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5 Fast Fixes for Stubborn Household Odors

Freshen up that stale winter air!


Over time, we stop noticing the everyday smells in our home. But someone coming in for the first time might notice those lingering household odors — especially in winter, when closed-up homes trap air inside and contribute to a stuffy atmosphere. Not to worry, though! We’ve got five easy ways to freshen up fast.

Banish musty mildew with charcoal jars.

To get rid of musty smells lingering in the bathroom or basement, just grab a few charcoal briquettes. ″The carbon in charcoal traps odors,″ reveals Joey Green, author of Last-Minute Kitchen Secrets (Buy on Amazon, $16.99). ″It absorbs moisture to keep mold and mildew at bay.″ Simply put a few briquettes in a jar or slide them inside a pair of old nylons and hang them in an inconspicuous spot. Just check that your charcoal is free of scents or additives.

Say so long to smoky smells with bowls of vinegar.

Whether the microwave burned your popcorn or someone lit a cigarette in the guest room, smoke is one of the most stubborn household odors to nix. To the rescue: white vinegar. ″It contains acetic acid, which neutralizes odors,″ says Green. In fact, it breaks down smoke molecules. Just pour vinegar into a few large bowls and set them out overnight. The next day, the stale stench will be gone!

Erase pet pee-eww fast with baking soda.

No need to buy pricey pet-masking perfumes to lift Fido’s shaggy scent — just reach for a box of baking soda. ″It absorbs odors from both surfaces and the air,″ explains Jamie Novak, author of Stop Throwing Money Away (Buy on Amazon, $13.79). Sprinkle a bit on your sofa and rugs, let sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum up the powder and smells. Another great option? Try running an air purifier to filter allergens and pet dander from the air!

Lift kitchen stinks with a splash of citrus.

A trusty lemon can refresh your entire kitchen! Unlike artificial citrus-scented air fresheners, the real deal contains oils that kill odor-causing germs. To remove smells on porous surfaces, like your cutting board, rub them with half of a lemon or an orange, then rinse off. And if the stink is coming from your sink, pour a half cup of lemon juice down the drain, let it sit for three minutes, then flush with hot water.

Freshen up appliances with powdered lemonade.

To remove odors from your dishwasher or washing machine, pour a packet of clear powdered lemonade into the cup where detergent normally goes and run it on the hottest, shortest cycle. The citric acid in the lemonade will kill odors.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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