A well-kept home delights the senses. Staying tidy is one thing, but a truly maintained and comfortable abode will look clean, sound quiet, and, most importantly, smell amazing.

The visible mess might be easy to target, but invisible odors can create severe cleaning headaches. Making a room comfortable for the long term takes more than a quick spray with an air freshener. If you’re done dealing with unpleasant smells wafting through the house, we’ll break down how to deodorize a room permanently and restore the welcoming atmosphere you and your guests deserve. 

Steps to Deodorize a Room in a Nutshell

1. Clean the Room: clean stains or entire rooms to reduce odors.

2. Use Baking Soda: apply odor absorbers to neutralize lingering smells.

3. Manage Airflow: eliminate odors with fresh air circulation.

4. Clean Frequently: prevent smells with a practical cleaning schedule.

5. Buy the Right Deodorizing Equipment: keep cleaners and appliances handy for the future.

Clean the Room First to Remove the Odor Source

Lighting scented candles and spraying air fresheners will instantly make a room smell better, but until you find out why there’s a bad smell, anything you try will only mask the scent for a short while. Your first goal in eliminating odors is cleaning the source.

Finding the cause of smells is relatively easy. A urine odor is likely from pet stains on the carpet, spoiled food creates stinky fridge smells, and funky garbage cans make a statement every time you open them. If you can narrow the foul odor down to a room, it’s easy to put your nose to work and sniff out the problem.

Settled dust and dirt can contribute to a stuffy, musty smell, and sometimes it takes a thorough cleaning to get the home smelling fresh once more. If you find musty smells challenging to root out, they could be stemming from general stuffiness in the room or mold growth, which isn’t always obvious.

Common culprits are areas around leaky pipes, damp carpet and fabrics, and wallpaper. You can clean any visible mold and monitor for returning smells, keeping in mind that you may have to call a professional if they persist.

Wipe down surfaces, clean windows, sweep and mop the floor, and vacuum the carpet and furniture. If there is a hidden mess at the center of the stench, you’ll find it soon enough as you tidy up.

Warning: Persistent fishy or burning smells may result from electrical problems, while a rotten egg smell could indicate a gas leak. Monitor for these and musty smells that may require professional intervention.

Use Baking Soda or Activated Charcoal for Deodorizing

Baking soda won’t solve all your room odor woes, but it’s by far the most versatile and convenient solution you can find. Sodium bicarbonate is an excellent moisture absorber and neutralizer of acrid organic aromas, a proven odor destroyer for almost everything, from musty carpets to rancid kitchen waste.

How to Deodorize a Room with Baking Soda

  • Room freshener: place a bowl of baking soda (add a few drops of essential oil for an enjoyable scent) on a shelf in the bathroom, closet, or any room needing deodorizing
  • Deodorize carpets, furniture, and mattresses: sprinkle baking soda on carpets and furniture to absorb moisture and stale odors, letting it sit for a few hours before vacuuming
  • Freshen the laundry room: sprinkle baking soda onto sweaty clothes and stinky garments to subdue a smelly hamper
  • Fridge odor remover: put a pile of baking soda on a small plate to remove fridge odors
  • Shoe deodorizer: kill foul foot odors by putting baking soda directly in your shoes or placing baking soda sachets inside them
  • Garbage can neutralizer: sprinkle a layer of baking soda in a stinky garbage can to neutralize an emanating stink

Baking Soda Sachets

Baking soda sachets are deodorizing pouches that you can whip up in only a few seconds with household ingredients. Use them in dresser drawers, stinky shoes, suitcases, and any place sporting an unwanted smell. 

Here’s a quick recipe you can make today:

  • Coffee filters or thin fabric swatches
  • Baking soda
  • Cornstarch
  • Essential oils
  • Twine or rubber bands

Mix baking soda and cornstarch in a bowl in a 1:1 ratio. Add several drops of your favorite essential oil (~10–20 drops per cup of powder). Mix well, taking care to break up any clumps. 

Fill the coffee filter or fabric swatch (you can even use a thin sock if needed) with the powder mix. Bring the edges of the filter together to enclose the mixture in a pouch. Tie off the pouch with string or a rubber band.

Play around with different measurements to find your ideal sizes for the various places you can use the sachets. Each will last about 1–3 weeks. You can easily wash any cloth pouch material for multiple uses.

Baking Soda Room Spray

A homemade air freshener is yet another place where baking soda can shine, as it can still absorb odors when you dissolve it in water. 

Follow this handy recipe for a quick deodorizing room spray:

  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Essential oils
  • Spray bottle

Add a tablespoon of baking soda to a spray bottle with about 3–6 drops of essential oils. Fill the bottle with water. Shake well, and spray around the room to neutralize odors.

Tip: Essential oil will not blend with water, so you must continuously shake it for a homogeneous mixture. Otherwise, you can add an emulsifier. A tiny bit of rubbing alcohol in the solution can do the trick, combining the oil and water to prevent separation.

Open Windows to Deodorize Rooms

Airflow is crucial in staving off the stuffiness that makes a room smell and feel unpleasant. If the weather is nice, open all the windows, turn on the ceiling fans, and get a cross-breeze running through the house to push stagnant air and bad odors out. 

Fresh outdoor air and sunshine make a dynamic deodorizing duo. While the clean air whisks away odors, sunlight’s UV rays can eliminate smell-causing microbes

Unfortunately, sunshine will have a limited spread in the room, depending on the time of day. It can potentially fade fabric or dry out leather under excessive exposure, so you must consider what’s lying in its path.

