I live in a really tiny house. We call it the “circle house” because you can literally walk in a circle and go through every room; they are all connected. The problem this poses for me is the fact that bad smells travel quickly. For a girl like me with a hyper-sensitive nose, it drives me berserk!
I love to cook and I especially like to try new things. My husband calls them “inventions” or “experiments” as if I’m some mad scientist or something. I try to explain that I’m rarely coming up with something out of the blue, it’s usually a new recipe I’m following. Like the Chicken Pad Thai Catastrophe of 2011.
After a month of painstakingly searching the entire state for all the ingredients, including fish sauce, I was incredibly disappointed when it turned out to be a revolting disaster. I kept thinking the smell of the fish sauce would subside and meld with all the other flavors in the dish. A couple from church stopped by to say hello as we were gagging while dumping the entire pan of slimy noddles and stinky fish sauce into the trash can. I’m sure they regretted that visit but I am also sure they were warned the second they opened their car door.
Or there was the regrettable “fat-rendering in the crockpot” idea. It hadn’t occurred to me that putting a paper towel under the lid to absorb the condensation would cause the beef lard to burn. When I pulled up in my driveway after being gone for almost 10 hours, I thought my house was burning down! I’m lucky it didn’t.
I had to open all the windows and doors, take the smoking crockpot outside, which I’m sure my neighbors really appreciated, and leave for a couple of hours. I had to wash every blanket, pillow, and swatch of fabric in my entire house.
For brevity’s sake let’s just conclude that I have some experience trying to get bad smells out of my house. These are two extreme examples but there is the everyday problem that every meal I cook seems to permeate the entire house. Without a ventilation system in my kitchen or even a range hood, the smell of bacon or any kind of frying oil is destined to lurk about my house and offend my nostrils until the next meal takes over.
I have tried every way imaginable to minimize odors or try to eliminate them after the fact. Let me share with you what have turned out to be my best practices to keep your home smelling fresh and inviting.
Keep the kitchen clean
Prevention is key in keeping bad smells from taking over. Here are a few ideas to keep on top of it.
The longer an odor is allowed to sit and steep, the more it is able to permeate. Common sense tells you to get that crap out immediately! I have started using a little bucket as my “garbage bowl” when I cook. When I cut up strong-smelling foods like onions, garlic, or fish I throw the scraps into my garbage bucket and set it outside until I’m finished cooking and I can take it to the outside garbage.
Getting rid of (aka taking outside, not throwing in your trash can) frying oil or grease as soon as you finish cooking will slow the spread of that wretched smell significantly. I empty the grease into a mason jar and take it outside.
It is also wise to make sure you put the leftovers in a container and in the fridge as soon as possible. It keeps your house from stinking up and it keeps you from getting salmonella the next day. So, win/win.
I suppose it also goes without saying that we should empty our garbages often.
We like to have a big breakfast on Sundays with bacon, eggs, and sometimes pancakes before we go to church. Usually what happens though is I’m in a big hurry to get breakfast cooked and eaten so I can get ready, which causes me to leave the clean up until we get back. I love the smell of bacon when it’s cooking but the after smell of bacon…gag
Washing your dishes as you go not only helps the cleanup process go much quicker but it also helps to get rid of those food smells before they unpack their bags and decide to stay a while.
Quickly wiping up spills and messes on your stove, table, and countertops keeps bacteria from growing and disturbing your fresh smelling kitchen.
However, if you’re not washing those rags and towels daily, you’re just spreading nasty bacteria all over your surfaces. Please, for the love of all that is holy, change out your dish rags daily !
If you are regularly cleaning out your fridge, oven, and microwave you won’t have to deal with those mystery smells that are difficult to get rid of. Keep an opened box of baking soda in your fridge to absorb strong smells and change it out monthly. To quickly clean your microwave, put a small bowl of equal parts water and vinegar with lemon wedges in and turn it on for 2 minutes. Then let it sit for 2 more minutes. When you open it to clean it out, the walls will be full of condensation and will have soaked the stuck on junk to make it easier to wipe out.
Cleaning your garbage disposal regularly is an easy thing to do and will prevent bacteria from building up down there. Just throw in some ice cubes and lemon wedges weekly to break up stuck on food and kill the nasty stuff. Rinse, with the water and disposal turned on for a couple of minutes to make sure all the junk clears the pipes.
Get rid of lingering smells
Vinegar is our magical tool when it comes to getting rid of really bad smells. I had read that putting out a bowl of vinegar in your kitchen and letting it sit overnight got rid of bad smells but I thought it was pretty far-fetched. So I decided to try it. I went a step further and laid out several bowls, one on my stove, one on my table, and one near my sink. It smelled like vinegar for the next 15 minutes or so but then magically, that smell disappeared and the bad smell started to fade. Pretty amazing if you ask me. Vinegar is like the all-purpose cleaner and deodorizer and is a whole lot safer than bleach. I am pretty stocked up on vinegar right now as he has become my new BFF when it comes to cleaning.
If the smell still doesn’t go away you could try heating up the vinegar mixed with equal parts water and some citrus peels on the stove for a couple of hours.
I always keep a couple of cans of febreeze air effects in my cleaning arsenal. It is a quick and easy way to spray around your house and although it doesn’t work like magic, it certainly helps the situation. If I walk in and my house smells like the Malt Shop where I used to work, I take several trips around this little circle house, continuously spraying my febreeze and usually notice it keeps the odor monster at bay. Then I can get down to business and see what, of the above steps, I haven’t implemented.
Keeping it smelling fresh
My little house gets so stuffy in the winter and just starts to smell stale. I have started opening a window in every room in the mornings, no matter how cold, to let the air move around a little.
Also, when I cook, I open the kitchen windows and turn on the ceiling fan. Getting some air flowing through the house keeps those unpleasant odors from sticking around and keeps a constant flow of fresh air moving around.
My husband can testify I’m not very good at this one. I love the idea of having lots of live plants in my house because hello, they’re constantly breathing fresh oxygen into your space. However, I tend to kill anything green that sets leaf in my house. He has finally, after almost 7 years of marriage, resorted to buying me regular flowers that will die anyway instead of potted plants.
I am going to try it again, starting with a small herb garden. Basil, rosemary, mint, oh my! Can you imagine how delicious it’s going to smell?
I have an entire drawer in my kitchen, I’m not exaggerating, dedicated to keeping all my little scented wax packages. I have a wax warmer in 3 of the 5 separate spaces in my house. Basically, you can’t walk more than 20 steps in my house without coming across a wax warmer.
I have also used wall plugins, candles, and an essential oil diffuser. All these things can help transform your home into a delightfully smelling haven. I can’t express the feeling I have when I walk into my house and it smells fresh and clean. It busts my anxiety like nothing else.
Don’t underestimate the power of the sense of smell and the effect it can have on the overall feeling of your home. Making a few small changes when it comes to your cooking and cleaning habits will have your home smelling superb in no time.
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