How to Make Your House Smell Good—Experts Share 15 Secrets

Easy ways to eliminate the funk in your home and bring in the fresh.

Smell is often called humans' most powerful sense, and scents tell us a lot about the world—from what we should eat to even whom we should kiss. When it comes to our homes, if a space smells fresh, that's a great sign. If the smell is bad? We feel uneasy.

Make your home a haven filled with good smelling things by following these strategies to keep your home smelling great.

Aim for zero odor

The secret to a nose-friendly space isn't to spray fragrance on top of yucky stuff: "A clean home should smell like nothing," says Melissa Maker, founder of the Clean My Space cleaning company, blog, and YouTube channel. For folks who get overwhelmed by too much fragrance (or who have allergies or asthma), the work may end at neutralizing bad odors. But for those who love a scent, we have ideas for you too.

Get rid of moisture

It's the number one cause of household odors, says Rachel Hoffman, author of the (bluntly yet inspirationally named) book Unf*ck Your Habitat: You're Better Than Your Mess ($16; Consider using a hygrometer to test the humidity level in each room—if you discover a room with humidity above 60 percent, you may want to use a dehumidifier. If needed, you can run more than one dehumidifier, but note that they can use a lot of energy: Start with one and see how it goes.

If you live in a humid climate, avoid wall-to-wall carpeting or rugs (which can trap moisture), especially in areas like the kitchen and bathroom, Hoffman says. Consider keeping moisture-absorbing products in smaller areas that get damp, such as bathrooms and closets. And keep an eye on micro sources of moisture, such as sponges and towels: Replace sponges at least every one to two weeks, ensure clean towels are fully dry before folding and putting them away, and hang bath mats over the shower rod to help them dry.

Fix the obvious odor sources

Spots like litter boxes, garbage cans, pet beds, and diaper pails are all places that give off funky smells. Duh, you might say, but unfortunately, the more time we spend around these things, the less likely we are to realize they stink. "It's called sensory adaptation, and it's common to all the senses," says Leslie Stein, Ph.D., director of science communications at the Monell Chemical Senses Center.

This "nose blindness" is adaptive; when regular smells fade into the background, then an unfamiliar scent pops up (like smoke), we notice it more. But it can also mean your stuff smells, and you don't even know it. So it's important to be proactive: Clean the inside of your garbage can (including the lid, if there is one) at least once a month, Hoffman suggests. Keep a bit of kitty litter at the bottom of the pail to absorb smells. Launder pet beds regularly, and scoop the litter box every day. And if you can, try to use small garbage pails in your home, so you're forced to take out the trash more regularly.

Open the fridge

The first course of action for a funky fridge should be pretty obvious: Toss anything that is past its prime. Hoffman says that some of the worst offenders are condiments—which people tend to think last forever—and leftovers. "They get pushed to the back and forgotten," she adds. Do an inventory of your fridge at least every month to ensure the contents are fresh.

Then, give the interior of your fridge a thorough scrubbing. If you have removable shelves and drawers, pull them out and soak them in hot, soapy water. Wipe down the inside of the structure with a one-to-one mixture of hot water and white vinegar plus a tiny drop of dish soap. Use a damp cloth to rinse. "Remember to only use cleaners that are food-safe inside your fridge," notes Hoffman. Stay away from bleach, she advises, as it's difficult to properly dilute and rinse.

Clean soft surfaces

Carpets, throw pillows, upholstery, bed linens, and window covers are magnets for bad smells. Even after a spill dries or dirt gets wiped away, odor-causing bacteria can linger. In carpets, a missed stain can lead to mold or mildew. Maker recommends having a professional steam-clean your upholstery and carpets once a year. For throw pillows, bed linens, and window covers, check the fabric care labels to see if they can be machine-washed. "But remember, there are certain items best left to a pro to ensure the job gets done right," she adds.

The easiest way to avoid smells on a carpet is to quickly attack any spills. Biological stains—like an accident from a pet or child—should be treated with an enzyme cleaner, such as Seventh Generation Natural Stain Remover Spray ($4.50;, which quickly breaks down bio messes. And while carpet shampooing is helpful, the easiest way to stay on top of carpet smells is good old regular maintenance. As you vacuum and spot-treat your carpets more often, the less likely they are to smell, Hoffman notes. "Try sprinkling the area with baking powder, let it sit for a few hours, and then vacuum," says Donna Smallin, a certified house-cleaning technician and author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness ($11;

Open the windows

It's the easiest way to bring freshness in, says Maker, especially if you have leftover cooking smells or lingering odors from home improvement projects, such as painting. Opening a window makes your entire space feel cleaner and helps lift the mood in your home. If possible, open windows on multiple sides of your home to get a cross breeze. Even if it's freezing outside, cracking a window for a short while can make a difference.

