Sardines in a can

‘Eeeww!’ Stenches to Stop Now Before They Move in for Winter

What to sniff for, and how to kill it — quick.

Image: Ingalls Photography/Offset

From pet stench to kitchen stinks, house odors get amplified during the tightly sealed winter months.

Here’s how to deal with those shameful winter smells that prevent you from inviting friends over for a hot toddy.

Cut Off the Chimney Smoke

A beige-painted brick fireplace with black slate tilesImage: Sarah Thompson

When it’s crackling under the mantel, your fireplace is the best part about winter. When the fire’s out though, you’d prefer your house didn’t smell like stale char.

Here’s the deal: When warm air goes out of your house, it’s replaced by cooler air coming in. That cool air often finds its way in through your chimney — which stinks. Then it circulates through your house. Awesome.

Of course, you need to keep your chimney as clean as possible, but that’s often not enough.

To seal out the smell, close your damper when the fireplace isn’t in use, and consider installing one that closes at the top of your chimney, rather than the bottom.

Also, adding a tight-fitting glass fire screen can help keep the odor inside the chimney — not under your nose.

Contain the Pet Hair (Yes, It's Actually Possible)

Dog sitting on colorful striped rugImage: Ellen Mertens

Not only is the air stuck inside all winter, so are your (wonderful, loving, fun) stinky pets.

“The hair in pets’ fur accumulates, and as it rots and degrades in the carpet, you get that unpleasant doggie smell,” says Mike Sciullo, an instructor at the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification.

Because you’re not going to get rid of Fluffy (never!), you’ve got to get rid of that hair. But for many pet owners that feels about as easy as getting rid of the water when you’re drowning.

But you can cut down on it by:

  • Using removable, washable pet bed covers. And removing ‘em. And washing ‘em.
  • Spending 5 to 10 minutes a day vacuuming. Do it during the “Wheel of Fortune” commercials, and you won’t even have to find the time.
  • Have wall-to-wall carpeting? Fluffy’s your excuse to chuck it. Wood won’t let those hairs hide.
  • Regular washing and brushing will help you collect fur and dander before they end up on your floor.

Slay Cooking Odors Where They Hide

Mmm! The smell of a roasting holiday turkey is the best. Still smelling it a week later? The worst.

Cooking odors are caused by lingering grease. Sciullo says the molecules that form in the air while cooking end up stuck everywhere (gross!)

If you don’t get rid of the surface grease, it’ll only continue to pick up more stench over time.

Your floors, appliances, and counters might be used to a regular wipe-down. But you’ve also got to tackle the walls, the filter above your stove, and your cupboards. Use a mixture of:

  • ¼ cup of liquid cleaning detergent
  • 1 gallon of warm water
  • 1 cup of vinegar

Related: The Dirtiest, Yuckiest Places In Your Home You Gotta Clean Now

Stop Stinky Mold Before It Starts

Moldy shower tileImage: Bonnin Studio/Stocksy United

It’s honestly a little too embarrassing to talk about.

But when you get a whiff of the M-word around your house, it’s time to come clean. The first step to solving a mold problem is admitting you have one.

It happens: Mold forms when your home’s cold windows are hit by the humidity indoors, causing condensation for bacteria to feed on.

To disrupt that cycle, keep your home’s humidity level under 60%. A $12 temperature and humidity gauge can help you find out if you’re feeding the fuzz.

Humidity issues in winter are typically contained to the bathroom and the laundry room.

A dehumidifier in the laundry area can do the trick, if need be. And when it comes to those long, hot showers, running an exhaust fan for 20 minutes after your shower is crucial.

Or you could take shorter, cooler showers. Nah, go with the fan.

Related: Mold. Ugh. So Gross. Here’s How to Get Rid of It Forever

Embrace (Or Invent) Your Home's Natural Smell

“Sometimes your home just smells like … your home!” Sciullo says.

Whether it’s your weekly curry creations or your holiday candle addiction, part of what makes a home unique is its special smells — which ultimately come from you.

If you’re not wild about the natural smell of your clean home, make it your own. You can use essential oils, candles, cooking, or other pleasant scents to infuse your home with olfactory delight.

If you want guests to feel as if they’ve just walked into a spa, fill your diffuser with eucalyptus or lavender oils. For a fresh, citrusy scent, go for peppermint or wild orange.

Related: You Can’t Detect These 4 Odors — But Your Guests Sure Can

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