Smell has the powerful ability to evoke memories and feelings, so take a moment to think about some of the scents that remind you of home. Maybe it’s the smell of cookies baking or a favorite candle burning. Perhaps it’s the smell of fresh air when the windows were thrown open at the first signs of spring. Pleasant, happy aromas are things of comfort, but what about not so great smells? You’re likely counting down the minutes until you can escape, right? So, let’s talk about why it’s incredibly important to clean and remove odors from your home before selling.

The smell-memory-feelings connection

Okay, we’ll start with it. If you’ve ever rented an older beach house, you’re likely familiar with the lingering musty smell from the damp. And what about the smell of your grandparents’ home — stuffy with an underlying whiff of mothballs. If you work in an office, surely you’re familiar with the burnt popcorn scent of the breakroom. While these aren’t necessarily linked to unpleasant memories, those smells aren’t exactly enticing, either. Would you want a prospective buyer to walk into your home and experience strange and unpleasant odors? 

The quickest way to alienate a potential buyer is to present a home that smells. There’s no sugar-coating it, and there’s certainly no way to mask smells; you have to eradicate the cause.

Sniff test

Homeowners are often so used to their home that they no longer notice anything different about the way it smells. If you have an excellent real estate agent, they’ll tell you straight out that they detect a smell, but it’s always good to get a second opinion from a source you trust. Ask a family member or friend to do a walkthrough of your home and let you know if they encounter any untoward smells. From there, they should be able to pinpoint what the scent is and its source.

Get to the root of the problem


When was the last time your home had a deep clean? A thorough cleaning is often enough to knock out any smells, especially when they’re coming from an appliance (think refrigerator or washing machine), or carpets that haven’t been cleaned in years. In fact, many cleaning services offer one-time deep cleaning services for this reason. After you’ve cleaned your home top to bottom, and thrown open windows to air things out, invite your trusted friend over to perform another sniff test. 

Obvious issues

If you’ve smoked in your home, you will need to do some mitigation, as nicotine clings to all surfaces and holds those tobacco smoke smells. Your first step is to stop smoking in your home from now until you move to a new home. Because of the intensity of the project, you may be better off hiring a professional cleaning service to wash down all of the exposed surfaces in your home, including walls, ceilings, cabinets, and countertops. Clean curtains, carpets, and upholstered surfaces to remove the odor. Burning candles and plugging-in air fresheners around the home won’t eradicate the smell; if anything, it’s a dead giveaway that you’re attempting to mask odors. 

It would be remiss to gloss over selling a home with pets. While you love your furry family members deeply, you need to realize that not everyone likes the smell of animals. Many people find pet smells off-putting or have animal allergies that are easily triggered when they walk into your home. Not only is it essential to make sure your home is thoroughly cleaned of animal fur, but you also need to make sure that your home smells pet-free. Again, candles can’t cover up the smell of unwashed dog or a dirty litter box.

Once you have a clean house and all odors are eradicated, you need to be vigilant. One of the best tips to sell your home is keeping it free from unpleasant smells, which means you should put off grilling salmon or making your favorite curry until you move into your new home. Instead, consider lightly diffusing essential oils to provide natural, pleasant smells throughout your home.

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