help! how do i keep the air in my house fresh?


I need advice on how to keep the air in my house fresh smelling. I do a lot of cooking and in winter when windows aren’t open as much as I”d like the air is kind of stuffy and sometimes worse! In addition, candles aren’t practical with kids around and running in and out I am always paranoid about making sure they are extinguished. With that said if there is a fabulous candle I would consider it. Does anyone use anything great that is non toxic? I liked Caldrea‘s rose pomagranate but they don’t make it anymore. Any other suggestons? — Holly D.

From our partners
Angela M.

I must admit I’m a sucker for candles — and change the seasonally. (A nice fig during the winter, maybe grapefruit in the summer?). What about a diffuser, like the ones by Alora

I usually find them a little overwhelming… but maybe there’s a one that is lighter. The Rosa one might appeal to you…


I’m a fan of scent balls. You put a few drops of an essential oil on a little card, pop it in the scent ball, plug it in, and voila! Similar to a diffuser, but a little less intense. Here’s a link to one, it’s the second product on the page:


I have a reed diffuser, but I must admitt, sometimes it’s smells like the scent and whatever yucky smell I’m trying to get rid of. My friend swears by regular old Lysol in the can and she has 4 cats. I never notice any odd smell in her house. It always smells clean.


After a friend of mine had a very unfortunate popcorn-burning incident with my microwave, I discovered Method brand air fresheners. I’m usually anti-air freshener, because they seem overpowering and such. But I got a plug-in one (the “aroma pill”), in the Eucalyptus Mint scent, and I really, really love it.


I do leave closed off rooms with open windows briefly in winter sometimes, 20 minutes max and it makes me feel better. Lysol both in surface and disinfectant sprays usually keeps the kitchen and bath areas good, I have an all stainless kitchen (even the counters) so I end up doing this often. Also not every time I scrub the sink but about every month or six weeks I bleach out the drain, just straight bleach around the drain and crevices around it then a normal wash up and it helps also.

upstairs near the litter box I use a method aroma pill- i think its apple vanilla (the yellow one) and people always comment how good it smells in that room and I just tell them its the litter.

I have a TrueAir® air filter by Hamilton Beech plugged in by the stove top, Clorox Orange scented disinfectant wipes on the prep area surfaces and a can of either Lysol Brand spray in Linen scent or NeutraAir® spray in powder scent nearby. I do like those Method® pill things in Eucalyptus Mint, too.

But at 100 years old, my house is so full of holes that fresh air infiltration has never been a problem.

Great site.

I use Lysol and Febreeze like they’re going out of style. They don’t work especially well but I’m a frequent candle burner (Asian spice from Pier 1 kills almost any other odor) and that takes care of the rest.

For a stinky kitchen I sometimes grind up orange peels in the disposal. It makes the sink smell nice and citrusy and supposedly gets rid of any smell that’s still lingering down there.


I understand that a little bicarb soda mixed with a few drops of essential oil in a small bowl or saucer works really well. The bicarb absorbs the odours and consequently freshens the room.

You need a catalytic diffusion lamp, sometimes sold under the brand name Lampe Berger. My grandfather smoked cigars and this even got rid of that smell.


Smells B Gone, an unscented spray that neutralizes (not just masks) odors, works wonders in my small condo. I got my bottle from Bed Bath & Beyond and it has lasted forever.


I suggest “Papier d’armenie”
It is french and natural, oui oui


If you’re trying to keep the air genuinely fresh, you need a real ventilation system. Sounds goofy, but a well insulated house is so sealed up that you can develop problems like carbon monoxide build up. Using air fresheners or scented candles just tries to hide the real problem… and it’s not very successful.

In an older house, openings aren’t so closely sealed, so the air within the building gets changed more often.

If you’re sure that the air in your space is changing out often enough but food odors are still hanging around, there are other things you can do. Use your stove’s ventilation fan while cooking. Don’t store food trash inside – make use of a compost heap, take out trash regularly, give your pet guinea pig veggie treats. Clean up thoroughly after you cook.

Ellobie in Chicago

RebeccaJean, I hope you got a new microwave out of the deal! ;)

Luckily (I guess), I live on the 3rd (top) floor of an old radiator-heated apartment building. My apartment in particular gets so hot in the winters that I keep almost all the windows cracked.

