Do you or your family members notice a strange odor in your home?
What is that smell?
A young man in an antique store told his mother, “this place smells like grandpa’s house”. Sometimes we become accustom to certain smells in our homes when those smells are really trying to tell us something. if you are experiencing a smell or an odor in your home, you should be looking for the source or asking an expert if the odor is something you should be taking action to correct. Obviously you will want to clean any suspect areas in your home, but you first need to know what you are dealing with and what you should be using to clean before you get started.
Smells: the worst offenders
You can probably guess the most offensive smells in the home: cigarette or cigar smoke, pet urine or general pet odors, mold and mildew, unappetizing foods, and bacterial types of smells like body odor. Unfortunately, many of the smells can permeate every corner of the home like the carpeting, drapery and furniture, making it difficult and laborious to remove. Getting rid of these strong odors is important, as they could indicate unhealthy or toxic things in the home. Mold and mildew smells, for example, not only indicate a potential water problem in the home, the spores can lead to a toxic environment for people and pets inside the home. Smoke from an accidental fire is another terrible and pervasive smell and can be difficult to remove. Usually homeowners contact a professional rebuilding and restoration services company – this is not only to rebuild and fix damaged areas but also to replace smoke-filled components within the home.
Masking the smell can make it worse
Often we reach for the air freshener or scented candle to mask strong odors and smells in our home. While this can work for small odors (like chopped onions or stinky shoes) or for short periods of time, it’s nearly impossible to completely mask large odors. Keep in mind that some room sprays and air fresheners contain toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are hazardous to your health. You can make your own air freshers quite easily with non-toxic ingredients (try these here) but remember that really strong and foul home odors will come back after your air freshener fades.
How to get rid of the smells
Common issues such as pets, smoke and food, are easy enough to clean. but if you are dealing with something more serious, give Envirotest a call and let us provide you with an indoor air quality survey that will show you exactly what you are dealing with and a plan to help eliminate the threat.
When you’ve found the source of your worst smells you’ll need to remove them with deep cleaning or removal. It’s usually easiest to focus on one room at a time, as well as one feature at a time (like carpeting). This will make your cleaning time more efficient and thorough. Unfortunately, most of the worst odors will probably permeate the whole home as air ducts and heating systems can spread the scent into every room. Here are some common smell “traps” and how to tackle them.
- Carpeting and area rugs: Hiring a professional carpet cleaning service is usually more effective than a do-it-yourself steam cleaning. This is because the industrial machines can heat up the water much higher and suck up more water. The pros might also have more experience with your particular stains and smells and can give expert advice as to what their machine will remove or not remove. Serious pet urine, for example, may have been soaking into the carpet pad and sub-flooring – this smell source will be impossible to remove in the carpet layer. It may be necessary for you to replace particular sections of your carpeting to ensure a clean underlayment. Area rugs can generally be cleaned as well, either at home or at an off-site cleaning facility.
- Upholstery and furniture: Cigarette smoke and food smells easily cling to fabric and textiles. Drapery can be sent to the dry cleaners or many carpet cleaning companies will also clean upholstery like dining chairs and sofas. Like your carpeting, you’ll want to assess how deep the smell is: is it in the top layer of the upholstery or within the cushion? Mattresses can also harbor bad smells. Consider replacing it and make sure you purchase good quality mattress pads and protectors.
- Closets and drawers: Wood and plastic furniture, as well as closets, can generally be cleaned and disinfected but first you’ll want to empty the contents. Sort through your closets and drawers, remove the objects that might be causing bad smells and clean them separately. Even if the source of the smell was from one object, it may have affected your other items. Once the closet or drawers is empty, start at the top and clean down to the bottom. While cleaning, inspect this storage area for water damage, mold, mildew or any other potential sources of the smell. You may need to make repairs, repaint or replace to ensure you’re starting with a clean slate. Cedar planks can be added to closets and drawers – they inherently smell amazing, absorb moisture, and can protect your valuables. To remove “musty” or mothball smells from wood storage pieces, you can place a bowl of baking soda inside each drawer, which will absorb smells. A bowl of vinegar will also work. You can often do a light cleaning using a mixture of diluted vinegar and water (I like to add several drops of lemon essential oil as well) to gently wipe down interior surfaces. Just be sure to test out an area first as water may damage your wood surfaces.
- Basements and attics: Entire rooms like the basement or attic should be treated like other rooms in the home. If either of these rooms have become major storage areas this might take you awhile to empty them out and find the source of the smell. The reason these two places are extra important is that bad smells could be an indication of a more serious problem like a leaking roof, leaking foundation, leaking plumbing or a pest infestation. Not only can these issues ruin your belongings, they can ruin the structural integrity of your home.
