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Simple Ways to Keep Your Home Smelling Clean and Fresh

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.

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Deal with moisture

Moisture 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.

MORE: Best Inexpensive Home Dehumidifiers and How to Choose

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.

Soft surfaces

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

Once there’s a spill or accident—especially biological accidents such as urine and vomit—don’t wait! Clean it immediately with a good enzymatic cleaner, then follow with Nok-Out.



Once a month, Melissa Maker of Clean My Space, advises us to 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.

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.

Scented candles

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. 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: 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 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.


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10 replies
  1. Linda D Radosevich says:

    Thanks for the great hints! One thing I didn’t see was how to eliminate cooking odors from towels. Every time I cook with onions or garlic, I can smell them in my bath towel the next day! Any hints for this? Thanks!

  2. Dena says:

    I make my own “Fabreze” fabric/air freshener. Use a small to medium size squirt bottle, fill mostly with distilled or purified water, and add tablespoon or so of your favorite liquid fabric softener, mix well. Voile! You have a fabric safe spray for cloth furniture, clothes, pillows, babies bed, etc. at a fraction of the cost of Fabreze. Makes the whole house smell great! Great for musky spaces and car interiors too.

  3. Emily Booth says:

    All great suggestions! I use scented candles at meal times. It not only provides a lovely scent, the lighting of fire at meal times is, for some reason, comforting, especially in colder weather (but I do it year round). I buy Yankee Candles at TJ Maxx at a much lower price than on sale at department stores w/ a coupon. I also open windows even in winter (briefly). Using the Dawn/vinegar mix in the bathroom is wonderful for a fresh scent. When I had cats (2 then 1 and now 0), I cleaned their litter box 3X a day. Frequent cleaning helps reduce odors.

    • Gina Stevens says:

      I burned scented candles nightly until I noticed grayish shadowy streaks on the ceiling. A painter told me that was residuals from candle burning.

  4. Gina Stevens says:

    Mary, you’re the BEST. I recently purchased Nok Out and had a nice conversation with Ted at the Nok Out headquarters. He gave me a few tips and gave you tons of accolades! We’re both big fans. xxoo

    • Adele Warner says:

      Thanks to you I’ve been a long time user of Nok out and a great fan of yours. These are all good suggestions I will use.


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