Home Remedy for a Smelly House

A fresh scent welcomes guests to your home, raising the comfort level and creating a pleasant experience. When whiffs of unsettling aromas waft through your rooms, it can turn your stomach and turn away visitors. If you are assaulted by stale air or cloying, musty scents as you enter your home, there are a few home remedies you can create to quickly find and fix the foul odors. Making home remedies for odors in the house is an easy endeavor, depending on the scent and its origin.

Baking soda with vinegar, natural mix for effective house cleani
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Home Remedy for a Smelly House

Why Use Homemade Odor Removers

Home remedies for musty smells in homes range from fruity to floral and everywhere in between. Many people find the strong scents of commercial cleaners, air fresheners and deodorizers to be overwhelming, or they may be allergic. Homemade odor removers are efficient and nontoxic.

Where Smelly House Odors Originate

It can be hard to figure out from where the unwanted aroma is originating.

  • Food smells more than likely come from the refrigerator, trash can and countertop bowls of veggies and fruit.

  • The pantry can also hold unwelcome scents with forgotten breads or starches gathering mold or mildew.

  • Urine smells can emanate from the carpet or a bathroom with bad ventilation.

  • Pet smells require a different approach than heavy food aromas or stale odors that waft throughout a home.

Basics for Making Home Remedies

A good household odor remover works quickly without damaging furniture, clothing, carpeting, window treatments or other items that pull in putrid smells.

A few tried-and-true ingredients are needed for the average home odor removal recipe. These include:

  • Vinegar

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Baking soda

  • Lemons, oranges or a citrus-based natural extract

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Dishwashing liquid

  • Spices, including cinnamon and nutmeg

  • Essential oils such as lemon, lavender, eucalyptus and sage

  • Charcoal

Tools needed for removing household odors include:

  • Spray bottle: 32 ounces for most mixes, 12 ounces for highly concentrated blends that may break down soon after mixing
  • Scrub brush with a narrow tip
  • Sponges of varying thickness
  • Clean towels for buffing away cleaning residue

Homemade Vinegar Odor Remover

A vinegar-based odor remover can lift up a home's scent rather quickly. A small bowl of vinegar left out overnight in a small, closed room can remove odors effortlessly.

Vinegar is a natural deodorizer. It can pull up old pet stains stuck in the fibers of rugs and carpeting. It can take down a musty smell in a bathroom or brighten windows and mirrors while removing odors.

Baking Soda and Dish Soap Cleaner

A gallon of baking soda-infused warm water with a few drops of dishwashing liquid will clean and deodorize the hard surfaces in your home that can collect odors. It is gentle enough to be used on nearly any material without adversely affecting the surface and is strong enough to remove layers of dirt and odors.

Baking soda odor remover:

  • 1 gallon warm water
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid

Surfaces to clean and deodorize with this mix include:

  • Granite or stone countertops
  • Laminate floors
  • Refrigerator parts
  • Linoleum flooring
  • Wood tabletops
  • Formica countertops
  • Resin furniture

The mix can be applied with a sponge or put into a spray bottle and spritzed on vertical surfaces. Have plenty of clean towels to rub down the area after rinsing the solution from the surface with clean warm water.

Homemade Rubbing Alcohol Odor Remover

Rubbing alcohol is ideal for upholstery, curtains, carpeting and other soft surfaces in the home. It evaporates quickly and won't leave behind wet areas that can attract bacteria or mildew that can spread.

A basic recipe using rubbing alcohol as a base is:

  • 32-ounce spray bottle
  • 2 cups rubbing alcohol
  • 1 cup water
  • Drop of essential oil of your choice

The benefits of using this recipe is that it is safe to use around soft surfaces and won't harm upholstery or carpeting.

Homemade Hydrogen Peroxide Odor Remover

To take away deep-rooted aromas from a house, a hydrogen peroxide-based homemade odor remover can work wonders.

  • 1 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid
  • A few drops of essential oil

Mix this together in a brown or dark-colored spray bottle. It will keep for a week if kept out of direct sunlight. The hydrogen peroxide will pull up stains on upholstery and carpeting as well as deodorize a room.

Natural Charcoal Briquettes

Placed in the right spot, charcoal briquettes absorb odors before they can spread to other rooms in the home. Charcoal briquettes arranged in a layer in a pretty, nonporous tray covered with stones or colored glass will look attractive while the briquettes pull in odors that collect in damp areas, bathrooms or around cooking stations.

A few natural charcoal briquettes in a bowl in the refrigerator will keep odors from building up in the appliance.

How a Home Gets Musty

The home is full of soft surfaces. Carpeting, upholstery, wallpaper and other fiber surfaces can pull in and hold onto aromas that regularly waft through the house. The main culprits of musty or odiferous scents are those we create by simply going about our everyday business.

The things that most contribute to a smelly house are:

  • Cooking – Fish, fried foods and cruciferous vegetables linger long after the burner has been turned down and the dish served deliciously warm.

  • Mold and mildew – If you have a whiff of mold, you should do some quick investigating before a serious issue arises. The tiniest of cracks in a foundation, water that seeps in through uneven window sills or water that has found its way into a crawl space in unusual amounts can create mold and mildew problems.
    * Spills and stains – Forgotten spills of dairy products, citrus juices or other liquids that have been left to fester in fibers of carpets and upholstery can lead to lingering odors.

  • Musty odors – HVAC systems that have not been properly cleaned can send musty smells through a home each time they circulate air. Low ventilation can contribute to musty smells gathering in the rooms of your home. Throw open the windows about once a week to air out rooms of all the odors that can build up over time.

  • Foul food odors – The refrigerator can hold rotten food smells even after the offending item has been removed. Not only does it need a serious washing on the inside, but the seals and water pan underneath the fridge need attention with a nontoxic cleaner as well. Odors can get trapped in the soft plastic of the accordion-like seals that rim the doors of the hulking appliance.

Removing Pet Odors From the Home

Pet odors may need some investigation. If you can't locate the source of a urine odor in your home, a blacklight can reveal missed or unknown piddle places. Outline the entire area with a dye-free chalk or other removable marker so you can easily find it when you switch on the lights.

There are many ways to remove old pet stains. Vinegar is most likely the best first defense. It will pull up the stain and remove the odor. Douse the area well with straight vinegar and let it sit for 15 minutes before blotting.

Sprinkle baking soda over the vinegar for stubborn stains and vacuum it up after 15 to 30 minutes. The rubbing alcohol mixture mentioned above can be used for areas where you may worry about the carpet getting too damp, such as in a basement or enclosed bathroom with low ventilation.


Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.