A persistent bad smell in a house can be frustrating, and getting rid of odors can be a challenge. In this article you’ll learn:
- 13 ways to get rid of stubborn smells in a house.
- Find out the 4 products I’ve found that actually work to get rid of bad smells
- Learn the sneaky sources of bad smells in homes that you might not expect..
Keep reading to learn the best ways to get rid of a bad smell in a house.
Here are a few of the best tips I’ve collected:
Tips for getting rid of a bad smell in a house
Sprinkle & Vaccum Baking Soda
Just before going to bed for the night, sprinkle an even layer of baking soda on rugs and carpets. First thing in the morning, vacuum the area to remove the baking soda – it will have absorbed odors overnight and you’ll be able to vacuum the baking soda into the vacuum chamber and the bad smells along with it. Baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate, is a powerful deodorizer- and its power has been proven in lab studies.
“Sodium bicarbonate is a naturally occurring substance that is present in all living things–it helps living things maintain the pH balance necessary for life.”University of Wisconsin extension office
Open Windows & Create Negative Air Pressure to Air Out Smells
Everyone knows that opening windows is an effective way to get fresh air indoors but to really maximize the power of opening windows to get bad smells out of the house, you’ll need to create negative air pressure. Negative air pressure causes fresh air to be actively sucked in through the window screens, instead of stagnating.
In most homes, negative air pressure can be achieved by running a bathroom vent or range hood that draws air out of the house. If you’re trying to air out a specific room that doesn’t have a vent fan, you can place a tabletop fan on the windowsill to draw fresh air in.
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Humidity actually impacts how our brains perceive bad smell – a room with the same air will smell different when the humidity is at 70% than it will when it’s at 30%. Humidity monitors are inexpensive – I’ve been using a $10 humidity meter from Amazon for years* – and make it easy to begin tracking the humidity level at which you notice bad odors in your home.
Once you know if the smell changes based on humidity, you can begin raising or lowering the humidity in your home using a humidifier or dehumidifier to keep the air fresh and odor-free.
Make Natural Air Freshener on the Stove
There are many ways to create a pleasant odor in your home without using air fresheners or plug-in deodorizers. Any time you need a pleasant scent in your home put a pot of water on a high simmer, and place in the pan any combination of the following:
- cinnamon sticks,
- orange peels,
- vanilla extract
As a bonus, the simmering water will increase the humidity in your home slightly – just be sure and keep an eye on the pan to make sure the water does not boil off, and turn the burner off before leaving your home.
Use Charcoal Infused Products
Activated charcoal is a supercharged deodorant. Molecularly, it basically magnetically attracts odors and neutralizes them. You can purchase activated charcoal in countless different forms (including pure powdered activated charcoal*) but I’ve found the best method for getting rid of a bad smell in a house in by using charcoal-infused puppy pads. They’re cheap, reusable (just recharge them in direct sunlight, which causes the activated charcoal to release trapped molecules), and won’t leave black marks behind. Grab some from Amazon at the link below*.
Use a Humidifier with Essential Oils
Increasingly, modern humidifiers are able to accommodate a small amount of oil dispersed within their holding chamber. This means that placing a fragrant essential oil in a humidifier can be an effective way to defuse a pleasant scent through your house.
Soak Orange Peels
Get rid of bad smells in a room by placing fresh orange peels in a pot of water overnight; discard the peels in the morning.
This is hands down the easiest home odor removal method on this list! All you have to do with this method is peel an orange and place the peel in a bowl or pot filled with water overnight! By doing this, you are creating your very own air freshener for any room you put it in. Plus, it’s cheaper than buying air fresheners from the store.
Create a Cross Breeze by Opening Windows Strategically
This is a very simple method for getting rid of a bad smell, by opening windows on opposite sides of your home, you can create a cross breeze that will completely refresh the air in your home and take away any bad smells within minutes!
In fact, many homes older than the 1950s are designed to maximize cross breezes- it was the closest thing to air-conditioning available for many people in the early part of the 20th century!
While this may not work as well on colder days or during the night, it is very useful if you have a nice day during the day which allows you to open many windows.
Use Natural Air Fresheners
While air fresheners generally only cover bad smells up, they can be useful – especially when you know you’ve effectively removed the source of the odor (like a pet accident or stinky trash bag).
Natural air fresheners include making a pot of coffee and letting it sit out, crushing aromatic herbs and placing them in front of a fan, or setting out orange peels in a bowl overnight.
Set out Bowls of Vinegar
To remove bad smells from the air, pour white vinegar into bowls throughout the house; let sit for a few hours, and replace the vinegar in the bowl every 4 hours.
This method works well in quickly removing smells from your house and without too much effort! All you have to do is pour white vinegar and wait. After a couple of hours, you should start to notice the smell from the vinegar dissipating, which means your work here is done!
Take out the Trash
It may sound obvious, but garbage is a prime source of bad smells. To get rid of bad smells in your house, start with taking out the trash. Once you’ve collected trash bags and disposed of them far away from the house, grab another trash bag and walk through every room of your home scouting for more garbage. Bad odors can come from forgotten sandwiches in lunch bags, snack food wrappers in teenagers’ bedrooms, or menstrual products falling behind a toilet or vanity.
Grow Indoor House Plants
House plants work well for removing smells from small rooms in your house. Find some plants that you want in the room and be sure to water them twice a week- leaves naturally filter air and release oxygen.
