Posted on July 28th, 2020
Out of all the five senses, smell is the most profoundly nostalgic. Scents help us immediately recognize specific people and places, and they can trigger detailed recollections of the past. If you’ve ever felt a wave of relaxation, contentment, and security washing over you upon inhaling the familiar scent of home, you know how important smell is to our sense of belonging.
Scientists have discovered that smell is the only sense directly linked to the limbic system (the part of the brain responsible for emotions and memory), so nearly everyone with a working sense of smell has noticed such connections. In fact, some researchers – like Brown University psychologist Rachel Herz – have even theorized that the ability to feel and express emotions may have evolved from the ability to process smell.
If you’re moving in the near future, this information has important implications: In order to feel like home, your new abode needs to smell like home. As such, after taking possession of a house or apartment, your first order of business should be getting rid of lingering odors (so you can fill the air with your favorite scents instead). For professional help with the issue, our home cleaning services in Norman, OK are here to help. If you’d prefer to tackle it yourself here are some tips:
5 Ways to Remove Old Scents from a New Home
Identify the source of the odor.
Different odors require different cleaning strategies, so you’ll need to discover where the lingering smells in your new home are coming from before you start cleaning. Some common culprits include cigarette smoke, mold and mildew, and pet odors.
Use vinegar and baking soda to thoroughly clean fabric and hard surfaces.
Cigarette smoke creates particularly stubborn lingering odors, especially when a home has been smoked in for many years. If you suspect that cigarette smoke is to blame for the unpleasant smell in your new house, you’ll need to be prepared to deep clean it from top to bottom (or hire someone else to do the job).
First, if the last owners left fabric curtains in place, remove them and machine wash them with two cups of white vinegar on a cold cycle. Hang the curtains outside to dry, if possible; outdoor air has a wonderful ability to make fabric smell fresh again. If you can’t hang the curtains outside, dry them in a clothes dryer on low heat. Then, mist them with your favorite deodorizing spray. Before you replace the curtains, wipe down plastic blinds with a 50/50 solution of warm water and white vinegar.
To get smoke smell out of walls, ceilings, and floors, create a solution that contains one-part white vinegar, one-part baking soda, and two parts warm water. Dip a soft sponge in this solution and scrub walls vigorously using a circular motion, starting with the ceiling and working your way downwards. When you reach floor level, switch to a sponge mop or microfiber mop to make the job go faster.
In severe cases, you may notice brownish-yellow liquid trickling down the walls as you clean; this is the product of built-up tobacco residue. If you see visible residue, make sure you change your cleaning solution regularly to avoid spreading stains. You may also need to clean walls several times to completely get rid of these stains. If even this doesn’t work to remove odors and staining, you’ll have to repaint your walls with an odor-sealing paint.
Finally, if your home has carpets, sprinkle them with baking soda, making sure to cover the entire area. (You can use a colander to distribute the baking soda quickly and evenly.) Let the baking soda sit overnight, then vacuum the carpets thoroughly the following morning.
Use a black light to find the source of pet odors.
Pet urine and saliva glow yellow under black light, so shining a black light throughout a darkened home provides a simple way to identify where animal-related odors are coming from. Mark any soiled areas you find with masking tape so you’ll know where to clean after the black light is turned off.
To remove pet odors, wipe down soiled areas with a 50/50 mix of warm water and white vinegar, then treat them with an enzymatic cleaner. Enzymatic cleaners are safe, natural solutions that use “good” bacteria to break down unhygienic, odor-causing “bad” bacteria.
Neutralize and remove mold and mildew.
Carefully examine your new home’s bathroom and kitchen for signs of mold and mildew. Don’t forget to look in cabinets and under sinks, in addition to inspecting the shower area, as mold is often caused by leaky pipes and/or moisture buildup in enclosed spaces. If you find mold or mildew, use a spray bottle to apply pure, undiluted white vinegar to the area; white vinegar will both kill mold spores and neutralize remaining odors.
Let the vinegar sit for at least two hours, then combine water and baking soda to create a thick paste. Coat a sponge or stiff-bristled brush with this paste and vigorously scrub away the dead mold or mildew. When you’re done, rinse the area with cold water and wipe it dry.
For porous surfaces, like walls and grout, you may need to use an oxygen-based bleach product (like Oxiclean) to completely remove stains and odors. For tips on how to safely clean grout, check out our comprehensive guide to getting rid of grout stains.
Set up “odor traps” to capture any leftover smells.
To make an inexpensive odor trap, simply pour baking soda into a paper coffee filter and tie it closed. We recommend placing these useful little satchels in enclosed, hard-to-ventilate areas, like the inside of cupboards and closets, to absorb and eliminate unwanted scents.
Some odors – like cigarette smoke – can be extremely persistent, and they usually show up alongside other problems, like severe staining. If you can’t remove an unpleasant odor on your own, the best solution is to hire our professional cleaners to do the job for you. (Attempting to use “heavy duty” cleaners on your own can easily damage your new house.)
Would you like some help with the cleaning? Our house cleaning services in Norman are just what you need.
Our team of experienced, affordable maids can get your home smelling fresh in no time, so you can settle in and make it your own. Why not take the day off and relax with your family in Lake Thunderbird State Park while we do the cleaning.