Odor Patrol for Fabrics, Carpeting, and More
It's an unavoidable fact: Life is smelly. Fortunately, you can eliminate most of the unpleasant odors with thorough cleaning and careful disinfecting.
"With carpet, you're going to continue to smell anything that hasn't been cleaned away," says Tara Aronson, cleaning expert and author of "Mrs. CleanJeans' Housekeeping with Kids." For smells that are concentrated in one spot (like a pet "accident"), try dissolving about a quarter teaspoon of hand dishwashing liquid in lukewarm water. Using a cloth dipped in the liquid, blot the stained area. "It works like a sponge and pulls out the liquid," Aronson says. Dry it immediately by placing paper towels on top of the area and weighing down with something heavy. Be careful of getting the area too wet because you don't want the moisture to reach the carpet pad. Finish by sprinkling baking soda on the carpet (after it's completely dry) and leave it on overnight; vacuum up the next day.
Upholstery or Window Treatments
There's nothing worse than a wet pooch who decides to curl up on the sofa for a nap. To get rid of wet dog smell, spilled food smells, or a host of other unpleasant odors lingering on your furniture, first wash any removable upholstery or drapery fabric that's washable by hand or machine. You can try the dishwashing liquid solution again, or, for stronger odors, dissolve a half cup of white vinegar in one cup of water and blot using a dry rag (cloth diapers are also great for this). Spray deodorizers that are fabric-safe can also help to neutralize and eat away at the odor.
Strong odors like smoke cling stubbornly to everything -- especially walls. "The oils from tobacco really permeate wall surfaces," Aronson says. To get the smoke smell out of walls, first wash with something strong, she says, like trisodium phosphate (TSP) or similar. After removing the layer of yellow grime (the yellow is from the nicotine), use a blocker paint like Kilz to encapsulate the oils and prevent them from getting through. If you're repainting, Aronson recommends using a gloss or semi-gloss paint because they are less porous and the oils will have a tougher time getting through.
Garbage and Disposal
For smelly garbage disposals, you may have to bring out the big gun: bleach. Aronson recommends stopping up your sink, filling it with really hot water, and then adding half a cup of chlorine bleach. Let it soak overnight (make sure to block access to the sink by your kids and pets). The next day, remove the stopper and let it soak all the way down.
If your microwave has become rank, try this trick: Cut a lemon in half and drop it into a microwave-safe bowl; fill it halfway with water. Set the microwave on high for about two minutes. "The steam permeates the walls and gives a lemon-fresh scent," Aronson says.
An open box of baking soda goes a long way toward soaking up unwanted fridge odors. For stronger smells, like fish that's sat too long on a shelf, try putting an active charcoal in a bowl and letting it absorb the smells.
"Mildew is alive," Aronson says. It will continue to live on your shower curtain -- and stink up your bathroom -- until you wash the curtain. She recommends hot water with some bleach, and then let it hang dry.
Ever lent a book to a smoker or bought an old book that hasn't seen the light of day for decades? For valuable books, you might consider using a professional restoration service. But you can also try putting dryer sheets in between the pages, and then boxing the book up for a few days (as airtight as possible).
Toys are bound to get smelly after repeated use. Be careful of spraying disinfectants directly on toys, however. Instead, try washing them in your sink with hot water and dishwashing liquid. Avoid using anything toxic, Aronson says, since toys tend to end up in kids' mouths.