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DIY Homemade Concoctions: Beat the Stink... Cheap, Homemade Odor Beaters
By Vicki McClure Davidson
"Beating the stink" of kitchen and home odors is easy, and you don't always need to buy pricey, chemical-based concoctions from the grocery or hardware store to accomplish it. While these store-bought products claim to be easy to use, making a homemade batch yourself with basic kitchen items will only take a couple of minutes and cost you mere pennies, not dollars. They are also much healthier to use.
Studies, while not conclusive, have shown that breathing in fumes of many chemical-based cleaners can irritate the lungs, and as such, these can pose a serious health risk to people with pre-existing heart or respiratory problems. Many contain chemicals that can be damaging to the skin and eyes and can be toxic if accidentally ingested. Homemade odor-eliminating concoctions, using innocuous, natural ingredients, such as vinegar, lemon juice, herbs, dried flowers, or baking soda, carry no known health risks.
Key to safely removing odors in the home is to remove the source of the odors. The best way to make indoor air smell fresh is to maintain a clean environment. Remove the source of any offensive odors instead of just trying to mask unpleasant smells with pleasant ones. Cleanliness is the best way to maintain a pleasant, healthy environment. Odors caused by mold is a good example. Covering up the moldy smell in a home will always be temporary if the source of the mold isn't resolved.Here are some natural, DIY solutions to "beating the stink."
- Food storage containers made of plastic can absorb odors easily. To rid them of the smell, soak the containers in a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda per cup of hot water.
- To rid your microwave of bad (or just lingering) food odors, place a microwave-safe glass of water mixed with 2 tablespoon lemon juice inside and microwave on the high setting for 2 minutes. Or, if you have easy access to fresh lemons, cut one into slices and substitute for the lemon juice. This does a terrific job removing the smell of burnt popcorn from inside the microwave.
- Freshen the scent of your laundry and bed linens by simmering lavender leaves for 15 minutes in 2 cups of water, then straining it and adding the liquid to the washing machine for the final rinse for your clothes. The scent of lavender is used in aromatherapy — breathing in the scent of this sweet herb is believed to help with insomnia (thus, an a choice freshener for bed sheets and pillowcases), anxiety, and irritability. Lavender is also an effective musty-smell repellent.
- Musty or unpleasant odors in drawers, cupboards, trunks, or luggage can be removed with white bread and white vinegar. Place a slice of white bread into a small bowl and cover the bread with vinegar. Put the bowl inside the enclosure that needs freshening, close it up, and let it set for 24 hours. If freshening a drawer, use a deep enough bowl in a drawer so that the vinegar won't spill over when the drawer is opened or closed.
- Another tip for freshening musty-smelling drawers, closets, or trunks: Pine or cedar wood shavings can be added to remove bad odors and replace them with the wood scent. The shavings also absorb moisture, which is a contributing cause of odors. Replace as necessary. Drawstring linen bags of potpourri or powdered sachet will also do the trick.
- To absorb odors in your refrigerator, keep an opened box of baking soda tucked away somewhere in it. But don't use the same box for cooking; those odors will be transferred to your food. Change the box about every three months. And don't just throw the box away the three months are up. To quickly freshen a sink, pour the baking soda down the drain and follow with hot water. Unused coffee grounds will also absorb fridge odors... however, with the cost of coffee rising, it's cheaper to use baking soda.
- Prevent stinky smells from building up in your dishwasher. Chemicals aren't always necessary to keep odors at bay, per this tip from Handy Household Hints from Heloise. If you keep the dishwasher door shut up tight and locked at all times, it can't dry out, which will create odors from the stale moisture. Air often is all that's needed to get rid of the trapped smells. Leaving the dishwasher door ajar so that the machine can dry out after use usually eliminates most odors. Voilà!
- Here's another effective, simple mixture for freshening REALLY foul-smelling sinks. Using baking soda and distilled white vinegar helps to keep your drains smelling fresh, but be aware that it won't unclog them. This concoction is also environmentally safe to use because it contains no chemicals—only two natural ingredients.
Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain and follow with 2 cups of warm vinegar. After a minute or two, run hot water from the faucet so that it flows down the drain for a good minute or two. Flush out the drain with cold tap water, turned on high, for another minute or two.
When you mix the vinegar with the baking soda, you'll see the mixture will fizz and foam up. Don't be alarmed. This is a natural chemical action and is what is helping to clean out the drains of odor-causing debris and gook. Be sure that you do NOT let the mixture sit in the drain overnight.
Again, this DIY concoction will not unclog sinks. It will only make them smell much better.
Freshening carpets is easy, environmentally friendly, and thrifty with this natural homemade mix. This recipe makes a big batch of carpet freshener that should last a long time:
Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container (a clean ice cream pail works well). Set aside for a couple days before using.
Sprinkle mixture generously on carpet and let sit for one hour. Then vacuum.
Smelly shoes can be refreshed with loose tea leaves. Use old socks or pantyhose to hold the tea leaves, insert them into the shoes, and let set for a few days. Sprinkling baking soda into the shoes and letting it sit overnight will also remove odors.
Odors lingering in an ice chest or picnic cooler can be removed naturally and safely by washing thoroughly with hot vinegar, then rubbed inside with vanilla extract. Keep the lid ajar until it is thoroughly dry, and be sure the drain hole is left open before storing.
Orange, lemon, or lime peels can cut through trapped, smelly gunk in your garbage disposal that will send foul old-food odors through the kitchen and the house. Rip peels into manageable pieces, place in the disposal, then turn it on with water running.
To remove cigarette or cigar odors in your car, fill the ashtray halfway with baking soda. This will also snuff out cigarettes or cigars immediately without residual smoke. Replace the baking soda every time you empty the ashtray. Cigarette odors can also get into car upholstery and carpets in your home. Sprinkle generously with baking soda, let set overnight, then vacuum.
Lemons are effective at removing fish odors. If you handled fish and your hands smell like fish afterward, just wash your hands with several drops of lemon juice, ridding them of the fishy smell. Rubbing your hands with coarse salt will also help remove the odor.
To festively, naturally freshen your entire home's smell during the holidays, use ground cinnamon or cinnamon sticks that have been grated. Sprinkle a hefty amount onto a sheet of foil, then loosely wrap it. Place it into a hot oven. Once the cinnamon heats up, the aroma will become strong and will fill the house. Turn off the oven and open the door.
For a natural air freshener, buy a plain spray bottle and fill it up with apple cider vinegar and spray it in rooms with odors. Put the bottle on the mist setting. You will smell vinegar at first, but that disappears quickly, as do the offensive odors in the air.
Use white vinegar to get rid of odors by simmering a pan or pot of straight white vinegar, or a half vinegar-half water mixture, on your stove for a few minutes. This is especially effective in removing burnt cooking smells in the air.
Here's an aromatic and quick craft/gift suggestion from eSSORTMENT to make during the holidays:
At Christmastime, there's nothing to match the glorious scent of oranges stuffed with fresh, whole cloves, then rolled in orris root (a fixative) and cinnamon. Hang them all over the house, on the mantle, put them on the tree and the holiday dinner table. They make wonderful, long-lasting gifts!
Removing offensive cat urine odors from your home can be challenging. Here are several natural methods that should work:
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eSSORTMENT website, "Home and garden: uses for your herb garden," (http://www.essortment.com/home/homegardenuses_slcf.htm).
eHow website, "How to Get Rid of Cat Odor Naturally," (http://www.ehow.com/how_4454956_get-rid-cat-odor-naturally.html).
Heloise, Handy Household Hints from Heloise: Hundreds of Great Ideas at Your Fingertips, King Features Syndicate, Inc., NY, NY, 2010.
Li, Jin, eHow website, "How to Find Natural Odor Removal for Everything," (http://www.ehow.com/how_4592202_natural-odor-removal-everything.html).
Nimetz, Alexandra and Stanley, Jason, The Healthy College Cookbook, Storey Publishing, LLC, North Adams, MA, 2009.
Safe, Natural Tips website, "Odor Control and Removal,"(http://safenaturaltips.com/cleaning/odorcontrol.html).