When people walk into your home, what do they smell? Do they think that your house smells weird, or amazing? Forget the cover-up scents that just lay something cloyingly sweet over a nasty musk. If you want to get your home to that hotel-worthy level of clean – you need to put in some elbow grease.
I personally love knowing that the house is clean and that I’ll be safe having that “surprise visit” from just about anyone without worrying that my house smells like a garbage can.
The thing is, you might have some sour smells going on that you’re not even aware of. Unfortunately, we get numb to the smell of our own living quarters – you might have heard the term nose-blind, which happens when you become immune to your own stenches.
If you’re not noticing anything “funky” yourself, ask a visiting friend or family member what your house smells like, to identify if you’ve got any specific odor problem.
If you do have an identified odor issue, tackle that first – and depending on the severity you may need to do something drastic like replace old carpet or get rid of Fido (JUST KIDDING! I would NEVER do that!) But, maybe, give Fido a bath?
If there isn’t one specific smell-problem, you’re probably safe following the generic path to fresh outlined for you below.
These tips are tried and true techniques for creating a living space that will make people associate your home with that great smelling place they visit.
A Clean Home Smells Good
Don’t bother spraying Febreeze in every room, lighting candles, and using a scented plugin if you have some lingering odor that you’re trying to hide.
That approach makes me think back to the Glade spray my family used in the bathroom and how it just made the bathroom smell like cinnamon sticks on top of poo. Mmmmn, cinnamon turds. Not a good aroma by any means.
To actually make your home smell good, you want it to smell as close to nothing as possible. The first step to get that nothing smell, is to get it spic and span clean.
While we love our four-legged friends (and sometimes other legged creatures), they can carry tons of unpleasant odors; either on their bodies, or with whatever they are doing inside (bathroom usage, chewing bones on the carpet, yakking up that bone – eww…).
When I had a cat and 2 large dogs the biggest compliment I would get from visitors was when they would tell me, “you never would have known you had animals by the smell”. My house didn’t have those foul odors that can sometimes linger from cat urine and pet dander. I always went out of my way to keep the litter box cleaned out and used high quality litter fill. When I vacuumed I used PetFresh sprinkle before vacuuming.
Those two things alone made a big difference.
In addition, try to keep your animals bathed and brushed regularly… as much as is feasible. Don’t go too crazy with the bathing or it will dry out your pet’s skin.
Clean Your Air
Breathing easier is the goal right? There are a few ways that this can be achieved:
- Bring the Outside in – The first is the simplest (your moment of “duh”)- open some windows as often as you can. Even in the winter you should let a little fresh air in by opening a window for a little bit on a warmer winter day. Bringing in air from the outside is a great way to literally blow the stink out of your home and send some of that must and dust packing.
- Place Plants in your Home – Plants are a natural way of increasing oxygen in your house. They also look great and bring nature inside.
- Vacuum out your Air Ducts – After paying a company to clean ours the guy informed me that you can get most of the dirt yourself by lifting the air vents and taking a vacuum hose to the stuff sitting 1/2 foot or so down. You’d be amazed at how much dog hair and dead insects collect down here.
- Change out Air Filters regularly – Invest in the good air filters vs. the cheapest ones. This makes a big difference and also keeps your heating and a/c running more efficiently. We were told by our furnace expert when our furnace stopped running to always use filters that are Merv 11 or higher. That was actually WHY the furnace stopped running, and it was fixed by replacing the filter.
- Use an Air Purification machine – Some of the reviews for a machine like this one border on the insane, but you can see that people very passionately love their air purifiers (one reviewer mentions that he needs the machine close by so that he can hug it regularly… I’m hoping that’s a joke.) Air purifiers are not only great at reducing everyday odors, they will actually help reduce dust and keep allergies at bay – leaving you in better overall health, so why not?
Clean Your Home
Common Smell Culprits
- Trash Cans – Change these out often and clean the actual container when there are spills in or on the trash can.
- Fridge Contents – Rotted food and spills can quickly smell bad and make the whole house stink.
- Mold & Mildew – Make sure you don’t have any stinky towels or bathmats that need washing. If you do, soak them overnight in vinegar before giving them a run through the washer.
- Disposals & Sinks – If these areas are smelling particularly bad, run a few lemon pieces in the disposer then clean with vinegar (see below).
- Wood Floors – Whenever I use my Shark floor steamer, I notice that nasty kitchen smells disappear and the kitchen is fresh again. Even when you don’t think the floors are that dirty, the steam seems to lift some of that smelly grunge out that wasn’t even visible.
