Whether you’re renting or buying, settling into a new home can come with some unexpected surprises. And there’s nothing more frustrating than when those surprises leave you asking, “what’s that smell?” The good news: getting rid of odors doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Here, we examine odor-inducing particles and how to get rid of them.
If your nose is picking up something earthy that smells like rotting wood in your house, mold and mildew are probably the culprits. These airborne particles thrive in wet, enclosed environments like bathrooms, kitchens and basements. The key to getting rid of mold and mildew (and the smell that comes with it) is keeping those areas dry and well-ventilated.
You can clean mold and mildew from non-porous surfaces like tile and metal using warm water and detergent, but surfaces like wood and carpet sometimes need to be replaced in order to get rid of the smell.¹ Prevent more mildew from growing by running exhaust fans while the kitchen and bathroom are in use and patching up any leaks in the basement’s foundation.
The smell of deep-fried food might be nice when you visit the county fair, but in your new home? Not so much. If your kitchen smells like old frying oil, start by running the fan on the range hood and boiling a pot of 1 cup of water + 1 tablespoon of vinegar on the stovetop. While that’s happening, use the same solution of water and vinegar to wipe down the counters, walls, appliance surfaces and cabinets in your kitchen. Most cooking oils don’t evaporate, but tiny oil particles can make their way onto all sorts of surfaces after years of cooking.
Candles can leave a nice smell in the air temporarily, but they also give off soot that pollutes indoor air as the wax burns. If the previous owners or tenants were big fans of candles, that sooty smell may still be lingering in the air. Avoid adding to the odor by swapping your candles for reed diffusers.
Sometimes, soot ends up on the walls if a candle or fireplace was being used nearby. You can clean soot (and the smell it leaves behind) by using a mixture of warm water and a few drops of dish detergent to scrub invisible soot off the walls. If your home has a fireplace, it might be worth giving it a deep clean.
To combat ongoing household odors, install a Filtrete™ Odor Reduction Air Filter in your home’s HVAC system. The filter’s active carbon layer acts to help minimize strong odors for everything from pet smells to cooking fumes, so you can breathe easier. For optimal effectiveness, it’s important to replace your air filter regularly:
1. “Mold Cleanup in Your Home.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2021.