Are you getting hit with bad smells as soon as you walk through your door? Whether you’re a landlord getting your unit ready for new tenants or a renter looking to freshen up your space, learn how to deodorize a room naturally to stop unpleasant odors in their tracks. If your former renters were messy, smoked, or had pets, there’s a chance they’ve left behind some unappealing smells.

Natural deodorizers are perfect for freshening up your space, plus they’re a perfect eco-friendly apartment hack. Ensure that future tenants won’t turn up their nose at your listing and try out these natural remedies.

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Essential Oils for Your Home and Mood

Essential oils are biodegradable and all-natural. Many also can contain antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal, and antiviral properties that can help freshen your rentals. Plus, various scents can help boost your mood.

Several studies have indicated that smells can have a positive effect on humans and can even encourage certain emotions — this is where essential oils come into play. Here are some of our favorite essential oils with both cleaning and mood-boosting properties:

  • Lavender: Lavender essential oils can help fight bacteria, viruses, and fungus. The scent can also help promote relaxation and sleep, which makes it the perfect deodorizer for bedding or clothing.
  • Peppermint: Essential oils containing peppermint have antiseptic properties which makes it a great cleaning agent. Plus, peppermint is known to revitalize and stimulate your mood — perfect motivation when preparing and cleaning an apartment for new tenants.
  • Orange: Orange essential oil has both antiseptic and antibacterial properties and is also a great degreaser for any stains previous tenants might have left behind on stubborn surfaces like countertops and stoves. Orange also has a very uplifting and refreshing scent — great for relaxing.
  • Tea tree: Tea tree essential oil is an all-around great cleaner and contains a number of antibiotic compounds, including terpinen-4-ol, that have been shown to kill certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Its herbaceous scent is also said to curb depressed thoughts and boost mental clarity.

Essential oils are great to have in your home and are a non-toxic alternative to traditional chemical cleaners. They also work well to deodorize your home when combined with other ingredients, like baking soda. As a landlord, you’re responsible for making sure your rental is safe and welcoming for future tenants. Using all-natural essential oil cleaners can help send the message that you care about your property.


We all deal with home odors from time to time, and luckily there are simple and easy recipes you can make with ingredients that are probably already in your pantry. As a landlord, freshening up a unit space is equally important in attracting potential renters. Use the following recipes, tips, and tricks below to ensure your unit is ready for new tenants.


Instead of purchasing an air freshener, create your own DIY room spray using your favorite essential oils. With this recipe, you’ll have an easy way to quickly freshen up any room:

Room spray recipe:

  • 2 to 3 drops essential oils: for a seasonal twist, choose cinnamon or peppermint
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Distilled water

Mix the essential oils, water, and baking soda. Add mixture to a spray bottle and shake well to create the perfect freshening spray for your space. You can even get into the holiday spirit by using cinnamon or peppermint essential oils.

To help the smell linger, feel free to add some witch hazel — this ingredient helps the oil and water combine better! This remedy is also great for cleaning units before a new tenant moves in. 


Is the carpet in your rental smelling a little less than fresh? If you’re in the process of deep cleaning and getting your unit ready to rent out, reach for that baking soda in your pantry. Baking soda is a great non-toxic cleaner that does the job when it comes to busting bad odors. Here’s a simple and cheap recipe for an easy carpet refresher:

Carpet refresher recipe: 

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 shaker container

Mix these ingredients and throw in a shaker container — a clean parmesan cheese container is ideal. Sprinkle into the carpet and let sit for about an hour or so. Then, vacuum it up. To make the space smell as if you just baked a batch of snickerdoodles, add some ground cinnamon to your mixture — with the holidays right around the corner, this is the perfect scent to welcome guests to an open house!


If a past tenant’s pet left behind stinky odors in your rental, make this recipe to spray on surfaces:

Fresh pet recipe:

  • 3 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol
  • 12 drops of lavender or spearmint essential oil
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 spray bottle

Mix these ingredients and spritz liberally on areas of your house that need some freshening up! Consider choosing essential oils from lavender or spearmint — these are safe for pets, however, it’s always a good idea to check with your veterinarian before using. 

Additionally, if your pet’s bedding requires some TLC, sprinkle it with some baking soda. Let this sit for a while and then vacuum.  


