It Smells Funny in Here: Your Guide to Eliminating Common Home Odors

updated Sep 27, 2022
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Your home is your sanctuary, and the absolute last thing you want is to come home to weird odors that make your space feel unpleasant. Candles, air fresheners and diffusers can all make your home smell better, but if you’re faced with lingering odors that just won’t quit, at best those things will just mask the smell temporarily.

So, how do you take on the toughest smells so your home can be odor-free? Here’s what you need to know, based on which odors you’re looking to get rid of. Bookmark this for later so you’ll always know how to take on any stench from the source.


How you take on urine odors depends on the source of the smell in the first place—is it coming from the bathroom, or is it because of a pet accident on the carpet or the furniture? If you’re dealing with a bathroom that smells like urine even after you’ve thoroughly cleaned, there might be some hidden culprits, like your toilet brush holder, the floor around your toilet, and even the hinges on your toilet seat (CafeMom suggests removing the toilet seat once in a while to really clean around the hinges). Anna Moseley at Ask Anna suggests making a paste of lemon juice and baking soda and using vinegar to clean all the hidden spots you might not be cleaning as deeply as necessary.

As far as carpeting and upholstery goes, most sites agree that you’ll likely see good results with an enzymatic cleaner to break down stains and bacteria. A carpet steamer can help with rug odors and stains, and vinegar can help with leather furniture. In any case, avoid bleach—since urine has ammonia in it, it can cause a reaction.


The most obvious culprit here? Your trash cans—if you’re smelling garbage even after you take the trash out, your trash bins may be to blame. If you haven’t cleaned out your trash can (not just replacing the bag, but really giving it a deep cleaning) in a while, grab some rubber gloves, a scrub brush and a disinfectant spray and get to work as per Kitchn’s instructions. A little scrubbing can go a long way in helping you get rid of any weird odors. To prevent future smells, try putting baking soda, dryer sheets or kitty litter at the bottom of the trash can. On the other hand, if you can’t find the source of the smell, you may need to call in your landlord or a professional to check the vents and see if anything weird is going on.


Lingering fishy smell from the last time you cooked seafood? If opening the windows and airing out your home hasn’t fully gotten rid of the odor, Epicurious has a simple suggestion: make tea… well, sort of. In a medium pot, combine ginger, cloves, a cinnamon stick and water and bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the smell subsides. (And if you want to prevent the smell in the first place, Epicurious also has some tips for cooking fish odor-free).

Note: It’s also possible that a random fishy smell can be an indication of a problem with electrical wires overheating—several forums mention this, so if you’re smelling an unidentifiable fishy odor, it might be worth calling an electrician to double check.


Again, how you take on musty smells depends on where the smells are coming from. If you’re dealing with musty smelling furniture like dressers or cabinets, vinegar might be the answer—Martha Stewart suggests wiping down surfaces and interiors with white vinegar, and filling containers (with holes punched in the top) with vinegar and letting them sit inside overnight. Musty fabrics and clothing can be helped by adding a cup of vinegar into the washing machine, and charcoal and a dehumidifier can take on a damp, musty basement.


For lingering smoke smells, dryer sheets can help, according to LifeHacker. Anything with a smoke odor that’s small enough to fit inside a plastic zipper bag (that includes the extra large ones, not just sandwich bags) can use this method—just put the items in the bag with a few dryer sheets, close them and let them sit for some time. Baking soda can also help—according to Martha Stewart, smoke is an acidic odor and baking soda is more alkaline, so simply keeping open boxes of baking soda around can absorb the smell. If the smoke smell has permeated your walls, however, you might be in for a fresh coat of paint.

Body Odor (and Other Miscellaneous Smells)

For body odor smells that just won’t quit—and any other miscellaneous smells you can’t really identify—there are a few different things you can try. Baking soda can help with smelly furniture and rugs—just sprinkle it generously over your furniture or carpet, let it sit overnight, then vacuum. You can also spray or wipe items down with vinegar, or if you can, let your furniture air out outside in the sun. Coffee grounds also make a great all-purpose deodorizer—try letting them dry out, then putting them in a container with holes in the lid and letting it sit out wherever you’re facing weird smells.

Good luck de-stinking!