Help for 'houseitosis!'

Help for 'houseitosis!'

Nothing flies in the face of a nice cozy "welcome home" like a mystery pet smell or a lingering stench from last night's fish fry.

Real estate agents will confess, 'If you can smell it, you can't sell it!' Products abound to mask, deodorize and otherwise eliminate harsh odors that don't belong in the home, but, truth be told, 'houseitosis' has to be nipped where it starts.

'Houseitosis' is the presence of unpleasant odors caused by bacteria, molds and mildews that sneak up after spilt drinks, pet stains and other household mishaps.

While small scale cleaning involves keeping smells at bay to begin with, permanent cleanup of indoor air quality starts from the top down, encompassing air ducts, furniture, carpets and reusable fabric surfaces like drapes and pillows.

First things first, any central heating or cooling systems piped throughout the home should be as clean as possible, says Medford's Prompt Heating and Air Conditioning owner Mike Bronze.

If installing a new system, consider adding an electronic air cleaner, an ultraviolet filter and/or ductwork made of mold-resistant material. Avoid products that off-gas and consider in-room or whole-house filtration to keep air circulating and clean.

At the ground level, carpets are the next big culprit of house odor. From Berber or shag, carpets seem to archive nasty smells, from spilt sodas to outdoor "stuff" tracked in over the years.

A big no-no with carpets, store rented cleaners aren't the best suited at cleaning because excess water is nearly impossible to completely remove, making smells stronger over time. Opt for low water models, Phoenix Stanley Steamer owner Erik Vandendriesche suggests, or have a professional do a high temperature steam treatment using special enzymes to remove odors.

"There are quite a bit of things that can get stuck in the carpets and furniture that cause a house to smell, depending on what type of food you cook, if you're smoking in the house, whether you have pets"¦" Vandendriesche says.

"Even regular household dirt, depending on how often you clean, can cause a lot of odor."

For leather and other types of furniture, smells like body odors and spilt drinks get trapped under outer materials and soak into cushion padding.

"Spilt milk is the worst," Vandendriesche says. "And once something gets down to the padding it will linger for years."

For thorough results, rent a steam machine or hire a professional to properly clean furniture. In between, be sure to spot treat spills and stains as they occur, instead of waiting.

Finally, for the things that make up "home sweet home," but don't fit in the washing machine, like pillows and heavy drapes, stay up on spot treating, use fabric refreshers to kill odors and have items dry cleaned.

"Bedding, drapery, curtains, those things pick up body odors and other smells you don't think about, or want to, until you can smell them," says Nu-Way Cleaners owner Roberts Mitchell.

Even if home washing is OK'd on care tags, Mitchell says professional cleaning will prevent fading and shrinking. A word of advice: dry cleaning is geared at cleaning but won't always remove certain stains unless specifically intended to do so.

Says Mitchell, "Dry cleaning doesn't really remove certain odors like body oils or strong smells, so if they are concerned about particular odors they need to mention it to the dry cleaners so they can be sure to take care of it."

Finally, an oft forgotten culprit of smells, especially in bathrooms and kitchens, is tile and grout. Not keeping these items clean can mean smells and stains from cooking or dank smelling mildew.

For tiles and grout areas, some carpet cleaners offer a high pressure cleaning with minimal water and constant suction to blast away stains — and smells, says Vandendriesche.

"It's really surprising the number of places that smells tend to accumulate," adds Vandendriesche. "The general rule is, if you can clean something, you probably should."

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