Tag Archives: Smells

Why Your Home Stinks and How to Fix It

Why Your Home Stinks and How to Fix It

From fried fish to a filthy litterbox, most smells in your home are fairly easy to pinpoint. There are, however, more insidious aromas that linger and seem impossible to eliminate, no matter how many bottles of Febreeze you unleash. To keep these odors from taking over your home, first, you have to identify them.

There’s Hidden Mold

Maybe you’ve noticed a “musty” or “wet cardboard” smell in your home. Or perhaps you’ve referred to it as “old home smell.” Either way, one of the most common causes of lingering, musty smells, especially in older homes, is hidden mold, usually in the walls.

As you probably know, some types of mold can be toxic. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most household mold problems under 10 square feet are safe enough to clean on your own and don’t need a professional, but to be safe, you should read up on the different types of mold at the EPA’s website here.

Then, the first real order of business? Figure out where that mold might be hiding. Here are some common culprits:

  • Leaky plumbing
  • Gutter issues
  • Poor ventilation in kitchen and bathrooms
  • Window frames where condensation builds up

For small, non-toxic mold problems, like the mold that accumulates on windowsills and frames, simply clean the mold with a soap and water solution, as instructed in the video. Vinegar or diluted bleach are also useful. Add it to water, then spray directly on the mold and clean up. For larger mold problems, you should call a professional.

Prevention is key with mold, and the University of Missouri Extension offers some easy tips for keeping that nasty stuff at bay:

Keep closets, dresser drawers, basements — any place where mildew is likely to grow — as clean as possible. Soil on dirty articles can supply enough food for mildew to start growing when moisture and temperature are right. Greasy films, such as those that form on kitchen walls, also contain many nutrients for mildew-causing molds.

Spread a layer of moisture-barrier material over the soil in crawl spaces under houses. You can use heavy roofing paper or polyethylene plastic film. Good ventilation is important. If possible, do not enclose the crawl space. In extreme cases, a fan or blower may be needed to move the humid air from under the building.

In rooms that are not air-conditioned — especially the basement — mechanical dehumidifiers are useful. A humidistat can be attached to the unit to control the humidity. Mechanical dehumidifiers, however, can add heat to a room.

Take extra care in laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and basements, where moisture and humidity run amok.

Your Carpet and Walls Have Absorbed Years of Stink

Carpets and paint can absorb bad smells over time: smoke, pet urine, spilled milk. I always splash a fresh coat of paint on the walls when I move, and it typically gets rid of most lingering smells. If you’re renting, you might not be able to paint without getting your deposit back, so always check with your landlord first. At the very least, deep clean the walls, ceilings, and baseboards to get rid of as much of the stink as possible. Home Guides offers a couple of different solutions for getting rid of stubborn smells:

The White Vinegar Solution: …Start by adding warmed vinegar to a spray bottle for tough stains. Dilute using a one-to-one ratio with warm water for less noticeable stains. Apply the warmed vinegar or mixture directly to the walls. Because tar and nicotine develop a sticky and hardened surface, the warmth of the vinegar helps to soften these substances. Vinegar removes both smells and stains.

The Ammonia Method: Ammonia can also remove cigarette tar and nicotine from walls when mixed with water. Combine a tablespoon of ammonia for every cup of water, or roughly 1/2 cup of ammonia to a gallon of warm water. For painted walls, reduce the mixture to 1/4 cup to a gallon of water. For a stronger solution, increase the ammonia to a full cup. Apply the cleaning agent directly to the wall and let it sit for about five minutes before wiping it off. Follow with a clean rinse of warm water.

For stains, we’ve also suggested a bleach and water mixture. Don’t forget to replace the air filters in your home, too. They can also be stink traps.


Replacing your carpets is obviously the best solution for removing the odor they’ve absorbed over time, but that’s not realistic for most of us. It’s an expensive project, and if you’re a renter, your landlord might not comply. To remedy stinky carpets, sprinkle baking soda on them and let it sit for a while—perhaps even overnight. Then, thoroughly vacuum the carpet and the baking soda along with it. If that doesn’t get the job done, you might need a deeper clean. Rent a carpet cleaning machine or steam cleaner. Typically, you fill it with cleaning solution (or white vinegar and water for a cheaper solution) then run the machine up and down your carpets, as you can see in the video above.

