How to Make Your House Smell Good (+ DIY Scent Recipes)

By HomeAdvisor

Updated February 28, 2022

Woman setting down candle on tablePhoto: AleksandarNakic / E+ / Getty Images

From active kids to beloved indoor pets, our homes can naturally retain odors over time, including unpleasant ones. While air fresheners can help mask certain smells, these can inevitably contribute to strong odors inside.

If you desire a nose-friendly atmosphere that is fresh and inviting, you’re in the right place. Here are 20 genius hacks to keep your house smelling good all the time, including invigorating DIY scents for every season.

On This Page:

  1. Identify Smelly Culprits: Where to Look
  2. How to Deodorize a Home: Tips & Tricks
  3. Natural & DIY Scents: Ideas for Every Season

Identify Smelly Culprits: Where to Look

The first step in eliminating stenches is to find the source. In doing so, a home inspection checklist can come in handy to diagnose issues in areas of the home and appliances. When it comes to odd smells, an ideal place to start is the kitchen.

1. Clean Out the Refrigerator

Man with spray bottle and open fridgePhoto: monkeybusinessimages / iStock / Getty Images

It’s easy to overlook leftovers and condiments in the fridge. Sometimes weeks can go by before you realize food has gone bad. Spills and food stains inside of it can also cause it to smell over time. If you suspect the fridge is the smelly perpetrator, check every item inside and toss out those past their expiration dates.

Here are the steps to properly clean your fridge:

  • Empty it of any remaining items you plan to keep and place them on the kitchen counter.
  • Take out any removable parts, such as shelves and drawers, clean them with hot, soapy water, and dry with a towel.
  • Clean and wipe down the inside of the fridge the same way.
  • Make sure all food you place back in the fridge is in air-sealed containers or bags.

2. Replace the Trash Cans

Person lifting trash can from drawerPhoto: davidf / iStock / Getty Images

Likewise, garbage bins and diaper pails can grow smelly over time and contain spills not immediately visible. Just like with the fridge, you’ll want to scrub the inside of the bins and lids with soapy water. You can also fill the bottom of the trash can with warm water and a few drops of bleach to sanitize and neutralize the smell.

Quick hack: Consider using scented trash bags that seal in the odor while releasing a pleasant fragrance.

3. Check the Sink Drains

Family together and dad fixes sink plumbingPhoto: Rawpixel / iStock / Getty Images

Another place where foul smells can hide is in your sink drains. Sometimes the food doesn’t fully dissolve in the garbage disposal and builds up over time.

A quick fix is to pour a household drainage cleaner down the drain to help unclog it (or call a local pro to clean the drain for tougher clogs). Afterward, you can shred bits of orange or lemon peels into the garbage disposal to release a fresh, citrus aroma from the drain.

4. Clean the Dishwasher

family cleaning in kitchen and washing dishesPhoto: kate_sept2004 / E+ / Getty Images

If you noticed a musty smell after unloading the dishwasher, it may be time for a clean. Dishwashers often collect build-up from glasses and dishes over cycles and eventually let out a stench.

To combat this, place a cup of white vinegar in the bottom of your dishwasher and run it on a hot water cycle. Be sure to wash the dishwasher filter as well if it is not self-cleaning. You can hand-wash the filters using warm, soapy water.

5. Replace Air Filters

man replacing filter vent Photo: slobo / iStock / Getty Images

When was the last time you changed your air filter? From dust and hair to spores and pet dander—a dirty air filter collects it all. Cleaning your air filter will help improve the air quality, removing allergens and other small particles that may contribute to odor.

A good rule of thumb is to replace your air filter at least every 90 days. If your HVAC vent is hard to reach, it may be easier to call an air vent cleaning service in your area to take care of it.

How to Deodorize a Home: Tips and Tricks

Now that you know where to look for smells, the next step is tackling them head-on. The secret is not to mask bad odors, but rather neutralize them. Below are several simple ways you can achieve this.

6. Use Vinegar to Clean

Person in rubber gloves cleaning counter topsPhoto: Lumi / E+ / Getty Images

Vinegar is a safe and natural deodorizer that kills odor-causing bacteria. Not only does it eliminate smells, but it also serves as a multipurpose cleaner and disinfectant.

Simply mix equal parts of white vinegar and water together to spray on hard surfaces like kitchen counters or on carpet to soak and lift stains. You can also use a gallon of water-vinegar mix to mop floors.

7. Burn Fragrant Candles

Candles are a classic way to fill any space with invigorating aromas. You can purchase them in a range of scents and also use them as decoration.

The key is to strategically place the candles around the home in places that aren’t near fans or vents or easily accessible to children in the house. For safer alternatives, scented wax melts on candle warmers will also do the trick.

Quick hack: Certain types of candles let off harmful chemicals when they burn. To avoid this, opt for soy and coconut-based wax candles, which are nontoxic.

Add these printable labels to gift someone their favorite scented candle:

candle label mockup printout on table next to candlePhotos: Yuliia Mazurkevych / Shutterstock; Diana Schröder-Bode / Unsplash

8. Place Dryer Sheets in Storage Areas

woman looking at clothes in closetPhoto: Rifka Hayati / E+ / Getty Images

Sometimes smells can hide in cramped storage spaces, such as the coat closet or shoe boxes. Keep storage areas smelling fresh by adding a couple of dryer sheets.

