There are many possible reasons why an unpleasant smell lingers in your house. Some smells signal a possible danger, like mold growth or decomposition, which often requires professional cleanup. Others, however, are not that serious. Learn about what may be causing unexpected smells and get the best solutions for permanent odor removal below.
What smell are you trying to get rid of:
1. Why does my house smell musty?
If your home has suffered water damage or high humidity, the musty odor is likely the result of mold, which thrives in damp, warm, and dark places. Mold also presents several health risks.
Mold exposure symptoms
Getting rid of mold not only neutralizes the odor, but it also defends occupants from mold exposure health risks. Mold-sensitive individuals may exhibit allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, coughing, itchy eyes, wheezing and skin irritation. Moreover, mold can trigger asthmatic symptoms that include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Mold exposure can also cause irritant reactions, in which case the symptoms are like those of an allergic reaction: coughing, runny nose, eye irritation and more.
For proper odor removal in your house, the affected area will need to be dried and the mold properly removed.
Tips for mold-related odor removal
- Check the damp places in your home that could support mold growth. Keep in mind that mold may be hidden. If you can’t find traces of mold, hire a restoration company — they have non-invasive moisture meters to find mold that’s hiding behind walls, for example.
- Once you find the affected area, clean it by scrubbing the surface with a mixture of household detergent and water. Don’t use bleach, as it only kills live mold, but not mold spores, leading to faster mold growth. Then, dry the area using ventilation and dehumidifiers. Make sure the area is dry before doing any repainting or reconstruction.
- If the odor comes from carpet, first, fix the humidity issue that causes the musty odor. To deodorize your carpet, spray it with a mixture of 1 cup of white vinegar and 2 cups of warm water. Then, pour baking soda on the carpet and wait a few hours. If the odor persists, repeat the process. (Make sure you spot test first to avoid potentially damaging delicate materials.)
For any mold removal task, we recommend contacting a professional mold remediation company, such as PuroClean. Our technicians provide industrial-strength machines and have extensive mold removal experience. They use dehumidifiers, air-moving machines, and fans to thoroughly dry the area, ensuring that mold will not return.
2. My house smells like tobacco smoke
How tobacco smoke affects your home
Smoking tobacco releases odorous substances that stick to every surface of the area in which smoking occurs. Cigarette smoke also penetrates more odor-absorbing objects, such as carpets, upholstery, bedding, clothes, and many more. Additionally, the HVAC system of a building can carry the smoke odor and chemicals throughout the structure.
Tobacco residue is extremely hard to remove and requires professional equipment and services. But, if you want to try to DIY, here are a few tips for cigarette smoke odor removal.
Long-term cigarette odor removal solutions
For cigarette smoke odor removal, you must thoroughly clean the tobacco smoke residue from every surface and corner in the home:
- First, open all windows and doors to let as much fresh air inside as possible.
- Clean or replace all air filters, furnace filters, and AC filters.
- Clean walls and ceilings using products with ammonia and glycol — two ingredients that neutralize bad odors. Let the walls dry and check if the odor persists.
- If you can still smell cigarette odor after cleaning, repaint the walls and ceilings with latex paint. Use a sealant designed to lock in odors before painting.
- Clean everything in the home: floors, windows, carpets, furniture, upholstery, draperies, blinds, and other household surfaces, fixtures, and items. Hire a professional cleaning company if the tobacco smoke is too difficult to remove.
Short-term cigarette odor removal solutions
If you want inexpensive short-term solutions, try these tips:
- Use an air purifier in your home.
- Sprinkle baking soda on the carpets, leave it overnight to absorb bad smells, and vacuum it the next day.
- Place saucers of white vinegar around the house and leave them overnight to neutralize the smell.*
- Get indoor plants which can absorb up to 87% of indoor pollutants.
- Place small bowls of coffee throughout the home.*
- Use scented or non-scented candles.
