You could load up on air fresheners and vanilla-scented candles. But those just mask foul odors—often poorly—and tend to nauseate people more than whatever stale beer or gym bag aromas you were trying to cover up in the first place.
Many air fresheners or fragranced products also contain phthalates—a group of chemicals that may mess with a guy’s testosterone function, says Heather Patisaul, Ph.D., a biologist and chemical researcher at North Carolina State University.
Here are six better ways to remove unwanted smells from your pad.
CLEAN YOUR PLACE
Filth smells. If you tend to go months between floor or counter cleanings, there’s no way your place won’t reek. Buy some white vinegar—a potent and natural disinfectant—and give your place a good scrubbing. The vinegar smells harsh when you’re using it, but its scent fades quickly and takes gross odors with it.
You probably know plants and trees convert the carbon dioxide you exhale back into breathable oxygen. But they also scrub the air around you of noxious odors and toxins, shows research from NASA. Peace lilies are tops among house plants when it comes to removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air you breathe, that NASA study concluded. But almost any leafy plant will help clean your air and remove odors.
LOCK UP BAD SMELLS
You probably think Febreze is just another brand of air freshener. It actually contains a miracle molecule that’s scientifically proven to trap and seal in smelly compounds, making them all but undetectable to your nose. Unfortunately, most types of Febreze are scented, and so may contain phthalates or other substances you’re better off avoiding. But Febreze “Free” is odorless, and can lock up the stink coming from your gym bag or bathroom without dusting everything in chemicals that could mess with your sperm.
PAINT YOUR WALLS
The scents and toxins found in cigarette smoke can live on walls for years without fading away. The same goes for pet odors and any other gross scents that might be hanging around from your place’s past tenants. While scrubbing your walls might help, painting them effectively traps those old odors and prevents them from fouling your air. All paints contain VOCs, but those will be gone after 2-3 months, studies show. You can speed that process up by opening windows (and, of course, stocking up on houseplants).
WASH YOUR RUGS AND CURTAINS
As you’d expect, fabrics hold odors a lot longer than hard surfaces. Replacing curtains or having rugs cleaned are great ways to get rid of nasty smells. Having a professional come in to clean your upholstered furniture is another good move if you’ve heard complaints that your apartment stinks.
GRIND SOME COFFEE
Now that you’ve eliminated many of the noxious odors floating around your apartment, it’s time to replace them with something better. Even people who don’t drink coffee dig its earthy aromas, and setting out a small bowl of fresh grounds is a cheap way to keep your pad smelling good for days without chemical fragrances.