Here's how to clear the air.

By Katie Holdefehr
May 15, 2020
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Over the years (20 of them, in fact!) Real Simple editors and our trusted experts have vetted hundreds of household cleaning tips—including tricks to deodorize your home. From smelly garbage disposals to stinky dishwashers, we've found dozens of ways to tackle unpleasant odors and freshen the air in our homes. If you're dealing with a smell situation in your home right now, first start by trying to identify and deal with the source of the odor, following this guide. Once you have the obvious things (Fluffy's litter box and last night's fish dinner) crossed off the list, try these tricks to make everything from the fridge to your sofa smell better. Your nose will thank you.

1

Our home director Stephanie Sisco has a tried-and-true hack to make your refrigerator smell better: a cotton ball dipped in vanilla extract. Here's how it works: once you've dealt with any potential causes of odor (check for moldy vegetables or sauce spills on the shelves), soak a cotton ball in vanilla extract and leave it on a small dish near the back of one of the shelves. The warm vanilla scent will permeate the fridge. Here are two more ways a cotton ball can make your home smell better.

2

It's inevitable that your kitchen garbage can will smell a little funky from time to time, especially after cooking fish or when you forget to take it out. But our SEO editor Lauren Phillips has some tips: first, line the bottom of the can with a few layers of newspaper, which will absorb any leaks. Then, add a scented dryer sheet under the trash can liner to help neutralize any smells from food.

3

If your dishwasher is smelling a little sour, run a cycle with 2 cups of white vinegar in place of detergent. Vinegar is naturally antibacterial and will deodorize the machine. To continue the fresh scent, rinse off your plates before loading them if you don't run your dishwasher often.

4

Want a quick trick to fix a smelly garbage disposal? Switch it on and add the peel of a lemon or orange to give it an instant citrus refresh. Follow these steps for a full sink and garbage disposal cleaning.

5

In 2018, cleaning expert Melissa Maker, the co-founder of Clean My Space, shared with us her trick for deodorizing the stinkiest spots around the house: small activated charcoal filters. Charcoal naturally absorbs odors and moisture, keeping everything from your gym bag to closets smelling fresh. "They’re good especially in areas like diaper pails, garbages, and litter boxes," says Maker.

6

When you want to make your entire home smell amazing ASAP, follow our senior editor Brandi Broxson's advice: mix up a simmer pot. Essentially, you simmer aromatics, like herbs and spices, in a pot of water to fill your home with a delicious scent. For a springtime version of this holiday classic, combine spring herbs like thyme and fresh citrus like lemon slices.

7

Grab that bottle of inexpensive vodka in your liquor cabinet—you can use it to fix dingy-smelling upholstered sofas or window treatments. Add some undiluted vodka to a spray bottle, then lightly mist it over the fabric. Vodka, a natural deodorizer and disinfectant, will lift away odors, so your sofa will stay smelling fresh in between more extensive cleaning sessions.