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12 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Fabulous

Updated on September 12, 2017
Sharkye11 profile image

Artist, blogger, freelance writer. Experiences include art, DIY, gardening, storm-spotting, caregiving, farming, reading, and kid wranglin'.

Help! My House Smells Bad!

Want to know some quick, guaranteed ways to make your home smell good? Keeping your home fragrant and fresh requires dedication, but sometimes you need a quick fix.

Maybe unexpected company announced they will be over within the hour, and your house smells stale. Or worse... like the ghosts of yesterday's fried bacon.

If you spend a lot of time in your house, then it's easy to become accustomed to the funky odors that outsiders might detect right away. The good news is you can eliminate those pretty quickly, and it doesn't cost very much.

12 Ways to Make Your Home Smell Fabulous Now

  1. Air it out! It's a scientific fact that old air and new air hate each other, and new air will always win.
  2. Eliminate the stinky culprits. Tackle the smell at its source.
  3. Burn, spray, and smoke out the smell. Candles, air sprays, incenses, and plug-ins are excellent weapons.
  4. Cook something delicious. The smell of fresh-baked bread will conquer any bad smells in your home.
  5. Carpet freshener is your friend. See my DIY natural recipe below.
  6. Make a potpourri out of things you already have at home (read on for suggestions!)
  7. Do a quick wipe-down with a great-smelling household cleaner. Even if you don't have time to clean your entire home, you can give guests that impression.
  8. Let your washing machine do all the work, because one of the most wonderful smells in the world is freshly laundered clothes.
  9. Use cotton ball perfume bombs. Scatter your home with these little whiffs of pleasure (see how below).
  10. Candle warmers are magical. Just about any liquid that smells good will smell even better when it is heated.
  11. Fabric refreshers are on your side. I'll show you how to make your own for pennies.
  12. DIY furniture polish: A little goes a long way!

1. Air It All Out

The best way to get the old, musty air to move out is to open the windows and let clean, fresh air come in. It's a scientific fact that old air and new air hate each other, and new air will always win.

For best results, open windows in multiple rooms to get a cross-breeze. No wind blowing outside? That's okay. Turn on your ceiling fans and place box fans or desk fans near the windows to draw in fresh air.

This might not be practical if it is very cold outside, but even a few minutes can really help the rooms smell clean. If you just want to impress a few guests, try airing out the rooms they are most likely to visit if it is too chilly outside for opening all the windows.

2. Eliminate the Culprits

A bit more time-consuming, but you won't be free of the yucky smells until you've tackled the source. Sometimes, this can take a bit of sleuthing. Some of the culprits:

  • Stinky pet beds/homes
  • Gunky garbage disposal
  • Unclean upholstery
  • Damp laundry
  • Ancient leftovers in the fridge
  • Ruined produce
  • Mildewed bathroom corners or windowsills
  • Neglected oven or microwave
  • Kitchen and bathroom sink drains
  • Untended trash cans/diaper pails
  • Dirty throw rugs
  • Musty pillows
  • Really dusty places

It's no joke—dust stinks! What can you expect from something that is made primarily of decomposing skin cells? To help cut down on dust in your home, try decluttering before you start deep-cleaning. It's much easier to keep clean, clutter-free surfaces dust-free and smelling nice!

Speaking of decomposition, if you notice a particularly rotten stench, you might want to look into corners and behind furniture for dead insects. Deceased crickets and large spiders can really reek.

Sources of Home Odors and Their Solutions

Smelly Area
Chemical Cleaner
Natural or Homemade
Litter box
Pet odor neutralizing spray
Baking soda
Carpet
Scented carpet powders/Febreeze
Baking soda, borax, baby powder
Trash can
Bleach
Vinegar
Drains
Bleach
Hot vinegar or lemon juice+baking soda
Mildewy areas
Bleach
Tea tree oil
Rooms in general
air freshener spray, potpourri
Essential oils, dryer sheets, homemade potpourri
Mattresses and pillows
Febreze
Homemade fabric refresher, diluted Lysol or other cleaner
A few of the ways you can tackle bad odors at their source.