- Appliances, sinks, toilets: Appliances and fixtures can quickly turn smelly if not properly maintained or regularly cleaned. Fortunately, most of these can be cleaned pretty easily and the smell will dissipate. Kitchen sinks with in-sink garbage disposals can give off foul food smells. You can eliminate food odors by sprinkling baking soda down the drain and flushing it with water. A few small lemon or orange peels thrown in the disposal can also give a fresh scent. Be sure you always run the water when using the garbage disposal and don’t use your disposal as a garbage can. Appliances that use a lot of water, like dishwashers and washing machines, can have odors due to mold or food. Baking soda can also be sprinkled in both, just use a little at a time. After using these machines try wiping them clean with an all-purpose spray or plain vinegar. Toilets can become smelly for obvious reasons. Regular cleaning will help immensely, so will using your toilet properly and keeping it maintained.
- Garbage cans: The best way to keep the smell of garbage from filling up your home is to use a garbage can liner and empty it regularly. When you remove the smelly items, the smell usually goes away. If garbage has leaked inside the can you’ll want to clean it out thoroughly (it’s easiest if you take the cans outside and wash with soap and water). Compost bins inside the home can also smell so be sure to empty them on a regular basis and keep them clean as well.
When you can’t find the source of the smell
Some smells are obvious, some are not. It might be due to nose “blindness” or possibly just an odd combination of too many smells that make it difficult to determine. You might actually want a person living outside of your home help you out with this. They may be able to pick up on where the smell is coming from easier than you can. But if that’s not an option, you can actually hire professional cleaning services that provide deep cleaning services. They will probably recommend cleaning the basics like kitchens and bathrooms and carpeting, but might also recommend air duct cleaning or cleaning behind and underneath appliances. A dead pest can also be difficult to track down as they sometimes perish between walls or underneath the house. A pest control professional will be able to make an expert assessment and help figure out next steps. Always get an in-home consultation from a professional who will walk through the entire home and give recommendations for service as well as an accurate estimate.
Air Quality and How You Can Help
How Good is Your Air?
Before you go outside see how good or bad the air is in your community.
Health effects of ozone pollution. Did you know that 10 to 20 percent of all summertime respiratory-related hospital visits in some areas of the U.S. are associated with ozone pollution? Motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are major sources of ozone, which usually forms in hot weather. Ozone pollution can affect anyone who spends time outdoors in the summer, particularly children, the elderly, outdoor workers and people exercising. Repeated exposure to ozone pollution may cause permanent damage to the lungs. Even low ozone levels can trigger health problems in some people when it is inhaled; these can include chest pains, coughing, nausea, throat irritation, and congestion.
How Your Actions Can Help: By making some fairly simple changes in your daily or weekly routine, you can help to clean the air. For instance:
- Try taking an alternative form of transportation to work, such as a bus, train, bike, or even walking. This simple action can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 1,500 pounds each year.
Look for the “Energy Star” label when you buy new appliances. Depending on the appliance, products with this label will consume between 13% and 40% less energy than conventional appliances. Learn more about Energy Star products at energystar.gov.
- Enroll in a green energy program. More and more utilities across the country are offering consumers the option of having some or all of their household or business energy purchased from renewable energy resources such as solar, wind and biomass.
Air Quality Information for kids in English and en español.
For Travel and Commuting
Commuting It’s summertime, which means that weather conditions are favorable for ground-level ozone formation. Emissions from motor vehicles are the primary source of ozone-causing pollutants, accounting for almost half of our air pollution. Because heat and sunlight are important factors in ozone formation, ozone pollution generally peaks during the months of April through October, on hot, sunny days with little or no wind and no precipitation.
Green Vehicle Guide Smog is at its highest levels during the summer. Tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks account for almost half of the air pollution in the United States. You may be surprised to know that you have cleaner more fuel-efficient choices in any vehicle size you need, even an SUV. Find out for yourself. Go to the Green Vehicle Guide to find the cleanest, most fuel efficient vehicle that meets your needs.
Fuel Economy To save gasoline and money during those long vacation trips, keep your car tuned, your tires properly inflated, and drive carefully. See the fuel economy estimates for all cars and light trucks going back to 1985 at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/.
Refueling your vehicle Gasoline vapors are harmful to you and the environment. Not only are they toxic to breathe, they contribute to ozone formation in the atmosphere. Since gasoline vapor production increases during the hot summer months, it is important to be careful when refueling your vehicle. Here are some simple measures you can take at the gas station:
- Secure the gas cap after refueling to prevent vapors from escaping.