Also, prior to hanging clothes and storing shoes, make sure you allow them to fully dry after washing. Damp items in enclosed spaces can start to mold. If you find that your closets and storage areas are overwhelmingly cluttered, hire a local professional organizer to step in and help.

9. Get an Air Purifier

Air filter in living roomPhoto: PrathanChorruangsak / iStock / Getty Images

For large homes or those with more people and pets, simply replacing the air filters may not be enough. Adding an air purifier, such as a portable one, can improve indoor air quality in specific rooms. These mechanical filters assist in reducing allergens in the air, such as pollen, dust, and pet dander, as well as odor-causing bacteria.

10. Routinely Clean Furniture

Deep cleaning couch cushionsPhoto: Nadiia Borodai / iStock / Getty Images

Spending a lot of time in the living room? Over time, couches and loveseats may absorb sweat, stains, dropped crumbs, and pet dander that eventually begins to smell.

Make it a habit to vacuum the furniture during your routine cleaning, as well as scrub out immediate stains. Keep in mind that certain types of upholstery and soft furnishings may require professional furniture cleaning.

11. Use Baking Soda

woman scooping up baking sodaPhoto: Dragon Images / Shutterstock

“Sodium Bicarbonate,” which we know as baking soda, is another household deodorizer and versatile product. In addition to cooking, you can store baking soda in cabinets, refrigerators, and closets to absorb odors as well as use it as a non-toxic multipurpose cleaner.

Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet before vacuuming, in your laundry before washing, and on pots and pans to scrub out tough stains.

12. Open a Window

a smiling man looking out of an open windowPhoto: monkeybusinessimages / iStock / Getty Images

Another simple and effective hack: Open the windows! This will let in a fresh breeze to combat stale air and lingering odors, especially after cooking.

13. Clean the Carpets

deep cleaning rugPhoto: LumiNola / E+ / Getty Images

When was the last time you cleaned your carpets? Unlike hard floors, carpets are like sponges, absorbing dirt, stains, and smells over time that can become unpleasant.

While vacuuming and using carpet cleaning products can help, hiring a local pro to clean your carpet once or twice a year can help remove the toughest stains and smells, giving you a complete refresh.

14. Use Scented Cleaners

Disinfecting counter tops and wiping them offPhoto: Bojani / Shutterstock

If you use a lot of household cleaners, there are plenty of scented options available in your local store. Choose subtle yet fresh scents such as lemon and lavender.

15. Reduce Indoor Moisture

woman folding towels in bedroomPhoto: kate_sept2004 / E+ / Getty Images

Damp sponges and towels can carry musty smells, so it’s recommended to replace them weekly. Mold can also grow in areas of the home with high humidity levels, such as bathrooms and basements, in which moisture-absorbing products or a dehumidifier could be helpful. Also, consider hiring a pro near you for plumbing repairs and to periodically check pipes for leaks.

Natural and DIY Scents: Ideas for Every Season

Want to avoid using air fresheners with toxic chemicals? Some of these products don’t necessarily remove the smell, but rather add an additional strong aroma to the air.

This can be counterproductive for someone with allergies or sensitivities to strong smells. Below are a few do-it-yourself (DIY) home scents that are friendlier to sensitive noses and can even double as gifts for the holidays.

16. Use Essential Oil Blends

Essential oils are natural alternatives to synthetic fragrances. Once extracted, essential oils maintain the aroma from plants and can be mixed with candles, added to cleaners, and more.

You can add a few drops of essential oil blends to craft wood cut-outs to create DIY air fresheners and hang them every season.

Photo: Tatyana Maximova / iStock / Getty Images

Be sure to pet-proof your home when preparing and using them, as many essential oils are poisonous to animals.

Below is a list of pet-friendly essential oils:

  • Lavender oil
  • Frankincense
  • Chamomile
  • Bergamot

17. Simmer Aromatics on the Stove

woman stirring a pot on a kitchen stovePhoto: miniseries / iStock / Getty Images

Do you love the lingering smell of citrus fruits and spices? Easily simmer fruit peels, such as oranges and lemons, with herbs like peppermint and rosemary together in a water-filled pot on the stove. The sweet aroma from this stovetop potpourri will fill the entire house.

18. Add Fresh Flowers and Plants

flower arrangement on tablePhoto: flyparade / iStock / Getty Images

Houseplants and flowers have subtle, natural scents that can help make the home smell fresh. Certain plants can also function as natural air purifiers, helping to improve the air quality. In addition to fresher air, studies show that plants can boost productivity and reduce stress.

19. Make DIY Potpourri Bowls

Potpourri, a mixture of dried plant materials with natural scents, is an effective way to freshen your home without harsh chemicals. It can also serve as a craft activity or gift for the holidays.

Kids can enjoy smelling each scent, such as cinnamon sticks and dried apple peels, and mixing them to create their own potpourri bowls:

Photo: Arkhipenko Olga / Shutterstock

20. Bake Desserts in the Oven

father and daughter baking cookies in ovenPhoto: kate_sept2004 / E+ / Getty Images

If you’re expecting guests over, you can bake desserts such as cake or sugar cookies that will permeate the home with a warm, inviting aroma. If you want to skip food altogether, simply warm cinnamon powder or vanilla extract in a dish in the oven to achieve the same results.

With these cleaning secrets and house hacks, your abode will smell pleasant year-round. Since routine cleaning plays a significant role in odor prevention, hiring local professionals to clean your house can help prepare your home in time for guests and holidays.

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