Tip: Sunlight can only kill microbes through direct exposure. Passing through a window is not efficient due to UV filtration in many modern glass panes. For the best results, open your windows completely to let the sun pour in unobstructed.

Keep a Consistent Cleaning Schedule

Messy pile-ups will create a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and resultant stenches. The dead skin, pet hair, and dander that create dust will get stinky once they accumulate, while an overflowing pile of dirty laundry will effectively turn into a compost heap. If you stay tidy and prevent these piles of filth, you may never have to worry about using air fresheners again!

Keep your home odor-free by maintaining a practical cleaning routine that suits the needs of your household. More activity with fast-growing messes will demand more work, and it will be up to you to figure out the best routine.

When to Clean Around the Home

  • Daily
    • Wash dishes and empty sink
    • Scoop the cat’s litter box
  • Once a week
    • Sweep and mop
    • Wash bedding
    • Clean bathrooms
    • Vacuum carpets
    • Clean garbage disposals
  • Once a month, at least
    • Dust household surfaces
    • Bathe pets
  • Once a year, at least
    • Replace HVAC filters
    • Clean furniture and upholstery

Buy the Right Equipment

A few wise investments will make deodorizing around the house much easier. If bad smells are a constant problem, ditch the plug-in air fresheners and consider upgrading your odor-fighting arsenal with these:

  • High-powered vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter: Powerful suction paired with a HEPA filter will trap more dust, pet dander, mold spores, and other odor-causing particles from carpets, furniture, bedding, and drapes
  • Air purifier: An air purifier with an activated charcoal filter circulates indoor air, actively extracting chemicals, cigarette smoke, and other unwanted odors to produce fresh air and make your room smell good
  • Charcoal air filter: Your HVAC system will remove more lingering odors, circulate fresher air, and ensure proper ventilation with an upgrade to an air filter that has activated charcoals 
  • Steam cleaner: Steam cleaners kill odorous microbes and lift dirt for easy cleaning, making it easy to deodorize upholstered furniture, carpets, drapes, and even walls
  • Enzyme cleaning spray: The best cleaner to permanently remove urine, feces, and other sources of pet smells


Does Febreze Actually Eliminate Odors?

Febreze may seem like a pleasant scent that’s only good for masking smells, but the air freshener does indeed eliminate odor molecules. The active ingredient, cyclodextrin, encapsulates odors in the air, blocking them from reaching the receptors in your nose.

The problem with Febreze, as well as plug-in air fresheners, scented candles, and other instant odor eliminators, is that they don’t clean. They only affect the odor molecules they touch. If you don’t clean whatever pumps them out, you’ll have to spray non-stop. Use air fresheners to help you tolerate the room’s smell as you clean, but don’t depend on them to replace any of our five room deodorizing steps.

What Is a Natural Room Deodorizer?

You can use commercial air fresheners to make the room smell nice immediately after cleaning, but enough studies have shown their negative impact on indoor air quality and, subsequently, household health. 

You can cut out the harmful chemicals alongside the bad smells by using simple household ingredients. Besides, a DIY odor remover is cheaper and often equally effective. Here are a few ways you can remove bad smells in the room:

  • Place dishes of fresh ground coffee on shelves
  • Add essential oils to a diffuser
  • Make homemade potpourri with dried fragrant herbs and flowers with a hint of essential oil
  • Cut a whole orange or lemon into slices and simmer them on the stove in water with cinnamon sticks
  • Leave a bowl of white vinegar in the room to remove musty smells
  • Apply a few drops of vanilla extract on lamp bulbs to emit a pleasant scent as it evaporates 
  • Cut an apple in half and put the two halves cut side up on a shelf

What Is the Best Thing to Absorb Odors?

The best odor absorber for the house is activated charcoal. It’s inexpensive and highly effective at trapping VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), smoke, and any unpleasant odor particles floating around the room.

Activated charcoal’s high surface area attracts and clings to odors and keeps working for over a month. It’s such an effective odor eliminator that some people have even tried it in underwear to deodorize flatulence! And if we trust it to remove odors like that, you know it can handle any random household smells.

You can often buy activated charcoal at pet shops, art and crafts stores, or supercenters, but the best selection and pricing are typically online. Like baking soda, activated charcoal can work in DIY sachets or on plates to absorb odors in any room.

What Removes Odors From the Air?

Air filtration generally offers the best experience when removing odors from the air. Items like air purifiers and charcoal HVAC filters actively draw in air to clean it rather than temporarily mask odors. With a HEPA filter, you can remove dust, pet dander, and most odor particles down to about 0.3 microns. A charcoal filter, by contrast, adsorbs odors, removing smells more effectively but not as much particulate matter as a HEPA unit.

Upgrading to higher-quality air filters for your HVAC system will improve its ability to pull out unwanted odors and replace them with fresh, cool air. Activated charcoal-infused pleated filters will attract and adsorb more odors than a standard product. But more crucial than the type of filter is following proper HVAC maintenance. Have an annual inspection and tune-up and replace your air filters promptly every three months to keep incoming air as pleasant as possible.

More Cleaning, Fewer Odors!

It’s not profound to say that eliminating the source will eliminate the odor, and yet many of us still jump straight to an air freshener as if it’s a permanent solution. Don’t replace a bad smell with a temporary chemical smell. Play it smart the next time you have a bad-smelling room, and follow these steps to make foul odors a thing of the past!


Anita's Housekeeping Editors