BUT, a few years ago I rented a house from a friend’s parents out in the burbs and they kept chickens in a garage attached to the house. Every once in a while, the chicken smell would creep into the kitchen and I found that good ol’ Lysol combined with the Bath & Body Works plug-ins worked well.

I stick cloves on a lemon and let it sit as a weird sculpture on the hallway table. All the house smells great.


The toxicity of things like Febreeze, (many) scented candles and such really bother me
both in health terms andaesthetically.

A destinkifier I learnt about years and years ago ,when everyone used to smoke, (indoors! ) (zoiks!) was and remains my fave :

set out bowls ow white vinegar.

for cooking you could also isolate the odors by closing the doors -so it doesn’t waft all over the home.

I burn popcorn often too: put out a couple of bowls of vinegar ( like maybe 1/2 cup apiece) in different parts of the kitchen.

Usually i leave it overnight and pour it down the drain in the morning.
I suppose that would help the drain ickiness somewhat, too.


Our house is newer, and the stove “vent” really doesn’t vent, just pulls air in below the microwave and vents it to the top. How useless is that? Then when the heat kicks on it spreads the food smells through the rest of the house, infecting all of the linens and hanging clothes. Thanks for all of the great tips! I think I personally will start with white vinegar – it is so cheap! If that doesn’t work (especially around pets) I’ll try the others.

Great site; great suggestions!

The best thing to do is boil a pot of water on the stove with some lemon or orange slices, some cinnamon sticks, whole coves, ginger, or whatever else smells good. The steam will make your whole house smell amazing, even after, say, frying chicken for 20 people, or burning a salmon filet.

shelterrific » Blog Archive » five things we learned last week

[…] 1. Who needs candles? You have some unique ways to get rid of yucky household smells. As Hannah suggests: “The best thing to do is boil a pot of water on the stove with some lemon or orange slices, some cinnamon sticks, whole coves, ginger, or whatever else smells good. The steam will make your whole house smell amazing, even after, say, frying chicken for 20 people, or burning a salmon filet.” See more great suggestions. […]

Rosemary in Utah

I’ve tried every single method posted so far–and they all work, just not immediately or perfectly. That Papier d’Amenie is strong–must be stored carefully or you’ll smell it all the time! I’d say steer away from aerosols or eleaborate fanned electric solutions. Good idea above (Jnett) to try the least harmful and cheapest first. Or pick a favorite smell and somehow boil up a steamy pot of the stuff.

dancing kitchen

I am a frugal soul and I save my orange peels and lemon ends in the freezer to add to boiling cinnamon pot. There’s nothing that smells cleaner than simmering cinnamon, and a little citrus touch with a couple of cloves gives my house the smell of comfort and goodness. It is much less expensive then other methods and will freshen up my medium sized house after a egg roll, crab ragoon dinner party.


Like Hannah’s suggestion, I just put 1:1 water and vinegar in a small saucepan put in whatever spices I like although always cloves and cinnamon and usually some citrus. Let it simmer away and it’ll take away all unpleasant odours. Another great option is a simple candle or electric diffuser filled with water and 8-10 dropss of eucalptus and peppermint. This is a far better idea than products that only cover up the scents with synthetic odours.


A very old and basic smell remover is to soak a towel in white vinegar, wring it out & use it like a fan all over the room. It will even remove cigarette smoke! Repeat until odor is gone.

Thanks for starting up this great discussion – very helpful!


I have a small linen closet in my apartment’s bathroom, and for some reason it’s smelling moldy/mildewy– somewhat like an old ashtray, which is weird because we don’t smoke. I have taken everything out, and can’t find the source. I scrubbed down the shelves and the wall, and that didn’t help either. I tried spritzing with febreeze daily, which only helped for a little while. Then I got excited and tried the dish of vinegar, but then it just smelled like vinegar and cigaretts (ew!). I already burn candles and have a “wooden sticks in a bottle of liquid” air freshener– does anyone know what to do about this, or what else might work?

