Dealing with bad smells in the house...(cleaning advice wanted, maybe TMI)

…when it’s just too cold to have a window open for fresh air continuously?

I hate it when there are those bad smells in my house. You know, when something doesn’t really smell right? And you can’t pinpoint the source of the bad smell? Man, I hate that. Never mind a few innocent dustbunnies or a bit of clutter; but I * do* want my house to smell clean. Not perfumed; just clean.

Up untill now, my SO did most of the cleaning, but now I fend for myself. However, my parents never taught me to clean properly, and while I’m doing not too bad, I’m too embarrassed to ask any really good cleaners I know IRL. So I turn to Dopers. Can you tell me about sources of bad smell in the house and how you deal with them efficiently?

Let me give a few examples.

Carpet and curtains give off a stuffy smell after five or so years. Even when they’re vacuumed every other day. Professional cleaning just seems to consist of making the carpet wet and get the curtains out of shape. What’s a good solution, aside from the rather pricey one of getting new carpeteing every six years?

Only recently, I found out that why bathroomwalls are tiled. I always thought that bathroom cleaning was just about cleaning the bowl, lid and doorknob. But no. The typical urinal smell in mens’ toilets apparently is caused by tiny urine-droplets on the walls. :eek: A guy wearing shorts, doing the free thing up a tree, feels droplets on his legs and hands, right? Well, the same droplets accumulate on the walls in his own bathroom.
I still don’t know the best way to remove those invisible droplets though. Chlorine? Vinegar? Just soap and warm water does not seem to get rid of the smell entirely. OTOH, bathroom smells may also be caused by sewer smells somehow floating up through the water-lock. I just don’t know.

Another bad smell I have managed to identify comes from laundry that has been forgotten in the washingmachine and has been left there sitting for a day or so. Something like that can happen easily, but I’ve found that even after drying and repeated washing, that smell never goes away anymore, and it can accompany someone like a subtle bad aftershave.

Cat-litter boxes. A familiar problem, no doubt. I’ve heard good things about Litter-maid, a self-cleaning cat litterbox, but I’m not convinced yet.

So, have you been able to identify subtle bad smells in the house? How did you get rid of them?

Tried using baking soda? Loads of stuff about its deodourant properties online.

I second the baking soda idea; I use it often in my bathroom to clean the shower grout and tiles. It takes some elbow grease, but it’s worth it. My husband recently bought one of those blue scented toilet bowl discs, that you drop into the tank and turns the water blue, that seems to smell pleasant enough.

As for cat litter, I was using a type of litter for a while that was okay, but didn’t take long to stink up, and still had a funky litter-dust smell. I don’t work for these guys, but if you can get your hands on some, get some Tidy Cats Small Spaces litter. All I can say about that stuff is “WOW.” I barely know the litter box is there.

Laundry, I recommend never letting it sit wet for any period of time. What you’re smelling is laundry mildew. (Don’t feel too bad, most of us have to learn the hard way when we first find ourselves cleaning our own stuff for the first time!) Re-wash the laundry with your regular detergent, plus add a cup of white vinegar, that ought to get the smell out. If it doesn’t right away, continue doing this with each wash until the smell is gone.

Also, Febreze can be a wonderful product (the homepage should be able to tell you if it’s available in your country). Spray down your carpet, curtains, furniture, etc. weekly with the stuff.

Good luck! :slight_smile:

Febreze is available here. I’d never thought of using it on the big surfaces, so thanks !

I realized while posting that my problem with soda is that there are at least two different kids, all named " soda" yet all different.
There’s natriumcarbonaat (washing soda)(Na2CO3), for grease-stain removal, de-greasing in general, for de-hardening water and for mild desinfecting. This is what is generally meant by soda in the Netherlands. If I had an inflamed toe, my mom used to put my toe in hot water with washing soda. In retrospect, not a good idea apparently, because " washing soda can cause skin irritation: wear gloves" .

And then there’s natriumbicarbonate (NaHCo3). Am I right this is baking soda? Non-toxic, and it’s even used to make dough airy? And this is the kind of baking soda I should add to hot water to clean the bathroom? How much? Combine with soap or not? I’ve never seen baking soda in Dutch shops, except in tiny and expensive containers in the baking section. I’ll have to hunt for it.

Oh, why I was googling for baking soda I found this wonderful little movie. I’s been posted on this board before. It looks like a magic trick, but the lady in the movie manages to fold a shirt in exactly two seconds. I’ve tried it and it works, too.

Call me a freak but I LOVE the smell of bleach.

Use it diluted in (clothes) washing and full-ish strength when washing floors.

Nothing smells like clean then the chemical aromna of bleach!

Looks like NaHCo3 is baking soda. When you start getting into chemical formulas, I’m lost, I’m afraid. I just look for “baking soda” on the packet in the supermarket. :slight_smile:

You can also sprinkle baking soda on the carpets, let it sit a while, then vacuum it up. That may help with that mustiness.

For drapes – I’ve only got washable curtains, so I can’t help you there.

twickster, my curtains were officially washable, too. But they still hung out of whack afterwards. Lost all color, too, they went from a carefully designed shade of egg-white to a dull cheap greyish white. And this was after being professionally washed!

