You Love Your New House But It Smells, What to Do

Updated: Jul. 21, 2023

If you recently moved into a new house and you've detected a bad smell, you might be second guessing your purchase. But, don't panic! There are ways to get rid of the stench! Here are some of the reasons your house might smell, and how to get rid the offending odor.

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Sour, Mildew Smell: Check for Standing Water

If you’ve noticed a sour, mildewy smell, check your home for any standing water that may be trapped in the washing machine, dishwasher, bathtub or sink. Another possible cause is that the previous residents left behind some old wet rags, sponges or water in buckets. Remove and dry up any unwanted water and the smell should be gone as well. Wet basement? This is the best way to dry it up.

Set yourself up for many years of happy home ownership. Check out this list of things you should do when you move into a new house.

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Carcass Smell: Look for Dead Animals

It’s hard to describe this odor, but you know it when you smell it—something’s dead. Search beneath the house and around it for dead animals or birds. It’s not uncommon for wildlife to get into attics or walls and chimneys, as well. Once you remove the carcass, you’ll want to spray the area with an enzymatic cleaner in order to break down the organic materials and eliminate diseases and odors. Be sure to let the solution sit for 10 to 15 minutes before wiping.

For further deodorizing, you can use an open box of baking soda or a container of freshly ground coffee with holes in the lid, to absorb the odor. Finally, be sure you to cover, plug or put a screen over all exterior holes larger than one- half inch in diameter, and all vents, chimneys, crawl spaces, gaps and cracks. Read this first-time home buyer’s guide to home maintenance.

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Vinyl Smell: Check Your Blinds

If you notice that distinct plastic-y smell of vinyl in your new home, it may be coming from your vinyl blinds. The blinds may have all been recently replaced, and the new vinyl may be causing the off-putting scent, especially when the vinyl is warmed by the sun. If they’re new, remove the odor by washing the blinds and spritzing with a vinegar/water solution. Before you toss them in the trash, here are 15 ways to repurpose your old blinds.

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Rotten Food: Target the Kitchen, but it Could be Anywhere!

If the kitchen appears empty and clean but a rotten food smell persists, thoroughly examine the refrigerator, cupboards, drawers and oven for old food that’s have gone bad. And who know where the previous residents ate! Bedrooms, the living room or the TV room might be housing the rotting food. After disposing of the old food, use an all-purpose cleaner to wipe things down. Finally, place bowls of white vinegar throughout the room to neutralize the odor. Does your kitchen sponge smell? Here’s how to clean it.

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Musty Smell: Check the HVAC System

If your furnace smells musty, it may have a clogged condensate drain. If that’s the case, there is a DIY fix. Check out the complete instructions here. To absorb the smell quickly while you make the fix, try Fresh Wave Crystal Gel odor eliminator.

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Smelly Sink: Check Your Drain

If you determine that the bad smell is coming from a sink, it’s time to do some damage control down the drain. Trapped food particles and hair can cause an unpleasant odor to rise up from the drain. To eliminate the stench, try pouring apple cider vinegar down the drain or if it’s a kitchen sink with a garbage disposal, chop up a lemon and put it through the disposal. Another option is to dump a cup of baking soda down the sink and then flush it down the drain with boiling hot water. If you need to take the drain apart to remove a smelly clog, here’s how to do it.

Also, here’s how to replace a kitchen sink basket and old metal trap.

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Pet Smell: Treat the Carpet

Maybe you didn’t notice it at first, but now you’ve detected the smell of pet urine, and you don’t even have a pet! You can sprinkle a layer of baking soda on the carpet, let it stand for a few minutes and then vacuuming it up and if you’re lucky, that will take care of the smell. If you suspect the smell is coming from the carpet and you want to clean it more thoroughly, here’s how to clean it.

Also, keep in mind that if the pet urine soaked through the carpet into the subfloor below, you won’t be able to get rid of the smell without ripping out the carpet and replacing those boards. Check out these carpet cleaning tips for pet owners.

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Fishy Smell: Check Electrical Components

A fishy smell that’s not coming from a fish is definitely a problem. In the case of your new home, it could be a sign of potentially dangerous overheating electrical components. You could try to figure out the exact source of the smell, but we recommend you call a licensed electrician for an inspection. They will have diagnostic tools to help locate the problem along with the knowledge of how to fix it. These 20 hidden things in your home may be a fire hazard.

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Musty Smell: Check for Water Leaks

Another common cause of a musty or moldy odor is water leaks. Check the bathroom for any areas where caulk or grout is missing. Water maybe be getting into those gaps and soaking the wall and insulation. Repair or replace missing grout and remove old caulk and recaulk around the sink, tub and shower.

Check out these 10 tips for removing mold and mildew.

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What is that Smell? Last Ditch Efforts

Despite your best effort, you may not be able to pinpoint the source of the yucky smell in your new home. If that’s the case, you may want to consider repainting the walls and washing the windows to give your home a fresh start. Or, you could hire a professional cleaning crew. Here are some additional tips for tracking down bad odors in your home and eliminating them.

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