Eliminating Unpleasant Indoor Odors

Add an appealing freshness to your home by following these handy hints on how to eliminate polluted indoor odors.

No matter how attractive your home may look, the whole effect is ruined if there are unpleasant lingering smells. Luckily, most normal household smells are easy to detect and simple to deal with or can be avoided altogether by a regular cleaning routine. Keeping rooms well aired by opening doors and windows also helps to create a fresh smelling home. You can add extra fragrance in the form of pot pourri or by using essential oils in a vaporizer or commercially made room fresheners.

In the kitchen:

Offensive or persistent odors associated with the preparation and storage of food occurs regularly in the kitchen, but there is usually a simple remedy at hand:

  • To remove lingering smells from a refrigerator, wash the inside with a solution of 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 pints (1 liter) of warm water.
  • A piece of crumpled newspaper placed in the refrigerator helps to absorb smells, as do charcoal-based ‘fridge fresheners’ which are now widely available from supermarkets.
  • To keep sink drains clean and fresh smelling, regularly throw a handful of washing soda down the plughole and wash it through with boiling water.
  • Deodorize a microwave oven by wiping the inside with neat lemon juice. Or add a few drops of lemon juice to a bowl of hot water and bring it to the boil – the steam banishes smells.

In the bathroom:

Keeping the toilet scrupulously clean cuts down the risk of unpleasant smells – briskly scrub the inside of the bowl every day using a proprietary cleaner and a toilet brush. If the surface glaze of the bowl is in good condition, use bleach to remove smells and stains, but never mix bleach with other cleaners as the resulting gases could be toxic or explosive.

  • If there are small children in the house watch out for evidence of ‘accidents’ or poor aim – a urine-soaked carpet becomes a problem if not treated immediately.
  • Use an old toothbrush or bottle-cleaning brush to get rid of any offensive deposits in the bath or basin overflow.

Pets in the home:

Pay attention to your dog’s personal hygiene to avoid an unpleasant ‘doggy’ smell permeating the house. Some breeds require frequent baths to stop them smelling unpleasant.

  • Make sure that litter trays are changed every day and don’t leave stale food out in a feeding bowl.
  • Wash pet bedding regularly.
  • If a cat or dog is sick on the carpet, squirt the stain with soda water to banish the smell.

There is any number of room fragrances on the market designed to keep your home smelling sweet. Here are just a few of those available:

  • Air freshener sprays – these are usually used to disguise an unpleasant smell quickly and efficiently. The perfume they create can be quite overpowering at first, but is usually reasonably short-lived.
  • Solid air fresheners – Encased in plastic holders, these are either freestanding or attached to a wall or a unit and are suitable for scenting wardrobes, cloakrooms, powder-rooms and toilets.
  • Incense sticks – Available in a wide variety of scents, you can support incense sticks in special ash-catching holders or push them into the earth in a plant pot. They are lit with a match and left to smolder.
  • Scented candles – These are candles scented with essential oils. It is worth buying the more expensive type as the perfumed oils are of better quality and produce a more natural scent once the candle is burning.
  • Plug-in freshener – This type of air freshener involves placing a scented tablet or perfume in a plug-sized heater and plugging it into a power socket. As the device heats up, perfume is released into the room eliminating bad odors.
  • Light-bulb ring – A few drops of perfumed oil are added to a metal or ceramic ring which rests on top of a light bulb. The heat from the bulb releases the scent.
  • Pot pourri – Perhaps the most popular method of keeping a house smelling sweet is to install bowls of pot pourri in every room. Mixed dried flowers, fruits and leaves, sometimes blended with wood shaving and spices, are sprinkled with perfumed oil. You can refresh the mixture or stir it up whenever the perfume fades.
  • Oil burners – These candle vaporizers consist of a small bowl of water with three to five drops of your favorite essential oil added and suspended over a tea candle. The heat from the candle causes the oil to vaporise and evaporate into the air.
  • Flowers – Fragrant, freshly cut flowers, such as freesias, narcissi and sweet peas, are an attractive way of introducing natural scent into a room, quickly and temporarily. A bowl of heavenly blue hyacinths is positively intoxicating for several weeks, while the bulbs are in flower.

At times there are some problematic odors that need a thorough investigation and require special treatment.

If there is a musty smell in a room, check the walls for signs of dampness. A damp patch which appears on a mild but wet day indicated a structural problem, such as a leaking gutter, which needs immediate attention. A patch which appears on a dry but cold day is probably caused by condensation and is solved by better ventilation and by insulating the walls.

A musty smell in a fitted wardrobe is also likely to be caused by condensation resulting from poor ventilation.

A dank, musty smell accompanied by signs of rotting wood could signify wet or dry rot, in which case you must seek professional advice immediately.

If you smell gas, check that a pilot light or cooker burner has not gone out. If the smell persists, call the local gas company at once.

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