Every home has a unique scent. In a recent Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab consumer survey, most told us they want their homes to smell fresh and clean for family and guests, yet some houses — we hate to say it — smell better than others. No matter how clean you keep your house, there are all kinds of odors that develop naturally, especially when you factor in the inevitable pet mess, overflowing trash can, cooking and food aromas and smelly shoes and boots. Although some odors require real elbow grease and patience to eradicate (like, ya know, when your pup decides your carpet is a bathroom), there are many ways to easily freshen up your home’s air on a regular basis.
We turned to top interior designers and our GH Cleaning Lab experts to get their best tips on how to make your home smell great, tackling everything from grimy microwaves to musty closets. While you may be tempted to burn a few fragrant candles for a quick aroma fix, work your way down this list of other effective options — both commercial products and natural options — to deodorize your house from top to bottom, starting with the stinky garbage disposal in your kitchen sink.
Clean your garbage disposal.
Notice a stale stink in your kitchen? If so, check the sink. It could be the garbage disposal. “To get rid of the odor in your garbage disposal, squeeze a dollop of lemon-scented dish soap down into the disposal, run the water, then turn it on,” says interior designer Keita Turner. You can also grind lemon or lime rind slivers through the disposal, followed by lots of water. If the smell persists, pour a 1/2 cup of baking soda into the garbage disposal while running warm water. Our GH Cleaning Lab Executive Director, Carolyn Forte, recommends cleaning under the disposal’s splash guard with a small brush to remove bits of debris that get stuck there. Commercial disposal cleaners — like CLR Fresh & Clean Garbage Disposal Cleaner, a GH 2021 Best Cleaning Product Award winner — are foam-producing packs that you simply drop in and activate with water to clean and freshen.
Refresh carpets and rugs.
Unlike tile and hardwood floors, plush carpets — and all soft surfaces — trap and hold onto odors, even after you’ve tackled food spills and pet messes. To remove them, sprinkle baking soda on the entire carpet. Gently work it into the pile in the problem areas with a brush and let sit for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or two before vacuuming. Be sure to clean your vacuum’s dust cup and filter beforehand or put in a clean bag for the best suction and pickup. This same method works for pet beds and mattresses.
Spruce up your trash can.
It’s no surprise that with the combination of food scraps, leftovers and other garbage your trash can holds, it emits an unpleasant stench. An easy way to help freshen it is to sprinkle baking soda into it when you replace the liner or layer in a little baking soda on top of the trash as it accumulates. Or, place a deodorizing pack or pod, like Fresh Wave, under the can’s liner. Wash both sides of the lid and around the rim where stinky debris splashes and accumulates, and finish by using a disinfecting spray to kill remaining odor-causing bacteria.
Simmer herbs and fruit on the stove.
“I learned this from my crafty and cleaning-obsessed mother,” says interior designer Rhobin DelaCruz. “Simmer water in a small saucepan and add citrus slices and herbs, like lavender or mint.” The steam carries the sweet scent throughout your house, and the combo can easily be customized depending on what ingredients you have on hand.
Scatter candles throughout your house.
Candles are an obvious option to fill your home with an aroma that you love, but strategic placement is a simple way to increase their efficiency. “Anchor a few candles where you would least expect them to be — but don’t light them,” says interior designer Dee Murphy. “Try the linen closet or anywhere fabrics might live and be able to absorb the scent. Not only do you get a nice surprise every time you open the door, but your linens will carry the aroma with them wherever you use them.”
Bring the outside in.
“Indoor plants clean the air while instantly beautifying your home,” says Turner. Many plants, including jasmine, eucalyptus and gardenias, offer pleasant fragrances too. Just make sure you’re prepared to care for them.
Freshen up your air vents.
“Clip a car deodorizer, like this one from Febreze, to air conditioning and heating vents’ metal slats,” says DelaCruz. “As the air blows through, the scent will waft throughout the room.” That way, you can give your whole house a uniform scent in one fell swoop.
Deodorize with dryer sheets.
Think beyond the laundry room: “Place a few dryer sheets in closets, dressers or other small spaces,” says DelaCruz. It gives everything a fresh-out-the-laundry scent even if it’s been stowed away for months. GH Seal Star Bounce Wrinkle Guard Mega Sheets are oversized for extra freshness.
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