When homeowners sell and move out, they sometimes leave behind lingering bad odors. If you’ve just moved in to find an odor you didn’t notice before, don’t panic. There are plenty of ways to eliminate smells.
Easy odor removal
Light odors from a refrigerator that wasn’t properly cleaned or a trash bag that hung around too long are easy to combat. First, remove the offending source if it’s still around. (Be sure to check the back of the pantry and cabinets for hidden leftover foodstuffs.) After you’ve cleaned the area, neutralize the odor with these common items:
Baking soda: Open a container and place it in the area where the smell originated.
Coffee grounds: Put used coffee grounds in a shallow bowl and place it around your house. The coffee grounds will absorb smells.
White vinegar: Bowls of white vinegar can act as an odor neutralizer.
Apple cider vinegar: If the sink has an odor, it is likely coming from the drain. Pouring apple cider vinegar down the drain will eliminate the smell.
Lemon: Chopping up a lemon and putting it through the garbage disposal will remove odors from the disposal and drain.
Smoke and nicotine
If the previous homeowner was a heavy smoker, the nicotine may have left stains as well as scent. Nicotine streaks’ smell can linger long after the last cigarette was stubbed out. Try combating the odor first by washing the walls and windows. Wait a day or two before giving it the all clear, as the smell may return. If stains are stubborn, consider a heavy-duty cleaner like trisodium phosphate.
For persistent odors, you might want to use an odor-blocking primer and sealant, like Kilz, to repaint your walls. Dry-clean curtains and other upholstery around the house. If your house came furnished, you may want to consider tossing out some of that furniture, especially the upholstered pieces.
If lots of pet hair was left behind, you probably want to consider buying a vacuum or an attachment for picking up pet hair. Before you vacuum, sprinkle a layer of baking soda on the carpet and let it stand for a few minutes. It will help neutralize odors.
If you have pets of your own, brush your pup every day for about five minutes to cut down on both loose hair and pet smells.
Not so fresh? Clean the ducts
If your house smells musty, check the air ducts and look for evidence of mold. If you can’t determine if it’s mold, you can have a sample analyzed by a microbiology testing center for about $50, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The extra precaution could be worth it, since a duct cleaning could cost between $450 and $1,000, according to the EPA.
If you don’t think your ducts need a cleaning, replace the filters.
Rotten egg smell
Unless someone actually left rotten eggs or garbage around, the smell of rotten eggs likely indicates a gas leak. Leave your home and call a professional as soon as possible.
Last resorts for odor removal
If you just can’t get the smell out, you’ll have to take more drastic action.
- Remove and clean or tear up and replace the carpets.
- Repaint walls in rooms where the odor is strongest.
- Hire a professional cleaning crew.
If you’re considering a cleaning device like an ozone machine, rent the product rather than buying one yourself. Since you’ll get only one use out of it—and many devices don’t work as well as we’d like them to—it makes more sense to rent than own.