Your Dishwasher Is Filthy

Your dishwasher needs a simple cleaning every month or so, and it’s as easy as running the dishwasher empty with a cup of vinegar. Alternatively, you could sprinkle some baking soda across the bottom of the dishwasher and run it. The video above will show you how it’s done.

Beyond the basics, however, every dishwasher needs an occasional deep cleaning, and if yours smells like gross, old food, it’s probably high time for a scrub down. Focus on two areas: the seals and the dishwasher trap.


Find the trap (or filter) under your dishwasher’s sprayer. If you haven’t cleaned it in a while, you might find scraps of food and other gunk. Sometimes the tray comes out so you can just rinse it in the sink. If not, you’ll need a towel to remove the gunk build-up.

Second, wipe down the rubber seal around the dishwasher door. Use a vinegar and water solution to get rid of any mold or buildup around the area.

A Dead Animal Is Decomposing Somewhere In Your Home

I’ve never (knock on wood) dealt with the reportedly pungent, sickly smell of a dead critter in my walls or ceilings, but from what I understand, it’s tough to ignore.

Most likely, the smell will be knock-you-out strong in one particular area, and that should be able to help you identify the source, whether it’s in the attic, basement, or some specific wall. Wildlife Removal points to some common areas:

  • The Attic: It can be tricky to find the culprit in the attic because it might be buried under the insulation. They explain that when an animal dies in the attic, it’s common for the smell to permeate the whole house.
  • The Wall: Yep, sometimes animals live in your walls or fall down in them and get stuck and die. Experts sniff out the spot, cut a hole, remove the carcass, and patch it up.
  • The Chimney: It’s rare, but it can happen, particularly if you have a metal chimney flue that the animals can’t climb out of.
  • Under the House: Animals of all kinds—raccoons, opossums, and even cats—often live under elevated houses and die in the crawl space.

They add that people often think there’s a dead animal in their ductwork, but that’s actually very rare. Usually, it’s just the airflow stirring up the smell. As we’ve pointed out before, if you’re going to remove the carcass yourself, some cities have guidelines they want you to follow, so check with your city’s sanitation department.


Speaking of cleaning up, removing the carcass might not be enough. Clean the area thoroughly to get rid of any remains or smell left behind. Do My Own Pest Control recommends the following:

If you are able to remove the animal carcass you will be able to eliminate the odor quickly by using products like Bac-A-Zap or Odor Hunter that utilize enzymes to break down the offending odor-carrying molecules. These products should be sprayed onto the area (or as close to the area as possible) where the odor originated from to be effective. You may also use the Earth Care Odor Remover Bags. These bags are simply hung up in smelly rooms and as the air in the room passes through the bag, the odor is removed.

If the carcass is in an inaccessible area, bring in a pro. Call your local pest control or wildlife removal company to help you identify the location and remove the source and clean up the area. If you have the DIY skills, you could try it on your own, though. In the above video, wildlife control specialist Shinya Coulter removes sheetrock from inside of a closet to get to a dead rodent (thankfully, Coulter doesn’t show it), then he simply patches up the hole, which we’ve shown you how to do here.


You Have Electrical Problems

I fried fish a few weeks ago, and the smell lingered so long, I thought something was amiss. Turns out the fish just really stuck, but in my research, I learned that malfunctioning electrical wires often emit a stinky fish smell.

Maintenance company Boulden Brothers explains:

Electrical shielding, wires, and other plastic components emit a “fish” or “urine” smell when exposed to high heat. If you smell something fishy, go around your home and look for outlets and other electrical equipment that looks burnt or melting. Also, make sure that plastic and anything else that could burn is far away from any heat source, including light fixtures.

Electrical problems can be dangerous, so if you suspect your home’s wiring is faulty or its electrical components are overheating, call a licensed electrician. Many professionals aren’t familiar with the “fishy smell” problem, but any good one should have an infrared camera to help pinpoint heat sources.


