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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Adhate

How to Get Your House Smelling Clean Before You Move

When you live in a house for a while, you do things, make things, or have things that, well, don't smell so great. And there's a lot of truth if you remember those Febreze ads from a few years back that mentioned being "nose blind." Growing up, we had cats and I never noticed an odor until I'd go back to visit my parents and get a whiff of cat/litter/dander. In addition, we cook, we have pets, we create garbage, we don't always clean as well as we should, we have plumbing, we have vents, and we even get stinkbugs in CT! So here are a few tips to getting rid of or neutralizing those less-than-ideal smells around your house (especially if you're selling!)

Get an Honest Friend

Ideally, one who smells nice :) But seriously, your best course of action is to ask a friend (who doesn't live with you) to tell you if your house smells. It's very easy to get used to the smells in our own homes, so it's helpful to know if others are picking up on something you just don't smell.

Stinky or Musty Basement

A great tip for almost any basement is to get a dehumidifier. This will pull out all the moisture from the floors and walls and ideally keep your basement fresh. This is especially good if your basement is partially or fully underground. If after a week or two there's no difference, you may want to consider there could be dampness or mold within the walls. At that point, you may want to check things out yourself or contact an inspector for help.

Animal Odors

  • Animal odors have a knack for lingering all over the house, especially on softer surfaces. Start by washing all of your linens, bedding, and blankets. Additionally, if they're washable, throw your curtains in the wash!

  • Sprinkle baking soda on your carpets, couches, and cushions, leave them for at least an hour, and vacuum in the morning. (If that doesn't work, rent a carpet steamer - Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot all rent them out).

  • Wash your pets! Cats aren't particularly stinky most of the time, but get the pup in the bath ASAP!

  • Switch out your litter box or the litter you use. Maybe there's another shape of box/dome or an odor-catching litter that would help.

  • Vinegar + water spray any areas that you can't throw in the wash or that are holding onto something smelly. Or purchase a product like one of these in case your dog or cat has accidents.

Kitchen Smells

  • Keep a bottle of baking soda or coffee grounds in your fridge

  • Empty your trash and rinse out the trash can itself - start with soap and water, wipe with a vinegar/water mixture and then leave some baking soda inside once it's dry.

  • Throw some ice and fresh lemon or orange pieces in your garbage disposal to neutralize odors. You can also purchase a product like this that you just throw inside.

  • To get rid of lingering food smells, boil some vinegar on the stove in addition to using soap and water to wipe down all the cabinets and wipes or countertop sprays on the counters.

Bedroom Smells

  • Wash all beddings and linens - dry clean larger items that don't fit in the washer or dryer. If possible, wash pillows too or sprinkle baking soda and use a dustbuster

  • Vacuum all rugs and carpets including vacuuming inside closets

  • Wipe down any other surfaces (night stands, dressers)

  • Use a gentle soap and water mixture to wipe down walls

  • If heavy smells remain, you may want to consider purchasing a new mattress, getting rid of carpets/rugs, or repainting your walls

Bathroom Smells

This duck has smelled EVERYTHING.

  • For the toilet, you can keep natural with adding a cup of vinegar and letting it sit for 5 minutes, then flushing

  • I'm a fan of the Clorox ToiletWand set up. You pop a disc on the wand and scrub the toilet, then toss the disc.

  • Throw your shower curtain in the wash (use a gentle setting with warm water and either detergent or vinegar) and hang it back up to dry. If your curtain liner has seen better days, purchase a new one for only about $10.

  • Wash all bath mats

  • Take off your shower head(s) and put in a mixture of vinegar and water for an hour, then wash off, hook back up, and run water through.

  • If you have a shower door, here's a homemade cleaner from the DIY network or the tried and true Windex

Cigarette/Tobacco Smoke

  • These smells are pretty persistent so you'd be better off calling a professional in here. You can try to get rid of carpets and paint your walls, but you may need more industrial cleaners.

Last Minute Fixes

  • Light a candle

  • Boil potpourri on the stove

  • Use an aerosol room spray (Febreze, Glade)

  • Open all the windows

  • Turn on a fan

  • Bake cookies (hey, you get to eat them later!)

  • Use a scented plug-in (Glade, Airwick, etc).

  • Offer everyone who comes in a clothespin to put over their nose

Hopefully this list will help get your home smelling more wonderful than you could have ever imagined (especially with your 2 dogs, sweaty teenager, and onion-filled recipes!)

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