3. Burn, Spray, and Smoke Out the Smell

Candles, air sprays, incenses, or plug-ins are excellent weapons against bad smells. These products are the strong and fast way to bring some lovely fragrances into your home. However, to keep from being stifled by too much perfume, it is best to make sure all the scents are the same, or at least complementary. Too many different fragrances and your home will smell like a potpourri factory.

Note: Don't use them in the kitchen while you are cooking. Some smells just do not go well together, and it may be more repulsive to your guests to smell onions mixed with fruity potpourri, floral airspray, and soapy candles than to just smell the onions themselves.

4. Cook Something Delicious

Speaking of onions, not all food smells are bad. In fact, I have a friend who uses onions to her advantage. She fries an onion up before family gatherings so everyone is greeted at the door with the delicious smell of fresh, home-cooked food.

Steer clear of heavy, greasy smells like garlic or bacon, but consider baking bread, sautéeing a pan of fresh rosemary, sticking some cinnamon sticks in the slow cooker, or mulling some wine. Bake up a batch of cookies or banana bread and that warm, sweet goodness will prevail over everything else.

5. Sprinkle Carpet Freshener Liberally

You can make your own carpet freshener or use a store-bought version. Either way, sprinkling the carpet and then giving it a quick vacuum can make a big difference in only a few minutes.

If you have light colored carpet, you can even get by with leaving the powder underfoot—just sweep it into the fibers for longer-lasting deodorizing. A huge plus to this is that when you vacuum up carpet fresheners, your vacuum cleaner will smell good, too.

If you don't have any carpet refresher on hand and there's no time to make some, a quick sprinkle with baby powder works well, too, but I would not recommend it for darker carpets, especially if you are in a hurry. It can take awhile to vacuum it up entirely, but the light, sweet scent is oh-so worth the trouble.

6. Make Your Own Potpourri

This is super-easy. You don't even need to dry any flowers. All you have to do is boil a pan of water on the stove and add items that smell great, like orange peels, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and essential oil.

You can mix and match for the perfect scent. The steam will carry the smell throughout the house.

If you need something even stronger, try filling the bathtub halfway with hot water and adding a few drops of scented oil. You could even use a yummy shampoo.

7. Do a Quick Wipe-Down With a Household Cleaner

I recently discovered citrus-scented Lysol. It smells wonderful! I keep some diluted in a spray bottle and use it whenever I need a clean smell in a hurry (or whenever I need to sanitize something).

Since you can wipe just about anything with Lysol, it's easy to go over furniture, tables, the fridge, the counters, and other un-fresh places in those few minutes before guests arrive. You can also add some to your toilet bowls and the scent will quickly fill your bathroom.

8. Let Your Washing Machine Do All the Work

One of the most wonderful smells in the world is freshly laundered clothes. Except, for some reason, it always smells better at other people's houses.

Although science hasn't solved that mystery, it works to your advantage. If you need the house to smell good quickly, go start a load of laundry. Unless you are one of those people who avoids laundry at all costs, you should have enough items lying around to at least tumble a small load. (With a scented dryer sheet, of course!)

You can also use scented dryer sheets instead of cotton balls to tuck around the house. Tucking one into a sunny window can make the whole room smell as clean and fresh as your laundry room, too.

9. Use Cotton Ball Perfume Bombs

This is an old trick, but it really works to make your house smell good. Soak cotton balls in your favorite scented oil or cologne and tuck them around the house, out of sight:

  • Between cushions
  • In silk flower arrangements
  • Behind furniture
  • In the A/C panel
  • In your vacuum canister

These are little whiffs of pleasure to be encountered by anyone who roams around your home. Just don't forget where you hid them all.

10. Candle Warmers Are Magical

If you don't know what a candle warmer is (aka a candle burner or candle plate), you have been missing out. This little gadget heats jar candles slowly, making the candle last longer and the fragrance smell stronger.

