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Smells Like Teen Spirit (Odor Removal 101)

If your house smells funky, cracking a window or spritzing around an air freshener will only get you so far. If it doesn’t look like those lingering whiffs of last night’s salmon or your dog’s mistakes are going to disappear on their own, it’s time to get serious! Break out the big guns and show that stink who’s boss.

Here are six tried-and-true strategies for dealing with common household odors.

Note: If you’re picking up a stench that’s akin to a dirty, wet sock (and it’s not coming from a teenager’s hamper), you may have a mold problem. Conduct a thorough mold search immediately, because mold is hazardous to your health and your home.

1. The Garbage Disposal Stench

If your still catching whiffs of Tuesday’s dinner by the time the weekend hits, it’s time to de-stink your disposal. To do this, all you need is a lemon, some baking soda and one minute of free time. For details (and a video!), read: How to Fix a Smelly Garbage Disposal.

2. The Trash Can Odor

Since you fill it with – you know – trash all the time, your garbage can get raunchy pretty quickly! The easiest way to prevent this is to sprinkle the bottom of the can with baking soda each time you change the bag. The alkali nature of the baking soda will absorb odors and keep things fresh.

3. The Full-Room Reek

If you’ve located the smelly room but haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact source, you might be able to soak it up anyway! Fill a small bowl with vinegar and place it in the middle of the room. The vinegar will absorb pretty much any stench – everything from cigarette smoke to pet odors. Don’t worry about the leftover vinegar smell, it’ll dissipate quickly once the vinegar is removed.

4. The Carpet Conundrum 

Carpets and rugs soak up smells faster than you slurp down a smoothie on a hot day. To get rid of the odors, sprinkle your carpets and rugs with baking soda and then vacuum.

To keep things consistently fresh, squeeze some lemon or lime juice into your vacuum bag before each use. The scent will be transferred to your rug or carpet so you can enjoy a nice citrus aroma.

5. The Pungent Pet

If you know exactly where your bad smells are coming from, and his name is Spot, then you need to one-two punch the odor. Depending on the specifics, use one of these freshening strategies.

You can prevent future odors with activated charcoal, which is extremely porous and great for absorbing pet smells. If you have a cat, put the charcoal in or near their litter box. For dogs, place some activated charcoal in your pet’s favorite rooms (but out of reach!).

6. The Laundry Stink

If your clothes smell worse after they’ve been run through a cycle, it’s time to clean your washing machine. With each wash, a little bit of bacteria and a whole lot of lint are leftover. And these leftovers stink. Make sure your machine’s lint trap is emptied (just like your dryer’s). Then, run a cycle of only hot water and three cups of distilled white vinegar. This will kill the smelly bacteria and clean your washing machine.

To avoid this “solo” cycle in the future, add one cup of vinegar to your towels-only load every once in a while. The vinegar won’t harm the towels but it will disinfect the washer!

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