How to banish odours from your home

A man smelling something stinky in his house

You don’t normally notice the smell of your house when you’re in it, but most of us have occasionally walked in after being out and thought, ‘What’s that awful smell?’

Unpleasant odours are often connected to pets, cooking, damp or mould, or even simple uncleanliness. But if you smell them, any guests will too.

Luckily, there are plenty of practical commonsense measures and clever tricks you can use to keep your home smelling fresh and inviting.

Natural health expert and chemist Dr Tim Bond says: “Keeping the home smelling fresh is important.

“Focus on the obvious things like cleaning out and washing rubbish bins, particularly food waste bins, clean your fridge regularly and throw out any food either turning mouldy or past its use-by date.

“Wash pet beds, bed linen, spills on carpets, and open windows through the house for five to 10 minutes – no more than that because you want to reduce the risk of outdoor polluted air.

“Tackle any dampness in your home too. The quality of indoor air, including its smell, is important for health.”

But don’t overdo it with the chemical cleaners, he warns. “You don’t necessarily want an overpowering chemical smell when you walk through the door. This doesn’t tell anyone that your house is fresh and clean. Instead, you want a sense of freshness and relaxation in your home, which can be achieved with natural freshener.”

Social media influencer Lynsey Crombie has plenty of advice on how to get your home smelling nice – but she stresses the simple and obvious ones are among the best.

“Windows open is a big one for me,” she says. “Some people just don’t like having their windows open, which is fair enough, but it’s the best thing – and taking the covers off cushions and throws and washing them once or twice a month if you’ve got the time can help keep your home smelling nice.

“But the best thing to do to keep your house smelling fresh is just to keep it clean.”

Here are Ms Crombie’s tips for keeping unwanted odours away.

1. Use vinegar to banish cooking smells

“If you’ve cooked fish or a curry or something like that, and you’re struggling to get those smells out with just fresh air, boil up a small amount of white vinegar on the hob, let that into the air, and that’ll break down any cooking smells,” she says.

2. Onions eliminate odours

Another tip for dealing with cooking or even decorating smells is harnessing onion power. “Just cut an onion in half, pop it in the corner of the room and let it soak up the smell,” Ms Crombie advises. “You’ll notice that in the morning the onion will have shrivelled a bit because it will have soaked up the odours. It doesn’t make the room smell of onion either – it smells for a short period, but that soon disappears.”

3. Vigorous vacuuming

Regular vacuuming to get pet hair and bits out of your carpet is really important, stresses Ms Crombie.

4. Bring out the bicarb

“I do a homemade fabric refresher, rather than buying one,” says Ms Crombie. “It’s just a spray bottle filled nearly to the top with tap water, a spoonful of bicarbonate of soda and 20 drops of your favourite essential oils. Once that’s made up, it will last you three months. Bicarb, and white vinegar, are the best things ever.”

5. Spray on some vodka

Ms Crombie promises that if your clothes smell for some reason, a spritz of vodka will lift the odour out of the fabric as the alcohol evaporates. “Spraying your clothes with vodka if they smell is an old trick, but it does work,” she says. “Tips from the olden days are the best ones, and I’d vouch for the vodka one, definitely.”

6. Dry shampoo for smelly shoes

If it’s shoes that are making the house smell, all you need is the help of a spot of dry shampoo, advises Ms Crombie. “If you’ve got smelly shoes, pop a bit of dry hair shampoo in them to freshen them up – that keeps your shoe cupboard smelling nicer too.”

7. Toilet roll tip

“In your bathroom, a few drops of essential oil on the cardboard tube of your toilet roll will keep your bathroom smelling nice,” promises Ms Crombie, who says the oil will need refreshing once a week, or when you put in a new toilet roll.

8. Eliminate dog odours with tomato sauce

Most dog owners know that if their furry friend rolls in fox poo, which they seem drawn to, it stinks to high heaven. “It’s disgusting,” groans Ms Crombie. “But if it’s making the house smell, what my mum does is she rubs her dog in tomato sauce and washes it off, and the smell just goes. My mum swears by it – she’s just as clean freaky as I am, and if she does it, it’ll work. There must be something in tomato sauce – I use it for cleaning off rust too.”

9. Simple solutions for smelly dogs

Ms Crombie says she gets lots of messages from people wanting to know how to stop their dogs making the house smell, and advises: “If you keep a pretty clean ship, you won’t notice their smell. Wash their beds and blankets regularly too – when I wash my dog’s blanket she hates me and gives me the most evil look, and then she watches it in the washing machine as if to say, ‘Don’t clean my blanket!’ – but we have to clean them. And even their little soft toys that they play with, I put them in the washing machine, and the plastic ones in the dishwasher.”

10. Lemon in the bin

Ms Crombie says she uses a lot of lemons for cleaning, and then “I put them in the bin to keep it smelling fresh – I just put whatever’s left of the lemons, even just the skin, in there”.

11. Coffee or bicarb for the fridge

“You can put coffee grains in the fridge, to help absorb the smells in there, but I put a dish with bicarb in near the back instead,” says Ms Crombie. “I change that every Friday on my ‘Fridge Friday’.”

Do you use any of these tips? Do you have any of your own? Why not share them in the comments section below?

Read: Cleaning tips our grannies taught us

– With PA

Written by Lisa Salmon

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