Smelly Home Cures: Deodorizing Your Home Naturally

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natural deoderizers

(image: Drew Tyre)

How do you naturally deodorize your home? Well, here are a few options from which to choose as you transform your space where your nose and health is concerned.


By now you’ve probably seen those zany Febreze commercials. You know, the ones with the giant fish swimming through the mystical living-room waters, or the blindfolded family sniffing their way around a trash can. Personally, I prefer playing scrabble on family nights. And when I hang out by an overflowing garbage can, I don’t smell a breath of fresh air—I smell laziness and festering leftovers.

The problem with air fresheners (a primer)

According to Scientific American and National Geographic’s Green Guide, “Many air fresheners contain nerve-deadening chemicals that coat your nasal passages and temporarily block your sense of smell.” Sounds pretty creepy, if you ask me. For some, using air fresheners in moderation is fine. Personally, I’m convinced that most air fresheners—solids, sprays, and plug-ins—trigger nasal congestion and headaches. In fact, I know a few people who get full-on migraines from anything that’s heavily perfumed. For folks with asthma and allergies, air fresheners aren’t always an option.

If your home has that not-so-fresh air about it—and you don’t want to resort to commercially available air fresheners—how can you de-stink the place like nature intended? Come closer. Pull up a chair. Here are a few tips to freshen your home naturally:

Boil up some freshness

When things get foul around the house, I boil a pot of cinnamon sticks and cloves. Then I walk away for a few minutes. (Because a watched pot never boils, of course.) If you aren’t a fan of cinnamon or cloves, you could mix some vanilla extract, sliced lemon, and rosemary together instead.

Almond extract combined with fresh orange and ginger is equally lovely. If you don’t have time to watch the stovetop, toss everything into a mini slow cooker and let it simmer. When you stew up one of these aromatic concoctions, your home will be filled with a lovely, natural scent. Just don’t blame me if you get a hankering for lemonade, spiced cookies, or fresh-baked pie.


Hose down your garbage

If you’ve cleaned, scoured, and scrubbed—and your place still reeks—check the bottom of your garbage for rogue peach pits and apple cores. Sometimes, a food scrap or two will roll out of the bag and into the bottom of your garbage, only to be unearthed months later.

When you change your garbage, check the bottom for stray foodstuff, and then give your garbage can a soapy rinse. Once it’s dry, sprinkle some baking soda at the bottom to stave off odors. Then toss in a new bag, and yer done.

Rinse out the cat litter

If you didn’t already know, cat urine is high in ammonia. Thought to be pretty harmless in small doses, prolonged exposure to ammonia may be connected to eye, nose, and general respiratory irritation. (It also smells pretty rank.) Instead of creating an air freshener halo—or using perfumed litter fresheners—I prefer a more natural approach: a bit of water and baking soda.

After you change Mr. Snuggles’ litter, rinse it out with plain water to neutralize the ammonia. Then sprinkle on a layer of baking soda. Make sure there’s no stray litter in the box before you rinse. Because pouring litter down the drain can seriously clog up your plumbing.

Take-home lesson

So, your place smells gross. Not to worry. Overpowering commercial air fresheners—from scented candles to solids or plug-ins—aren’t your only option. Sometimes, all you need is a bit of rinsing, scrubbing, and stovetop concocting to achieve a fresh-smelling home.

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Tanya Roberts

Tanya Roberts is a writer and marketer who loves to spin stories about interior design and home decor. She is principle strategist at