- Shoes – Spray dry shampoo inside your shoes to take the odors out.
- Throw Pillows & Couch Cushions – These are hard to clean on a regular basis without getting out a steam cleaner. One way to get the smells out is to harness the power of the sun by taking them outside occasionally in the warmer months and letting the sun UV clean them. Be careful not to leave them out too long or they will get sun-bleached.
- Dust from Above – As painful as it is to get out the step ladder, how often do most of us clean off the tops of our cabinets or lights. If these areas are collecting dust, chances are it’s adding to that old-timey smell you’ve got going on. Use a damp pillowcase on a stick to get on top of things like ceiling fans to get that dust off.
Use Vinegar & Baking Soda
In the world of cleaning, these two ingredients should become your best friends. There is almost nothing too big for either or both of them to tackle, especially in the scent department.
They are both brilliant at neutralizing odors and getting your home CLEAN clean.
Here are some of the ways to use these cheap but powerful cleaning agents – but the options for Baking Soda and vinegar certainly don’t stop here:
- Rinse your washing machine out with vinegar to clean out any funky smells and grime from dirty clothes.
- Sprinkle Baking Soda into your disposal and then pour vinegar on top to clean out the funky smells there.
- Use Baking Soda and vinegar together in the toilet and shower.
- Mop your floors with vinegar (unless they are hardwood).
- Clean out icky trash cans by washing them with vinegar.
- Clean out old food items from your fridge so there isn’t anything rotting and stinking, then wash down the shelves with vinegar.
- Place Baking Soda boxes like these Arm&Hammer ones in your fridge to keep them from smelling.
- Use Baking Soda as a vacuum powder.
When I mentioned PetFresh above, that’s just a powered up version of sprinkling baking soda on your carpet, which is a TOTALLY kick-ass pre-vacuum odor remover.
Use Common Scents
Yes, pun. I couldn’t help myself, sorry.
If you are going to create the smell atmosphere in your home, try to refrain from using chemically overloaded synthetic smells.
Here are some creative ways to delight your olfactory senses:
- Bake Cookies – This was a trick our realtor taught us when we were selling our house- to make the house smell enticing for potential buyers you bake cookies before a showing or during an open house. The smell will automatically trigger good feelings and emotions. This can be used anytime you have company over or if you just want to have that cozy, comforting, smell. Plus, at the end you’ll have cookies to eat – bonus!
- Simmer Lemons & Rosemary – Put lemons and rosemary (vanilla is optional) in a simmer pot with water on the stove-top on low – or use your crock pot on low. It smells incredible and is great for people who have allergies or other sensitivities to smell. This is what Williams-Sonoma does in all of their stores to make them smell good. I make this super easy on myself by rinsing my coffee pot once I’m done with coffee, putting water in it, adding the lemon and rosemary and setting it back on the warmed burner. This way, the house smells great all day and my coffee pot gets cleaned out by the lemon.
- Mulling Spices – During the holidays when we have guests over, I always put a small crock pot filled with mulling spices out for the good smells. Even better, add some apple cider instead of water and it becomes dual-purpose as this can be served up as a yummy, hot drink. You can make your own mulling spices with these ingredients:
- Cinnamon Sticks
- Whole Cloves
- Star Anise
- Orange or lemon peels
- Fresh Flowers – Invest in fresh flowers just to treat yourself. You deserve it! Real flowers are a wonderful way to add a genuinely natural, beautiful, perfumed smell to your home. Get a bouquet of something that smells incredible in the store, or clip something fresh from your garden if you’re lucky enough to have one.
- Dryer Sheets – You can use these in clothing drawers to make your clothes smell fresh and clean.
- Fabric Scent Beads – You can use small netted pouches like these to place your favorite fabric scent beads in areas like clothing drawers and underneath trash liners. You can use whichever scents you prefer.
- Essential Oils – Oils (or EO) seem to be all the rage these days and is a safer alternative to burning scent candles. Pick whichever scents you like and add them to a scent diffuser or a reed dispenser. For added smell you can also place a few drops in your air vents and on your air filter to have the aroma distributed throughout the house. Just don’t go overboard – you want the smell to be faint and not overpowering.
People love this reed diffuser from Amazon, which uses natural oils and is not chemical smelling – they even say the grapefruit one will completely erase the smell of the litterbox (provided that the box is kept clean):
With all of these tips and tricks in your arsenal, you are sure to have a house that people want to be in. What’s your great-smelling home secret? If you have one I’d love to hear it below in the comments.
Until then, happy smelling!