10 Funky Smells and How to Get Rid of Them

From on February 19, 2009 in Tools and Tips


For all the beautiful odors in the world—fresh flowers, spring rains, home cooking—there have to be some bad ones as well. Being the olfactory obsessives that we naturally are, we tend to focus on the funky smells until they are gone. We tear up couch cushions, peel back carpet, fumble through closets, anything to get at the pesky odor that threatens to ruin Pork Chop Night forever.

Unfortunately, in many cases you end up with a ransacked house, a found but still potent smell, and a cold dinner. Many funky smells are not so easy to get rid of; prevention is always the best remedy ... not that such advice does any good after the fact. So with high spirits, fresh flowers, a clean house, and Pork Chop Night in mind, here are 10 funky smells and how to get rid of them:

  1. Cigarettes.

    This one is easy; don’t smoke in the house. If you do, or did, then you’ll have your work cut out for you. Most smokers grow accustomed to the smell; it is friends and family that tend to register complaints. Getting rid of cigarette odor can be likened to spring cleaning; everything from the walls to your clothing must be cleaned, thoroughly.

  2. Litter Box.

    Cat owners everywhere (myself included) are more than aware of the noxious, ammonia smell. The key to mitigating a smelly litter box is a quality maintenance regimen. Use scoopable litter and scoop every day. Keep about 3 inches of litter in the box at all times and completely change the litter (including washing the box/scoop) once a week.

  3. Composting.

    Composting is one of the most advantageous habits to obtain; advantageous to the environment, the landfill (keeps it smaller), your garden, and subsequently your dinner table. Nevertheless, those rotting vegetables in the tub under the sink or even out in the yard can work up some serious funkiness. For under the sink, simply walk the tub outside every day, and consider buying a bin specifically designed for composting. Outside, be sure to turn the pile regularly and watch the amount of greens in the mix (green veggies, grass clippings, etc.). These will cause an ammonia smell that no one likes. Mix straw and/or newspaper in every few inches.

  4. Mildew/Mold.

    The pungent odor of mold or mildew may be the most common of funky home smells. It can be in or on the walls, in the shower, the closet, under the sink; anywhere that moisture is trapped and bacteria can feed. The key here is strong ventilation. For mold cleanup, use a bleach solution on shower or bathroom walls, especially tile. There are also mold-killing cleaners available at just about any store that would carry such a thing. If you see signs of mold behind the walls (water damage, etc) then call a professional ASAP to check it out. Mold can do serious damage to your walls and your health if left unchecked.

  5. Cat Urine.

    In my case, some cat urinated in my car. I could never locate the source, I cleaned frantically. Still when the weather is right I can smell it. Don’t let this happen to you. Cat pee is world renowned as an evil odor. The best way to clean it up is immediately, especially if it is on carpet, before it gets a chance to soak in. There are some commercial options here, such as various stain and odor removers, but these are rather touch and go. Many people do agree that bleach, perfume, and ammonia based products do NOT work well. One home remedy is to use vinegar and baking soda: soak up as much urine as possible—soak area with 3:1 water/vinegar mixture and a dash of soap—soak up excess liquid and repeat—sprinkle baking soda on area and vacuum up after 24 hours.

  6. Skunk Odor.

    Rare but deadly, skunk odor is nothing to shake your tail at. Getting rid of it will be tough, but the faster you act the easier your job will be. First of all, wash all clothes, people, and animals that have been sprayed immediately—be liberal with the soap and shampoo. But skunk oils don’t always subside that easy. According to getridofthings.com, white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide will counteract those natural oils. Similarly to cat urine, contrive a mixture of white vinegar, baking soda, and a small amount of dish soap and clean away.

  7. Garbage Can.

    Ever open the under-sink kitchen cabinet and pass out? It could have something to do with a neglected, overfilled trash can. Even if you empty your trash, you still might notice a smell. Usually this is due to liquid and small pieces of waste that are left at the bottom of the can from torn trash bags. First of all, check the bottom of the can each time you empty it. To prevent the smell you can dust the bottom of the can with baking soda when it is clean.

  8. Sour Milk.

    You may not want to cry over spilled milk, but don’t let it stay there either. Like cat urine, milk will soak deep into carpet and get very smelly, very fast. And, as you might have figured, you can clean it up much the same way you clean up pet urine, with vinegar, water, soap, and baking soda.

  9. Sewer Gas.

    Sewer gas odor is both strong and unhealthy. It usually results from a crack in a pipe, a clogged vent pipe, or a plumbing fixture with a dry trap. A qualified plumber should be able to locate and repair the problem without much issue.

  10. This Old House.

    The smell of an old and empty house is a familiar one. Most of us have been in one at least a time or two. If not, just think of a hotel room. While any of the above odors can contribute to the overall musty aroma coming out of great grandma’s house, poor or poorly-maintained ventilation is often the culprit. It is important to check and clean your vents and vent ducts fairly regularly, as well as changing the filter on your HVAC unit. Fresh air: it’s Mother Nature’s cleanser.