Something stinks. But blasting it with a bunch of scented cover-ups can be worse than the original culprit! The real key to cleaner air? To cancel out the source of the smell, not its lingering effect.
“There’s a difference between an air freshener and an odor counteractant,” says Jenny Botero, director of housekeeping operations for the Marriott International hotel chain. “Odor counteractants do more than mask a smell; they actually get rid of it.”
While there are a number of reliable all-purpose counteractants, such as Lysol Disinfectant Spray and baking soda, certain pungent smells call for specific measures. Here are some of the best ways to eradicate unwanted scents in your home:
Litter box: Clay-based litter that clumps when wet, such as Scoop Away Plus Crystals ($13.50 for a 25-pound box, at supermarkets) absorbs odors.
Fur: Brushing and bathing can prevent the buildup of bacteria. Ask your vet about shampoos.
Accidents: Spray Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Remover ($10.75 at pet stores) on an area wider than the spot (and under it, if possible).
Citrus fragrances, such as Lysol Neutra-Air Citrus spray ($4.50 at supermarkets) or all-natural Citrus Magic Air Freshener ($10.50, citrusmagic.com), remove food odors. Often the best (and easiest) remedy is to open a window or turn on a vent. “We use exhaust fans that suck everything out,” says Wayne Almquist, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York.
Mold and mildew: Zap bacteria that generate odors with Naturally Yours Mold & Mildew Remover ($19.95 Amazon), and dry tiles and caulking when wet. Lysol Disinfectant Spray ($7 at supermarkets) inhibits growth.
Bodily functions: Lit candles or matches kill odors, as does Lysol Disinfectant Spray. Urine can emit an ammonia-like odor, so clean the toilet regularly.
Originally designed for pet odors, SeaYu Petrotech Odor Eliminator (from $10, sea-yu.com) also works well in garbage cans and diaper pails. The nontoxic spray binds to odor particles and naturally biodegrades the odor-causing bacteria. To prevent garbage smells from forming, clean and disinfect both indoor and outdoor garbage cans with an all-purpose cleaner at least once a month.
Musty odors: “Activated charcoal reduces odors,” says Meredith Montague of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Pour two cups into an