Did past tenants leave behind some odors in the fridge? If you get a funky whiff when you open the fridge, say goodbye with this natural remedy: 

Fridge deodorizer recipe: 

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 12 drops of essential oils
  • 1 jar

Place a cup of baking soda in a jar. Mix in 12 drops of your favorite essential oil fragrance — for the fridge we recommend using a citrus like lemon. Set the open jar of baking soda on a shelf and let the magic happen — baking soda is great for absorbing those bad fridge smells. Be careful not to add too much essential oil, though, you don’t want it to affect the taste of your fresh food. 


If previous renters have let gunk build-up in the washing machine, you might be looking for a solution to get rid of that mildew smell. Washers are a humid environment prone to a build-up of dirt, hair, and soap. To get rid of this problem, a simple mixture of common household products and essential oils should do the trick:

Washing machine cleaner recipe:

  • 3 to 4 cups of white vinegar
  • ½ cup of baking soda
  • 20 drops of essential oils

First, using vinegar, wipe down any debris that may be present, like in the rubber liner or gasket. Then, pour this mixture into the detergent tray and run a cycle on the hottest setting — without clothes! When the cycle is done, wipe down any remaining moisture with a cloth to prevent new mildew growth. To further prevent any funky smells, encourage the next tenant to leave the washer door open when they’re done to avoid trapping any moisture in the machine. 


Bad smells from old soup stains, burnt popcorn, and other greasy foods aren’t ideal in the microwave. However, you can deodorize it just as fast as you can heat up today’s lunch: 

Microwave cleaner recipe: 

  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 microwave-safe bowl

All you need to do is fill a microwave-safe bowl with baking soda and mix with a cup of water. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat for three minutes. The hot baking soda steam will loosen up any grime stuck to the side or ceiling of the microwave. Carefully remove the hot bowl from the microwave and wipe down the steamy oven with a paper towel. To leave a fresh scent, wipe the microwave down with a drop or two of lemon-scented essential oil.


As the holidays get closer and the weather gets colder, try a seasonal simmer pot air freshener. This long-lasting aroma will instantly create a homey and warm ambiance that you and any touring potential tenants will love. Try out this easy recipe, but feel free to mix and match your favorite seasonal ingredients for a unique scent:

Simmer pot recipe:

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf

Add all these items to a medium pot or a small slow cooker. Add water to fill about halfway. Turn the burner on to low and let this simmer all day. If you’re using a slow cooker, set on low and let it freshen the air. Periodically check the water level and add more as needed.


Closets are common culprits of stale smells as they’re often stuffed with piles of clothes, dirty laundry, and shoes. If you need to air out a closet from a previous tenant or you just want to keep the small space smelling fresh, use this simple scented sachets hack:

Scented sachet recipe:

  • Dried herbs or flowers of your choice
  • Small fabric sachets
  • Ribbon
  • Optional: essential oils

To make these DIY sachets, first, pick out your choice of dried herbs or flowers. For a more floral scent, choose lavender or rose petals. If you prefer something more earthy, go for rosemary. Fill up your fabric sachets with your dried herbs or flowers and tie off the bag with ribbon. To intensify the smell, add a few drops of essential oils of your choice. Also, feel free to stick these sachets in your dresser drawers to keep those socks smelling fresh.


A small bowl of baking soda on an upper shelf will absorb odors without adding any chemical smell. You can also put a few drops of essential oil on cotton balls and place inside a roll of toilet paper which will release the scent every time the roll is turned. Fresh eucalyptus leaves are also very effective at deodorizing — place these in a vase above the toilet or in your shower for some added aromatherapy. 


Are there bad smells creeping out of the sink? The source may be the garbage disposal. Little bits of food that got washed off past tenants’ dishes can get caught in the garbage disposal, creating a smelly odor that lingers long after they’ve moved out. Here’s a get hack to get rid of this problem: 

  • To clean the blades: Put a large cup of ice cubes down into your disposal, turn it on, and then add about half a cup of salt. The ice and salt will combine to scrub the built-up off the inside of your disposal.
  • To freshen up the disposal: To get rid of any odors, turn on the faucet and drop sliced citrus peels down into the disposal. As you run the disposal, the citrus peels will leave a refreshing scent behind as they get ground up.