But don't stop with candles! Save those empty candle jars and use them to make your own potpourri. I've used them to heat a lot of different concoctions on my candle warmer:

  • A favorite shampoo
  • Fabric softener
  • A favorite cleaner (Mr. Clean with Gain, yum!)
  • Essential oils
  • Febreze (diluted)

As far as I know, just about any liquid that smells good will smell even better when it is heated. This is safer and more efficient than leaving the stove on for hours to boil potpourri, too.

It's a cheat, but a good cheat. Heating a cleaning mixture (dilute it first, trust me!) can make it seem like you've been slaving away all day over a hot mop.

Candle warmers are cheap too, so you can have several working at once to help make you seem like the domestic goddess (or god) that you know you really are.

11. Fabric Refresher Is On Your Side

You can use Febreze brand (or generic alternatives) to take the stink out of furniture, carpets, and curtains. The result is a fresh (rather than perfumy) scent.

Another great trick I have used is to lightly spritz fabrics with a bottle of diluted Lysol. Whereas Febreze temporarily masks scents, Lysol kills the germs and bacteria causing the odors, so it lasts a lot longer. The kind I use leaves the sofa smelling faintly of oranges.

If you want something a little more clean or soapy-smelling, you can make your own fabric refresher by diluting some fabric softener in water. Homemade Febreze for just a few pennies? Life can't better than that!

12. DIY Furniture Polish

To me, most furniture polish brands get smelly after they've sat on the furniture for a couple of hours. Recently I've been making my own.

If you have a lot of wooden surfaces, you can try this, too. Take a carrier oil (such as olive oil) and add a drop or two of essential oil and a little vinegar.

Use just a bit for dusting and polishing. It will cut through fingerprints and dust, shine up the wood, and leave behind whichever scent you chose to add. (I tend to go for clove and lavender because they last a long time.)

Think of it as getting two jobs done at once: You are removing that stinky dust and replacing it with a much more inviting perfume.

The Smell of Home

Does Your Home Smell Clean and Fresh and Super-Inviting?

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Keep On Top of Household Odors and Always Have a Home That Smells Great!

Most of these "solutions" are quick fixes for semi-emergency situations. Like when your mother-in-law decides to do a home inspection, or you want to impress that date who is coming to pick you up in an hour.

For long-term good smell, you really do have to keep the odors from starting in the first place. See option two above for places that need daily or weekly attention to prevent build-up of horrific, hair-curling stench. And don't forget to air your house out regularly. It is good for you, your house, and your future guests.

© 2014 Jayme Kinsey

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    • profile image

      Leslie6654@yahoo.com 5 weeks ago

      I do Fabuloso on the stove too ! Great fast fix!

    • profile image

      Joann 2 months ago

      Buy some plugins and then put them all over the house and open one and sprinkler all over the house all over on even outside the house by the front door and it smells so nice really don't last that long but it helps I even you can put some in a pot on the stove and boil it and it makes the house smell real nice

    • profile image

      Yvonne 7 months ago

      Great ideas. I also use diluted fabuloso in a pot on the stove burning on low for about 20 min at a time throughout the day. Great for getting rid of stale cig smoke smell.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 2 years ago from India

      I use scented candles. When we sit behind closed doors, we don't actually realize the bad smell.

      One of my friends suggested that candles without scent also help in removing bad smell especially the smell after cleaning fish.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Very useful. I love the scented dryer sheets tip for the windows, though I have only doors and only one window and door in front of my apartment. Would that work as well? Voted up!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These are all wonderful tips!

    • Laura Schneider profile image

      Laura Schneider 2 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

      You're my hero! I got so many great ideas out of your article I can't count them! I love all of your home-made solutions to stench and look forward to trying them. Here's one that I've used in the past: turn on the bread maker and enjoy hours of homey goodness smells. Thanks again for your great ideas!! My dog and I might finally declare peace, or at least a truce :-) .

