Reduce the STANK in your house: solving common stinky problems

By on May 10th

Christmas yard art: Car Freshner's

Photo by djfrantic. Used under Creative Commons license.

Not all my apartments were shitty, but they all had their own stank issues, as small spaces are wont to do. But every cloud has a silver lining: since two of our three apartments were less than 650 square feet — and the third was half-underground and always moist — I had to learn how to keep common stinky problems from overwhelming us. I know — solving smell issues seems so easy but I know I, a very-uneducated-in-the-domestic-sciences person, took a long time to learn this stuff. So I'm happy to share my smell-management success secrets with you.

PROBLEM: Our trash is STANK, and I'm taking out half-full trash bags four times a week.

SOLUTION:

  1. Never, ever, never use scented trash bags. Adding scent to stank just compounds it.
  2. Clean out your can. If it hasn't been washed in a while, there might be a big glob of ketchup stuck up in there. Even when you can't see anything, using soap and water or an unscented disinfectant can eliminate smells.
  3. Get a counter-top compost bin. In our house, produce was a big cause of trash can stank. Onion bits and old broccoli stalks can bring a pervasive smell pretty quickly. This pretty much stopped when we got a counter-top compost bin and its accompanying charcoal filters. Even if you can't compost, it wouldn't be a bad buy if you have smelly produce problems — the bin pretty much kills the smell of scraps, so you don't have to change your trash bag every time you slice onions.

PROBLEM: My neighbors' stank invades our space.

SOLUTION:

  1. Get a draft guard for your door.
  2. Get an air purifier. Combine it with cracked windows, and you could see a marked reduction in uninvited smells.
  3. See if your landlord can replace a filter. Many times, even shared ventilation systems have filters throughout the ducts. If yours is clogged with dust and hair, it's probably not absorbing smells.

PROBLEM: The cat's litter box is STANK, and we don't have enough space to stow it remotely.

SOLUTION:

  1. Try moving the litter box. Air moves around spaces weirdly — AND you might not mind smelling a whiff of cat pee when you're loading the dryer, though it sucks to be the first thing you smell as you step through the front door. There might be a better place for your cat to poop in your house.
  2. Try a different litter. Even "natural" or "unscented" litters often have scents. After years of testing, my favorite is unscented Cat's Pride. It's cheap, scoopable, and though some people don't like clay litter — it's been the best at trapping odors. Every time we've had a truly stinky box that wasn't in need of a change was when I'd had to buy a slightly-scented "unscented" brand.
  3. Add baking soda. Non toxic, neutralizes ammonia, cheap.
  4. Buy your cat better food. Cat poop shouldn't be that smelly, barring another health problem (I've known plenty of stinky cats who have stomach issues). If your cat's poops are unbearably stank, look into a higher quality food — one without corn. After a few days you should notice a huge difference. I like Castor & Pollux, but I'm also a crazy cat lady, blinded to the price of cat food.
  5. Every fourth litter cleaning, get rid of ALL the old litter, rinse or wash the box and let it dry — in the sun, if possible. Many people suggest adding diluted bleach to the wash, but I haven't found it to be necessary. it's not a fantastic idea to add bleach to ammonia-based cat pee. Plus, rinsing only does the trick just as well.

I hope these starter solutions are helpful. These simple changes made my home mostly smell-free.

And if you have a stank issue, post it in the comments — we can group workshop it.

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About Cat Rocketship

I was the Managing Editor of Offbeat Home for a year and a half. I have a rich Internet life and also a pretty good real life. Hobbies include D&D, Twitter, and working on making our household more self-reliant. I also draw things.