Let me put it to you bluntly – your house smells. But before you break out the air freshener, you should know that everyone’s does. Your neighbor’s house smells. Your in-laws’ house smells. Heck, even Martha Stewart’s home smells.
While you may have noticed an aroma in other folks’ abode, most likely you can’t pick up the scent on your own. Why? The scientific term here is “olfactory adaptation.” The real world term is “nose blindness.” Both mean that you couldn’t pick your home’s smell out of a scent lineup.
This phenomenon exists because our bodies adapt quickly to smells. Over the space of just a few breaths, we can lose our ability to detect new scents.
Our brains are the keys players here. While our noses pick up a plethora of new scents daily, our neurochemistry is wired primarily to watch for danger. For efficiency, our brains selectively file the non-threatening scents we take in to the back of our minds. When a threatening smell comes along, our senses spring into action. (Imagine how we react to smells like burning hair and you get the picture.) But everyday odors blend into the background, making us nose blind.
Interesting, yes? However, if you’re like me, this information made you more than a little self-conscious. Worried your house reeks and nobody’s telling you? Fear not.
Take a look at the list below of some of the most common nose blindness culprits and ways to combat them. You may be flying nose-blind, but using these tricks will help you sniff out sources of unwanted smells and eliminate them.
1. Musty Places – Here, you get some help from your eyes; mustiness is caused by mildew and mold, which you can see. Inspect places like your basement for gray or white splotches. Most likely, these spots are mildew. But if they look fuzzy, you’re looking at mold.
You want to get rid of the resulting odors and make sure they never return. Try making a solution with one-part bleach to four-parts water. Insert some elbow grease, and scrub away. To prevent mildew and mold from returning, run a dehumidifier and amp up air circulation and sunlight exposure in the affected area. For chronic mustiness, try this trick: put a half-cut onion in a bowl in the room. Problem solved.
2. Fido’s Funk – There’s an easy test to know if your house smells like pets: do you have them? If yes, then yes. It’s that simple.
Pet smells emanate from obvious cases of accidents to not-so-obvious places, like shed hair, gunky ears, and weeks-old slobber. The first step to ridding your home of pet smells is to clean your pets themselves; keep furry companions bathed and groomed.
The next step is firing up the vacuum. Start with a hearty sprinkle of baking soda on your carpet to soak up smells. And be sure to use the crevice tool liberally; pet hair loves tight spaces, like wall-carpet borders and the area between appliances and cabinets.
3. Fresh Fridges – Zap odors coming from your freezer and fridge by doing frequent, thorough cleanings. Start by unplugging and emptying, then clean using a mix of hot water and baking soda. Sanitize surfaces with a solution of one tablespoon bleach in one gallon of water. Let your appliance air out for 15 minutes, and you’ll breath easier. Wiping the interior and exterior down with vinegar for extra odor elimination.
4. Not the Mattress – Yep, the mattress. Your bedding is a bed for built-up dead skin and body oils shed while sleeping. And it can stink. While you can’t exactly toss the mattress into the wash, you can sprinkle some baking soda on, let it sit for an hour or more, and then vacuum. Add a couple drops of essential oil to the soda to up your scent game. Bonus points for using lavender, which has been shown to help you sleep.