The wafting aroma of turkeys roasting and cookies baking can put smiles on our faces. But when pleasant scents become leftover odors, those wide smiles can become scrunched noses.
Sure, a candle or diffuser can help, but it’s just adding another layer. “There’s a big difference between masking odors and attacking them at the source,” says Melissa Maker, author of the well-reviewed book Clean My Space. Fortunately, launching that attack requires only a few staples that you may already have in your cupboard.
Whatever the offending odor, here’s how to return your kitchen to an aromatic paradise.
Sometimes, even your favorite foods can have a less-than-pleasing smell, which can easily reach the recesses of your kitchen—especially if you leave them in the garbage overnight. The easiest way to avoid odors from pungent foods—like fish—is to dispose of everything right away, says Becky Rapinchuk, the blogger behind Clean Mama.
In general, it’s best not to mix food in with your regular, non-organic garbage, says Maker. As the food starts to break down, it also starts to smell. But if you separate it out into an indoor, charcoal-filtered compost bin (which you can buy online), you can keep your trash from stinking. Many compost bins come with a small slot where you can add an activated charcoal filter to help keep things fresh, as charcoal is a natural odor eliminator. The EPA offers a helpful list of foods that are best suited for composting.
Too Much Spice
For strong cooking smells like heavy spices, Maker recommends this somewhat counterintuitive hack: Put some white vinegar in a pot and boil it. Vinegar is a known deodorizer (if you don’t count that vinegar smell, which won’t linger) and will suck up bad smells in your kitchen. If that doesn’t do the trick, leave a bowl or two of vinegar out on the counter overnight. When you pour out the vinegar, says Maker, the bad smell should go with it.
Where There’s Smoke
It may seem obvious, but if your dinner starts smoking, the best thing to do is immediately get air flowing. Turn on the overhead exhaust fan, open a window, start an oscillating fan—anything to get fresh air into the room. When it comes to getting rid of smoky smells, says Maker, it’s really just a matter of time—and waiting for the odor to work its way out of your home. So the more circulation you have, the quicker it will dissipate.
Beware of Mold
Mold is never good, but some types of mold are more worrisome than others, according to Maker. If you get a musty smell from underneath your sink, it’s probably time to call in a plumber. Moisture means there’s probably a leak; it also means you’ll need a professional to address the leak and another to address the mold. (Don’t even think about bleach, says Maker.)
Mold in your fridge is an easier fix, according to Rapinchuk. Throw out the offending item, kill the mold by spraying the area with hydrogen peroxide (it’s Rapinchuk’s favorite nontoxic kitchen cleaner), and wipe it down. For stubborn spots, try dish soap and water with a little baking soda mixed in. Maker also recommends keeping a box of baking soda in the door and swapping it out four times a year (remember by doing it at the change of seasons) to keep your refrigerator smelling fresher, longer.
By Nicole Price Fasig
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Read More: 5 Ways To Beautify Your Home In 15 Minutes