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Natural ways to tame bad smells

July 10, 2011

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Part 1: neutralizing odors around the house, in the car

Neuroscientists say humans can distinguish 10,000 scents, though we don’t have names for a lot of them.

Our sense of smell—the olfactory sense—brings depth and emotional richness to daily life.

Think about the feelings and memories that flow when you catch a whiff of fresh-cut grass or lilacs in bloom, bury your face in a sun-dried sheet just off the line, or enter the kitchen just as a cinnamon-rich apple pie emerges from the oven.

Our olfactory system also alerts us to potential dangers: spoiled food, rot and decay, harmful molds. Most American homes contain a variety of sprays, plug-ins, stick-ons, scented candles, and other products designed to mask or remove bad odors.

Many people suffer allergic reactions to the fragrances in some of these products. Some air fresheners contain toxins.

Yet a few inexpensive household essentials you probably have on hand already—vinegar, salt, coffee, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide—will neutralize most noxious odors around your home and in your vehicles.

A few odor-taming tips:

During nice weather, just open the windows! Let fresh air blow through.

To perfume the air naturally, cut a lemon in half and set the cut halves in an inconspicuous place, or rub a bit of vanilla on a light bulb

Most folks know that keeping an open box of plain baking soda in the refrigerator will neutralize bad odors. Sprinkle some into the bottom of the trash can and into the trash bag itself for similar results.

Half a cup of baking soda in two quarts of water and a soft cloth or brush also work well for cleaning the fridge, as well as scrubbing down and freshening the tub, tiles, sinks, drains, trash cans, and toilet bowls. For stronger disinfecting properties, scrub with a strong vinegar solution.

Fresh or leftover coffee grounds will also absorb unpleasant odors in a fridge, microwave, or cupboard. They’ll also sweeten the air inside your car or its trunk. For use in the car, place the grounds in a covered plastic container with holes punched in the lid.

Boil two parts water with one part vinegar in a microwave-safe container to remove bad smells from your microwave. The vinegar smell itself dissipates quickly.

Add half a cup of vinegar to a quart of water and allow to simmer on the stove for a few minutes. This will remove smell of burnt food and many other odors from your kitchen (and burned-on food from your stainless steel pots.)

Soak a piece of bread in vinegar and set it overnight in a lunchbox or wastebasket to remove built-up food odors.

Grind leftover citrus rinds in your garbage disposal to sweeten it. Or dump half a cup of salt down the drain and turn on the disposal. This loosens caked-on food and helps neutralize odor.

You can get most smells out of carpets, rugs, and upholstery (including vehicle interiors) by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Leave the baking soda in place for several hours, then vacuum or shake it out.

Human/pet urine or vomit on carpets and upholstery can be trickier. If you can get at it immediately, blot first with a towel, then spray the area with a 3-parts cold water/1 part vinegar solution and blot (but don’t rub). Repeat several times if needed, until the smell disappears. The vinegar odor will dissipate in a few hours.

bad smell

Old-timers swear by this method for removing set-in odors and stains from carpets and upholstery. It works especially well on pet urine and skunk smells. You might want to test for color-fastness by soaking a small, inconspicuous area with the solution and leaving it for 24 hours before you treat the area with the stain.

  • Put on a pair of rubber or latex gloves.
  • Gently mix a quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter-cup of baking soda, and a teaspoon of liquid soap in a plastic container. Don’t mix far in advance or store in a closed container.
  • Pour or spray the solution directly onto affected areas and allow to sit for 24 hours before blotting excess liquid. Allow to air dry.

Veterinarians also recommend this recipe for bathing a pet that’s been skunked. I’ll post instructions for how in my next post involving natural ways to tame body and pet odors.

Beyond their unpleasant odors, molds and mildews can present special indoor health hazards beyond the scope of this post to describe. Some people are sensitive to certain kinds of indoor molds.

If you suspect a mold problem in your home, don’t rely on simply scrubbing down the area with bleach or masking the odor with air fresheners. Some mold damage may require professional removal services.

Photo credit: IvanWalsh.com  Some rights reserved.

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Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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Comments

If you mix baking soda

By Joe Was

If you mix baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in to a mixture containing hydrogen peroxide you nutralize the hydrogen peroxide. This turns the hydrogen peroxide into water only, as hydrogen peroxide is only water that has additional oxygen in it. So any recommended combination that includes hydrogen peroxide and baking soda just makes a water and baking soda solution. In this case the hydrogen peroxide is useless. For that matter any thing added to a solution containing hydrogen peroxide that makes it foam and bubble is removing the oxygen and converting it to plain water.

These are great tips. Always

By A. Mac

These are great tips. Always helpful to know what you can use that is already around the house or can easily be picked up as normal household items. If you want to stay natural and organic, another company that sticks to this as their 100% main focus when it comes to odor removal and cleaning is Freshana Organic Solutions. Give them a look.

If you breathe large amounts

By Matt Ringer

If you breathe large amounts of positive ions without an equal amount of negative ions, you will actually become lethargic and in some cases sick. Air containing more negative ions and fewer positive ions has shown to be beneficial and without side effects. The paint additive air-renu, solves both indoor air quality and odor problems.

Concerning the relation

By gaby

Concerning the relation between your memories and some specific fragrances, I still have in my mind the “feelings of some ages” or the springtime.

I liked this article and the

By Mark Luis

I liked this article and the tips are great. It's true that I knew some of them, but it still impressed me. I'll try them ! thanks

house plants

By jerry.l.litton

Granny use to be notorious for plants in the house and she had them all around the house as well so I suspect they not only had visual beauty, Granny did not waste her time with things that were useless so plants around the outside must of had some useful benefits as well. She said plants was good for us and pretty to look at, talk to and listen to. GrandPa hated them if they were not corn or cotton or something to eat, and he couldn't see out the window or look under the house for things stored since last winter. Indoor house plants work on smells too. Put moisture in the air due to tramsporation. Also freshens the oxygen and takes out carbon dioxide so you might be doing some good for global warming having plants where plants would not be so incrasing the volume of plants to carbon dioxide percentage, scientist say stat here or there doing stuff, I say satart at home first and the rest of it will be more natural. There might be some introduction of fungus or bacteria but I suspect those are natural things we should be aclimated to because we should be working in the dirt outside anyway and natural things just don't affect us like introduced ingredients do. Be careful with the fertilizers or plant grow items, they introduce possible harmful odors and ingredients so a compost pile out in the corner of the yard may be good for potting soil and good for mother nature also, worms love the edges of them so they must be good. Plants must be pretty safe inside becuase the cat likes to curl-up in the window where the plants are, or a pile of warm sheets and a cat is smarter than us about just what is safe for them or us. but cats aren't my favorite animal so I don't have to worry about them unless they are outside. Plants mean insects so some of those must be good especially spiders, leave'em alone, let them grow. Nothing better than a cobweb from the leaf to the glass shimmering on the vibrations on a cold winter wind outside.

Now this is something that

By Samantha_H

Now this is something that many people may not know. Ten thousand scents is really a whole lot of smelling going on. I am sure we can't name them all but this is good for a piece of trivia.

rug spots

By Ann Wagner

Thanks. I have rug spots in a light berber rug in the dressing room. Should I try the solution you mention above-- hydrogen peroxide, a quarter-cup of baking soda, and a teaspoon of liquid soap in a plastic container. Just checking as it's a light rug and right in the middle of sight--I don't want to ruin anything. Thank you so much.

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