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How your home smells can affect how much you enjoy living in it. Positive smells can cheer you up and bring back good memories, while bad smells can dampen your mood or signal unclean conditions. Store shelves are filled with air fresheners and odor busters, but a fresh-smelling home doesn’t come from an aerosol can. Here are the most effective ways to help your home smell its best.

Eliminate the source

The most effective way to banish odor is always to remove the source. This can range from cleaning or throwing out specific items to scrubbing down entire surfaces or rooms that have attracted smells over time. Use these methods to attack unpleasant odors at their origin:

  • Regularly take out the trash, do the laundry, clean out the fridge and wash pets.
  • Sprinkle carpets with baking soda or carpet deodorizer, let the powder sit for several hours or overnight and then vacuum with several passes.
  • Vacuum or clean rugs, drapes, upholstery and mattresses according to their care instructions
  • Wash hard surfaces (including glossy/semi-gloss walls) with a mild cleaner that will not harm their finishes.
  • Use dry cleaning sponges to clean matte paint and wallpaper, discarding the sponges as they become soiled.
  • Clean appliances inside and out.

Ventilate and dehumidify

Funky smells thrive in conditions with poor ventilation and high moisture. Don’t indulge them. Keep air circulating and humidity down using these methods:

  • Take advantage of your home’s HVAC system or open windows when possible to circulate air.
  • Use vents to manage steam and moisture from cooking and bathing.
  • Keep doors open throughout the house when practical.
  • Consider adding a dehumidifier if areas of your home – like the basement – tend to stay humid (above 50% humidity).
  • Ensure your HVAC filters are replaced frequently, and consider using carbon filters for extra odor control.
  • If you don’t have an HVAC system with filtration, consider an air purifier with odor reduction capability.

Neutralize and cover

Masking or minimizing unpleasant odors only goes so far. However, if you’ve exhausted your other options, or you enjoy fragrances for their own sake, you may find these options worthwhile. Here some ways to knock down bad odors or introduce pleasant ones:

  • Boiling a pot of white vinegar is said to neutralize airborne odors, and the vinegar smell itself should dissipate relatively quickly.
  • Odor absorbers such as odor absorbing gels or bags of activated charcoal or cedar chips can counteract undesirable smells.
  • Scented candles, incense, wax or oil warmers, diffusers and air fresheners are all popular options for adding pleasing fragrances to the air, however, frequent use of some of these products may leave soot or a film on surfaces and even cause discoloration.
  • Fresh flowers, potpourri or simmering pots of citrus, vanilla or spices (e.g. cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg) are more-natural ways to impart pleasant scents to your living space.

If the methods above do not eliminate unpleasant odors to your satisfaction, consult with a professional cleaner. Once you’ve found the solutions that work for your home, keep up your good habits to maintain a fresh-smelling living space.