- Leave orange peels around the home.*
- Place pineapple slices around the room with all doors and windows closed for 24 hours.*
- Place bowls of activated charcoal around the home.*
*Please be mindful of where you place these items throughout your home as they may be harmful to children and pets if ingested.
Completely removing cigarette smoke odor from a home is a very time-consuming and complicated process. If the situation is severe, call a professional smoke remediation specialist, such as PuroClean, for odor removal.
How professionals perform smoke odor removal from a property
As tobacco residue is present throughout the entire affected area, removing it is often very difficult. There is no magic formula that just whisks away residues and smells.
The only effective way to remove tobacco residue and smell is through very thorough cleaning and then sealing all structural surfaces. Restoration specialists start tobacco smoke odor removal by cleaning all surfaces. The cleanup includes deodorizing agents to help eliminate the very tiny particles of tobacco smoke.
Once the technicians finish cleaning the visible surfaces, using specialized equipment is often necessary to remove the very last of the odors that are not easily accessible (such as inside walls or joints). This will often involve hydroxyl generators or ozone generators — professional equipment that effectively destroys the smelly particles.
The next step consists of sealing the surfaces with a product designed to seal smoke residues. These can lock in the very last of the stains and odors. Finally, the surfaces will be ready to paint, refinish or apply new coverings.
What about the soft items? Things such as upholstery, bedding, draperies, and clothes absorb odors very well and are often easily damaged. Because of this, they are very difficult to successfully restore and may require specialists. In many cases though, the decision is made to simply replace these materials and items.
For cigarette smoke odor removal, call the pros!
For tobacco smoke odor removal in your home effectively and in the shortest time possible, hire a professional restoration company like PuroClean. We provide complete smoke cleaning and sanitation, professional deodorization, as well as duct cleaning services.
3. My house smells like pet urine or skunk spray
Skunk spray and serious pet urine odor are some of the most upsetting when they affect your home. But, although controlling those odors can be difficult, it can be achieved. Here are tips on how to properly deodorize these odors from a house.
How to remove pet urine or skunk smell
- Nonporous surfaces — If pet urine or skunk spray is on a nonporous surface, such as metal or plastic, thorough cleaning is the first step and may be enough. Since the odorous substance contains natural oils, which is the cause of the smell, you will want a strong detergent. Using warm water and strong detergent should be effective and should not take long. After washing the surface, rinse it with warm water. If the smell is still there, repeat the process. Make sure to rinse with warm water to clean away any residue left behind.
- Porous surfaces — If pet urine or skunk is on a porous surface, like carpet, particleboard, or upholstery, cleaning them is also the first step. Clean these as you would a non-porous surface. These surfaces are more difficult to clean, so if your efforts are not successful, or if the task is too overwhelming, call a professional restoration company. Carpet and pad with excessive pet urine damage creates a biohazard condition and should usually be removed and discarded.
- Semi-porous surfaces — On semi-porous materials, such as most wood, also clean with a solution of water and detergent as explained above. To help neutralize the odor, the detergent should be allowed to penetrate the surface. However, if the wood is heavily damaged by urine or skunk spray, it will most likely need to be disposed of. Seek assistance from a restoration company to improve your chances of restoring damaged semi-porous material.
How to eliminate general pet odors:
- Pets need regular bathing and grooming. Washing your furry friends helps remove odors and dirt, while frequent brushing prevents shedding hair from reaching your furnishings.
- Wash your dog with a solution of 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed with ¼ cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of mild dishwashing liquid. Avoid the eyes and ears.
- Empty the cat litter box, then clean it by pouring ½ inch of vinegar in it and adding some baking soda. Add water, stir and let it soak for a few hours. Afterward, remove the liquid, wash, rinse and let it dry.
- Regularly clean and vacuum your furniture and carpets. Make sure to read the instructions and use cleaning products that don’t harm your animal companions.
- A common solution to removing general pet odors is baking soda. Just sprinkle a small amount of fresh baking soda on carpets and fabrics in your room, leave it on for 15 minutes (or more), then vacuum it. You can also use baking soda as a substitute for home air fresheners.
