Making Your Home Smell Nice

updated: 11/06/2024

Pump-up bottle and aroma sticks on a wooden board

While we dedicate significant time to ensuring our homes are visually appealing, catering to our other senses is equally crucial. A clean and aesthetically pleasing home is a great start, but the experience can be elevated by introducing pleasant scents that make the space more inviting and enjoyable.

Modern households are full of unpleasant smells. While the average household no longer reeks of animal manure and the like, as in days, our noses can be assaulted by various modern stenches. While there isn’t much we can do about the neighbour’s coal smoke or the fumes from a busy road nearby, we can do something about the other smells in the house.

What Is The Source Of Bad Smells?

Eliminating most odours is easy once you know where they are coming from. For example, a rotten piece of meat in the bottom of the fridge can be eliminated simply by throwing it out and applying some bleach to the area where it sat. Boxes of baking soda on the shelf will pull residual odours out of the air. The smell of mould or mildew in the bathroom most likely comes from the grout around the tub or tile and can be removed with bleach. The rule of thumb is if you can see it, you can eliminate it.

A woman lighting up a cigarette

Common sources of unpleasant smells in the house include cigarette fumes, coal smoke, cooking smells, dogs, and chemical smells (as you all have guessed, smells from the toilet). The first step in making your home attractive to the nose and the eye is eliminating these olfactory offenders. Quit smoking – you know it’s horrifically bad for you. Change from burning coal to using wood as fuel for the firewood smoke is a less unpleasant smell (some people even like it in small amounts), and the ash absorbs unpleasant smells, besides the fact that burning wood encourages the growth of managed wood lots, which is better in the larger scale of things regarding carbon emissions and greenhouse gases.

If you have pets, make sure that you keep them clean, too. Dogs, even short-haired ones, smell and need regular washing. Don’t let a dog sleep inside, especially not on the furniture, even if they are house-trained (obvious exception: if you have a tiny flat with no garden – but then, what are you doing with a dog?). Cats aren’t quite as smelly, but it is best if you don’t let them use a litter tray inside the house, as far as possible. If they do use a litter tray, use proper cat litter, as this is designed to absorb smells rather than dirt (awful) or wood ash (not too bad but not perfect, and it flies everywhere when the cats dig in it). Birdcages will need regular cleaning; mouse cages need cleaning at least twice a week to avoid that ghastly ammonia stink of mouse urine.

Try to eliminate strong-smelling chemicals. The worst offenders here are home cleaners, especially those based on chlorine or ammonia, which emit toxic fumes (the fumes are especially toxic if chlorine and ammonia are combined – never do this). Old-fashioned cleaning products such as baking soda, vinegar, soap and basic detergent give off fewer fumes. Moreover, baking soda is an odour-eater and absorbs strong smells, especially inside the refrigerator. Disinfectant is a mid-range offender. While it doesn’t smell unpleasant, too much around the house is reminiscent of hospitals and other medical establishments. It doesn’t make for a lovely, homely atmosphere, so use disinfectant only where necessary.

You probably don’t want to eliminate your beloved dog, and it is impossible to give up cooking or using the toilet if you want to stay alive and healthy. Also, even if you don’t smoke, you may own a house or furniture that was previously owned by a smoker and still contains traces of the smoke (this writer owns a second-hand sofa once owned by a smoker. Three years on, you can still detect tobacco in it if it gets warm). In this case, you must take positive action to prevent unpleasant smells.

How To Keep The Air At Home Fresh?

Fresh air plays a vital role in eliminating all these smells. Opening windows and using an extractor fan in the kitchen or bathroom removes the majority of stale or damp odours and aids in drying out damp areas. Most cooking smells are quite pleasant when fresh (think how delicious roast mutton smells), but if they linger, the smell can become stale. So, it’s important to keep fresh air circulating through the house while cooking and afterwards to allow the vapours to disperse. Fresh air also works wonders in toilets.

A woman sitting in bed, spraying some air freshener

Most people use an air freshener in the toilet. If you do not use one (for example, if you’re sensitive to the chemicals in air fresheners), lighting and burning a single match after using the toilet covers will absorb any stink.

To eliminate doggy smells in the house, wash your dog regularly. If possible, make sure your dog does not sleep on the furniture and sleeps outside. Regular vacuuming will help eliminate most of the doggy odour that comes with shed hair and skin particles.

Use an extractor fan when cooking, especially when cooking things like fish, as this goes a long way towards extracting lingering smells. However, not all cooking smells are unpleasant. While burnt fat and fishy oil are oppressive, baking, roast meat, spices and even fried onions (at least in my opinion) smell welcoming and homelike – at least while they’re cooking. Any cooking smell, however, can turn stale and unpleasant – fresh air helps here, of course.

But you also want to make sure your house has a positively pleasant smell rather than bland, scentless neutrality. You can choose from many ways of putting a positively pleasant smell into the house. Traditional methods such as potpourri and fresh flowers are lovely, as are using incense sticks, scented candles and aromatic oil burners. Aromatic oils can be used in other ways than just in a burner. Putting a few drops of fragrant oil on a vacuum cleaner’s filter or dust bag means the fragrance is released through the house as you vacuum. Some aromatic oil can make your scented drawer liners from plain kitchen towels or even photocopier paper. Dab a little on a cold light bulb: when the light is switched on, the glass will heat up and release the scent. However, “you get what you pay for” applies to aromatic oils. Natural aromatherapy oils are best, but very good quality synthetics are attractive. Cheap oils are usually cloying and rather nasty.

