What's your secret to a fresh smelling vacant home?

27 Replies

We've had lots of rain so far this year in Texas.   It's kind of tropical, which we are not used to.  I have a vacant home for sale with a musty smell, even after new paint.   What are your top tips for a fresh environment?

If its move-in ready, try slicing then boiling a lemon. Definitely crack a few windows and let some natural air in. Potpourri in a small bowl in the living room, bathroom and kitchen can help as well. 

Kudos,

Mary  

If the smell is purely due to moisture, Home Depot sells DampRid in various scents. After a roof leak in my last project, I used this to pull the extra moisture out of the air and to remove that 'musty' smell. Worked quit well.

-Christopher

Box fans will keep the air moving while it is closed up and help dry out the air as well. You might consider a fan in the attic space as well. Mobile is the rainiest city in the country and very tropical all year. Mildew is a common problem for us, and air movement is the best answer, or a dehumidifier. Down fall with a dehumidifier is that it needs to be emptied often unless you can drain it to the outside.

From living in the constant state of either rain or 100% humidity - potpourri and other odor cover-ups can't hide the mustiness. Also in today's environment many people are conscious and/or allergic to deodorizers. Just for a caution Damp Rid is actually formaldehyde and can also affect a person's senses if they come into the home. If you are planning to show the home try to bake some cookies just before the viewers arrive.   

What type of foundation? 

Besides dehumidifiers I've always found these to be particularly EFFECTIVE!

I also use the Apple Cinnamon version in the living areas of any rehabs we are selling. I will use the Country Cotton or Fresh Linen in basements and garages.

I will place them strategically throughout the house, hidden from view if possible.

I had a smelly problem with one of my properties so I went to the store and purchased several Glade Plugins and turned them all on full blast and left the units doors and windows closed for a few day. when it was time for a showing of the unit, I would arrive 15 minutes early and turn on the plugins to low and open the windows. This not only got rid of the smell but it masked the smell long enough for it to go away on its own and allowed me to still schedule showings. After maybe 3-5 days the smell was completely gone and i no longer needed the Glade Plugins. this was a very economical solution to my problem. The cause of my smell was from a carpet cleaner who used to much water and did not remove/ dry the floors properly. I replaced the carpet but the musty smell did not go away until after the plugins. 

Hope this helps

-Devin 

I had the same issue with a Flip I currently have on the market. Its been raining pretty heavy the past few weeks.  Installed a dehumidifier in the basement with several damprid buckets in the basement(hidden of course) and air fresheners in every bathroom. Air circulation is the key, its the standing air that causes the smell.

@Jon Klaus  We have been super rainy with major humidity in my area as well. We open windows and run fans for a while when possible. If you have people with allergies then opening a window is not the best option.  My sister has asthma attacks when exposed to pine sol and other cleaners so I am always aware of cleaners and plug ins.  

A trick my mom always did growing up was to place a cut up apple or two (core and all) in a pot of water. Add cinnamon and/or vanilla. Bring to a boil then allow to simmer. Makes the whole house smell like baked apple pie.  I know realtors that do this as well (plus its cheaper than baking a pie or cookies and can simmer a loong time). 

Of course the simmering pot is just cosmetic for right before you show the property.  Be sure to address any moisture and humidity issues as suggested above. 

When my Aunt and Uncle came to visit when I was a kid, they would smoke in our otherwise smoke-free house. My parents would put charcoal in bowls around the house to soak up the smell. They would also put bowls of white vinegar around the house, and the smell would be gone very quickly. 

I'll second Mindy's suggestion above of the white vinegar. I don't know what it is about that stuff, but it soaks up smells really well. Combined with baking soda, it makes a great wash for walls that freshen up musty rooms, too.

Good luck!

The best thing you can do is run the air conditioning, keep it set at a moderate temperature, say mid-to-high 70*'s. If the space that's musty smelling isn't air conditioned, you can run a dehumdifier. I've found that running the A/C is the best solution though. 