- Use air filters to recycle the air in your household. HEPA air filtration systems are recommended and change the HVAC filters monthly in order to provide the best air purification possible.
- Clean the objects that the pets use (toys, food containers, etc.) weekly. Doing so not only improves the smell in your home, but also your pets’ health.
The odor should disappear after applying these tips. But if the problem persists, call PuroClean. Our biohazard cleanup professionals have specialized products and equipment, such as ozone or hydroxyl generators, that can be very effective in completing the deodorizing process.
4. How to Deodorize a House Affected by Decomposition Odor
One of the most severe smells comes from the decomposition of human or animal bodies. Check out our tips to remove these odors from your home:
- Dead body odors — If the issue involves a deceased person, get professional assistance. After the proper authorities have removed the body, cleaning and decontaminating the fluids come under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Blood and Other Potentially Infectious Material (BOPIM) regulations. These regulations specify the training, equipment, safety issues, and products that must be used to safely remove and decontaminate an area damaged by BOPIM. Professional restoration companies follow these regulations to safely decontaminate areas where decomposition took place.
- Dead animal odors — In case the source of decomposition is a small animal, such as a rodent, the approach is similar to removing pet urine or skunk spray. Wear protective gear first, clean and sanitize non-porous and semi-porous material, and discard damaged absorbent material. Semi-porous and nonporous materials need to be thoroughly cleaned and then sanitized with a disinfectant. Over-the-counter disinfectants are very effective and will result in a clean and sanitary surface.
When you’re not sure what to do when confronted with an odor problem, contact a restoration professional right away, before the problem worsens. For any odor removal situation, call your local PuroClean office.
5. How to remove other smells in your home
Bad odors also linger in places like the kitchen, basement, and bathroom. They permeate areas such as carpets, fabrics, and your pets’ favorite spots. Here are budget-friendly tips for eliminating bad odors from various areas in your home:
- Remove the source of the smell. To truly fix the odor issue, identify the problem and fix it. For instance, fixing the plumbing could stop the bad smells from permeating your home.
- Wash hard surfaces, such as countertops, tables, hard floors, and walls. Use either your favorite cleaner or a mixture of half water, half white vinegar.
- Clean carpets and fabrics:
- For carpets, a simple way to eliminate odor is to use baking soda, a natural deodorizer. After the carpet is dry, sprinkle baking soda on it, then allow the baking soda to sit overnight. The next day, remove the baking soda with a vacuum cleaner.
- On upholstery, use white vinegar to absorb the odor. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spritz it on the upholstery. Wait until the vinegar air-dries. The strong smell of vinegar, along with the musty odors, will be gone once it has dried.
- Fight kitchen smells:
- Fridge — keep an open box of baking soda in the fridge to absorb smells. For more efficiency, wipe down shelves using hydrogen peroxide and a piece of cloth.
- Garbage disposal — grind some ice, then sprinkle Borax down the disposal and rinse it with water.
- Fish and other food smells – boil a cup of vinegar on the stove to release vapors that absorb smells quickly. Wipe down the cabinets with soap and warm water.
- Garbage can — if the can itself smells, wash it with water and white vinegar. If the garbage smells, but the can isn’t full yet, remove the odors by dropping some coffee grounds in it.
- Remove bathroom odors:
- Toilet — add 1 cup of white vinegar into the bowl, wait 5 minutes, then scrub and flush.
- Sink drain — mix ½ cup of bleach and ½ cup of water and pour it down the drain. Let it stand for 1 hour and then rinse with water.
If nothing else works, call the odor removal specialists
Following these tips can help lessen the odors in your home. For professional deodorization services in homes affected by tobacco smoke, fire, mold, or other causes, contact your local PuroClean office.
Get help with odor remediation by calling the PuroClean Local Response Hotline at 800-775-7876. Alternatively, use our office locator to find your local office. Our restoration experts stand ready to come to your property’s rescue 24/7!