First things first, establish what is it is that’s causing the problem. For instance, sometimes it's not the actual rubbish – such as food waste – it's the trash canister itself. If you think that’s the case, clean it by sprinkling some baking soda into the base or attaching a deodorising pack or pod under the can's liner or inside the lid. Then, spray the whole thing with a disinfecting spray to kill any germs or bacteria. Just remember to leave the canister to air dry or wipe it down with a dry cloth before replacing the bin liner – this way you won’t trap any unwanted moisture which might end up causing mould issues further down the line.
If you’ve got a well-stocked fridge to see you through lockdown, chances of unwanted spills or perishable items that might go off are bound to be higher. If everything is in date and you can’t work out where the problem is coming from, store an open box of baking soda in the fridge and freezer to absorb any unpleasant odours. Also be sure to double-wrap pungent foods (like cheese or meat) and store leftovers in properly sealed containers so they don’t contaminate the rest of the contents. If you live in a compact space – like a flat – where kitchens and ovens often meet living rooms, then consider purchasing an air purifier or essential oil burner to help eliminate cooking smells almost immediately.
If you’ve noticed a musty, damp or stagnant smell, chances are it’s coming from the sink – and specifically a plughole that hasn’t been flushed through for some time. If you don’t have any professional plug products to hand, try pouring a good handful of baking soda into the drain, before letting it sit for 15 minutes without any water running. Then, pour about half a cup of white vinegar down. Watch the bubbles, hear the pops and fizz, and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Follow with a good amount of boiling water and things should stay sanitary for about six weeks.
It might not be the appliance you first think of when it comes to eliminating unpleasant smells, but once a month, you should be using a dishwasher cleaning tablet, which can depend on the model you have. To keep things hygienic in the meantime, always rinse dirty dishes before placing them in the dishwasher to prevent food from sticking to the sides, as this is often what causes odours to build up.
THE LIVING ROOM
Depending how many occupants your sofa tends to have in a day, it’s easy to forget to regularly freshen up the upholstery to stop it trapping unwanted odours – which can range from spilled food to dog hair. As long as your sofa is upholstered, start by vacuuming the sofa with an upholstery brush attachment to remove all the dust, hair and debris. Remove the cushions, if possible, and vacuum both sides. Then, sprinkle baking soda on the upholstered areas of the sofa – remembering to sprinkle the fabric beneath the cushions and the cushions themselves. Apply enough baking soda to leave a lightly visible residue. Leave it for at least 15 minutes, or overnight for severe odours. Finally, vacuum the sofa a second time to remove the residue.
Unlike hardwood floors, plush carpets absorb smells like no other – which is why you might notice an unpleasant scent when you walk into the room. While professional carpet cleaners like Beckmann’s come highly recommended, it won’t be suitable for every fabric. If you’re not sure what might ruin your carpet or run, start by lightly sprinkling baking soda all over to absorb the odours. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes and then vacuum the excess.
These should be treated largely in the same way as other upholstered areas of your home, but it might require a heavier-duty specialist product if you own large dogs or cats that shed. You can use the usual baking soda method but using a dedicated pet spray will also help to kill off germs and bacteria, and leave a more pleasant scent behind – particularly useful if pet beds are kept in communal areas such as the living room or kitchen.
Let’s face it, toilets are bound to be the main culprit here. The best way to stay on top of unwanted odours? Clean them with toilet bowl cleaner before they start to look dirty. You can also use products like toilet cleaning gels to ensure they stay in good shape for at least a week. After cleaning, remember to pour at least half a cup of bleach into the water – and leave it for at least an hour before flushing through. If day-to-day maintenance is an issue, there are a range of instant fresheners available on the market, which everyone can use.
It might not be the first thing that springs to mind, but bathtubs can harbour more unwanted smells than you might think. Whether its old residue from bath salts or bath soaks, or a clogged drain or unloved shower head, there are many parts which can harbour unpleasant odours. To unblock a drain, follow the same steps as you would in the kitchen, and be sure after every soak to rinse the tub thoroughly to get rid of sticky marks or salts. Then, once a week, spray the tub with an all-purpose antibacterial spray to ensure you’re killing off any lingering bacteria – and don’t forget to wipe around and under any edges, too.
It probably goes without saying, but towels that fail to dry properly will inevitably be responsible for that damp and musty smell in your bathroom. The rule of thumb is to wash them at least once a week, and you can always toss them in the tumble dryer for a quick freshen up if you think they’re not drying on their own quickly enough.
After a few years – and in some cases months – your mattress may start to smell musty. Give yours a refresh by sprinkling baking soda on the mattress, letting it sit, and then vacuuming it up. Alternatively, for a less invasive and time-consuming quick fix invest in a fabric freshener and give everything a good spritz. Just ensure it doesn’t contain bleach or other harmful ingredients that might affect the fabric and try to ventilate the room afterwards so everything can air dry properly.
When it comes to your bedroom, aside from the usual sheets and carpets which might account for unpleasant smells, it’s more than possible that laundry will be a culprit, too. While clothes should be washed regularly to keep unwanted odours at bay, it’s worth going through what’s hanging up in your wardrobe or currently tucked away in drawers (and not getting much use) to see what could do with freshening up. Plus, if you don’t feel like wasting time and energy on washing things that aren’t dirty, there are plenty of fabric fresheners available to make light work of it. Just be sure to pick something that is appropriate for the fibres – like a dedicated wool or cashmere spray.
Finally, an accumulation of dirt and dust in wardrobes that might not be getting much use at the moment could also account for unpleasant smells. Use this extra time at home to have a thorough clear out – remove all your clothes and see what might need freshening up. Then, thoroughly dust everything off – including rails and pegs – before spraying down the surfaces with an anti-bacterial product. Once dry, replace your clothes and consider investing in moth guards or natural odour and moisture absorbers to keep things fresher for longer. Where possible, consider leaving the doors a little bit ajar to allow air to circulate, too.