What an education.
If you haven’t had enough go for a PHD with this

Thanks for all of this.
I feel and smell so much better already!
Holly D


I’m with the folks who caution against using the commercial, toxic chemical filled “air fresheners”. Long term use of them can definitely contribute to respiratory sensitivities or allergies.

A little fresh air is always good–except when it feels too cold in the winter! On the rare occasions that I cook fish or chicken, I open the windows, close the doors to other rooms, and make sure the garbage goes out right away so it doesn’t have a chance to get smelly!

Aromatherapy diffusers work really well–if you’re worried about kids running around and sending candles or small dishes filled with hot/warm water and essential oils flying, there are electric versions of diffusers. I also make my own “air fresheners” using distilled water and a few drops of essential oils. I store mine in dark glass bottles with a pump spray and that seems to work just fine–plus you have the added advantages of no toxic chemicals and the satisfaction of having made something that is tailored to your preferences. I have one spray with lemon, eucalyptus and just a drop or two of cardamon as a general freshener when it smells a bit stale. I use another one in the the kitchen that has pine, thyme, tea-tree, eucalyptus and lemon in the blend. All of those oils have disinfectant properties so I squirt some of that aromatherapy mist in the kitchen and bathroom garbage bins and wipe them down with a paper towel before before putting in a new liner. A few drops of the oil blend straight down the sink does a great job of getting rid of sink odours.

Pouring some straight lemon juice down the sink will get rid of sink odours. Likewise, some lemon juice in a cup of hot water placed in a microwave and “cooked” for a minute or so will help to remove odours from the microwave.

Malea, if you have a cupboard in your bathroom that’s smelling moldy or mildewy, get it seen to asap! There may actually be a problem with mold/mildew or water damage somewhere in the walls, and mold–especially the really toxic kinds–is NOT something you want to be breathing in even rarely, let alone on a regular basis. My department at work was moved into some office space that had previously had problems with mold. I don’t think the problem was ever really addressed properly (as usual the employer went for the cheap, quick fix), and since we’ve been in the space over the last 4 years, several of us have experienced on-going and increasing problems with nasal stuffiness, dry coughs and other respiratory problems. Good luck getting that cupboard seen to!

I second the Lampe Berger suggestion. It’s a marvel, and there are some very attractive vessels to be had. As a matter of fact, they can be very pricey if you go for the fancier ones (say one made by Limoges), but there are affordable ones as well. There are lots of different scents, including a neutral.

The best product that I’ve come across is not only all natural and pet friendly but really absorbs odors out of the area is a product called Fresh Wave. It neutralizes odors as opposed to adding another layer of scent. Basements. Garages. Attics. All places prone to nose-crinkling odors. And all perfect locations for Fresh Wave Continuous Release Crystal Gel. Just open the jar and eliminate odors, it’s really that simple. I think they also come in a candle form, room spray and vacuum pearls. You can check out the selection here for more information:


Mammacita and Julia are right about catalytic alcohol lamps such as a Lampe Berger. I first used one in Paris to rid the apartment I rented of its stale smoke smells.
I have several fancy* versions in my home in the US and I use them either with neutral or lavender scent. Takes care of fishy smell in short order!

*by fancy I mean that they kind of go with the decor of the room :)


lampe berger works really well… the story i heard about these things is that they were designed for use in morgues in France over a century ago… I think that (if true) speaks volumes!!

shelterrific » Blog Archive » help! something stinks

[…] dealt with smells before, but reader Lena needs more help. She writes: I just moved into my first […]


The carpeting in my apartment has always had a musty, damp smell. I have allergies, so the chemical-laden stuff won’t do. I dissolve tea trea oil in water, about 2 teaspoons for 2 cups of water. Even if you don’t love the smell of tea tree oil, it goes away along with the icky smells pretty quickly. And it’s a great disinfectant.


Sorry! I forgot to mention that I use it in a spray bottle.


If you like the scent of Papier d’Armenie, I recommend the candle. I found the candle online for $29.99 ( cheaper than in Europe.
You can also find the 3 booklets for $12.99 or 6 booklets for $25. I did buy those as I still have some that I bought in France earlier this year. I store them in a ziploc or use them as linen freshener in my drawers.
Love Papier d’Armenie.