When it comes to housekeeping, there’s nothing quite so lovely as the smell of clean. Clean is the absence of odors from animals, people, garbage, rot, mold, mildew, smoke, dirt, grease, and grime—not the presence of a potent 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, especially during the Holidays, I have some ideas for that too.
Deal with moisture
Moisture is the number one cause of household odors. 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!
Once a month, 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 an all-purpose cleaner—1 teaspoon blue Dawn to 2 cups water in a spray bottle is perfect.
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 air dry completely.
Bring in the fresh air
The easiest (and cheapest) way to freshen any space 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 cat’s 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. Just don’t go overboard.
One candle (maybe two) 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:
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 20 drops of your favorite essential oil
Add all ingredients to 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 religiously, every three months, right?), spread 20 drops of that essential oil on it. When the fan is running it will disperse the scent throughout the home.
This will have your home smelling great in no time at all. Fill a saucepan or your slow cooker about halfway with water. Add your favorite combination of great smelling ingredients including hearty herbs, fruits, and spices. Think orange and or lemon peel or slices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. This is not a specific recipe, scale it up or down as you desire. A place to start: About 1 teaspoon each of the spices for each cup of water; fruit, herbs, essential oils as desired.
For the saucepan
Allow the water to come to a boil and then reduce down to the lowest heat setting and simmer, with the lid slightly off or no lid at all,—adding water as needed to keep it from simmering away completely. Do not leave your simmer pot going when you leave the house!
For the slow cooker
The slow cooker doesn’t need much monitoring, you can continue to add water as the water evaporates and simply turn it off when you see the water is running low.
- Orange, sliced, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Rosemary sprigs, lemon slices, 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- Cranberries (frozen or fresh), orange slices, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon sticks
- Cranberries and cinnamon sticks
I prefer the slow cooker method because it gives me creative freedom, is fairly non-committal, and inexpensive because I don’t need to invest in essential oils.
Rather than dumping the mixture at the end of the day, I pour what remains in a mason jar and keep it in the fridge. It becomes the starter for the next day.
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