Most deodorisers eliminate odours by covering them up. Counteractants eliminate odours by removing them from the air by changing them on a molecular level; our noses can no longer detect them. A disinfectant removes odours at their source, which is why so many people use bleach on smelly spots in their homes.

But what to use where? In the bathroom, grapefruit or orange cleaners work best to break down the bacteria-causing smells around the toilet. As always, bleach is still the best disinfectant, and most people associate absolute cleanliness with the chlorine scent. Use lemon to eliminate odours and clean the kitchen, floral for the cigarette odour in the car, and after using an unscented enzyme killer on pet stains, light an oriental musky-smelling candle.

As usual, the best way to eliminate odours is to prevent them in the first place. Invest in good, strong trash bags and don’t overfill them. Use a smaller garbage can in the kitchen to take it out more often. Stay on top of mildew in the bathroom by getting a shower spray bottle full of tablespoon bleach mixed with water to spray down the walls of your shower after every use.

When it comes to scenting your home, it’s crucial to maintain a delicate balance. While a pleasant aroma can enhance the ambience, an overpowering scent can be overwhelming and even cause headaches. So, using scented products in moderation is best to achieve the desired effect and maintain a comfortable living environment.

Ten Ways To Eliminate Odours From Your Kitchen

1. The most basic way of all: open the window to let the fresh air in and the stale, bad-smelling air out. It’s surprising how few people try this straightforward method.

2. Burnt food is one of the most common sources of bad smells in the kitchen. To prevent these smells, clean beneath the elements on your stove top frequently or as soon as they look dingy (this job is made much easier if you line the dish-type thing under the aspect with tinfoil). Also, clean out any crumbs inside your toaster – this is quickly done by inverting your toaster over the sink and shaking the crumbs out. For goodness’ sake, unplug the toaster first. Both these methods will reduce the risk of kitchen fires and make your elements and toaster more efficient. If you need to clean a bit more thoroughly under the stove-top elements, use a paste of baking soda and water, rubbing off with a damp cloth or scrubbing with a soft bristle brush like a toothbrush to get off any stubborn bits.

Two women cooking in a kitchen

3. Don’t have carpet in your kitchen, as the kitchen is a “wet area” where spills happen frequently. If a fixed carpet gets wet, it can take ages to dry out, and this can cause rot and mould underneath if left for too long. If you must have rugs in the kitchen, make sure you can clean and dry them easily, and don’t put them down near the kitchen sink. Don’t put them near the oven, either, as loose rugs can cause trips and falls, potentially more dangerous if boiling water and hot elements are involved.

4. Cover food kept in the refrigerator, especially pungent stuff like cut onions and the more interesting types of cheese. If you don’t want to use lots of cling film (which isn’t the most environmentally friendly option), use airtight containers or even invert one bowl over another. Reuse old yoghurt, margarine, and ice cream containers for this purpose, but don’t hoard too many of these containers (an all-too-common trap).

5. Keep an uncovered saucer of baking soda inside the refrigerator. This will absorb other stray odours not kept away by Tip 4. Replace the baking soda periodically. Also, clean your fridge with baking soda for extra smell-eliminating power.

6. Compost all food scraps rather than putting them in the rubbish bin. Not only does this reduce waste, but if you empty the compost collection bin daily (a 4-litre ice cream tub or a retired salad bowl is a good size), the food scraps won’t start breaking down and stinking.

7. Clean lingering scraps from wooden chopping boards by applying a salt paste to the surface and scrubbing it hard. Rinse with warm or boiling water (the latter kills bacteria trapped in the wood).

8. Wipe the inside of bread bins and wooden cupboards (or any other wooden food storage device) with vinegar. Once the container has dried, place a sprig of rosemary or a few bay leaves inside to deter ants and silverfish.

9. Clean out the rubbish bin frequently, as even if you compost, the odd nasty will creep in and start stinking. Scrub out any metal or plastic bin with warm, soapy water, and sprinkle baking soda down the bottom to absorb the worst.

10. Don’t keep cat litter trays in the kitchen. Not only does this smell (even with the best kitty litter), but it is also very unhygienic. The laundry is a better place, or else the garage. If you have a garden, this is where your cats can “go.” The same applies to feeding cats—do this in the laundry or garage or by the back doorstep rather than in the kitchen.

Organic Recipes For Homemade Air Fresheners

Why should you opt for homemade air fresheners? One reason is that you will be sure they are 100% natural, as most of the recipes for homemade air fresheners suggest using natural ingredients. Another advantage is that you will save money. You will also notice that the homemade ones are even more effective than those in the stores. Furthermore, they are longer-lasting than the gels and sprays in supermarkets.

Mixing apple vinegar and water and spraying this solution in the air will eliminate cooking odours from the kitchen. Vanilla and clove extracts come in handy to make your bedrooms smell fresh. Drops of almond, lemon, peppermint, and coconut mixed with water and heated in the microwave will change how your home smells. Place a bit of the mixture in each room to fully satisfy the natural scent and feel the freshness right from the front door.

Essential oils are also widely used for air freshening. In addition to scenting your home, they can benefit your health and relax you.

With all those great ideas to prepare your natural air fresheners, you can freshen the air in your home and use them for different areas of your property. The smells in wardrobes, drawers, cupboards and kitchen appliances could be improved, reflecting the overall smell of your property. Taking care of the air at your house regularly will prevent the appearance of bad smells and will make it more welcoming and friendly.

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.