Your apartment is your sanctuary. It’s your tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the everyday world. It’s your blissful oasis from the chaos.

Nothing disturbs the peace of your sanctuary like a strange or unpleasant odor. Whether it’s forgotten leftovers, a beloved but stinky pet, a bad smell from a neighbor’s apartment or something else out of your control, foul odors are no fun.

Luckily, we’ve got tips for how to get rid of smells in your apartment, how to keep your apartment smelling good and when to get a property manager involved.

How to keep smells out of apartments 

First, you have to find the source. Some of the most common sources of unpleasant apartment smells include:

  • Garbage – Whether it’s yours or a neighbor’s, trash receptacles are the usual and most obvious cause of an unpleasant odor. This could include those in common spaces, like the trash can in the communal laundry room, in addition to the one sitting in your kitchen.
  • Stale air – If you are moving into a new apartment that’s been empty for a while, you could be greeted with the overwhelming odors of fresh paint, carpet glue and stale air. Or, if you’re just coming back after an extended time away, your apartment might have that stagnant mustiness hanging around.
  • Neighbors – Sure, everyone worries about how to deal with a noisy neighbor, but what about a smelly one? Cooking and smoking odors can waft down the hallways, under your apartment door or even into small spaces between walls, leaving a not-so-pleasing odor. More on this below.
  • Nearby construction – Construction on that building next door can kick up clouds of sawdust, drywall dust, and chemical and welding fumes, creating an acrid, metallic smell that seems to penetrate every surface.
  • Fifi or Fido – We all love our pets, but sometimes they can be a bit smelly or accident-prone. Or both. Especially when they are new to apartment living and don’t know the rules yet.
  • Cigarettes – The smell of cigarette smoke is not only unpleasant, but it lingers and is very difficult to remove from indoor spaces. 

How to get rid of smells in apartments

Here are a few things you can do to address various smelly problems: 

  • Let the air in – Open the windows to circulate some fresh air and let the sunshine in. Both will help remove odors from your apartment.
  • Unblock your vents – First and foremost, make sure your return vent has at least two feet of clear space around it. If your HVAC system isn’t getting enough fresh air, it can be difficult to rid your home of pesky odors. Also make sure there is at least one open, unblocked vent in each room to ensure proper circulation throughout the apartment.
  • Take the garbage out – Keep garbage and compost in airtight containers with latching lids, and dispose of it early and often. Be sure to rinse out any items before you put them in the recycling bin.
  • Clean frequently – Give your apartment a good, deep clean every so often by wiping down all surfaces and any potential odor culprits you might gloss over during your usual apartment cleaning routine. Think of places like inside the refrigerator, the oven, garbage disposal, sink drains and kitchen trash can.
  • Use scent-absorbing materials – Certain substances can absorb or neutralize offensive odors. For example, placing bowls of vinegar or coffee grounds in a smelly fridge will counteract unpleasant smells. Baking soda is also excellent for neutralizing pungent carpets or sofas. 
  • Seek professional help – In some cases, you may not be able to remove an offensive odor on your own. Consider hiring a professional cleaner or repairman, or contact your property manager, to help you identify and address the smell. 

How to get food smells out of apartments

Lingering food smells–like burnt popcorn–can be tough to stomach.

However, just like your kitchen can house some pretty unpleasant odors, it can also yield the solution when considering how to get food smells out of an apartment. There are two common household ingredients that will clean and deodorize almost anything: baking soda and vinegar.

  • Sprinkle baking soda on smelly carpets or fabrics, let it sit, and vacuum a little while later. Keep an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator to combat leftover food smells. You can also leave a few open boxes of baking soda around the house to absorb everyday odors. A sprinkle of baking soda in the bottom of the kitchen trash will prevent strong smells from taking hold. 
  • Vinegar, meanwhile, can be used to freshen up your garbage disposal, dishwasher and washing machine. Just use a cup of vinegar and run lots of hot water through your appliances. Or, leave a bowl of vinegar out on the counter overnight to combat cooking smells.

Baking soda and vinegar are also effective temporary solutions for a neighbor’s smell coming from vents. Place a bowl of baking soda or vinegar near the vent to absorb the smell, but avoid placing these materials in the vents. 

When to get the property manager involved

Talk with your property manager before undertaking any remediation measures. They might have some suggestions or even be able to recommend a cleaning service.

In the case of a serious odor problem, like a smoky smell, your property manager might need to find the underlying issue before attempting to solve the problem. In this case consider one of the ideas above as a temporary solution while the root cause is identified.

What to do about nuisance smells from your neighbors

Sometimes, it turns out that the unpleasant smell isn’t coming from your apartment at all — it’s coming from your neighbor’s. Nuisance smells from neighbors can make for some awkward situations, but with tact and cooperation, you can work together to solve the problem. 

If you’re bothered by an unpleasant neighbor’s smell coming from vents, start with an honest but considerate conversation. It can be upsetting to learn that an unpleasant smell is coming from your apartment, so it’s important to be empathetic to your neighbor’s feelings during your chat. 

Ask your neighbors if they are aware of the odors and if they know what’s causing them. Once your neighbors know that the odor is affecting others, they may take steps to fix it on their own. If you’ve tried this and the odor persists, tell your property manager about the bad smell from your neighbor’s apartment. Some odors might require outside help to remove. 

How to keep your apartment smelling good

Now that you’ve gotten rid of the unpleasant smell, it’s time to replace it with something that adds to your home in a positive way!

One quick fix: bake something that smells good. Chocolate chip cookies are a long-time realtor favorite. Fresh-baked bread or brownies are also a treat for the nose (and the taste buds).

If you don’t enjoy baking, lighting a candle is another great way to keep your home smelling nice. Look for candles with simple, fresh smells that will permeate your space. With so many great candles on the market, there’s truly a scent for everyone. 

Consider investing in an air purifier, like a high-efficiency particulate air filter, more commonly known as a HEPA filter. Consumer Reports has a helpful guide on what to look for in an air purifier.

Or, if you’re not ready to invest in a high-tech air filtering system (and you have a green thumb), go with nature’s air purifier: low-maintenance houseplants. Plants recycle carbon dioxide, giving you purer, cleaner air to breathe. And some of them even smell nice!

Breathe easier with Southern Management

At Southern Management, we want your apartment to be an odor-free oasis of comfortable living. Our apartment communities operate with a commitment to service. We will provide you with a well-maintained and comfortable apartment to call home, responsive and knowledgeable customer care, and convenient methods to express concerns, including maintenance requests.

With 75 apartment communities, including some that are smoke-free, our team is confident that we can find the perfect location and floor plan to make you feel right at home before you even move in.

Contact our team to learn more today.