10 Green Methods for Removing Bad Odors from Your Home

People try all kinds of things to quickly rid bathrooms of odors. There's are techniques to do it right—or make things worse.

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The Wrong Way

1. Lighting a match. Lighting a match, blowing it out, and waving the smoking stick around the toilet may mask smells, but it is temporary and dangerous and a little obvious to the next bathroom occupant (not to mention potentially dangerous if it is not disposed of properly).

2. Using Essential Oil. Adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a bowl of cotton balls or a wick device is only mildly effective at masking odors. If you go this route, stick to floral and citrus oils as they are perceived as “welcoming” and “clean” scents. for the bathroom. This is no place for musk, with its faint animal component, and even herb scents can be risky, due to the association with cooking and food. For some reason the human olfactory response is hard-wired to accept flowers and fruits as clean and welcoming in any environment, especially in bathrooms.

3. Lighting Candles. While they may look romantic, candles can mask smells but bathrooms are bad places to light candles as it’s likely they can be unattended for hours. Also, people have varying taste when it comes to what smells good and what is noxious. (Not everyone finds vanilla bean a delightful fragrance.)

4. Using Scented Spray. While these sprays can obliterate low-level, general bad smells, they are typically very strong smelling and could cause a negative reaction in people who are sensitive to perfumes and fragrances.

The Right Way to Go:10 ways to get bad smells out of your house.

1. Locate the source—and get rid of it! Masking smells with candles or scented spray is not going to quash bad smells for long. Determine whether smells are temporary (you just blackened salmon on your stove top) or a larger problem, such as mold, mildew, backdraft from a dirty chimney and create a plan to remove the offenders.

2. Cover temporary kitchen odors, like curry and fried clams. Turn on the range hood and open a few windows.

3. Wash away dishwasher smells. You probably never thought your dishwasher smelled bad, but if buildup in it isn’t removed, it can. Fill a glass dish with white vinegar, place it on the top rack, and run it through a cycle without any dishes. The vinegar may smell for an hour or so, but it will dissipate.

4. Eliminate bathroom smells with a good bathroom fan. The important point here is to get a strong, efficient fan that won’t clog or make excessive noise because then people won’t bother turning them on. Turn on the fan when you go into the bathroom so the air is already moving by the time any odors are introduced. When you leave the bathroom, leave the door ajar to provide makeup air for the fan to work quickly and effectively.

5. Get rid of washing machine mold smells. Do you have a front-load washing machine? The door on a front-loader seals so tight that air never circulates inside. This promotes the growth of mold and mildew. The cure is to run a cycle with only two cups of bleach and warm or hot water. Remember to leave the machine door open between washings.

6. Deodorize the fridge. Opening a box of baking soda and keeping it in the fridge isn’t an old-wives tale. It works. The box should be changed annually.

7. Tame pet odors. Activated charcoal, which is a form of carbon that has been "activated" to make it extremely porous, is great for absorbing a range of odors, especially those caused by pets. You can buy activated charcoal specifically designed for pet odors; put them in or near your litter box to help mitigate smells.

8. Keep your garbage disposal citrusy clean. Cut a lemon, lime or orange into chunks and drop them into the running disposal. The citrus will get rid of most odors. For stronger smells, follow up with half a cup of white vinegar with cold water.

9. Rub out urine and bacteria smells in carpet. Vinegar is highly acidic, which enables it to kill bacteria and also remove urine smells. Mix one part vinegar with three parts water and rub it on the carpet with a cloth. Then rinse the carpet with water and let it air dry.

10. Whisk away food smells. Even when the food you cook is on the bland, its smell can permeate your house. You become used to the smell, but visitors may find it off-putting. Spicy and fried food smells can become ingrained in your cabinets. Combat this by washing them periodically with warm water and soap—and for heaven’s sake, run your range hood!