Simple solutions to quell a bad smell

Some odours, like ammonia, can cause physical pain. But the majority of smells simply cause mental anguish, which in some ways is worse. But trying to remove odours can be difficult, as you're trying to clean something you can't see. Masking the smell with air fresheners and other perfumes is only a temporary solution. To truly quell a smell, remove what causes the smell — and do it promptly and completely.

Simple solutions to quell a bad smell

1. To remove lingering cooking smells in your kitchen

  • Use a clean sponge or cloth to wipe down kitchen surfaces with a grease-cutting, all-purpose spray cleaner.
  • As you're trying to remove the particles and grease carried by smoke, steam and splatter, clean the walls and other surfaces that are close to the stove.
  • And because heat rises and is drawn to cool areas, you need to wipe down windows and window trim, light fixtures and upper cabinets.
  • You will also need to wash kitchen curtains and exposed tea towels in your washing machine.

2. Reduce rubbish bin smells

  • Take it outside regularly and hose it out, if weather permits.
  • Scrub the inside with a nylon-bristled brush and a solution of water and bleach, 125–250 ml (1/2–1 cup) of bleach per 4 litres (4 quarts) of warm water, plus a couple of squirts of dishwashing liquid.
  • Air-dry completely.
  • Once the bin is dry, sprinkle borax in the bottom of it to prevent the growth of odour-causing moulds and bacteria.
  • A wipe-over with eucalyptus or tea-tree oil also helps to keep it smelling fresh.

3. To cut down on refrigerator odours

  • Maintain a constant vigil against spoiled foods. Periodically remove from your fridge old luncheon meats, rotting veggies, sour milk and mouldy leftovers.
  • Wipe the inside surfaces with a sponge and plain water.
  • A few drops of vanilla essence in the water also adds a sweet, fresh smell.
  • Be sure to clean the rubber gasket that seals the door, because it's likely to hold odours.
  • Once clean, keep an open box of bicarbonate of soda on a shelf (and have another in the freezer) to absorb odours. Replace the boxes several times a year.

4. To absorb stronger refrigerator odours

  • Spread several grams (ounces) of fine, activated charcoal, available from shops that sell aquarium supplies, in a shallow pan and put the pan on a refrigerator or freezer shelf. (The pan of charcoal will not harm food.)
  • After about 8 hours, put the pan in a 180°C (350°F) oven for 20 minutes to reactivate the charcoal. By reactivating the charcoal, you can reuse it many times.
  • Put the charcoal back into the fridge until the smell is gone.
  • At a pinch, clay-type kitty litter can be used in a pan to absorb smells.
  • Ground coffee (unused) will do the same.

5. To remove musty smells

  • First ventilate. The musty smell comes from mould and mildew, which thrive in dank, dark environments where the air is stale.
  • Open windows and doors, use fans to circulate the air and run a dehumidifier to reduce the air's humidity.
  • Then proceed to kill the odour-producing growth, using one of these methods:
  • Mix a solution of 30–60 ml (2–4 tbs) of bleach per 1 litre (1 quart) of water. Pour it into a spray bottle. Spray any surfaces that won't be harmed by the bleach, such as concrete-block walls and concrete floors. Test any coloured materials first by applying the solution to an inconspicuous corner. Scrub with a nylon-bristled brush.
  • Sprinkle chlorinated lime on the concrete floor.
  • Wash any washable fabrics that may have mildew growing on them in the washing machine.
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