What's that smell?

What's that smell? (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / January 12, 2012)

All you need here is a nose.

Now rev it up. It's been recruited for the Stink Patrol, a domestic assignment for which its olfactory duties will be confined to the square feet within your own four walls.

That's right, you need to sniff your way around the house. Your target? Those nasty little spots where the stink clouds just can't be shooshed away.

Question is, how to ditch 'em.

There is, you'll be relieved to know, a host of tools ready to aid in the campaign, and we're here to connect you to the right ones.

To cut through the hearsay and get straight to solutions, we talked to a gaggle of gurus in the stink department: among them, Nicole Sforza, senior editor at Real Simple magazine, and Pamela Dalton, a cognitive psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, the world's only independent not-for-profit scientific institute dedicated to smell and taste. Dalton happens to be an authority on environmental odors.

If you walk away with just one iota of enlightenment here, make it this: Don't cover up the stink with layers of faux perfumes (blkkkh! on all those fruity candles); as best as you can, root out the source and get rid of the stink with old-fashioned scrubbing. Next, air out your smelly parts. Only then, enlist an artillery of tried-and-true stink busters.


Culprit: Mold and mildew

Stink busters: Try Naturally Yours Mold & Mildew Remover (naturallyyoursclean.com): Activated charcoal, charcoal treated with oxygen, opens up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms, vastly expanding surface area, so smelly compounds are absorbed, or trapped. Just dump in a shoe box, set it out, and keep it out of reach of kids or pets. You can find it at big-box, hardware or pet-supply stores.

If old books are the source of basement mustiness, tuck a small box of activated charcoal inside a bigger box filled with the suspect books, seal it up and come back in a month or so. The stink should be gone. And if you're thinking long-term solution, a dehumidifier in a basement is totally worth the investment.


Culprit: Mold and mildew

Stink busters: If the problem is coming from damp towels hung on a hook where they can't dry out, then hang towel bars. Be sure to wipe down shower tiles and doors (a squeegee is great). Or try Fresh Wave (fresh-wave.com) absorbing crystals poured in a bowl or left in their handy open-topped jar. This all-natural stink-buster started out as a nontoxic industrial solution for wastewater treatment facilities and asphalt plants.


Culprit: Wastebasket nasties

Stink busters: Keep a box of opened dryer sheets near the wastebasket, and one sheet at the bottom of the bin. Or try an open box of Arm & Hammer Fridge-N-Freezer deodorizer baking soda (now in mega-household size). Or buy a box of plain old baking soda and take the top off. Slip a piece of cheesecloth over the top and hold in place with rubber band; you'll be expanding the surface area of exposed stink-catcher.

Culprit: Refrigerator

Stink busters: Hard to beat ol' Arm & Hammer. Tuck a box at the back of the fridge, and make a note on your calendar so you remember to change it out. Wipe down the shelves and walls of that fridge once a month, using an all-purpose spray on the walls. And if there's a spill, don't let it sit. Wipe it up as soon as you can. If your freezer isn't auto-defrost, be sure to tackle that nasty task at least once a year. Otherwise you'll never rid the icebox of that stench that builds up over time.