Sewage Gas Is Seeping Into Your Home

Sewage and rotten eggs share a similar putrid aroma, and a rotten egg smell might indicate a gas leak, which is a lot more dangerous. If you smell rotten eggs and you suspect it might be a gas leak, exit the area, make sure not to turn on any lights or use anything ignitable, then call your gas company. Pacific Gas & Electric offers a more detailed gas safety guide here.

Other than that, if one part of your home—typically the bathroom—just smells like sewage, it might just be a dried up P-trap.

P-traps are designed to trap water in the pipe, creating a seal that prevents sewer gas from leaking up through the sink or bathtub. If you haven’t used your sink in a while, the water in the P-trap evaporates, eliminating that barrier. In other words, sewage gas passes right on through, stinking up your bathroom. Similarly, gasses can escape when the water level in your toilet bowl drops. The remedy? Simply flush your toilet or run your sink or bathtub for a bit to clear the pipe.

In some cases, though, you might have a more serious problem in your sewer, drainage, or venting pipes. As Home Guides explains, your toilet could be cracked or your vent pipe could be clogged. In those cases, you’ll probably want to call a plumber, although Home Guides does offer steps for fixing the problem if you’re a DIY-er.

Your Water Heater Needs Maintenance

While you’re checking your P-traps, you may also want to check your hot water heater. As Water Tech Online explains, In places where there’s a lot of sulfur in the water, the agent used to reduce the sulfur often reacts with the anode rod in the water heater.

Replacing the standard anode with an aluminum/zinc anode, provided that no water softener is being used, often works in this situation because the reduced current of the anode will significantly reduce the amount of H2 gas generated in the tank.

Run your hot water and see if the smell is more prevalent. If so, you may need a new anode rod, which experts suggest you replace every five years, anyway. Just make sure to read your water heater’s warranty, because some of them require specific types of rods, otherwise the warranty could be voided.

You can call a plumber or appliance repair specialist to replace the rod, or give a go yourself. The above video shows you how it’s done. Again, there’s a big difference between a faint smell coming out of your sink and the strong odor of a gas leak (which might be accompanied by a hissing sound), so be sure to take the necessary precautions if you suspect a natural gas leak.


Home odors can be subtle and tricky. Sometimes they’re faint and they creep up on you over time, making them hard to pinpoint. These common household issues are often culprits, so watch out for them and you’ll be on your way to a stink-free home.

Illustration by Fruzsina Kuhári.

Deodorize Your Dishwasher with Leftover Citrus Peels

Deodorize Your Dishwasher with Leftover Citrus Peels

You can do all kinds of cool things with citrus peels other than tossing them. Next time you peel an orange, lemon, or grapefruit, toss those peels in your dishwasher.

Citrus peels are great for all kinds of culinary applications, but they also make wonderful deodorizers for things like refrigerators and garbage disposals. You can even use them in your dishwasher. Just toss them (rind and whatever pulp is attached) into the silverware strainer and run a regular cycle with whatever load of dishes are ready for washing. The citrus will help break down the gunk on the inside of the dishwasher and clear out any lingering odors. As a bonus, the citric acid will also help get glassware sparkly clean.

What to Do with Citrus Peel | Local Kitchen Blog

Photo by Gerry Machen.

Banish Brutal Bathroom Smells With Your Own Homemade “Poo-Pourri”

Bathroom odors can be traumatizing whether you caused it or not. Products like Poo-Pourri and Just A Drop can help keep the stench at bay, but you can easily make your own smell-be-gone spray at home.

In this video from the HouseholdHacker YouTube channel you’ll learn how to make your own pre-poop spray with essential oils and few other things you probably have lying around your home. Mix 3/4 of a cup of water with 2 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol, 2 teaspoons of hand or dish soap, and mix it all together with 40 to 50 drops of your preferred essential oil (lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, etc.). Then put in a spray bottle to keep near your porcelain throne. Just like with Poo-Pourri and Just A Drop, you add the spray to the water before you go. By the time you flush, there will be no nose-worthy evidence of the business you just took care of. You can even add food coloring to the spray so you can see the smell barrier and get some extra peace of mind.


Smell-Be-Gone Poop Spray! | YouTube

What Is Airplane Smell?

