You might spend hours and hours cleaning your home (We can help with that), only to take a deep breath when you finish and realize that while your home may be spotless, there is some kind of odor that makes your spotless home feel a little….dirty.
House cleaning is one part science and one part art, and we’re here to dish on all the secrets of our trade for making your home smell as clean as the day it was built.
Pesky odors might come from any number of sources: burned food, cigarettes, pets, mildew, or even a past house fire. As it turns out, the reason that these odors are so hard to get rid of is that they are very ‘sticky’ compounds at the molecular level. And if you have been cooking with grease or oils, those substances can trap odors even more!
So, if you enjoy a good hot chicken sandwich or bacon breakfast like I do, the first step to a proper house cleaning in Cleveland is to ensure that you do, in fact, have a clean house. It might seem a bit obvious, but hunting down those hidden greases and oils that may be trapping odors is one of the most commonly missed parts of house cleaning.
Above microwaves, inside exhaust fans, and other less-than-obvious locations buildup all kinds of gunk that might be contributing to your lingering smell. Cleaning out all of these areas with a good grease-busting cleaner will be your first step to a fresh-smelling home.
The next step will be removing any other potential sources of less-than-fresh odors: throw away cigarette butts, damp paper, old newspapers, and any garbage that may be sitting around.
From here, you have a whole list of potential house cleaning tricks that will help you get those tough odors out, wherever they may be hiding. Read on for our list of 48 tips (organized as larger umbrella themes with sub-tips below each) that will leave your house smelling as fresh as the day it was built.
Air It Out
Sometimes a little fresh air is the best way to get those funky odors out of your Cleveland home. Stale air can pick up all kinds of smells and just exchanging it for a little fresh air can work wonders.
- Cross Ventilate
- Set up a couple of fans in our house, open all the windows, and let it go for an hour. This will help move some fresh, clean, air into your home and get rid of the old stale air. If you are trying to get odors out of something like a shirt, then taking it outside for a little sunlight will also help to break down the odor molecules that are clinging to it.
- Lay Fabric Over a Radiator
- The concept here is similar to the previous house cleaning strategy, a little heat and moving air can go a long way to eliminating odors from smaller fabric items like blankets or clothing (But be sure to keep an eye on it, we don’t want to cause a fire hazard!)
- Low/No Heat in Dryer for 20 Minutes
- This is another variation on the previous strategies. For larger items like a blanket, this might be the best strategy during those long midwest winters. You can optionally also add a dryer sheet and a damp washcloth if the odor is particularly resilient. (This is a great strategy to use on bed linens anyway to keep them wrinkle-free and smelling great!)
Odor Eliminating Spray
When the item is too large to move, or you just want to do some regular cleaning maintenance once you have rid an item of pesky odors, then a regular odor eliminating spray might be your best bet. Even better, you can buy these from the store or make them at home with pet and child-safe ingredients.
- ‘Nuff said.
- 50/50 Vinegar/Water
- Mix the two in a spray bottle with 20-30 drops of essential oil to make a great odor-busting house cleaning spray that is safe to use on just about anything. You can also use this to wipe down all hard surfaces including fan blades, light fixtures, and picture frames that might get overlooked.
- Homemade Febreze Alternative #1
- For those who want something with fewer chemicals or are looking for a green house cleaning solution, try this recipe: 1oz vodka or witch hazel, 3oz rose water, 5 drops of your favorite essential oil, and 5 drops tea tree essential oil. Mix in a spray bottle and spray the affected item. Toss the item in the dryer on low for 10 minutes or allow to dry in the sun to really eliminate the odor.
- Homemade Febreze Alternative #2
- For another green house cleaning option, try: 3 tsp your favorite essential oils (sweet orange/jasmine/ylang-ylang is a great combo), 12oz distilled water, 2tsp rubbing alcohol, spray bottle. Like above, spray down the smelly item and let it dry.
