How to Get Rid of Bad Smells

Natural Remedies for Bad Odors in the Home

Nov 19, 2018


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There are many ways to mask bad smells in your home, but how do you truly get rid of them? Here’s how to get rid of bad smells once and for all!

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 bed 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. However, many people suffer allergic reactions to the fragrances in some of these products, and some air fresheners even 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.

How to Get Rid of Bad Smells

  • 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.
  • During nice weather, just open the windows! Let fresh air blow through and push out bad smells.
  • 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.

Coffee grounds

  • 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.


  • 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.
    1. Put on a pair of rubber or latex gloves.
    2. 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.
    3. 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 the above recipe for bathing a pet that’s been skunked. After making the solution, massage it into the animal’s fur, then let it sit for 5–10 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
  • 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. 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.

Need more advice? Here’s how to get rid of body odor and home remedies for pets.

Did we miss any of your favorite tried-and-true solutions? Let us know in the comments!

About This Blog

"Living Naturally" is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that's good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it's relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

Reader Comments

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freezer sour smell

Freezer failed and all food spoiled. Ended up with liquid at least 4-6 inches deep and all food just a soggy mess. SOUR oder after I cleaned it all out. Washed it down with baking soda, and have since trice black pepper, baking soda, newspaper, and it still smells awful. Any suggestions?

This is a great tip! Thanks

This is a great tip! Thanks for sharing!

to everyone who can't eliminate a bad smell

The national Cooperative Extension website, E-Xtension offers a wonderful Ask-an-Expert feature that will connect your question(s) with an expert on the topic in your particular area. Do check it out!

Bad Bad Odor

This is the worst. My husband went crabbing and cleaned the crabs and left the shells and insides in my trash can in the garage. Now I have put it outside but it is stinking the whole neighborhood and my trash pickup is not until 5 days away. HELP...….

Foul Smell

How do you get rid of mildewy, moldy, smell in air conditioner.

Household odors

This may seem self-evident to many, however, it didn't to me. With a walkout basement, plenty of sand fill outside, and a generally high/dry building site, I didn't think a damp basement would be a problem. No mold showing, no damp floors. I mentioned the typical "basement smell" to a friend, and he suggested a dehumidifier. WOW, what a difference! After a little research and poking around, I determined a small (30 pt) would be sufficient. It only took two days, and I had a new basement! Don't overlook the obvious solutions!

rotton smell in my bonzi

it got watered with a glass that had tea or something in it maybe sugar anyway, it got a rancid smell, how do you neutralize the smell, no dirt, just roots, shallow pot. drying it out now

Get Rid of Smell

Perhaps put a box of baking soda nearby to soak up the odor. The smell should dissipate after repeated waterings, but if that doesn’t work, consider replacing the media. In fact, you may want to do that anyway in order to discourage rot and bacteria from spreading to the roots.


Thank you for the info, however, I have an issue that I did not see mentioned. A gallon of milk had a hole in it and spilled in my truck. It didn’t get on the carpet, thanks to my great mat that covers the rear, but it did get under the plastic where you step in. We pulled it up and cleaned really well and also used several boxes of baking soda but it still smells like a toddler left a cup of milk in my truck. Any other suggestions?

Tough problem!

I’d try leaving an open container or two of coffee grounds in the cab for a few days, along with spraying the area with one of those enzyme sprays you can find in pet stores to deodorize smelly dogs. Try to get the spray up under the plastic. Good luck!

car odor

Thank you for all these great ideas. I put an open silicone cupcake liner filled with baking soda in my car and it has mostly helped...but still detect a trace of stench from perfume. I took my car in for some body work and never in my life would have imagined anyone to use perfume in my car. Initially when I picked it up I assumed someone wearing it had moved it to the front of the facility...but the stench continued and it was obvious someone either sprayed my car or themselves in it. I smell it as soon as I open the door and know it has diminished, but it remains, 4+ weeks afterward. Looking forward to trying the coffee grounds.

I had similar issue before--a bottle of milk spilled in my car

I cleaned the mat but still being bothered by the smell. I found a kind of air freshener bag on Amazon that does a lot of help to absorb the odors. It is a brown linen bag containing black activated charcoal balls, and the package came with a small pink heart shape card, which is very cute. Hope this tip can be helpful for you too.

Bad Odors

Any ideas for controlling soot/smoke smells from the fireplace during the summer when it gets hot and humid. I've tried crumpled newspapers with limited success. Thank you.

How to stop soot odors coming from your fireplace

The odor is coming down from the chimney. When there is no heat going up the chimney, the air flow comes down through the cold chimney into the warmer room. What we do in the summer when we are not using our wood heater is to cover the chimney at the top with a heavy plastic that is secured to the flue. No down flow of air. Of course you have to put large sign of some kind that will get the attention of anyone who would like to start a fire. I would suggest one on the fireplace grate, and another at the wood pile!!! Also let the family know the situation!!!!

Make sure to clean your chimney; then try a little heat

Even though Gail’s suggestion—covering the flue opening with heavy plastic during the summer—might keep the smells out, I think it’s potentially dangerous if someone moves the warning sign, and someone else wants to take the chill off on a cool day. 

I suggest having your chimney cleaned to remove as much creosote as possible, and asking a chimney professional to examine your chimney for cracks or inadequate flashing that might be letting in moisture. 

We burn wood exclusively to heat our home; we find that burning a little wastepaper (including crumpled newspaper) from time to time in our kitchen cookstove reverses the downdraft created by higher outside air pressure that pushes the smokey smells down into our living space. We also make sure to let a lot of fresh air into the house during hot weather, opening a lot of windows for good cross-ventiliation. (But we don’t have air conditioning.)

I’ve heard the suggestion that people with fireplaces creat a bit of heat by lighting a few candles (placed in containers to catch the drips) set on a grate in the firebox. Make sure the protective screen is in place while the candles are burning. Good luck!

you can use a humidifier and

you can use a humidifier and add essential oils

If you mix baking soda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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