You know the smell. It’s hard to describe, but the second you step on an airplane, a flood of familiarity flies up your nostrils. Airplane smell is equal parts comforting and off-putting. And it’s actually a little bit dangerous. But what is it exactly?

Read more…

Make an Effective Shoe Deodorizer with Some Cat Litter and a Stocking

If you’ve got a stinky pair of shoes, a custom made cat litter deodorizer will suck up all the moisture and help neutralize the odor.

Your shoes get smelly because the moisture in your shoes allows odor-causing bacteria to thrive. The HouseholdHacker YouTube channel demonstrates, among other methods, how you can combat the stench of your favorite sneakers with some products you might be able to find at home. Sometimes you need to go with tough stuff like rubbing alcohol, but if it’s not too intense you can create a simple deodorizer. Pour a little cat litter—silica-based if you have it—into an old stocking or sock and wrap it up. Stuff one into each shoe and it will dry them up while adding a nice little cover scent. Just make sure there aren’t any holes in the stockings or socks. Nobody wants a bunch of tiny rocks in their shoes.

10 Ways to Stop Shoe Odor! | YouTube

Avoid a Nasty Mildew Smell Around Your Sink by Using Two Sponges

If you have a potent stench coming from your sink, it could be your poor, abused sponge. You can keep two of them around and rotate use so your sponges won’t develop a mildew smell ever again.

The Reactions channel on YouTube took a look at the chemistry behind a smelly sponge. Reactions explains that constant moisture is what’s letting the sponge stink up the place. It’s important you thoroughly rinse a sponge after each use and let it dry before each use, otherwise bacteria take residence and release odorous chemicals.

Two sponges—one for the first half of the day, the other for the second half—will ensure that your sponges will have ample time to dry out. If one of your sponges is smelly already, you can revive it with some baking soda, or a quick trip to the microwave.

Awesome Chemistry Life Hacks (Vol. 3) | YouTube

How to Defeat Bad Breath Once and For All

How to Defeat Bad Breath Once and For All

It’s embarrassing when someone points out that you have bad breath or politely offers a mint with a knowing smile. There is very little you can do but apologize and swallow that mint with your pride. But if you are a little better prepared, you can avoid such awkward situations in the future.

Much like any bodily odor, halitosis can be tackled with hygiene and knowledge. So let’s start at the beginning by talking about what causes bad breath, and how you can check if you have it. Then we’ll talk about what works (and what doesn’t).

What Causes Bad Breath

How to Defeat Bad Breath Once and For All

The most common reason that anyone suffers from halitosis is a dry mouth. A dry mouth occurs because you haven’t been drinking enough water or you have been sleeping or travelling, in which case your body slows down the production of saliva. A dry mouth leads to dead cells on your tongue, which bacteria break down—this process emits a foul odor that we commonly know as bad breath.

Bad breath is usually caused by your tongue, although the same process of bacteria breaking down dead cells and food bits can occur in other parts of your mouth, like with food stuck in your teeth.

If you aren’t brushing your teeth carefully, the same bacteria will build up on your teeth and emanate an odor again.

The other common reason for bad breath is the food you eat. We are all too familiar with garlic or onion breath, or the odor of a smoker. Also, crash-dieting and fasting can cause bad breath as the body breaks down fat and releases ketones, which can be smelled, says the UK’s National Health Service.

These aren’t the only causes, of course. There are medical conditions that can cause bad breath, like xerostomia (dry mouth caused by medication or mouth-breathing), throat and lung infections, kidney or liver diseases, diabetes, and more. If you have any of these or suspect you do, it’s best to consult a doctor, but with common bad breath, most of the solutions in this article should get you through.

How to Check If You Have Bad Breath

How to Defeat Bad Breath Once and For All

The first step to battling the social embarrassment of bad breath, of course, is knowing you have it before someone points it out. So how do you do that?

Like we already said, bad breath usually starts with your tongue, so that’s the first point to check. For a visual check, a pink and shiny tongue is good, a white and scaly one is bad, according to Dr. Harold Katz, bacteriologist and founder of the California Breath Clinic. If you have a spoon handy, you can find out by scraping the back of your tongue with the tip of the spoon, letting it dry, and then smelling it.

