Whew! What’s That Smell?

— Written By Trudy Pickett and last updated by

Removing odors may be as simple as removing a spoiled vegetable from the refrigerator or it may be much more complicated. There are many commercial odor removers, some of which are especially formulated to remove certain odors, such as skunk or pet accidents.

However, there are many home remedies that are quick and simple to do. Several common household items have excellent odor removing characteristics and are environmentally friendly. Try them before going to the grocery store or hardware store to purchase a commercial product. Some of these products are:

Activated charcoal

Baking soda

Cat box filler

Crushed newspapers

Coffee grounds (new or used and then dried)

Fabric softener sheets or liquid fabric softener

Tomato juice

Vanilla extract


Lemon rind or lemon juice

Spices such as cinnamon and salt

Other odor-chasing remedies include using mouthwash for removing the smell of urine and other unpleasant strong odors. Another effective odor-removing mixture can be made by adding two tablespoons of citronella oil (purchase from drug store) and 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol in a gallon of water. Test these products in an inconspicuous area before using since some finishes might be damaged.

Here are a few common odor problems that are often found in households.

Bedding: Sprinkle baking soda, borax or a mixture of spices on the bedding, futon or mattress. Leave overnight and then vacuum. Or sprinkle baking soda between the mattress and box springs and leaves as long as possible, up to several days. Vacuum occasionally. For an old, musty mattress, sprinkle with cat box filler on top and leave for a week. Or wipe with a sponge dampened with vinegar. Deep cleaning with an extraction machine may be necessary.

Car Interior: Carpet freshener or baking soda, sprinkled on carpet in the interior and in the trunk, and vacuumed off, is a good car freshener. Or poke pinholes in a pack of potpourri and allow the heat in the car to release the fragrance. Activated charcoal, containers of coffee or cat box filler will absorb odors in the trunk. Ashtrays can be filled with baking soda or cat box filler to remove stale cigarette odors.

Cigarette smoke: For smoke odors in rooms dampen a dishtowel with white vinegar and wave it around the room for a minute or two. Or set small bowls of vinegar around the room. Fill the ashtrays with cat box filler. If a small item (such as a book) is full of the odor of cigarette smoke, place it in a bag with a couple of fabric softener sheets. Seal it and leave for several days. Repeat if necessary.

Resource: University of Kentucky Extension

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Written By

Photo of Trudy PickettTrudy PickettRetired (252) 527-2191 (Office) trudy_pickett@ncsu.eduLenoir County, North Carolina
Posted on Feb 22, 2013
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