- Avoid refueling on ozone action days.
- If you must refuel on ozone action days do so in the early morning or evening.
Maintaining Your Vehicle – Watch your dashboard light to prevent pollution This summer, help prevent pollution by keeping your car in tip-top shape. If your car or light truck is a 1996 or later model, it is equipped with a sophisticated computer called the “Onboard Diagnostic” (or OBD) system that helps your engine to operate at peak efficiency and will alert you to any potential problems that could cause it to work harder, wear out faster and pollute more. If the OBD system detects problems, it will trigger a “Check Engine” light. Repair shops are able to check the computer to see precisely what is causing the problem, and can then make effective repairs.
During your summer vacation trips, if your “Check Engine” light comes on and stays on, don’t panic. You and your car are not in immediate danger. The first thing you should do is check that your fuel cap is secured tightly: loose gas caps cause gasoline vapor emissions which trigger the light. If the cap is tight and the light still stays on, try to arrange for service when convenient. If the light is flashing on and off, this indicates engine misfire, a condition that can harm the engine. In this case, you can still drive safely but you should minimize your time on the road and avoid driving at high speed or carrying excess weight such as towing or carrying heavy equipment.
Making sure you service your vehicle whenever the Check Engine light is illuminated can help you:
- Prevent more costly repairs.
- Improve your vehicle’s fuel economy.
- Ensure that your vehicle is ready to pass an emissions inspection.
- Reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants.
Recharging Your Car’s Air Conditioner with Refrigerant When servicing automotive air-conditioning systems, vehicle owners generally have several options to recharge a/c systems with refrigerant. One option is to top-off your car’s system with refrigerant, and another is to evacuate and recharge the system. Both of these options will provide cool air in the passenger compartment for some period of time.
Federal Recreation Areas Visit a National Park this summer. Check out this site that has one-stop access to federal recreation information.
National Park Service A guide to visiting national parks is found at the National Park Service Web site. Look at state Web sites to find State and local park information.
For more information see:
How to Use Insect Repellents Safely
Your Yard and Clean Air
Healthy Lawn, Healthy Environment (PDF) (19 pp, 1745K, About PDF) – Information about environmentally friendly lawn care.
Bringing conservation from the countryside to your backyard
Tips for a Waste-Free Lawn and Garden
Learn How to Compost
Using Pesticides Safely
If you decide that the best solution to your pest problem is a pesticide, follow these tips when selecting and using a garden product:
- Identify the pest problem
- Find the product that solves the problem
- Buy the right amount for your needs
- Read the label carefully and use the product the right way
- Pay attention to warnings
- Prevent harm to the environment – never pour lawn and garden products down a drain
- Store and dispose of pesticides safely.
- Learn more pesticide safety tips.
“Ten Tips to Protect Children from Pesticide and Lead Poisonings.” This Spanish/English brochure outlines the ten most important steps you can take to protect children from accidental poisonings associated with the presence of lead and pesticides in the home. A “must” for parents.
Learn why children may be especially sensitive to pesticides.
In and Around the House
Cool Change Campaign Keeping your house cool when it’s hot is important because energy use increases in the summer.
Summertime Recycling Activities You can recycle all year long but in the summer there are special things that you can do in your yard such as composting.
Recycling Around the Home Learn how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle materials and decrease the amount and toxicity of the waste produced in and around your home.
When it is hot, postpone chores that use oil-based paints, solvents, or varnishes that produce fumes and, if you are barbecuing, use an electric starter instead of charcoal lighter fluid.
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Resources For Kids and Students
If you are looking for some interesting activities this summer that will help you learn about the environment, check out these cool educational and fun sites.
Air Quality Index The AQI uses colors, and numbers, and words to tell you about the air. En español
Darby Duck and the Aquatic Crusaders Become an Aquatic Crusader and join Darby Duck in the fight against water pollution!
Recycle City – There’s lots to do here: people and places to visit and plenty of ways to explore how the city’s residents recycle, reduce, and reuse waste.
Help Save Our Planet! Lead an alien expedition to Earth. Trail the Garbage Gremlin as an ace detective. Become a Planet Protector today!
Pesticides Information for Kids, Students and Teachers
Roaches are one of the most common household pests. Once they move into your home, they multiply quickly. That makes them even harder to control. En español
Find out more about EPA educational resources by going to the kids club, the students and teachers centers.
For more information contact us at 1-800-460-1736 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org