- Peroxide and Water Spray
- This is a little more hard core than the previous green house cleaning options, but still safer than some of the store-bought chemicals. Just make sure to check that your fabric can handle it!
Baking soda is a magic house cleaning product. It absorbs odors, can help you scrub tough stains, and is perfectly harmless to most household items. Most of the following suggestions work on the idea that the baking soda will absorb the odor and then you can air out the item or wash it to get rid of the baking soda residue.
- Just Plain Baking Soda
- Put the affected item in a large plastic bag with 1/2c of baking soda. Let it sit overnight then shake it off and tumble on low/no heat (or just brush off excess baking soda if not an item that can be dried)
- Make a Paste
- 2 teaspoons baking soda to 1teaspoon of water. Apply this to the smelliest area of the item, let it dry, then brush off and wash as normal.
- Make a Solution
- A couple tablespoons of baking soda diluted in water, put in a spray bottle, spray on the item and let it dry. Brush off with damp cloth then put both in the dryer.
- Add to the Wash
- Add 1 cup of baking soda to your normal machine wash or ½ cup to your hand wash. Use the warmest water that the affected item will tolerate to really open up the fibers.
- Sprinkle on Carpets or Fabrics
- Sprinkle some baking soda directly on the affected fabric, carpets, or clothing and let it sit for a few days. Follow this up with a vacuum or steam clean to remove the baking soda and whisk away any lingering odors.
- Set Open Bowls Around Your Home
- Fill several small bowls with some baking soda and set them around your home in areas that have odors. Let them sit for a few days and then throw them away. This is great because it can be used any time you want, without any mess, and no clean up afterward. We like to do this a day or two before guests come over to make sure that our Cleveland home smells as clean as it looks.
These little guys are great for more than just throwing in the dryer to soften your clothes. Pack them in your suitcase, seal them with your winter clothes, or even rub them on yourself if you need a quick freshening up before a big meeting. Dryer sheets are one of the secret weapons of a great house cleaner.
- Seal in a Bag
- Place the item in a large bag with 1-2 dryer sheets, seal it, and let sit for 2-3 days. When you re-open the bag you’ll have fresh, odor-free clothing that is ready to wear. (You can also do this with your suitcase so you have clean clothes when traveling!)
- Rub Over Your Hair
- One place that you probably don’t think about when considering pesky home odors is your own (or your pet’s) hair. Body oils are a perfect medium for odors to stick to. Rub a clean, unscented, dryer sheet over your hair for a quick fix while out until you can wash properly with shampoo.
Steam is another of those natural wonders that is brilliant for getting odors out of your home and is safe for just about everything that you may need to be cleaning.
- Normal Steam Clean
- You can either use a formal steam cleaner for things like carpet or furniture, or you can hang affected clothing in your bathroom with the shower on high for a cheap alternative. Great for keeping dry clean only items fresh between cleans.
- Water/Rubbing Alcohol Solution
- Steam cleaning alone won’t fix every odor that’s out there. Using a 3:1 distilled water to rubbing alcohol solution in your steamer will help to dissolve and eradicate the more tough household odors from your items.
- Hit the Walls and Carpets
- Try steam cleaning carpets and walls if you are going after something particularly resilient, like cigarette smoke. If the odor comes back after cleaning carpets, it may have permeated the pad under the carpet and need to be replaced.
Vinegar is another green house cleaning product that has been around forever, but many folks just haven’t thought about it when looking for house cleaning tips for odors. The great thing is that it is super cheap and totally safe around children and animals.
- Vinegar + Essential Oil Pre-Soak
- For clothing or items that can be washed, try 1c vinegar plus a few drops of your favorite essential oil in a 60 min pre-soak, then wash as directed. Your items will smell like vinegar for a bit when done but then it will dissipate and take the odors with it. You can also add Borax or lemon juice to the soak for some additional cleaning power.