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 2 years ago from USA

      Each home does have a distinctive odor and I have tried to make sure that the odor in my home is a good one, but I'm not sure I always succeed. I have an "odor day" at my house, where instead of random cleaning, I clean things that might be causing an odor. This means cleaning out the refrigerator, taking out all the trash, changing bedsheets, washing dishes and doing all laundry. I hadn't thought about dust as being the cause of odor, but yes, you're right. And books and paper tends to get musty too.

      You're provided a great list of tips on making the house smell good.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      One of my children gave me a candle warmer last Christmas, and I love to melt cinnamon scented candles I buy at the candle store.

      I love the way Pinesol makes my house smell, too. I think we all get accustomed to our own house's smell and don't notice the smell as much as guests would.

      Great Hub, voted UP, etc. and shared.

    • Fiddleman profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 2 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

      Great hub and wonddrful common sense suggestions. The house always smeels good with those aromatic candles and a good mopping with pinesol. Taking out the garbage and keeping short accounts with the laundry hamper help. Nothing like opening a window or two to let in fresh air.

    • Pollyanna Jones profile image

      Pollyanna Jones 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      In England, we have something called "Cooks Candles"; they come in a little tin and are to an old formula that neutralises strong smells from cooking. They were a godsend when I was suffering from morning sickness too! I make sure our windows are opened at least an inch each day, to circulate the air. Can't beat it to freshen up the house.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Opening the windows for a good air out is the best way to get rid of stale household smells. Even on a bright winter day, I turn down the heat and open up. But I find evenings can be the worst. After preparing a delicious dinner which often includes sauteed onions and other things that smell great when cooking and eating, I find that afterwards, it stinks to high heavens. The old cooking odors wind their way up the steps and right into my bedroom.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Gee, Jayme, I'd never heard of candle warmers. Thanks! But putting a tensy-tiny drop of your favorite essential oil on the bulb of a lamp (before turning it on!) will serve the same purpose in a pinch. I've also just wet a clean bath towel and thrown it into a dryer with a fabric softener sheet to get that "fresh laundry" smell in a hurry.

      Great tips! Upped and shared! ;D

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 2 years ago from Washington State

      Airing it out is my favorite choice and using lots of great candles with awesome scents.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks! Love these ideas. ..especially the cotton ball. Bombs.

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 2 years ago from chichester

      Excellent tips! Certainly for any household with pets these are really handy to have read!

    • DreamingBoomer profile image

      Karen Kay 2 years ago from Jackson, MS

      Wow these are awesome tips! I am kind of paranoid about how our house might smell to guests, since we get used to the way it smells.... and we have cats! I am definitely using some of these.

    • Arachnea profile image

      Tanya Jones 2 years ago from Texas USA

      Great hub. Some wonderful ideas. I've been looking for a way to scent my apartment. Incense doesn't work. I want the scents to hang around for a while.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Love the idea of cotton ball perfume bombs! Just got to try that one. You have some really good ideas here, and sometimes the cat smell gets a bit much, not to mention the cooking aromas. Thanks for the tips.

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 2 years ago from Texas

      I keep my windows open as much as possible, as I like the smell of fresh air. I hadn't thought of using diluted Lysol, but think I'll keep some handy in a spray bottle. Good tips!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Good suggestions. I do many of these, but opening the window is my favorite. (Or cleaning). :)

    • Marina7 profile image

      Marina 3 years ago from Clarksville TN

      Yesterday I did smell my laundry and I was thinking maybe I just don't put enough of the detergent in. My husband uses more I think so it did smell good.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      So many of us are nose blind that we should probably do these things anyway, even if we believe our house already smells good.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Bake bread.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      Sharkye: Thanks for the additional information and advice. I'll do some research before using anything.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      So many good ideas for an instantly fresh-smelling room here. Realtors promote the use of the cinnamon spice mixture on the stove (or warming device) for a homey smell during open houses. I like the open the windows idea and running a load of laundry. Sometimes I pour bleach in the corners of the tiled shower and I'm amazed at how the clean scent permeates the entire house. As a bonus, it kills that pesky mold that tends to find damp places like the tub. Up and interesting.

