When it comes to housekeeping, there’s nothing quite so lovely as the smell of nothing. That’s the way clean is supposed to smell—like absolutely nothing!
Clean is the absence of odors from animals, people, garbage, rot, mold, mildew, smoke, dirt, grease, and grime—not the presence of spray fragrance on top of odors. Check out these simple ways to keep your home smelling clean and fresh. And for those who love a scent, I have some ideas for that too.
Deal with moisture
It’s the number one cause of household odors, according to cleaning expert Rachel Hoffman, author of Cleaning Sucks. If you suspect this may be the source of that sour smell when you walk into a room, wonder no more. Invest in an inexpensive hygrometer that measures specific humidity. Test every room including the basement and attic. If you discover humidity levels above 60%, consider using a dehumidifier.
If you live in a humid climate, avoid wall-to-wall carpet and rugs that can trap moisture, especially in bathrooms. Place moisture-absorbing crystals like Damp-Rid in closets and bathrooms. Don’t allow wet things like towels to sit in hampers for any length of time. Run sponges through the dishwasher at least every couple of days. Hang bath mats over the towel bar or shower rod following every use so they can dry out.
Address the obvious
The more time you spend around them, the less likely you may be to realize the offensive odors radiating from litter boxes, dog beds, animal accidents, trash and garbage cans, diaper pails, clothes hampers, pillows, and mattresses. You may have nose blindness known as sensory adaptation, according to Leslie Stein, Ph.D., director of science communications at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. Just because you can’t smell your stuff doesn’t mean your home smells clean and fresh. The longer you allow those odors to linger, the more difficult it will be to get rid of them.
Carpet, rugs, pillows, upholstery, bed linens, drapes, and curtains are magnets for dust, dirt, and funky smells. Once a spill dries or dirt and dust settle in, odor-causing bacteria find a home and that can lead to something even worse—mold and mildew. If you haven’t done this in a while, start by washing all of these items that can go through the laundry (pillows, blankets, bedding, curtains and so forth). You may need to call in professionals for big jobs like carpet and draperies. Invest in a gallon of Nok-Out then use it the way it is meant to be used!
Become proactive. Don’t wait once there’s a spill or accident, especially biological accidents such as urine and vomit. Clean it immediately with an enzymatic cleaner like Seventh Generation Natural Stain Remover Spray then follow with Nok-Out.
Once a month advises Melissa Maker of Clean My Space, deep clean the refrigerator. If you do that consistently, it’s super quick and easy! First, remove everything to a counter so you can see what you have. Next, throw out everything that’s past its prime. Give the inside of the fridge a thorough scrubbing with and all-purpose cleaner. Follow that with a second scrubbing using vinegar. If it’s still stinky, spray it down—even the vents—with Nok-Out, and do not rinse, allowing Nok-Out to dry completely.
Bring in the fresh air
The easiest (and cheapest) way to freshen any space, says Melissa, is to open the window. Let mother nature help out with those leftover cooking smells or lingering odors. If possible, open windows in opposite areas of the room or house to create cross ventilation. Even during the winter when it’s super cold outside, just cracking a window for a short period of time can make a huge difference.
Odor neutralizers can go a long way to create the lovely smell of nothing and keep your home smelling fresh and clean. Activated charcoal filters that hang from a hook or tossed in a drawer or cupboard are a great way to neutralize the air in bathrooms, closets, and other areas prone to stinky situations.
Don’t expect that fresh-baked-cookies scented candle to eliminate the odor coming from the litter box. That will only turn the smell of cat pee into cat pee with an overtone of fresh-baked cookies! But once you have achieved the smell of nothing (aka clean!), scented candles or essential oil diffusers can create a wonderful ambiance, especially during the Holidays. Just don’t go overboard. One (maybe two) candles can fragrance an entire home. Or one diffuser is likely all you need. Remember that sensory adaptation thing that could prompt you to over scent!
DIY home scent
Here’s a DIY air freshener you may want to try: Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, and 20 drops of your favorite essential oil in a small spray bottle. Shake well before every use. Lightly mist over carpet, upholstery, pillows, blankets, and clothes. Go easy to allow the mist to dry quickly.
The next time you replace your furnace filter (you do that every three months religiously, right?), spread 20 drops of that essential oil on it. When the fan is running it will disperse the scent throughout the home.
Want to introduce an autumn scent? Set a small pot of water to simmer on the stove or (or slow cooker set on low) to which you’ve added apple and lemon slices, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla. For Christmas: fresh cranberries, orange and apple slices, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, and a few small pieces of an evergreen tree!