- Make a Spray
- For larger items that can’t go in the wash, try a 50/50 water/vinegar mixture in a spray bottle. Spray down the item and let it air out. You can also use this for glass and mirrors.
- Set Open Bowls Around Your Home
- Just like with baking soda, you can fill several small bowls and place them around your home to absorb any lingering home odors. Let it sit overnight and then toss the vinegar and ventilate well. The ventilation part isn’t for health reasons, it’ll just smell like you’ve been making pickles for a while if you don’t…
- Simmer It!
- Oh yes. We’re going there. If you have a lot of general airborne odors that you just can’t get rid of, try simmering a pot of vinegar on the stove for 1-2 hours then ventilate. It’s going to be pretty pungent at first, but it’ll neutralize the home odors. Maybe don’t try this one RIGHT before a guest comes over.
Scent Booster Products
There are many on the market and they are great for getting things like body odor out of clothing and bedding. Mrs Meyers, Gain, and Downy are three brands that I can think of right off the top of my head that all work wonders for the everyday household odors. Just follow the instructions on the labels, but in general you just throw a bit into the wash or dry cycle of your laundry. Obviously this only works for items that can fit in your washer.
Have you used lemon juice to clean your home? Many people overlook it for house cleaning or odor elimination because it isn’t quite as common as things like vinegar or baking soda, but being another mild acid can do wonders for odor elimination.
- Add it to the Wash
- Try adding 1/2c to your normal wash cycle. In addition to using lemon juice to get rid of odors, it can also help brighten your colors!
- Lemon Paste
- For items that can’t go in the wash, try making a paste of ⅓ cup lemon juice and ⅓ cup of salt. Apply this paste to musty areas, let it soak in, then scrub with a cloth or old toothbrush. Finally, vacuum or wash off with a damp cloth to get rid of the paste and the odor with it.
Vodka can work just like lemon juice and vinegar to remove odors from fabrics. As a light solvent, it can get into the fabric and dissolve the odor molecules, then as it evaporates it carries the odors away with it. I don’t recommend using the top shelf stuff for this home cleaning trick though!
- Put it in the Wash
- Try adding ½ cup of vodka into the wash with your normal load of laundry. The vodka should act as a solvent, while your normal laundry detergent takes care of everything else.
- Make a Spray
- For larger items or things that cannot be washed, try diluting 1½ cups of vodka with ½ cup of water in a spray bottle. Spritz the offensive fabric and let it air out. This is a great trick for clothing that has picked up body odor (parents of teenagers-take note!) because the alcohol will kill the bacteria causing the odor and then evaporate and take odor with it. Try pairing with drying the garment in sunlight for an extra boost in efficacy!
Similar to the scent booster products above, these are an additive that you add to your normal wash cycle. Different than the previously mentioned products, these focus on eliminating the odors rather than covering them up. When a particularly strong odor is hanging around, you’ll need something with a little extra ‘oomph’ like these options.
- OdoBan is a particularly strong wash additive that claims to kill 99.9% of odor-causing germs and eliminate several types of odors that may be clinging to your clothing. Since this one is specifically formulated for heavy-duty odors, it’s a good bet for larger jobs.
- Febreze Odor Eliminator
- This is a newer wash additive entrant to the market. They are exactly what they sound like, an odor eliminating additive from Febreze that you add to your normal laundry cycle. We love Febreze for normal house cleaning usage, so it’s natural that we’d also recommend trying their wash additive.
Did you know that Coca-Cola can break down oil and grease particles that trap odors in fabrics? It’s true. And since it is designed for consumption, it is also safe to use on skin and around pets. The acid in the beverage is what works the magic to eliminate odors, but you also have to be careful that you don’t cause a stain due to the dyes and sugar, so it’s best used for spot treatments. Just dab a little on the affected area and then wash as normal.
As it turns out, apples are great at absorbing scents. And, of course, they are perfectly safe to leave around the home without any risk to your or your loved one’s health. Just place some apple halves around the home in areas that you want to smell a little fresher and then leave overnight. Be sure to clean up the next day or you’ll have a fruit fly swarm!
