Saturday, December 10, 2022

Getting rid of odours

I have always been sensitive to smell, smells of all kinds, aromatic foods, floral, musty, foul you name it.

While not all aromas rave up pleasant smells, especially around the house, in your car, your closet or when you are at the theatre. It can be embarrassing for a guest to enter your home and turn up their noses in despair.

I grew up in a building near the Sasoon dock whole sale fishing market and every morning and evenings when the truckloads of fish passed by, the stench was unbearable even through closed windows. Believe me the resilience of humans is to an incomprehensible level that we got immune to the smells or rather tuned out to not to let it bother us, jokingly calling it perfume d’ Paris.

  • Body odour is one embarrassing smell, and humans do tend to get used to their own body odour.
  • The smell of rock salt, in chaat masala or packets of snacks containing them can be offensive, I remember one such incident at an IPL match, I was seated near the wife of an Aussi cricketer and the person in front of us opened a packet of kurkure, and the smell of chaat masala spread far and wide, while all the Indians around brushed off the familiar smell, the one foreign to the smell looked at me as if to say “ how offensive” till I explained the source of the odour. Still wonder if she bought the explanation!
  • After the three months of the monsoon season, we are all subject to mold and musty smelling closets and drawers, linen, carpets, damp furniture or upholstery, this leaves unworn clothes and unused stuff slightly damp and musty smelling, shoes may land up with a film of mildew too. Don’t fret we have a solution.
  • A closed home for days especially vacation homes, can smell stale until thoroughly aired and cross ventilation and sunlight to penetrate through the home continuously for days.  
  • Cars too can have a peculiar smell of heated Rexene of the seat covers or stale smell if not aired, sometimes also petroleum.
  • Homes with pets could have a typical animal odour, which again the owner could be immune to but it can be very offensive to guests.
  • Sewer pipes running through buildings or cleaning of septic tanks, the smells do permeate into the homes and could attach themselves to drapes, bed linen, carpets, and rugs and not leave for months on end.
  • Fridge odour is another bouquet of smells, leftovers, fresh fruit, vegetables (sometimes rotten) all need to go.

Now with all these odours attacking or attaching themselves to you, there is a silver lining, simple treatments and products can help you get rid of them all.

Body odour — each person has a unique body odour, it’s just the way your digestive juices and food interact and the chemistry of digestion produces odours, some neutral, some foul. Use anti-perspirant cum deodorant (not perfume or eau de cologne) on dry, hair free armpits. This is the area to keep clean to avoid and control body odour. 

Indian cooking odours — leave a cut onion on the kitchen counter, turn on the exhorst fan, shut the kitchen door so the odour does not travel to other rooms and most importantly air your kitchen once you are done cooking.

Monsoon odours — mold is the most common source of household smells, it’s a species of fungus which, looks like a ‘fuzz’ and can appear black, white, greyish or green and grows and spreads on surfaces with the help of moisture. It has a pungent to musty odour that leaches on and needs regular treatment of airing, sunlight, steaming and vacuuming till the smells vanish. Baking soda pouches, lavender potpourri or coffee in pouches are known to absorb smell. Tuck them into corners and recycle every week. Do not neglect doing this.

Locked homes and cars — they shout chemicals released into the air and while some people do love the smell of petrol, new Rexene upholstery, new furniture polish, inhaling the vapour of these chemicals released into the air (known as off-gassing) can be harmful in the long run and may begin to smell stale later. Here again airing and direct sunlight will refresh the products, keeping the odour at bay permanently. 

Pet odour — upholstery, rugs and carpets are the main culprits for pet smells. Get them machine washed or dry cleaned regularly and hide pouches of baking soda, coffee powder and lavender potpourri. 

Fridge odours — deep cleaning once a month is mandatory, do not wait for spring-cleaning. It becomes double the work and double the odour. Use glass and metal containers to store food as plastic absorbs odours.

Sewer odours — pipes need to be correctly fitted with no leakages, a quarterly check would help keep clogging at bay, especially in the S-bend of the kitchen and bathroom drains. This is the area where scrap material builds up, cause clogging and pipe seals to burst open.

In conclusion — nothing ever lasts forever, including odours, you will not be stumped by “what’s that smell” or be in an embarrassing situation if you are quick to —

  • Locate the source.
  • Use the right product and technique to rid the odour.
  • Upkeep the area regularly to avoid the odour making its way back.

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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