But anyway, does anybody know other not-so-obvious-sources of bad smell and how to combat them? Knowledge I can arm myself with, as I go through my house in Smelling Detective-mode? :slight_smile:

Here’s another example I’ve discovered in my quest for a clean-smelling house.
I’ve given up on opaque vases, for instance. If you’re busy, it’s easy to forget changing the flowerwater as often as it needs. Clear vases don’t have that problem. Even better, I now buy a cheap flowering houseplant and throw it out after two months or so. Plan-murder? Perhaps. But cheaper then flowers, and less likely to smell bad.

:smack: Please make that plant-murder. Preview is my friend…

Your laundry is “soured”. It happens just before the mildew stage. Mildew leaves greyish/pinkish stains that are impossible to remove. But if there is just an odor, you can wash the laundry with 1 cup of amonia, preferably scented. You can get generic amonia pretty cheap. Then rewash with regular detergent.

If you have a number of vases around the place, but keep your house shut up due to the winter – do you use a dehumidifier at all, Maastricht? I find taking the excess moisture in the air that winter can cause helps with things like curtain, walls, furnishings – and paper, which sucks up and holds water. Especially newsprint.

Baking soda is also called Bicarbonate of Soda or bicarb soda. You can mix it up as a paste or water it down - trial and error is the best way to find what works for you. Make the bicarb paste with vinegar and it fizzes up into an even more effective cleaner - we used the combo to clean permanent marker off plastic computer cases after ordinary cleaner wouldn’t completely remove it. An open box of bicarb soda in the fridge absorbs smells, like fish or stale food - replace approx. every three months. If you dispose of the used bicarb down the sink with a bit of running warm water, it will help clean your drainpipes a bit too (they can sometimes be a source of vague smells). I’ve used bicarb soda to completely remove a beer stain from carpet more than 12 months after the spill happened, and thought it did an impressive job. It’s brilliant stuff. Now to forward this to Arm and Hammer along with my resume and see what happens… :wink:

For cleaning, use plain baking soda, or a paste of baking soda and soap. Either one will do. The trick is to leave it for a while, giving it time to work. Natural cleaners are cheaper & greener than the other type–they just need time.

For anything musty or moldy, use borax the same way.

The other soda you mention is “washing soda.” It’s stronger than baking soda, and is good for grease and oil stains. Here again, plain or combined with soap. Let it sit a while.

If you have a drain in the basement floor, pour a bucket of water down it. Sometimes the water in the ‘U’ pipe evaporates, allowing sewer stink to come up.

If you have a garbage disposal (I don’t know if they’re common where you are or not), it can develop a certain odor. There’s things you can feed it to make it smell nice, or you can just dump in the spent lemon bits after you’ve squeezed a lemon for juice and run it on that.

Thanks Batsinmabelfry. Sometimes all I need is the right search term, “sour laundry” in this case. While googling sour laundry, I found a whole new section of Wiki I didn’t know about, WikiHow. It told me basically to follow **Anastasion’**s advice, with a few twists, like adding borax. Talk about Grandma’s remedies! I find I absolutely love cleaning things like soda and green soap and lavendercushions in the cabinet, and air-dried flannel bedsheets. I neither have the time nor always the know-how for that kind of old fashioned cleanness, but hey… I can dream, right?

Baking soda seems very promising. I’m gonna try it asap. Thanks cazzle and Annie X-mas for the detailed instructions on how to use it. Good usage makes all the difference.

Zsofia and LionelHutz405, excellent tips. Just what I was looking for.

In the Netherlands, we don’t have garbage disposals (if you mean the grinding thingy below the sink I see in American movies) but we have separated garbage. You are supposed, for the environments’ sake, to collect separately, not just paper and white and brown glass, but also milk-cartons, plastics, and most importantly, green waste. The container with green waste (foodscraps, peels, etc) sits in the kitchen for a week. That does not smell as bad as you might think, (we have a cool climate) but still bad enough for me not to do my environmental duty. That and living on the third floor. :dubious:

Ice Wolf, do you mean I should try to get less moisture in my room’s air, or more?

Do you seperate those milk-cartons? I often find that’s where the mysterious smell is coming from - I set the thing aside to wash out and put in my recycling bin, and then I forget it and can’t find the smell.

Also, don’t let cauliflower rot in your fridge. You won’t believe that’s what the smell is, but trust me - it is.

I have found that the source of most nastiness in my house is usually a rotten onion or potato. They usually roll under something in the pantry and fester for a couple months until I do a complete search and find them, all juicy and soft, stinkin like who knows what!

Actually try dumping the baking soda down all your drains including tub/shower(without water) then pour in cheap white vinegar (a cup or two) and let it bubble and fizz. After 10 minutes or so pour a couple of liters of boiling water down each drain. It really helps a lot.

With the bathroom odor, have you tried vinegar water on the outside of the bowl, especially where the bowl meets the floor and around the floor bolts? The toilet seat bolts also can get ooky.