Try a neutralizer

If you love the idea of a home that smells perfectly like nothing, then look for odor neutralizers that don't add a scent. Our experts are fans of activated charcoal filters that come in small bags you can hang in stink-prone rooms or stash in a gym bag. "They're good, especially in areas [with] diaper pails, garbages, and litter boxes," says Maker. In a pinch, fill your sink with hot water and a few drops of bleach, and drain it before company arrives. "Just the smell of cleaner will make people think your home is clean," explains Hoffman. The best air fresheners, like bamboo charcoal air purifying bags and programmable diffusers, allow you to neutralize lingering odors without noticeably strong scents.

Use essential oils

Diffusers are just one way to use essential oils. Try a few of these DIY ideas from Maker. First, consider a fabric refresher spray: Mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, and 20 drops of your favorite oil in a small spray bottle. Shake well before each use and mist it over clothing or upholstery, ensuring that clothes completely dry before folding them.

Or try baking soda sachets, which absorb bad smells and add in good ones: Fill a coffee filter with baking soda, add about five drops of essential oil, and tie it off—then toss it in a drawer or anywhere that needs a refresh. Another pro tip: Next time you replace your furnace filter, add 10 to 20 drops of essential oil. The air will help disperse the scent throughout the space.

Become a plant parent

Plants can do more than just look pretty. Many varieties have some air filtering qualities that can help freshen up your space—or look for plants that have subtle scents—and place them near places that may have offensive odors.

Invest in a floral arrangement

Flowers are a nice and natural way to add a little scent to your home. Look for arrangements with flowers that smell good. (Just think about what notes are in perfume!) Some options to consider:

  • Roses
  • Jasmine
  • Freesia
  • Lavender
  • Lilacs
  • Peonies
  • Sweet pea

Don't go overboard with scent

It's a common misconception that for your home to smell "good," you have to have strong things that smell good so the scent envelops you the second you walk through the door. The opposite is true. You're after a general feeling of energy, relaxation, or whatever your intention is for the space—something to keep in mind when choosing the best candles to invoke the right mood. This also ensures you're considering any guests. Some may have allergies or sensitivities to strong smells, and you don't want to make them uncomfortable in your home.

Heat up a simmer pot

This natural deodorizer takes a lot of good smelling things, puts them in a pot with water, and simmers them on the stove to create a subtle, but welcoming, scent.

Some things you could toss in a simmer pot:

  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Cloves
  • Citrus rinds or slices
  • Vanilla beans or extract
  • Fresh herbs (rosemary or mint are great!)

Opt for clean scents

You may love that sugar apple cinnamon candle, but the scent may be too strong for your guests. "I'm a fan of having a library of scents," she adds. Your sweet favorite can serve as your personal mood booster, which is exactly what a good fragrance should do.

When you're sharing your space, Maker suggests sticking to more natural scents—like woods, florals, and citrus. "You can still get a similar feeling as you do with the sugary-smelling scents," she says. "But the result will be longer-lasting and more impactful." In other words, a home that smells as good as it looks. Reed diffusers are a great flame-free option to add subtle fragrance just by adding, removing, and flipping the reeds.

Bake something

Baked goods do smell pretty incredible—and if you're having guests, you'll have something delicious to offer them to eat (and smell!) when they arrive. Banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, and fruit cobblers or pies are among the good smelling things you can whip up to send that enticing scent throughout the house.

Invest in an air purifier

Air purifiers can help remove contaminants in the air to keep your home smelling fresher (no scent required!). Look for HEPA air purifiers that'll help deal with microscopic contaminants, including pet dander and even viruses.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you make your house smell good naturally?

    If you want your home to smell good, use a natural aroma instead of synthetic. Simmering a bowl of fresh herbs (like rosemary), lemon and water is the easiest way. Just keep an eye on the water levels to ensure there's always enough liquid.

  • How does cleaning make your house smell good?

    Deep cleaning often helps your house smell good by removing the things that cause odors—like taking out the trash, washing dirty laundry, and changing the linens. Cleaning products may also bring a temporary fresh smell into the house. Things like lemon furniture polish and pine-scented cleaners leave a trace of scent behind that reminds us of a freshly cleaned home.

  • What is the cheapest way to make your house smell good?

    The cheapest way to make a house smell good is to open the windows and let the fresh air in. Not only does it get out stale odors, but it also introduces oxygen, which can also neutralize odors. Flipping the switch on bathroom fans, ceiling fans, and kitchen stove hoods can also help circulate the air for a fresher feel and smell.

  • How can I make my house smell good if I have pets?

    Pets can be a particular source of some pretty bad smells in your home. Regular bathing of your pets can help keep your sofas, dog beds, and other soft home goods from smelling bad. Cleaning cat litter mess daily (or investing in a self-cleaning litter box) can help keep those smells at bay. And the techniques listed above (especially air purifiers, soft-surface cleaning, and fresh air) can help reduce the odors from your furry friends.

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