How to Banish Bad Smells from Your Home

By Reader's Digest

There are ways to deal with a malodorous situation aside from a clothes peg on your nose.

How to Banish Bad Smells from Your Home
photo: istock

Whether you moved somewhere new and are dealing with someone else’s leftover odours or you live with a smell factory (like a litter box or a smoker), there are ways to deal with a malodorous situation aside from a clothes peg on your nose.

Smoke is a killer

Tobacco smoke is a particularly stubborn smell. If you are the smoker and you continue to smoke in the house, you will not be able to remove the scent completely, but an electric air purifier can help. If a smoky essence has been left by a previous tenant, you can freshen things up with a thorough cleaning. It’s not easy, though, and you might have to bring in a professional to steam the carpets, curtains, drapes, and upholstered furniture. Walls also absorb smoke, unfortunately. You can implement the technique experts use in buildings that have absorbed smoke from fires: seal the walls and ceilings with shellac or a shellac-based primer – this helps lock in the odour – and then repaint. If your landlord is top notch, you may be able to get him or her to pay for it.

What can’t coffee do?

Have you ever been to a perfume store? You may have noticed that they keep jars of coffee on hand to keep the air from being overwhelmed with competing smells by absorbing them. This is a much better way to deal with smells than trying to mask them with other smells. Coffee can absorb your household odours, too. Keep an open can of coffee near the cat’s litter box or in the corner of the laundry room, and your nose will thank you.

Don’t even let the stink happen

Better than dealing with an odour, of course, is preventing it from happening in the first place. One of the most common stinks is caused by mildew, which thrives in areas with prolonged moisture. If you want to prevent it from growing in your bathroom, get the air circulating when all that post-shower steam is in the air. A dehumidifier or an exhaust fan will do it. Also hang your damp towels separately so they can dry thoroughly.

Wet towel solution

Speaking of, ugh, wet-towel smell, here’s how to get that particular odour out: mix equal parts of Borax and laundry soap and pour the mixture into the washing machine with the towels. Start the water, and then pause the cycle to let the towels (or clothing or shoes) soak for about 20 minutes before you run the machine on the regular cycle.

Don’t clean your house to death

There are many commercial cleaners available for mildew and grime. You may be tempted to mix these chemicals together when you’re dealing with stubborn filth that no single product is curing, but this is the biggest mistake you can make. Certain cleaning agents, such as bleach and ammonia, are great on their own, but they can have deadly chemical reactions when mixed. Most people have heard not to mix straight ammonia and bleach – the gas can inflame your airways and damage the lining of your lungs – but they might not read the label of that great toilet cleanser and the fantastic toilet scrub or know that the chemicals in them, when mixed together, can create potentially deadly chlorine gas.

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