Real Estate Corner: Stinky solution

April has been an interesting month for me to say the least. I’ve “lived” in Fort Collins, Colo., Sandy, Utah, The Villages, Fla., Lincoln and now back to Sandy, Utah. I’ve been tasked (for the next two weeks) for the care and love (and belly rubs) of Lily, my brother’s greyhound. Each of those locations has been awesome in their own way. Although, the weather in New Hampshire last week was nothing short of abhorrent. If you haven’t spent time in northern New Hampshire during “mud season,” you haven’t lived.

Being “homeless” for a month has taught me a few things. First and foremost, I miss my home and I can’t wait to get back there. Secondly, I miss my routine and honestly didn’t realize how important that is to me. Third, I miss good coffee. My French press is going to get a big hug when I get home. Lastly — of course there are a lot more things I learned, but let’s move on — is that every place I’ve visited has its own scent. If you have ever come home from a long trip (even going away to college) and walked back in the front door, I think you know what I mean. It’s certainly not a foul or negative thing (usually) it is just that home’s personality.

But there certainly are negative experiences when it comes to scent. I’ve rambled on about the foul animal smells in our new home and the challenge of eliminating them. I was also baffled at the overwhelming cigarette smoke smell when I went to baggage claim at the Salt Lake City airport. What was that all about?

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Animal “marking,” mold/mildew, moth balls (you know who you are), body odor and even just a stuffy, closed up home are all smells that are challenging to eliminate and critical to remove if you are going to sell your home. Let’s take a look at a few creative solutions to help get your home smelling clean and fresh.

Most non-smokers can agree there is nothing more foul than a home (or even a hotel room) that has had smokers in it. Not only is the smell horribly pervasive, but it is one of the more challenging to remove. The trick is to attack any porous material or surface. This includes drapes, curtains, carpets, rugs, lampshades and even towels. You need to clean anything that has had the chance to absorb that nicotine smell. In many cases, this means the “removal” of those items, not just the cleaning.

“Carpeting is especially absorbent with the padding below it and almost always needs to be removed to rid the home of that smell,” Badger Realty agent Kevin Killourie said.

This is also the case for animal smells. There are lots of special mixtures you can try including white vinegar, enzyme-based cleaners, baking soda and even bleach. After that, assuming you are down to the subfloor, I have used multiple coats of Kilz primer and even a couple coats of paint on top of that to finally get the lingering smell to vanish. This is also strongly recommended for those homes/rooms in which you are battling the cigarette smells. Even after removing all of the porous items, a fresh coat of paint (on all six surfaces) is strongly recommended.

Another “trouble-spot” for many homes is a teenager or active child’s room. While you may prefer to have them stay outside in a tent for those formidable years, that’s not really an option! My parents raised two teenage boys who played soccer, rode bikes and skateboards and worked in restaurant kitchens all through high school.

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Although we were trained pretty well to take our stinky stuff into the basement (where the laundry was) I’m sure there were still plenty of smelly items throughout our rooms. We actually ended up in the habit of removing our “work” clothes before coming in the house since those items were particularly stinky.

One option for these rooms is an ozone machine. Although a little futuristic sounding these destroy the spores and bacteria that cause those odors and thus help eliminate the odor. If this is still falling short of leaving those rooms smelling fresh, a diluted mixture of vinegar and water can be used to spray all the surfaces of the room. Walls, windows, closets, air vents and woodwork can be wiped down to get rid of any lingering smells that are clinging to the room. This particular method is one of my favorites for cleaning up a home that is getting ready for a showing. It is fairly quick, easy and very effective.

This time of year we are all itching to get some fresh air in our homes. Homes that have been closed up all winter (or longer) are certainly good targets for a cleansing. While opening the windows and doors and allowing a full “refresh” of the air is helpful, take it a step further. Add some houseplants to the home and let nature do its thing. They are like organic air purifiers. This winter I’ve also discovered that putting some yummy essential oils into a humidifier adds a great scent to the whole room. You can do this in a spray bottle and give the whole house a once-over.

The last target today is trash. Scrubbing and bleaching the trashcan is a necessary way to rid that container of lingering smells. Citrus is also one of your best friends in this department. A few slices of orange or lemon in the garbage disposal can freshen up that spot and keep it fresh for a few days. Also boiling citrus and herbs and using that water in the dishwasher can help kill some of the bacteria and smells coming from there. Overall, do a bit of reading on the many uses of baking soda as well. That can help keep these areas smelling fresh long after your treatments.

The fact that your home has a “smell” is not a bad thing. It is just important that you have someone from the outside visit your home and give you and honest assessment of any trouble spots that should be addressed. Although cigarette smoke and animal “spots” are two of the more challenging smells to eradicate, they are not impossible and most other smells will be much easier to clear up. I’ll see you in the citrus isle.

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