    • oldiesmusic profile image

      oldiesmusic 3 years ago from United States

      Nothing feels worse than a stinky room especially that my nose is so sensitive. I do my own efforts to make my house smelling fresh, but I thank you for additional tips. They're very helpful for me.

    • Marina7 profile image

      Marina 3 years ago from Clarksville TN

      The same with me Sharkye11. I can smell how great other people's laundry smells and not mine!! My daughter always comments how other people's laundry smells better than ours. Yes the senses getting used to a smell can be so frustrating!! :-)

    • Sharkye11 profile image
      Author

      Jayme Kinsey 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      @Sheila -- I'm not sure. I would probably research it or call a vet just to be safe. I used Febreze with my cat and she was never sick, but she also never licked anything but her food bowl and her fur, and she never got on the upholstered furniture.

      As for Lysol, I've diluted it for years as a cleaning solution. We used it on the farm and it was fine for animals, and we used it in both the nursing homes where I worked and at the children's museum. I think animals (or kids) would have to consume quite a bit for it to be toxic, and the taste would probably stop them from drinking that much.

      But I would recommend asking a vet, if you are really worried, or if you have pets that are more likely to lick. The fabric softener solution might not be a good idea in that case, but the Lysol would probably be okay, or water with a drop or two of essential oil.

    • Sharkye11 profile image
      Author

      Jayme Kinsey 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      @Marina -- I guess so. Its funny how it happens though. It seems like I wouldn't be able to smell laundry at my mother's house, since we use the same soap, but I can. To me, my own clothes just smell like water, and a faint trace of the dryer sheets. But other people comment on how nice they smell, so I guess I'm doing something right!

    • Sharkye11 profile image
      Author

      Jayme Kinsey 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      @Bill--Yep, houses with pets can be a bit smelly at times. I learned most of these tricks because we had the cat, and the house is small...so it seemed like the litter box was in every room! We also had a pretty funky turtled at that time, too. Hope some of these work for you! Thanks for reading!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      Nothing like a clean-smelling house. I like the natural way of running a lemon, orange, or lime peel through the garbage disposal to remove odor and make it smell like citrus. Also, there is a type of lamp one can buy that has an odor eliminator built in. It uses a fragrant oil of one's choice, and doesn't just mask odors. I have one, and I'm ashamed that I can't remember the name of it. Very good hub.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      These are some great tips. Some I've heard about; others I haven't. I'll have to try the homemade fabric freshener; however, I do have a question about it. I've never used Frebreze or any of the others because I'm paranoid my cats will lick it and get sick. I've always heard that if Lysol is diluted enough, it's safe for children. Is the same true for pets or should I check the internet for more information about it?

    • Marina7 profile image

      Marina 3 years ago from Clarksville TN

      I think the reason why it smells better at other people's homes, the laundry, is that at our own home we get used to the smell and then don't smell it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for the ideas. With two dogs and a cat, we need this.

    • Sharkye11 profile image
      Author

      Jayme Kinsey 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thank you, prairieprincess! I got the idea for the laundry because my mother's house always smells SO GOOD. And even though I use the same soap, dryer sheets, etc., I could swear my laundry has no nice smell. But other people walk in and comment on it, so I always use it is as a super-fast way to make everything clean-smelling if unexpected guests drop in!

      And I love my candle warmers! I had two, but one finally just fell apart on me. I will have to replace it--its indispensable! Hope it works for you too!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 3 years ago from Canada

      Hi Sharkeye! This is a great article and it deserves more comments, but I am honoured to be the first one. You did give me a new idea: the candle warmer, and I hadn't thought of doing laundry for the smell but you are right ... it does smell good! Have a great day. Pinning this one!