5. Coffee pot odor
The smell of freshly brewed coffee may be inviting, but the lingering scent it leaves behind is a wake-up call that your coffee pot needs cleaning. Fill the pot with one part white vinegar to two parts water, then pour this solution into your water reservoir and turn the coffee maker on. If you have a reusable mesh filter, leave it in, but otherwise you don't need a filter.
Let the vinegar go through an entire cycle in the coffee pot. You may want to open a window to dissipate the scent of vinegar (it will eventually die down). Once the solution is done brewing, dump it out, let the coffee maker cool, and repeat the process. Then do two brews of water only. Lastly, wash your pot with dish soap and rinse it well with water.

dog on couchGetty Images

6. Pet odor
Air out your furniture if you can (putting it in the sun for a bit may help zap some of the odor naturally). Then vacuum it carefully using a machine with a HEPA filter (it's designed to trap small particles). You may also need a cleaning product like Nature's Miracle, designed to remove pet odors; check your local pet store.


7. Dishwasher odor
Can't figure out where that kitchen odor stems from? Check your dishwasher: this appliance can hold on to odors of dinners past even when it looks clean. Run the machine while it's empty, using two cups of white vinegar instead of detergent. In the future be extra vigilant about scraping dishes before loading them into the machine, especially if you know they'll be sitting there for a while (or if the weather is particularly swampy).

8. Mildew odor in the bathroom
Mildew thrives in moist environments like bathrooms and basements. The best solution is to open all windows on a dry day and run a dehumidifier. Use the exhaust fan -- or an oscillating fan -- to circulate the air. Remove damp towels, rugs, and shower curtains and run them through the laundry. The best (albeit not the most pleasant) way to eradicate that mildew smell is by mixing equal parts bleach and water and spraying down your bathroom tiles (be sure to wear protective gloves and a dust mask). Prevent buildup of mildew by drying off the stall after every shower.

9. Musty drawer odor
There are eight very efficient ways to remedy a musty drawer. Our favorite? Sprinkle baking soda into your drawer and let it sit for at least a few hours (or a few days, if you can). Then vacuum it up. If odor still lingers, try cleaning the drawer with Murphy's Oil Soap (our second favorite).


10. Compost odor
Healthy compost should smell like soil, not rotting food. Ideally, microbes will break down your scraps before they decompose. If your compost has a foul odor, turn your pile to aerate it (you should be doing this once a week anyway), and mist it with water: this will create an ideal environment for the microbes to work. And be sure to layer "green" items like vegetable peels with items like dead leaves to keep levels of carbon and nitrogen (which microbes feed on) balanced.

  • W. C.

    RE: garbage disposal odors, We use the skins of Citrus (oranges are the most pleasant) followed byu a few orange juice cubes and when done run cold water for 5 min.
    Works likke a charm and the orange juice is good for you.
    In the event due to health restrictions of acid intake/allergies, just quarter the orange followed by plain water ice cubes.

  • Rusty


  • GB

    Live in FL in a condo. Placing my 300 lb-$3,500 pullout couch on my hot/humid balcony is not an option. Neither is using some rug doctor. Check your fabrics, you could do more harm than good. One of those pillows got damp/wet from water in a move and it is ruined/colors ran. Also I hired a professional to clean my Off White Hendredon sectional - he ruined it by removing the protective coating from the factory. It shows all the dirt now. BE CAREFUL with your furniture./you many have to throw it out anyway after taking on some of these suggestions. This article has a lot to be desired.

  • Likeitnice2

    I think that it's aimed at people who don't spend huge amounts on their furniture and don't have the funds to pay high class specialty furniture cleaners! People who buy very expensive furnishings usually have it cleaned professionaly. This article if for the majority who just like nice furniture and want to keep it clean. We don't plan on handing it down to the grandkids. Our kids might take it off to college, though! Just regular people, usually with dogs or cats.

  • GB

    To Likeitnice: Thanks for your comment. I have a little dog now and he has ruined my home-in general. I love him and put up with it. He kps. marking my white Hendredon sectional where I allowed another dog to come in and peed there. Yes, 6K later, 20+ yrs. later - I still have that sectional. I have been collecting antiques and beautiful furniture now for 25+ yrs. I don't much care about it anymore, but I still have 25 yr old furniture I bought and 75 yr. old antiques. They still look fairly wonderful. Dog pee is the pits! p.s. don't trust the professionals all the time to "clean your upolstery". I have had smokers in my homes and it is probably there for good in my furniture. Life goes on....

  • virginia fifield

    I also take the rubber stopper out at least once a week and wash around where it fits into the drain.

  • Roseanne

    SSSOOOOOO . . . the bottom line here is people need to CLEAN their house for it to smell clean. Hmmm interesting theory.

  • Cookie

    The coils in my AC are so bad they are making me sick. Need to be professionally cleaned.

  • Annie

    Can you tell me how to clean the coils on the A/C? My landlord is so cheap and won't clean them.
    I keep clean filters on the unit but that doesn't stop it.
    They have mold and who knows what else on them. This is a stand alone Heating and A/C unit in my laundry room. Help! I am allergic to so many things, especially mold. I am also allergic to bleach and many chemicals, so that is out. Is there something I can spray on it to clean them?

  • Moya

    Boiling equals parts water + vinegar is a good way to deoderize. Especially good for smoke oder or fish. Close all windows bring to boil and let simmer about 20min.

  • hol

    Save your old tooth brushes. Light a candle, hold the narrow part of the stem about 2 inches over the flame for 3 - 5 seconds to soften the plastic. Bend the softend section to create different angles between the brush and the handle. Let cool or dip in cold water. Use to clean hard to reach areas like underneath the rubber gasket in the disposal.

  • Rennie

    what a need idea, I never thought of warming the handle of a old toothbrush to bend it . Thank you, I will try that.

  • D.A.

    What a completely useless article...AOL is running out of brain cells when it comes to intelligent
    topics, and even when they decide to write one like this, it sounds like something a second grader wrote.

  • sheryl

    i disagree with is a helpful article and well written,go complain elsewhere.some good informative solutions for odors

  • Dottie Ann

    What a completely useless article...AOL is running out of brain cells
    when it comes to intelligent
    topics, and even when they decide to write one like this, it sounds
    like something a second grader wrote.

  • Charleen

    NEVER use soap on your coffee pot! Ice and salt, yes....a little bleach and rinse very well, yes...but never use soap. Who writes these thing?

  • m. barton

    use a can or bottle of coke. put some in coffee pot and let set for a few min. swirle it around and wash out.. works well for burnt coffee pots also.

  • Ben

    Lame Ass AOL Content Editors.......

    Once again, posting old news articles......Don't you have the ability to find relevant and current news?

    Geez.......No wonder there is no respect for AOL writers and the AOL brand is draining the life out of Time Warner.


  • Dottie Ann

    Ben, well said and lmao!

  • rocketman

    A handyman told me to use ice cubes to clean the garbage disposal. just drop a tray of ice while running the water. Making sure to push the ice cubes down gently. He said that it cleans it and also helps to keep the blades sharp. Its noisey .

  • 30 Comments / 2 Pages

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