5 mins read

Bad smells are a big turn off for potential buyers. Research has found that for 86% of people the smell of a house could be the difference between putting in an offer or not. Pets, cigarette smoke, and rubbish bins were among the top ten worst offending smells. So, it’s incredibly important that your home smells its best (as well as looks its best) for potential viewings.

This is particularly vital in the kitchen - ‘the heart of the home’ - and often the room that will make or break whether a potential buyer will place an offer. Tackling smells in the kitchen can be difficult. It’s where you cook, eat, keep your rubbish bins, and store your pet food - so it’s constantly bombarding your olfactory nerves.

Follow this step-by-step guide to combat odours in the kitchen, and keep it smelling fresh for viewings:

Identify the source

The easiest way to tackle smells is to find out what’s causing them and get rid of it. The most obvious culprits include: bins, drains, appliances, or pets (and their paraphernalia).

The first thing you should do is tackle the immediate problem. This can be as easy as taking out your rubbish, throwing away out-of-date food, emptying the sink filter plug, and refreshing the litter tray. But, make sure to completely remove the source of the stink from the house. Once that’s done, opening your windows and doors will create a cross-breeze that will air out the immediate smell.

Read more about preparing for home viewings if you have a pet.

Clean and disinfect

Once you’ve removed any obvious culprits, thoroughly clean and disinfect the smell ‘risk zones’ in your kitchen.

Hot soapy water works well on many surfaces. But, for those requiring something slightly more intensive use white vinegar, or a multi-purpose cleaner.

Top tip: Avoid getting any acidic cleaners (anything: vinegar, ammonia, or bleach-based) on surfaces like granite or stainless steel as it’ll damage them.

Next target your appliances:

To give your dishwasher a thorough clean, first empty and rinse out it’s filter (you’ll usually find this at the bottom, under the dish rack). Return into place, and whilst it’s empty, set it on to do a quick wash. Once it’s finished, leave the door open to air it out.

When cleaning your fridge it pays to be thorough. Remove any shelves and drawers, and wash them out with hot soapy water. Give all the sides a wipe down using a multi-purpose cleaner, before returning everything into place.

Top tip: If your fridge is a particular problem spot, use a couple of shallow bowls of bicarbonate of soda covered in pierced cling film as a natural air freshener. The bicarb will absorb some of the more pungent odours and keep your fridge smelling fresher for longer.

Finally your drains:

First, use a special purpose sink or drain unblocker. Usually you’ll have to pour the whole bottle down there, leave it for 15 minutes, and then give it a good rinse. This will disintegrate any grease, fat, and food debris that may be stuck in your pipes (and be producing that foul drain smell.) At a pinch, a thick bleach will do a similar job.

Top Tip: For an extra deodorizing kick - or for a quick refresh if you don’t have time for unblocker - pour half a cup of bicarb down the drain while running the warm water tap.

Absorb smells

Once you’ve done the deep clean and disinfect, how can you make sure your kitchen keeps smelling fresh between house viewings - even if you want to cook fish?

Bicarbonate of soda is a cheap failsafe. Bicarb (or as Americans call it, baking soda) is alkaline, and neutralises the pH levels of acidic odours, effectively cutting through bad smells. Sprinkle it over any surface that needs a refresh, leave for 10 to 15 minutes then hoover it up. You can also place in small bowls and leave near areas you want to absorb smells from - like in your fridge.

Top Tip: If you like the smell, you can also use unbrewed coffee grounds in the same way.

Vinegar, given its acidic properties is also an effective deodorizer, doing the opposite of bicarb, and neutralising alkaline smells. It’s particularly good for getting rid of stubborn food smells like fish or garlic. Use either as a cleaner (in the same way you would use a multi-purpose spray), or as an air freshener. To do this, leave out little bowls of white vinegar whilst you cook, and then for a few additional hours after. There will be a temporary vinegar smell, but this will dissipate quickly after you’ve thrown the liquid away.

Introduce good smells

Once you’ve sufficiently targeted the causes of the smells, actively introducing nice smells is a subtle way to make your home more appealing to potential buyers. Our favourite ways to do this are with scented candles or fresh baking.

Scented candles not only smell nice in a way that’s more subtle than a plug-in air freshener, they can help create a natural, sophisticated aesthetic which is appealing to potential buyers. Go for uncomplicated fragrances like ‘fresh linen’ or something citrus based.

Similarly, the smell of fresh baking or a pot of coffee are instinctively associated with the home, and are almost universally appealing. Introducing these smells will help boost your home’s attractiveness to potential buyers, imagining their life in your home.

Remember: It’s vital that you don’t skip the first stages which target the source of the bad smell. There’s nothing worse than something simply masking a bad odour.

Unsure where to start with preparing your home for house viewings? Try a quick ‘home audit’. Learn how here.

Ready to make the move? Meeting with estate agents is the first step. Compare the best performers in your area now.