Undiscovered pet stains.

Rotting leftovers in the refrigerator.

Cigarette smoke trapped in the drapes.

All apartment dwellers wrestle with funky odors from time to time. Sometimes, the culprit is obvious, like an unkempt litter box or food scraps in the kitchen sink.

Other times, this mysterious odor engulfs your entire unit. And our usual solutions — a Febreze spritz or Lysol cleansing — only mask the offending stench temporarily.

Don’t settle for the funk and musk.

Instead, learn how to deodorize your apartment with these seven smell-good tips!

Hunt Down The Worst Offenders

It’s not a nearby dumpster wafting that rotting odor into your living room. Nor is it a smoky neighbor lacking some common courtesy.

The smells are coming from inside the apartment.

The only way to deodorize a stinky apartment is by hunting down (and getting rid of) the worst offenders.

Here are the first places to look for those sneaky culprits:

  • The garbage can: Can you smell what’s inside, even when it’s latched shut?
  • The refrigerator: Are there any long-forgotten or moldy leftovers hidden?
  • The litterbox: Does the smell linger from across the room (or unit)?
  • The sink: Is there a pile-up? What about water leakage in the cabinet below?
  • The bathroom: Is there a toilet ring, clogged tub drain, or innocent “misses?”

Follow your nose and brace yourself. It might just be a dead mouse, fuzzy roast beef, hairy clumps, or leaky pipes.

Be prepared to call maintenance.

Absorb Musty Carpet Odors With Deodorizers

Plush carpeting doesn’t only swallow your toes as you crawl out of bed at 7 a.m. It also absorbs spilled wine, sweat, raging humidity, and mysterious pet accidents!

When this moisture seeps in, it becomes trapped deep within the carpet fibers. But a quick vac with your Bissell only collects the stray hairs, dirt particles, and dust.

Here’s how to dig those deep-set odors out of a musty or mildewy carpet:

  • Sprinkle baking soda (or powder carpet deodorizer) onto the “problem area.”
  • Allow the powder to settle into the pile for a few hours (or even overnight).
  • Vacuum the powder.

Baking soda can both trap and neutralize those hidden carpet menaces. Keep your pets, kids, and dirty shoes out of the room as the baking soda kicks into action.

Invest In An Air Purifier (& Change The Filters!)

When the stench follows you from room to room (and you’ve verified it’s not you), the problem is officially airborne.

Microscopic particles secretly overwhelm the air and create an apartment-wide odor.

In these cases, the famed air purifier and carbon filter duo do it all:

  • Eliminate air pollutants like cigarette smoke
  • Trap airborne pet dander and odors
  • Freshen musty or stuffy bathrooms
  • Neutralize that dreaded diaper aftermath
  • Absorb burnt, fishy, or spicy cooking smells

An air purifier will absorb the air in a room like a fan. Then it forces the dirty air through the carbon filter and releases the odor-free filtered air back into the room.

If your home reeks of mold (humidity), pets, or smoke, an air purifier is a must.

Open The Windows & Let It Breathe

Rising humidity makes an apartment feel a few degrees warmer than its thermostat setting. Even worse — this moisture also latches onto nearly every household surface.

As the moisture festers on walls, beneath carpets, and in air vents, it becomes a breeding ground for funky-smelling molds and mildews.

This 50%+ indoor humidity turns fresh-smelling air stale and stuffy. The solution is allowing the musty air out and inviting crisp oxygen back in.

Wait for a breezy spring day, open the windows and doors wide, replenish the fresh air, and finally take a much-needed deep breath!

De-Stink Furniture With Baking Soda

Even with strict “no shoes on the couch” rules or weekly bedsheet swaps, furniture isn’t immune to opportunistic stink.

Mattresses absorb over 26 gallons of sweat a year. And your favorite nap haven — that microfiber sectional — could be dirtier than a public toilet seat.

A complete de-stinkification is the next item on your to-do list.

Sprinkle baking soda on all couch, bed, and chair surfaces (no matter how clean they look). Then, with your Dyson’s wand attachment, suck up that white dust.

Wood furniture also notoriously absorbs stenches. Dab a cloth in diluted white vinegar (1:1 water to vinegar ratio) and gently wipe down cabinets, shelves, and TV stands.

Do A Little In-Depth Surface Cleaning

Household odors aren’t as persistent as we are careless.

The longer juice stains go untreated, mildew goes unvacuumed, and windows go unwiped, the more the funk becomes our roommate.

Weekly or monthly in-depth surface cleaning should include:

  • Wipe shelves, countertops, cabinets, and tables with Lysol.
  • Vacuum all carpeting (including under the couch and on the stairs).
  • Scrub and mop bathroom and kitchen tiles.
  • Dust and vacuum drapes, curtains, and blinds.
  • Clean all windows with Windex and a microfiber cloth.

There’s no need to clear out and fumigate your apartment every month. A regular cleaning schedule can neutralize odors before they become insufferable.

Infuse Nose-Perking Scents (Aroma Galore)

Once your apartment returns to its mold-free and freshly-scented self, you’ll notice it smells a bit … bland. It’s time to add some aromatic flair to your humble abode.

Whether it’s seasonal aromas (evergreen or pumpkin), your personal favorites (sandalwood), or a classic scent (vanilla bean), feel free to spice up the joint!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with:

  • Candles (votive or three-wick)
  • Plug-in air fresheners
  • Wax melts
  • Essential oil diffusers
  • Reed diffusers

Try placing one above the toilet, oven top, entryway, and near any litter boxes. That way you will neutralize those all-too-common odors before they have the chance to spread!


Knowing how to deodorize an apartment is a skill that everyone should know. But preventing the stench will save you the hassle of those last-minute cleansings.

To keep your apartment smelling fresh 24/7:

  • Do dishes, laundry, and take out the trash ASAP (don’t let them pile up).
  • Leave a window cracked on breezy spring days for fresh airflow.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes inside (or cook meals with the windows shut).
  • Avoid masking the stink with air fresheners or candles.
  • Clean, clean, clean whenever you can.

Now that your apartment smells crisp and welcoming, it’s time to call “dibs” on hosting the next movie night! 

Author Bio

Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Arch at Bloomington to help them with their online marketing.

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