Home Care

10 Things You Need to Clean to Avoid a Stinky Home

We tend to overlook how scent contributes to the first impression our house makes on guests �" or on us!

Photography: Pexels

When it comes to making improvements around the home, we seldom think about scent and how it can contribute to the overall look and feel we’re going for. We tend to overlook how scent contributes to the first impression our house makes on guests — or on us! (The sense of smell is linked to our emotions as well.)

When a friend enters our house, she doesn’t just notice if it’s pretty or organized — she’ll be greeted by hundreds of odors, which you hope will be the pleasing kind. That's why aside from identifying the causes of household odors in the different areas of the home, it’s also a must to know which items around the house are causing that funky smell. Is it the towel you haven’t washed in weeks or the kitchen sponge you use to wash your plates and utensils? Take note of these tips to avoid having an uninviting home:



We hug them and sit on them, even if we just came from work or finished a workout. It’s a given to have smelly pillows, especially if you don’t change pillow covers regularly. Keep them clean and free from germs by fluffing them regularly and airing them out to avoid the kulob smell. When washing your pillows, make sure you read the care label carefully as different types require a specific cleaning routines. Click here for a quick guide.

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To prevent it from smelling like mold, air it out regularly (try doing it every two weeks). Avoid germs and bacteria from turning it into a breeding ground by sprinkling baking soda on the mattress, letting it sit, before vacuuming it properly.

Drawers and cabinets

Do you store unwashed clothes in your cabinet or put garments in they are not yet dry completely? These two bad habits can lead to a funky smell that will stick to your other clothes. Sometimes, old cabinets and drawers smell musty as well. An article on The Washington Post suggests cleaning each drawer and cabinet first before using it. You can sprinkle vinegar on a crumpled newspaper then place it inside the cabinet or drawer to absorb the smell. Keep it smelling fresh by placing dryer sheets or silica gel packets (these are the tiny packets you see in new bags and shoes) in each storage nook to help absorb odors and moisture. Don’t forget to replace these odor busters every two to three months.



Open your ref and what do you smell? Is it the fish, the onions, or the takeout food you haven’t eaten that’s taking the spotlight? Given all the ingredients and supplies we keep in the fridge, it’s inevitable to have a smelly fridge. Avoid this by cleaning it regularly and throwing out expired food immediately. According to the same Washington Post article, you can begin by cleaning out shelves and drawers by scrubbing it with a mixture of baking soda and warm water. Once done, give it a good wipe down using a mixture of warm water and white vinegar.

Keep your ref smelling clean by opening a box of baking soda and placing it in a corner of your ref to absorb odors. As an alternative, you can also place a cotton ball soaked in vanilla on a tiny dish and place it at the back of the fridge. Make sure you replace it once dry.


Trash can

We mentioned in a previous article that it’s not often the trash that causes odors, but the trash can itself. Keep your trash can clean and smelling good by cleaning it thoroughly using warm soapy water, rinsing it properly and letting it dry. Once dry, you can place cat litter or lemon/orange peels at the bottom before putting your garbage bag. To neutralize the odors, you can also work with baking soda and unused coffee grounds. If you have a metal trash bin, The Washington Post suggests turning a coffee filter into a sachet. Fill it with baking soda and tie it with a rubber band before placing it at the bottom of the bin. Don’t forget to replace it monthly.

Bath towels

According to Better Homes & Gardens, “make sure that your bath towels are hung up with plenty of room to fully dry between uses. Use your bath towels twice, then get a fresh one.” Avoid a mildew smell by washing them properly! To do this, the same article suggests avoid overloading “to make sure the detergent and water have plenty of room to work.”



The sponges we use when washing plates? It can turn into a breeding ground for germs and bacteria! Aside from replacing it regularly, you also need to disinfect it! In an article published by Real Living, a doctor suggests creating a solution by mixing one quarter of a cup of bleach with a gallon of water. Soak your sponges for five minutes before rinsing it thoroughly and letting it dry.


The drains in your kitchen and bathroom can smell bad in an instant. Keep it odor-free by running water down the drain or pouring dishwashing liquid followed by cold water to get rid of food smells.

Washing machine

How can an appliance used in keeping clothes clean and smelling fresh cause bad odors? Avoid a stinky washing machine by cleaning it every month. Don’t forget to keep the door/compartments open to allow it to dry completely in between uses. Most washing machines have instructions how to properly clean the tub and we recommend following it. (Automatic washing machines would have a "tub clean" feature.)


Cleaning rags

You use it practically everywhere! Rid your cleaning rags of bad odors to reuse them again by letting it dry completely after washing. Better Homes & Gardens also suggests washing it “using just hot water and detergent before drying it on hot or high.” Skip using fabric detergent as it leaves a residue that makes rags less absorbent.


This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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