Removing cigarette odors from an apartment can cause a headache for landlords or new tenants. Cigarette smells seem to cling on to any surface they come in contact with, like carpet, your new drapes, or a precious armchair. Instead of masking the smell with commercial air fresheners, try a DIY method to absorb or neutralize it:

  • To absorb: Sprinkle baking soda on surfaces that smell like cigarette smoke, or fill several small bowls with baking soda and place around your space to absorb the smoke particles. If you have it on hand, activated charcoal is also very effective at absorbing these stubborn odors.
  • To neutralize: White vinegar is a common nontoxic household staple that works to neutralize odors. Its low pH content targets the high pH content of smoke particles and alters them slightly to reduce the smell. For a quick fix, boil a pot of vinegar on the stove — the steam will waft through the air and work to remove the smell. You can also use vinegar as a wash: simply wash clothes with it or scrub it on upholstery and walls.

If the methods above don’t work, try washing your windows, window coverings, and carpets. To get your unit ready for new tenants, consider also repainting your walls with odor-blocking primers or replacing fixtures such as cabinets. Also, to help prevent this in the future, encourage renters to keep things fresh by implementing a no smoking policy. 


In addition to these natural remedies being super easy to make, as well as effective, they’re also much less harmful than using chemical deodorizers. Over 20 percent of the general U.S. population has reported having adverse health effects from air fresheners. 

Common household products like air fresheners can contribute significantly to indoor air pollution and can also stick to and be absorbed by furniture, walls and surfaces, carpets, and more. They can then be released and re-enter indoor air, even long after you’ve used the air freshener.

Although they may smell nice, cutting out chemical air fresheners from your cleaning routine will leave your home not only more pleasant for friends and family, but also safer for your health. As a landlord, using these natural remedies are great in case a future tenant may be sensitive to these chemical cleaners and can attract those that are eco-conscious. 


Even though there are plenty of natural remedies you can create to deodorize your home, there are a few precautions to help you avoid these bad smells in the first place:

  • Do laundry often: Letting piles of dirty clothes sit in your laundry bins can quickly contribute to bad odors. Don’t let laundry linger for extended periods — it might be the cause of the smells like must and mildew. Get those washed ASAP!
  • Toss expired food: It may be time to check out those expiration dates. Old food like meat and dairy products can give off bad odors that seem to stick to your fridge forever. Go through and toss any expired goods to make sure nothing stinks as you open the doors.
  • Wash your bedsheets: While we’re all getting our beauty sleep, our beds are collecting fungus, bacteria, and dead skin cells which won’t smell good after some time. To avoid this, wash all your linens at least once a week. According to Joshua Zeichner, M.D., microorganisms like bacteria and fungi tend to thrive in moist environments — including your dirty pillowcase. Get rid of funky smells in your bedding by adding a few cups of white vinegar to your washer.
  • No shoes allowed: If you can, enforce a no-shoes allowed policy in your home so bad odors can’t get dragged onto your sparkling clean floors or fresh carpet.
  • Keep the sink clean: Do those dishes! Keeping the kitchen clean right after you cook and eat will help avoid scary sink and garbage disposal smells.
  • Clean vents & replace air filters: If you’ve cleaned every room and have tried these natural remedies and things still smell a little stale, try wiping down air vents and replacing your HVAC filter — be sure to check with your landlord before making this change. This quick-fix can quickly ventilate your room and filter out those bad smells.
  • Open your windows: Nothing can get more natural than simply opening up your windows. On days with good outdoor air quality, open up the windows to bring in new air to freshen up your space.From essential oils and baking soda to citrus peels and cinnamon sticks, these natural remedies will be the first things that come to mind the next time you’re wondering how to deodorize your rental — they’ll come in handy if you’re getting ready to list your apartmentor looking to create a more environmentally friendly rental. If you’re a landlord looking to fill an apartment, visit our rental application and tenant screening services to help find the perfect tenants. 

Guest Contributor: Sarah Stinson

Sarah is the Director of Content and SEO at TurboTenant where she leads a team of experts to provide valuable resources to help landlords and renters. With over 10 years of experience writing in various industries, she has been featured in many top tier publications and is an expert in the real estate tech space as well as the property management industry.

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