Removing smells & odours from your new home

Family Moving — Removalist in Brisbane, QLD

All homes have a distinctive smell. We become accustomed to our own homes’ odours, but when moving into a new home, the odours you are greeted with have been left by the previous owners, and can be overwhelming. These are caused by a combination of the people who lived their (their perfume, aftershave, the food they cooked, cigarette smoke); their pets; or the condition of the home itself (mould and mildew, faulty plumbing, a dead bird in the chimney, etc.)

Find the source of the odour and remove it.  Don’t be tempted to spray air fresheners or burn candles to remove bad smells – that is just a temporary fix: the smell will be back!  You need to eliminate the source of the problem for it to be fixed.

The good news is, you don’t have to live with the bad smells – and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune to get rid of those unpleasant, unwanted odours. A great supply of odour fighters, many of which can be purchased at the supermarket, include inexpensive items such as:

  • Cleaning rags
  • Hand towel
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Activated charcoal (found in health food shops)
  • Bleach
  • Essential oil, such as eucalyptus, citrus, and lavender (found in health food shops)
  • Fresh coffee grounds

First things first. Open the windows and doors to air out each room. This is most effective on a sunny day with a breeze to help move the air throughout your home.  Airing the rooms will help release odours in the curtains, and some odours in the carpets and furniture. Keep the windows open for at least an hour – or as long as possible for particularly heavy odours.

However, open windows and exhaust fans don’t get right into the problem areas to eliminate bad odours. If this is the initial clean-up of your new home, make sure you thoroughly clean the places that don’t regularly get cleaned, such as inside cupboards, under sinks, along window sills, etc. Wipe down walls, doors, skirtings, architraves, etc. with a 1 to 10 solution of bleach and water.

General odours:

Fill 2 to 4 shallow bowls with fresh coffee grounds, depending on the size of the room. (A cheap brand will do.) Shut all the windows and doors to the room and leave it overnight for the coffee grounds to absorb the odour.  Toss the coffee grounds the next day, and repeat one more night with fresh coffee grounds for particularly stubborn odours.

Cigarette/cigar smoke:

This is a smell that can be particularly unpleasant, and which seems to seep into everything in a room.  Even when somebody smokes outside, the smoke can enter the room, not just through open doors or windows, but on the people themselves, especially if they have a beard, or are wearing a jumper or jacket.  It’s hard to avoid cigarette smoke making its way into a room.

  • An effective remedy is to pour white vinegar onto a hand towel, wring it out, then walk through the house swinging it in the air. This tends to get rid of cigarette smoke effectively. (If you don’t want to be waving a hand towel around, try placing a couple of bowls with vinegar in it, in the room.) The smell of smoke is caused by the leftover resins and tars, and vinegar is an acid that cuts through resin and tar, therefore it is so effective in cleaning surfaces which smell of cigarette smoke. The vinegar smell will eventually dissipate.
  • Leave a bowl with some coffee grounds in the room to soak up the odours – coffee is a natural odour neutraliser.
  • If the smoke smell has been embedded in the carpets for a while, the carpets need to be shampooed to completely remove the smoke odours.

Carpets and furniture:

Extract odours by sprinkling baking soda onto fabric surfaces. Leave for several hours, or overnight if possible – the longer you leave it the greater the absorption. Vacuum the baking soda from the carpet and furniture, making sure you use a clean bag when vacuuming.


The following combination is great to have on hand, in a spray bottle, to use whenever needed:

2 cups of water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon baking soda

10 drops of essential oil

Mix all together well and put in a spray bottle, to leave in the bathroom. It is an effective, as well as refreshing, spray to use any time.

Spare bathrooms/ toilets:

If water isn’t flushed through pipes regularly, liquid sitting in the trap becomes stagnant – and this produces a bad smell.   Once the odours have been removed, try to flush water through the pipes at least once a week.

Kitchen tidy bin:

The kitchen rubbish bin can quickly become the cause of the bad smell in the kitchen!  If the bin itself smells, wash it with warm water and white vinegar. If the garbage is smelly but the bag isn’t full yet, pour in some coffee grounds – this will neutralise smells.


Dog and cat smell can be hard to get rid of because it becomes embedded in fibres, and is hard to remove from carpets and furniture.

Activated charcoal, which is a form of carbon that has been ‘activated’ to make it extremely porous, is great for absorbing a range of odours, especially those caused by pets.  Each particle of charcoal contains millions of tiny air spaces. These air spaces have an electrostatic drawing effect on chemicals, poisons and toxins, which allows it to adsorb many times its own weight of the toxins.  Activated charcoal can be purchased in powder form from health food shops. Look for the pet odour removing type.

Dishwasher smells: If a bad smell is coming from the dishwasher, fill a dishwasher-safe cup with white vinegar, place it on the top rack, and run the dishwasher through a cycle without any dishes. You can also pour two cups of vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher – the vinegar might smell for a couple of hours, but then all smells will disappear.

Mould and mildew:

Mould and mildew can cause many health problems, so the quicker it is dealt with, the better. The immediate task is to locate the area – mould has a distinctive smell; it can gather anywhere in the home (from carpets, furniture, through to mattresses and wood panelling), so make sure you move around the rooms and carefully check to find the exact spot. Be sure to check floors, walls, vents, cupboards, drawers and furniture.

  • To remove mildew smells from appliances, whether it’s a refrigerator or stove, start by cleaning well with soap and water. Then, to fully remove the smell, wipe the appliance inside and out with a mixture of baking soda and water. Leave the mixture inside the appliance for a few hours, then rinse it clean. For refrigerators, place some baking soda in a shallow bowl and leave it in the fridge – the baking soda will absorb all odours, including mildew if it is present.
  • Keep your home well ventilated. Mildew usually occurs when airflow is inhibited and moisture is trapped – that is why mould in bathrooms is so common. Open doors and windows to allow fresh air to flow through the room – this will remove stale air as well as causing some of the mildew odour to dissipate.
  • Bleach whitens and is also effective in killing and removing mould spores.
  • A common method for removing mildew from fabrics is by soaking it in a mixture of vinegar and water for up to an hour, then cleaning the fabric with a good quality detergent.

Note: While they are both effective cleaners and odour removers, it is important that you keep vinegar and bleach apart. When combined they form chlorine gas, which can make you unwell.

 If these home remedies fail to remove those unwanted odours in your new home, use professional cleaners to help get rid of the smell. There are plenty of good commercial products on the market.

If you live in the Brisbane area and are still in the early stages of planning your move, talk to the professionals at Brisbane Moving & Storage for help and advice. We are holders of packing licences, and will safely pack all your goods and belongings, if you choose to not do the packing yourself.

At Brisbane Moving & Storage we will be more than happy to tell you more about our packing services. Call us today for more details, on 07 3375 7613; or send an enquiry by filling in your details on our home page at

You can also email us at: for a free quote.  Our clients are always our first priority, and we strive to develop effective client relationships based on that principle