How to Eliminate Bad Smells in Your Apartment (And Their Causes)

If you are a tenant, landlord, or property manager, it is important to identify and address bad smells as quickly as possible. Otherwise, these can lead to unpleasant living conditions and even health issues. For property owners and managers, these can result in tenant turnover, leading to decreased profits. Although it may be unpleasant, properly identifying and eliminating the source of a bad smell is essential to maintaining a healthy living environment.

Read on to learn more.

Common Causes of Apartment Smells and How to Get Rid of Them

1. Kitchen or Cooking Smells

The most common source of bad smells in apartments is related to cooking. Grease, food particles, and other organic materials can accumulate and rot over time, leading to unpleasant odors. This is especially true if the kitchen doesn’t have adequate ventilation.

How to get rid of cooking smells:

  • Keep your kitchen well-ventilated by opening windows or using exhaust fans while cooking.
  • Clean up spills and food particles immediately after cooking.
  • Use a mixture of vinegar and warm water to clean surfaces, as vinegar helps neutralize odors.
  • Place a small bowl of vinegar or coffee grounds near the cooking area to absorb smells.
  • Burn scented candles or use essential oils to mask cooking odors.

2. Cigarette Smell

Smoke odors are difficult to eliminate from an apartment. They often penetrate deep into carpets, furniture, and other surfaces, making them hard to remove. For property owners, the first step is to make sure your tenants are informed about smoking policies in the building and that they abide by them.

How to get rid of cigarette smoke smell:

  • Open windows and doors to let in fresh air.
  • Clean all surfaces using warm water and white vinegar in a spray bottle, including walls, ceilings, and floors.
  • Wash curtains and other fabrics to remove smoke particles.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and upholstered furniture, leave it for a few hours, then vacuum it up.
  • Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter to trap smoke particles and improve air quality.

3. Pet Odors

Pet odors can be a major source of bad smells in apartments. The best way to prevent pet odors is by telling your tenants about proper pet care and ensuring they clean up after their animal companions correctly. If you are a renter with pets, you should also invest in odor-neutralizing pet shampoos and use air purifiers to help reduce odors.

How to get rid of pet odors:

  • Bathe your pets regularly and groom them to minimize body odor.
  • Clean litter boxes frequently and use odor-absorbing litter.
  • Use enzyme-based cleaners to break down pet urine and feces odors on carpets and upholstery.
  • Place pet beds and toys in well-ventilated areas or near windows to air them out.
  • Use air fresheners or scented candles to mask pet odors.

4. Excess Moisture and Musty Smells

Excess moisture can cause a stale and musty smell. The most common causes of excess water are poor ventilation, leaks, and high humidity levels. Over time, mold can form if the moisture is not addressed, worsening the situation. Note that mold can also be a health hazard, so it’s vital to address the issue as soon as possible.

How to remove the smell: 

  • Identify and fix any water leaks or sources of excess moisture.
  • Use dehumidifiers or fans to reduce humidity levels and improve air circulation.
  • Keep windows open when possible to let in fresh air.
  • Regularly clean and dry damp areas, such as bathrooms and laundry rooms.
  • Use baking soda or activated charcoal as natural odor absorbers in damp or musty areas.

In severe cases of mold, you may need to hire a professional mold remediation service to address the issue, as well as remove the smell.

5. Garbage

Garbage can be a major source of bad apartment smell, particularly if it’s not disposed of regularly. Trash can attract pests, such as flies and rodents, contributing to an apartment’s unpleasant smell.

How to get rid of garbage odors:

  • Empty and clean trash cans frequently, including washing them down with a mixture of warm water and vinegar.
  • Take out the garbage regularly, particularly after preparing meals or eating snacks.
  • Place a bowl of baking soda inside the trash can to help absorb odors.

Try using essential oils or scented candles to mask any remaining garbage smells.

Additional Tips for Eliminating an Unpleasant Odor in Your Apartment

  • Replace air filters. Regularly replace the air filters in your HVAC system to help trap and remove the smell.
  • Deep clean. Periodically deep clean your apartment, including carpets, upholstery, and appliances, to remove lingering smells and keep your living space fresh.
  • Use odor absorbers. Place bowls of baking soda, white vinegar, or coffee grounds around your apartment to absorb foul odors.
  • Air fresheners and scented candles. Use air fresheners or scented candles to mask unpleasant smells temporarily. Essential oils in a diffuser can also help to keep your apartment smelling fresh.
  • Replace odor-causing items. If the odor emanates from a particular item, such as a rug, cushion, or piece of furniture, consider replacing it. Sometimes, no amount of cleaning will remove deeply embedded odors.
  • Wash and air out fabrics. Regularly wash and air out curtains, bedding, and other fabrics in your apartment. This can help to remove any lingering smells and prevent the buildup of new odors.
  • Invest in carpet cleaners and deodorizers. Carpeting can be a hotbed for bad smells, so cleaning them regularly is important. Use powerful vacuums and carpet shampoos that are designed specifically to remove odors and stains. To absorb bad smells, you can also use baking soda or other natural deodorizers on carpets and upholstery.

When to Seek Help from Your Property Manager or a Cleaning Service

If you’ve tried the methods mentioned above but still struggle with persistent or severe odors, it may be time to seek help from your property manager or a professional odor removal service. They can assess the situation and provide additional solutions, such as:

  • Inspecting and addressing issues with your neighbor’s apartment that might contribute to the smell.
  • Checking for hidden problems, such as mold growth or plumbing issues.
  • To remove trapped odors, perform a deep cleaning of your apartment, including carpets, upholstery, and air ducts.
  • Using professional-grade odor absorbers or fogging machines to help neutralize odors.

Key Takeaways

Bad smells can be a nuisance in your apartment, but luckily, many ways exist to prevent and eliminate them. From keeping your kitchen well-ventilated to using odor absorbers and air fresheners, you can keep your space smelling fresh and inviting. If the smells persist or worsen, you may need help from a professional cleaning service or your property manager to get rid of odors. With the right steps, you can ensure your rental unit is an enjoyable place to live.