By caring for a houseplant, you are creating a natural air freshener that will help get rid of a bad smell in your room, because the plants will do the work through photosynthesis.
This solution works best for small rooms with one window or door where fresh air can enter the room, rather than being totally stagnant. Houseplants work especially well in rooms with skylights. Even if you don’t have much of a green thumb, the moist soil has its own deodorizing effects
Install a whole house air filter
If you own your home, talk to your HVAC service provider about the installation of a whole-house air filter. If you don’t, even a bedroom-sized air filter, like an affordable Hepa Filter by Crane*, can make a huge difference.
As someone with many allergies, the upgrade to a whole house air filter* with a MERV-13 filter was a relatively inexpensive way to make sure the air in my home stays fresh and odor-free. Whole-house filters offer much better air cleaning than the thin 1″ air filters that have been in use since the 70s, and as pollution levels rise around the world, a whole-house humidifier is likely to become a household necessity within a few years.
Products that Really Work to get Rid of Odors
If you’re already reading this article, you’ve probably already hunted for the source of your smell, tried air fresheners, and haven’t had much luck.
This may mean that the bad smell in your home or bedroom is coming from things that are things that don’t generally get cleaned even during a deep clean – like upholstery, carpets, mattresses, or even walls.
Here are some things you can try to clean these harder to clean items:
Place Charcoal Puppy Pads in Hidden Spots
As I discovered when I was working on removing the smell of smoke from wood furniture, charcoal infused puppy pads* are perfect for us non-dog owners at creating an odor-capturing surface.
Placing charcoal-infused puppy pads under beds and sofas, inside drawers, and as liners on shelves can be a powerful way to draw odors out of the surrounding environment and capture them in the charcoal.
About every three months, remove the charcoal pads and place them outdoors on a very sunny day – the sunlight and UV rays will recharge the charcoal allowing it to chemically attract more odors. Charcoal puppy pads can also be cut to fit between garbage cans and their plastic liners and placed in hampers to capture smells from sweaty clothing before it saturates the air nearby causing a bad smell.
Use a Steam Cleaner
Steam cleaners are incredible devices, for about the cost of an iron, you can have a handheld steam cleaner* that blows steam directionally onto whatever surface you need to clean.
Steam cleaners are an absolute game-changer when it comes to cleaning hard surfaces like metal, tile, or ceramic – they are a miracle in a bathroom at removing those gross lingering discolorations that can be the source of bad smells and a bathroom. While you need to use extreme caution while using a steam cleaner, they can be an effective way to remove odor-causing particles from hard surfaces.
Powered Upholstery Cleaner
Perhaps you’ve already tried spray-on carpet cleaner or scrubbing baking soda into a well-used chair. The problem is that a lot of methods for cleaning upholstery only cause more build-up of residue which itself can contribute to capturing bad odors.
If you think that soft surfaces like couch cushions, mattresses, or rugs may be the source of the bad smell in your home, a portable carpet cleaner (like the one linked below*) with hose may just be the best investment you’ll ever make in removing bad smells from your home. With a handheld wand that shoots water out while also using powerful suction to suck the cleaning solution back into a second chamber, for about $100 upholstery cleaner can do wonders at getting rid of both smells and stains from upholstery.
Whether a whole house air filtering unit* or a simple in-room air filter*, mechanically filtering air through electrostatically charged filters, UV light, HEPA filters, or ozone filters are all incredibly effective ways to get rid of a bad smell in the house or even just a single room.
If you have pets, or sometimes smoke or vape in a room, an air filter – with a regularly changed filter – is an absolute essential and can help prevent bad smells from reaching other parts of the house. For single rooms, I love this Crane air filter* which also includes a UV light to kill bacteria and pathogens.
Sneaky Odor Source:
When you’ve cleaned everything in your house and you still can’t figure out where the bad smell is coming from, check your appliances. Sometimes sparkling clean homes have refrigerators with gunky molded seals, stoves with grease trapped along the sides, or range hoods caked with grease-laden filters.
If you find the bad odor in your home is concentrated in the kitchen, it may be time to deep clean appliances inside and out, and pull them out from the wall to clean behind them.
Soiled Trash Cans
We all know that trash cans and indoor wastebaskets can be a source of smell, but they’re generally well managed by removing the plastic liner, disposing of the trash, and placing a new liner in the bin.
Sometimes, however, visible or invisible debris can make its way directly onto the bin itself. For this reason, one effective way to get rid of smells in your home is by washing your trash bins and wastebaskets. Take them into the shower with a toilet brush and use dish soap to wash your waste bins inside and out.
Check for Dead Things
It may be macabre to mention, but sometimes an overpowering bad odor in a house can be due to something dead nearby. Animals may crawl into crawlspaces, basements, and even walls to die. For apartment dwellers, an overwhelming smell of decay in their apartment may even be due to a neighbor who lives alone passing away. If the odor you are smelling your house has the distinct smell of decay, it may be time to check on your neighbors, check your crawlspaces, and explore any openings into your home from the outside for evidence of animal activity.
I had my first allergic reaction about 15 minutes after my birth, hives in reaction to the detergent residue on the hospital linens I was swathed in. Since then, I have lived in a body especially sensitive to odors and allergens. Because I’ve never been able to use candles, plug-in air fresheners, or room sprays to deodorize my home, I’ve become something of an expert in ways to find the source of a bad smell in a room and get rid of it for good.