Improving indoor air quality
Conquering odors can help you breathe better and avoid embarrassment when guests come over.
Mon, Dec 05 2011 at 4:00 PM
CLEAN AIR KITCHEN: A man cleans a microwave filter in his kitchen. The kitchen is a prime source of household odors, but they're easily eliminated. (Photo: Anne Kitzman /
There’s nothing like coming home to the smell of an aromatic soup bubbling on the stove. But what’s a gal to do when her hubby steamed up some wholesome broccoli for dinner? Or boiled up some eggs for an egg salad sandwich?
The kitchen’s not the only place that can produce funky smells. The bedroom, bathroom, basement, closet and laundry room are also typical hot spots for developing some less-than-pleasant aromas. Here are a few tricks we’ve collected for improving indoor air quality and conquering odors in every room of the house.
There are two basic steps to use in the kitchen to control odors. The first is to keep things clean by regularly wiping down fridge shelves and walls, burner bibs, the interior of the microwave, oven and garbage can. Use vinegar to wipe down fridge shelves and trash cans; use steel wool for burner bibs; use a mixture of baking soda, lemon juice and water for microwave interior; and try vinegar for deep cleaning and sanitizing cutting boards.
The second step is to absorb and reduce unpleasant aromas. For a stinky sink, throw half a lemon down the garbage disposal. While cooking weird-smelling foods, fill a bowl with vinegar and place it on counter near the stove. Place a fresh box of baking soda in the fridge with plenty of air holes so it can effectively absorb bad odors. To freshen up the microwave, combine lemon juice, water, and cloves or cinnamon and set to boil. Remember to wipe down the walls from built-up condensation.
For a final touch and a heavenly smell, boil up a pot of water with a few cinnamon sticks and let it simmer for half an hour. Just be prepared when family members wander into the kitchen wanting a taste of whatever’s cooking.
People spend a whole lot of time in this room, so make it a pleasant stay. Use full strength vinegar to clean the commode by pouring about one cup into the bowl and allowing it to sit for a few minutes. Then clean as usual. Attack mildew on tiles or walls with the same panacea — full-strength vinegar. Light a candle or place a basket of small, unwrapped soaps or potpourri for a light, fresh smell. Splurge a little on a great-smelling hand soap and lotion pump to create some good smells in place of the not-so-good ones.
Believe it or not, the washing machine can produce some of the nastiest smells in the house. When the machine is the cause of the odor, run an empty cycle with a cup of vinegar to clean out the washtub. According to Sear’s washer technicians, this should be done every month or two to avoid the rotten egg smell.
If it’s gym clothing or other smelly garments causing you to wrinkle your nose, sprinkle some baking soda on them to help absorb odors until you’re ready to run the wash. To keep things smelling friendly, hang a small sack containing fresh coffee grounds in the corner of the room. A coffee filter tied with a pretty ribbon can do the trick or a single sock or stocking that long ago lost its mate. Choose a sock with a clean looking heel, and if you’ve got the artistic sense, sew on a few appliques to mask its former function.
Small, dark places
Basements and closets tend to give off musty odors. Kick the trend by picking up some activated charcoal at a pet store and hanging a bag full in the corner of the closet or basement. If charcoal sounds too intense, try the coffee sack or baking soda ideas mentioned earlier, but punch a few extra holes in the top and sides for greater effectiveness. Keep shoes and boots odor-free by stuffing with newspapers to absorb moisture. Be sure to allow shoes or boots a day between uses to allow them to fully dry. This helps to reduce smells and extend the life of the shoe.
If you’ve tried all these tips and odors still persist, do a thorough spot check of every room in the house, including hard-to-reach places. Chances are you’re missing something, and you better pray it’s not your daughter’s lunch from last month in the corner of the front closet, or a half-eaten burger under your son’s bed.
Food-hoarding aside, other common causes of odor can include unchecked pet disasters. One lady I know who runs a highly successful cleaning business had a persistent, horrible smell in her living room and discovered her cat was keeping a dead mouse under the couch. Trust me – stink happens to the best and cleanest of us.
Share your tips for improving indoor air quality in the comment section below.
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