Common Odors in the Home and What You Can Do About Them
Some odors in the home are simple nuisances. Some, however, can be significant health or safety hazards. Certain smells can be handled by an air purifier, while others require thorough cleaning.
Understanding the different smells, and knowing what to do about them, can help you have a more pleasant house. It can also give you healthier, and safer, living conditions!
Smelly Trash ContainerTrash cans, especially the one in your kitchen, can become a significant source of odor. With old food, vegetable trimmings, apple cores, coffee grounds, and many other materials, the trash container quickly becomes the most pungent place in your home.
What you can do about it...Keeping the trash can from become a source of household odor takes a little diligence and routine cleaning. Having a trash can with a lid is a good start, but this only masks the smells, it doesn’t prevent them. Whenever you take out the trash, give your can a rinse with hot soapy water, remove any smelly bits that may be hiding underneath. Leave it to dry so moisture won’t cause mold and leave a couple fabric softener sheets in the bottom before putting in the next trash bag. Keeping things clean are a key to most household cleaning tips.
Musty, Moldy SmellsIf you have a musty smell in the home, it’s likely caused by mold. Mold is not just an annoying smell, it can also be a significant health hazard, especially if your house has anyone with respiratory issues. Mold thrives in wet, dark, cool areas, which makes a basement ground zero for most household mold infestations.
What you can do about it...Mold is often caused by moisture, so removing dampness from the air with a dehumidifier is a good strategy. This is a preventative measure, however, so if you have moisture already in the home, you’ll need to take a few steps to remove it. You can clean most molds with household cleaning solutions, including bleach or vinegar mixed with water. There are also chemicals made specifically for removing mold, but if the problem is severe, or you had significant water damage, you may need professional mold-removal services.
Pungent MicrowavesThe microwave makes cooking easy, but this handy appliance can begin to smell like all those old meals and snacks you’ve reheated over the past month. Between last weekend’s leftover chili and last night’s instant popcorn, the microwave can easily make your kitchen smell.
What you can do about it...The first step, like any odor-prevention, is proper use. Make sure all items have lids to prevent food and grease from painting the walls of your microwave and clean any spills immediately after warming food. You can also leave an open box of baking soda in the microwave, which will absorb smells as items are heated.
Smelly Cats and DogsPet owners can’t imagine life without their furry friends, but if your animals have an odor like that wet dog smell, it can make living with them unbearable. Dogs and cats don’t usually stink, but with time any pet can develop an odor.
What you can do about it...Keeping a pet clean can take a lot of effort. Regular washing, however, is a simple and effective way to keep your pets from becoming an odor nuisance. Bathing your animal with soap and shampoo designed for animals can help them stay healthy, while allowing you to live a life free of irritating pet odors.
The Smell of GasThere is a reason that household gas smells like rotten eggs: it’s made to. Left alone, the gas we use to cook our meals and warm our houses is completely odorless. For this reason, manufacturers add a small amount of mercaptan, a chemical that has a sulfurous, rotten-egg stench.
What you can do about it...If you smell gas, you could have a serious emergency that could result in an explosion. Leave the house immediately and call emergency services from a safe distance, using either your mobile device or a neighbor’s phone. Do not call from inside the house, and do not turn any appliances on or off before leaving the home.
Sewer SmellsProbably one of the most unbearable smells you can have in your home, gas from sewers is not just annoying, it’s also a health hazard. Sewer gas contains potentially explosive components, including hydrogen sulfide and methane. If your house smells like a sewer pipe, one of the causes could be a bathroom that is not used often, such as a downstairs guest bathroom. Water in u-pipes, which blocks smells, can evaporate if the room is not used, giving sewer gas a free path to your home.
What you can do about it...Fixing the smell of a sewer in the home will depend on how the smell is getting inside the house, but if you notice that it’s coming from a bathroom that gets used only rarely, it may be a good to simply flush the toilet and rinse water down any drains once a week. Another good option is to pour vinegar occasionally down pipes that are rarely used. This helps keep fresh water in the u-joints so you have less of a problem with odors. To make your smell-removal steps more effective, you can add a teaspoon of vegetable oil to the water, which will help prevent the water from evaporating.
Lingering Smell of CigarettesSecondhand smoke is a dangerous pollutant, and virtually everyone in the country knows how harmful it can be. What many people do not know, however, is how harmful thirdhand smoke can be. Long after someone has smoked, the residue is still around. Cigarette smoke, with all the chemicals and toxins, will settle on the floors, furniture, and any other surfaces where someone has smoked. In many cases, this will leave a smell in the home that, like many of the other smells we’ve highlighted, is not just annoying but also unhealthy.
What you can do about it...The top prevention method for handling cigarette smoke is simple cleaning. By thoroughly cleaning carpets, couches, drapes, and table tops, you help remove the harmful chemicals from your house. If you have a smoker in the home, or if you have purchased a home with previous smokers, shampooing the carpets is a wise step, as this will rinse and remove many harmful chemicals. Being aware of thirdhand smoke is important when you are shopping for a home, as well as when you are looking to purchase a new car. Understand that if you can smell the cigarette smoke, you will be exposed to harmful chemicals. If you have the smell in your home, you may also consider an air purifier to trap and remove many of the contaminants.
An Occasional Smell of SmokeThirdhand smoke from cigarettes can linger for years, and until it’s removed you’ll likely have an unending smoky stench in the home. But what if you notice a smoky smell that seems to come and go?
In this case, you may have an issue with your household wiring. If the wiring has gone bad in your home, it could cause certain materials to burn, and while you may not have experienced a fire yet, this is a serious safety hazard that needs to be addressed immediately.