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