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The 5 Best Ways to Deodorize Your House Before Selling

Leave the funk to your interior decorating style, not odors. If potential buyers are saying “smell you later” to your house, check out these ideas to make selling your house not stink.

Leave the funk to your interior decorating style, not odors. If potential buyers are saying “smell you later” to your house, check out these ideas to make selling your house not stink.

It's a gorgeous day for a house showing! The buyers marvel at your lush lawn, their path lined with delicate flowers bobbing in the breeze. They walk up to the freshly painted (in that super trendy “greige” color) house and wait for the realtor to open the brand new steel front door… and then it hits.

A wall of nostril hair-singing, putrid stench. Most likely, the buyers will continue with the showing out of politeness, open-mouth breathing until they recall a clickbaity Facebook post claiming that all smells are particulate, make vague excuses about the kitchen being too small, and rush outside to fill their lungs with sweet, cleansing air.

Okay, maybe a tad dramatic. But like any other marketing project, a home sale needs to appeal to all the senses (except taste. Please do not lick the walls). New paint and strategically staged furniture won't do jack if your living area smells like a locker room for adolescent possums.

With apologies to R.E.M., everybody stinks sometimes, and humans are great at adapting to their own brand of funk. As you prep your place for sale, check out these tips on destankifying some of the most common odors.

Drains

Think of all that goes down your bathroom and kitchen drains. On second thought, spare yourself and don't. A breeding ground for clogs, mold, and mildew, drains are huge contributors to unpleasant odors. Take a note from your third grade science project and freshen them up with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda. Side note: you'll be using a lot of baking soda. Buy enough to make the cashier wonder if they should call their manager.

Start by running a potful of boiling water down the drain, then dump in a half cup of baking soda and let it sit for a few minutes. Pour in a mixture of one cup vinegar and one cup very hot water, cover the drain, and let it bubble for 5-10 minutes. Finish up with another boiling potful rinse. The chemical reactions will loosen the gunk and flush away those odor-causing particles. For garbage disposals, add extra freshness by grinding a handful of citrus peels.

Soft Spots

After a long day at work, there's nothing more comforting than burying yourself into the mattress, or a session of relaxing yoga on your upcycled t-shirt rug. Those soft surfaces just absorb all your troubles, don't they? Unfortunately, they absorb a lot more than that, and then spread it throughout your entire house.

Remember that baking soda? You're going to want to grab it again. Sprinkle it over your carpets, upholstered furniture, and mattresses. Let that powder get to know those odor particles, then suck it up with a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter, using the upholstery attachment as necessary. If you're able, place furniture and rugs outside for a few hours and harness that solar power — sunlight naturally kills odor-causing bacteria.

Thoroughly wash bathroom rugs and shower curtain liners. If they're still musty or visibly mildewed, replace them.

Pets

Yes, they are our precious treasures who do no wrong and how DARE you suggest otherwise. But the truth is, along with cigarette smoke, critter smells are among the most infamous olfactory turn-offs for potential buyers. Launder and/or give the baking soda treatment to all bedding and plush toys. Ditto for hard surfaces like crates, cages, and bowls. Dump out old litter, wash the box, and stay on that scooping like stink on… you know. Bathe pets that can be bathed, and get them out of the house during showings.

Vinegar or enzymatic cleaning products can help get rid of urine odor, but old stains in the carpet may necessitate removing the carpet, padding, and cleaning the subfloor. Remember, you may be used to that old cat pee smell, but to potential buyers, it's an ammonia-scented beacon warning “stay away!”

Hard Surfaces

If you don't think stink sinks into flat, hard surfaces, you'd be wrong. Trash, cooking, and smoking smells love to take up residence in seemingly non-absorbent spaces. Take the trash out frequently, and scrub the actual garbage can and allow to dry before putting in another bag.

Wipe down the refrigerator and use the tried-and-true baking soda box method to cut down on food odors. Boil water with lemon slices in the microwave, then scrape off stuck-on bits. Wipe down walls and baseboards with a mixture of ½ gallon water and ½ gallon white vinegar. To soften paint smells, place cut onion halves at each end of a freshly painted room.

Clear the Air

Finally, there's no shortage of products that mask odors. Try these tips to tackle odors at the source:

  • Nothing's as refreshing as, well, fresh air. Open the windows and let the outside in. Run fans at the same time to circulate more air.
  • Charcoal is great at capturing odors — place bowls of pure charcoal (not briquettes with lighter fluid) around the house.
  • Use a boiling pot of herbs and spices. A gently boiling mixture of water and citrus peels, cranberries, or spices like ginger and cinnamon will fill your home with a delightful scent.

Ready to sell your house? Clever can help you find a real estate agent who will sniff out the best buyer for your property and help make your property smell amazing for open houses and showings.

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Jamie Ayers

Jamie is the Director of Content at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents and helps you save thousands on commission. In the past, Jamie has managed columns for clients in a variety of leading business publications, including Forbes, Inc., CEO World, Entrepreneur, and more. At Clever, Jamie's primary goal is to provide home sellers, buyers, and investors with the information they need to successfully navigate the ins and outs of the real estate industry.

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