Coffee grounds are another great household item that you can use to help absorb unwanted scents from your home. Just place some unused, fresh grounds in a bowl, drape the fabric that you want odor-free over the top of the bowl and let it sit overnight. But be careful with this one – don’t let the fabric touch the grounds or it could stain!
You may have heard about activated charcoal for helping to reduce hangovers by absorbing alcohol, but did you know that it also works for absorbing odors? Same principle. The activated charcoal will suck up and foul smells, leaving the affected item smelling clean and odor-free.
- Briquettes in a Bag
- Place a few briquettes of activated charcoal in a paper bag and then place the fabric that you want odor-free over top. Like with the previous tip, don’t let the fabric touch the charcoal directly or you may end up with a stain. Toss the charcoal and give the item a good wash.
- Put it in a Bowl
- Like the apple trick above, place bowls of activated charcoal in rooms that you want smelling cleaner overnight and then toss. Perfectly safe for houses with pets or children and not going to cause any problems if accidentally knocked over.
Odor-Absorbing Cat Litter
Another house cleaning trick that most people overlook, using odor-absorbing cat litter around the house can be a life saver if you have lingering scents that you just can’t seem to get rid of. Placing some clean litter around the house in large bowls can be just the trick for trapping pesky odors. Let them sit out overnight and then toss when the odor is gone. Be sure to get an unscented litter, otherwise your house will smell like a crazy cat person lives there! (You can also try sprinkling some over top carpets or furniture that has trapped odors. Let it sit overnight and then vacuum up.)
Bacteria is one of the leading causes of funky smells in fabrics. Most commonly, this is what you’re smelling if you have a piece of clothing that you worked out in once and it never smelled the same again. Since regular wash cycles don’t get hot enough to kill some kinds of bacteria, they linger and multiply. Try placing your item in the freezer overnight to kill the bacteria and then let it dry out in the sun or on a low dry cycle. This is also a great trick for fabric that has picked up a mildew smell if you are in a more humid climate. (I know one guy who swears by this trick and claims he hasn’t washed his jeans in a year.)
Add a few large wool balls to a dryer load with any smelly clothing. Run it on a no-heat setting for 10 minutes to absorb the odors. It’s great for freshening the scent of clothing and as a bonus is a natural fabric softener. Try adding a couple of drops of essential oil to the balls 20 minutes before use to add a fragrance if desired.
That’s right. Plain old newspaper can be a great house cleaner trick for absorbing unwanted smells. Place some newspaper flat against the fabric or balled up with clothing in a large plastic bag and leave overnight. Throw it away in the morning. While not quite as powerful as some of the other options, there is a very low risk of damaging the item that you’re trying to clean. (This is also great for getting foot odor out of shoes.)
Clean Your Hardwood
Hardwood floors aren’t usually at the top of the list when thinking about where odors might be hiding, but the porousness of the wood is a prime location for scents to cling to. Use your favorite hardwood floor cleaner (our favorites are diluted lemon or vinegar from above) to get surface scents out of wood flooring. If the odor is really persistent (like cigarette or wood smoke), you may need to strip and resurface the flooring to completely get rid of the scent.
Scrub Your Tile
You may or may not know this, but the grout around your tile is another area that odors can penetrate and hang on to. Since most tile is in locations that get damp, such as bathrooms or kitchens, they are prime for growing mold or mildew that cause musty odors in your home. Use a stiff bristle brush or sponge with a scrubbing pad to get into the nooks and crannies, and use 9 parts water to 1 part chlorine-free bleach or 50/50 water and vinegar to neutralize the odors.
For homes that have very strong or persistent odors, you may need to call in the heavy guns. Ozone generators usually require hiring a professional, but they are worth every penny for large or difficult jobs. Because you will need to vacate your home or car during treatment, we recommend reserving this for only the most difficult jobs. Many car rental agencies use ozone treatments to clean their cars after they have been smoked in, so it’s a tried and true method for things like cigarette or wood smoke.