Several people have told me to use vanilla extract. I'm not sure how, I think somebody said you put it on the stove and turn it on or something maybe somebody else can clarify that
Originally posted by @Troy S.:

The best thing you can do is run the air conditioning, keep it set at a moderate temperature, say mid-to-high 70*'s. If the space that's musty smelling isn't air conditioned, you can run a dehumdifier. I've found that running the A/C is the best solution though. 

I'm doing this and it is working well. Now that it is hot I will have a bigger electric bill, but I think it's worth it for the smell to be gone, and for buyers to walk in and feel good cold air conditioning.

We have used a product called clobberizer. Chlorine dioxide. 

Put the packet in a cup of water and leave for 8 hours. When you return open all windows. 

3 years ago we purchased our first rental cabin. It had been closed up for a year! We put 1 of these in each room. It did the trick. No more musty stink. I guess many people use it for cars but it works. 

Originally posted by @Jon Klaus :
Originally posted by @Troy S.:

The best thing you can do is run the air conditioning, keep it set at a moderate temperature, say mid-to-high 70*'s. If the space that's musty smelling isn't air conditioned, you can run a dehumdifier. I've found that running the A/C is the best solution though. 

I'm doing this and it is working well. Now that it is hot I will have a bigger electric bill, but I think it's worth it for the smell to be gone, and for buyers to walk in and feel good cold air conditioning.

I was going to say running the AC in the summer is the most important thing. That way, if after a few days, if you still smell musty odors, you know there is more going on and need to start looking for the source.  I had one house where I assumed this faint damp smell in the living room was lack of ventilation or circulation because the house was closed up for weeks at the time.  During the rehab and pulling carpet we found dampness in the slab near an exterior wall spigot, due to a tiny underground pipe leak.  Had I run the AC or heat that smell wouldn't have gone away and it would have driven me nuts until I found it.  I was actually happy when the rehabbers found a leak as I then knew that was the source of the smell.

Careful!!  I learned from mold professionals that high humidity (no air conditioning) can sometimes lead to aspergillius (mold) problems.  I don't pretend to know the specifics of what I am talking about only that it may be worth extra research.

I hope this helps.

@Robert R. - where did you get the clobberizer. Chlorine dioxide from? I search online (amazon), but don't see to find this product. 
Having same problem, seems like old,misty (old house smell) comes out specially whenever I enter the house from outside after few hours no matter AC on or off. However, whenever I leave doors/windows open it's all gone. Seems like smell absorb into the walls.   

I think any flipper should have this one tool in their pocket for a fresher smelling home: an Ozonator; such as this one...

https://www.amazon.com/Ozone-Power-Commercial-Puri...

We bought a house to flip that was infested by rats after the elderly man had lived in it for many years with his pets. The animals pooped and peed all over the house. It was pretty bad. Bought an ozonator (pretty sure it is the one on Amazon above), placed it in front of the AC return and ran it all night long with the thermostat on fan. Problem solved. Amazing devices that literally destroy the Odor and not just mask it. Just make sure you air the house out REAL well before going back in. Open all the doors and windows (while holding your breath) and let it air out for a few hours. It will make a huge difference.

When I moved into my my current residence, I realized that the entire home had the scent of a particularly potent kind of food that the prior owners used to make. I tried a lot of things, including air freshness, bowls of vinegar, and baking soda... but the thing that actually got rid of the scent?

Coffee grounds.

I bought the cheapest can of coffee, put a bowl with a half cup or so of coffee grounds in every room of the house, and no more food scent. It did leave a faint coffee odor but not that noticeable -- not even as potent as the smell of a freshly brewed pot of coffee.

It would probably be easy to discreetly tuck away a small container of grounds. It could even be put inside something decorate and no one would ever know.

I've done this inside of drawers with that weird old wood odor too and it actually seems to deodorize the scent. Very handy -- and way cheaper than air freshener! I haven't tested it with mold or mildew yet though, so I'd be curious to hear if it works for that too.

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