Dr. Katz also says cupping your hands in front of your mouth and blowing doesn’t work. He tells CNN that licking your hand is better:

Smelling your own breath in cupped hands is not the best way to check for halitosis, Katz says. Instead, lick the back of your hand, let it dry for a few seconds, and then smell the surface.

There are other ways of testing the back of your tongue too—like cotton swabs or dental floss—but the point is that is where the bad breath originates from so that’s what you need to check.

With food, you can always be a little mindful of what you are eating. If you just ate something loaded with garlic and onions, chances are people want to stand a couple of feet away from you while talking. Knowing you have eaten foods that stink, run through some precautionary hygiene measures to fix your breath.

How to Fix Bad Breath: The Most Effective Solutions

How to Defeat Bad Breath Once and For All

Here’s the bad news: there is no long-term, one-size-fits-all solution to fixing bad breath. Much like eating well, you need to keep at it regularly. Since halitosis is caused due to different reasons, the fixes are all temporary and need to be repeated to combat halitosis. However, doing them regularly does reduce how rancid your breath gets and how quickly bad breath builds up in your mouth.

Drink Water Regularly

Bacteria builds up when you have a dry mouth and the obvious way to combat this is to drink water regularly. If your mouth stays hydrated and is producing saliva regularly, you reduce the chances of bad breath.

Use Tongue Scrapers

Drill it into your heads, ladies and gents. There is nothing, nothing, nothing as effective as cleaning the back of your tongue regularly. If you can, you should ideally be cleaning it after every meal. Tongue scrapers are best for a quick fix:

Though there is no standard treatment, bacteria-causing halitosis can be reduced by brushing or scraping the middle and back of the tongue. Tongue scraping can lower the concentration of volatile sulfur compounds, subsequently reducing oral malodor.

Rinse with Mouthwash

If brushing your teeth and scraping your tongue does not fit the decorum of your office, you can turn to rinsing with mouthwash. Rinsing and gargling is better at washing away bacteria than chewing gum or popping a mint, but this is still a temporary fix and not as thorough as scraping your tongue. To get the most out of it, KnowYourTeeth says you need to rinse for 30 seconds and not eat or smoke for 30 minutes after:

Measure the proper amount of rinse as specified on the container or as instructed by your dentist. With your lips closed and the teeth kept slightly apart, swish the liquid around with as much force as possible. Many rinses suggest swishing for 30 seconds or more. Finally, thoroughly spit the liquid from your mouth. Consumers should not rinse, eat, or smoke for 30 minutes after using rinses, as these practices will dilute the fluoride and rinse it away.

There has been some concern about mouthwashes that use alcohol causing oral cancer, although a recent meta-study revealed no "statistically significant association between mouthwash use and risk of oral cancer." Still, if you want to play it safe, you can try making your own mouthwash without alcohol. It’s super easy and lasts for at least a month—and if you use it regularly, you won’t need it to last that long anyway.

Pop Some Mints

Most people will probably carry mints or chewing gum as an easy way to freshen your breath, but you should know that this effect is temporary and won’t last as long as rinsing with mouthwash or scrubbing your tongue. That said, if you do need mints, dentist Dr. Leong Hon Chiew tells Men’s Health that oral strips are your best bet:

If you must suck on a breath mint, Dr Leong says to look for oral strips. They dissolve faster and, hence, the sugar in them spends less time in contact with your teeth, potentially lessening the possibility of tooth decay.

Eat Breath-Friendly Foods

How to Defeat Bad Breath Once and For All

There are also certain foods you can eat to combat bad breath. Dr. Katz says:

Green tea has anti-bacterial properties that knock out the stink. Cinnamon contains essential oils that kill many types of oral bacteria. Try adding fresh cinnamon to your morning toast or oatmeal, or adding a stick to flavor your tea.

Eating crisp fruits and vegetables, such as celery or apples, offers dual bad-breath-busting benefits. Chewing them will produce more saliva in your mouth, and the firm texture will also help scrub away bacteria, according to Katz. Melons, oranges and berries also help.