This one might seem obvious, but an air purifier with HEPA filter or activated charcoal can go a long way to helping remove airborne odors that may be flying around your home. This method is on the lighter-duty side of things, so we recommend using it more as a prevention than a cure when it comes to home odors. Use the strategies that we’ve outlined above to get your Cleveland house clean, and then set up some kind of filtration system to keep it that way.
Replace Your HVAC Filters
HVAC filters are a very common location for funky smells to enter your home. The fabric of the filter catches anything that might be in the air and then provides a great breeding ground for mold or mildew to take hold – especially in the summer when it is humid outside. Then come winter, when your home is closed up and you turn on the heat, out comes all the funky mildew smell. (Check out our full article on dealing with mold and mildew in Cleveland) Along with replacing your HVAC filters, you may also want to hire a professional to do a deep clean of your full ductwork.
You probably didn’t think that a dehumidifier could be a house cleaning trick for reducing odors, did you? Well this a ‘prevent the cause’, rather than ‘treat the symptom’ situation. Regularly using a dehumidifier in your Cleveland home helps to prevent bacteria and mildew from growing in the first place, thus preventing the source of common odors from being present in the first place.
Simmer Some Acids
First, let’s get one thing straight about this tip: Do not go out and throw any old acid on the stove. Acids are dangerous and can hurt you if handled improperly. What we’re talking about is simmering some vinegar or lemon peels in water for about 20 minutes to neutralize airborne scents. Essentially, we’re using vinegar or lemon on the air rather than on a hard surface like in previous tips. While the vinegar or lemon are simmering, you may want to move to another area of the house as it may make your eyes water. And definitely be sure to ventilate your home very well once you are done.
Like grout and wood floors, paint is porous. This makes it very tough to get clean since you don’t know if the odor is in the surface layer or another layer of paint below the top layer. You can try to dissolve the odor with an ammonia solution (below), but you may find that it is easier and takes much less time in the long run to just use an odor-sealant primer and then repaint.
This is the nuclear option. It will most certainly get rid of the toughest odors, but it’s much more harsh than the other options here and will necessitate a little ventilation after using. A particularly tough odor that many older houses in Cleveland are affected by is stale cigarette smoke which can permeate everything from the walls to the carpets.
One of the tried and true strategies to get rid of this smell is to use 1/2c ammonia, 1/2c baking soda, 1/4c white vinegar, and 1 gallon hot water to make a solution and scrub your walls and ceiling. This can also be used on hard surfaces like countertops where odors can cling. After cleaning, be sure to ventilate your home thoroughly and whatever you do, DO NOT mix this with bleach.
On Incense, Candles, Oil Diffuser, etc
Most people usually try things like burning candles or incense when they are faced with an odor in their home that they can’t locate. The problem with these methods is that they just cover up the odor, they aren’t actually getting rid of it – even with the plethora of candles that claim to be odor-blocking! In the long run, it’s always a better idea to try and locate the source of the odor and eradicate it, rather than endlessly buying candles and oil diffusers.
Sometimes, however, we’ll admit that you just can’t find the source of a stubborn home odor and you have to throw in the towel. In these cases, we recommend dabbing a few cotton balls with vanilla extract and strategically locating them around the home. This will help to mask any lingering odors without causing any health concerns to you, your family or your pets.
Odors in your home can be bad for your health, decrease your home’s value, or just be embarrassing when guests come to visit, so it’s worth the effort to try every trick possible for getting rid of the smells. Whether you are fighting a lingering bar smell in your favorite jacket, or some stale cigarette smoke that has taken hold in your home, knowing the best tips and tricks from Cleveland house cleaners are your best bet for winning the fight. We hope that this article will help you eliminate any stubborn household odors.
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