Again, scraping your tongue is more thorough, but Tipnut offers some all-natural ingredients that you can chew (and possibly even keep in your purse or pocket) to temporarily counter your bad breath:


  • Anise (a couple after each meal, which helps with digestion too.)
  • Cardamom
  • Fennel
  • Dill (which masks the odor.)


  • Cinnamon sticks (Break off a small chunk to nibble on, which helps kill the bacteria in your mouth.)
  • Cloves (All you need is one! This has antibacterial properties that help get the job done.)
  • Parsley: (Chew well. There’s a reason why many restaurants add a sprig of parsley for garnish.)

Incidentally, if you have eaten foods that cause bad breath, you can counter that by eating other foods. For example, drinking a glass of milk counters garlic breath to some degree.

If it’s wine that you are indulging in, and especially red wine, fruits are the way to go, according to Jezebel:

If it’s too late and your mouth is already indigo, try eating something crunchy, like an apple, or grab a lemon wedge from the bar, retire to the rest room, and rub it on your teeth. Take a breather from imbibing and drink water.

Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to tackle your bad breath problem once and for all!

Photos by Christian Lindemann, Roberto Verzo, TheUsher.

Use Vinegar to Get Rid of Old, Stinky Pet Odors

Whether you’re cleaning up after your own pet or you’re moving into a new place where pets used to live, vinegar is a surefire way to get rid of any lingering pet odors in the floors or carpet. Over at Apartment Therapy, contractor John Gleeson Connolly explains how well it really works.

Connolly went to the hardware store and got a simple pump sprayer that you’d use for pesticide, fertilizer, or just about any other thin liquid, and filled it with vinegar. His problem was pretty bad, so he sprayed the floors and the subfloors with vinegar, and let it evaporate over the course of a few days. The vinegar neutralized the pet odor nicely—better than some of the chemicals designed for the purpose that he had previously tried. Connolly also notes in the video above that it worked, but it wasn’t a perfect fix, so he got up under his home and sprayed the vents and the woodwork under the floor, and that took care of the problem once and for all.

You probably don’t have to go to such great effort in your home (we hope), but if you do, at least you know vinegar will do the trick. We’re willing to bet that if you’re just moving into a place and it still smells like the dog or cat that used to live there, a good spray down with vinegar in the corners, floorboards, and carpets will take care of it. If you really want, rent a carpet cleaner and use vinegar in that. It’s remarkable what vinegar can do—but then, we do list it often as one of the best ways to de-stink just about anything.

How to Get Rid of Old (and New) Pet Odors | Apartment Therapy

Freshen Up Your Home While Vacuuming with Oils and Cotton Balls

Freshen Up Your Home While Vacuuming with Oils and Cotton Balls

Vacuuming is nobody’s favorite chore, but when you have to do it, you should at least kill two birds with one stone by taking the opportunity to make your home smell great.

All you have to do is soak a few cotton balls in your essential oil of choice, and drop them in the vacuum bag before you start cleaning. The cotton balls will infuse the air ejected by the vacuum with the scent of the oils. The effect will be subtle, but it’s so easy to do that it’s worth trying every time you vacuum. If your house really smells bad, you can cook your leftover oils in the oven for an hour or so to fully infuse your house with a pleasant scent. Be sure to click through the source link for more clever uses for cotton balls around your home.

9 Exciting Uses for Boring Cotton Balls | WonderHowTo

Photo by Olesia Bilkei (Shutterstock).

Neutralize Smelly Kitchen Hands with Lemon Juice

Neutralize Smelly Kitchen Hands with Lemon Juice If you can’t seem to get some stubborn smells off your hands after cooking, a little lemon juice can fix what soap and water can’t.

Though lemon juice will mask a lot of scents, Gabrielle Taylor at WonderHowTo points out that it does a particularly good job at eliminating fishy smells. This works because the citric acid from the fruit neutralizes the smelly amines from the fish and turns them into less-offensive salts. Just rinse your hands in a mixture of lemon juice and water, and the fishy smell should be all but eliminated. The same trick should also work on sponges and wooden cutting boards that might have absorbed some any of the fish oils while you prepared the meal.

10 Simple Kitchen Hacks That Can Remove & Prevent Lingering Food Smells on Your Hands | WonderHowTo

Photo by Mihai Simonia (Shutterstock).