Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and author of the New York Times bestselling book, My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha. Her flagship column, “Ask a Clean Person”, debuted in 2011. Here on Lifehacker, we’ve launched a new iteration of it, focusing on parenting and all the messes it brings.
My teen’s room always smells. Can this be helped? It’s like a general boy smell, like a musty fart cave.
I think we’ve all been together long enough that you’ll know this without me having to say so, but just in case: In total seriousness, I adore the evocative nature of how this question was posed! Musty fart cave is hilarious, and I bet every single person reading this knows the exact smell of which you speak.
The musty fart cave smell can definitely be helped, and I have some specific products to recommend. But it’s also worth mentioning that it may help to put a fan in the room, along with a dehumidifier and/or a desiccant such as Silica Gel to help combat mustiness.
Canister-Style Odour Eliminators
When it comes to keeping that teenager smell at bay, canister-style odour eliminators are going to be your best bet, mostly because they’ll do the work for you. The idea is to get one or two of these products, depending on the size of the room, set them in an unobtrusive spot, and let them do their thing.
There are a lot of these products available — home improvement and hardware stores will offer a bunch of options — and if you have a favourite, please let us know in the comments! These are some of the ones I generally recommend:
Odoban Odor Absorbers: This product comes in three sizes, and a variety of scents. There’s no unscented option, but the scented one by my desk is not obtrusive.
Airwick Strong Cotton: This is an sweet scented odour absorber that can be easily tucked under a bed or chair, out of sight.
You can also DIY it by setting out bowls of coffee grounds or white vinegar, both of which act as odour-absorbers.
Skip the Febreze, which is a little on the perfume-y side, and instead opt for one of these spray-style odour eliminators for fast relief from a fart-smelling room.
Glen 20 Disinfectant Spray: This is technically unscented, though it does have a smell of its own. But it really, really works and the packaging seems just right for use in a teenager’s room, along with whatever germs are lurking around.
Ozium: OK look, don’t tell your kid this but Ozium is the stuff pot-smokers use to mask the smell of their weed. I mention that to illustrate that this stuff really works. Ozium also offers canister-style products.
Zep Musty Odor Eliminator: The Zep product range are quite good and if you don’t care for the Crisp Mountain Air scent that the musty formula comes in, just grab one of the other odour eliminating products Zep makes.
For a Deeper Clean
Textiles will retain odours, so in addition to getting some odour eliminating products, it also isn’t a bad idea to launder some items that may be holding onto that teenager funk.
You don’t need to do all of this, but these are some things to think about deep cleaning:
- Curtains/window treatments: Fabric window treatments can, for the most part, be laundered right in the washing machine.
- Doonas and pillows: Here’s some old Ask a Clean Person content on the subject of washing oversized items such as doonas and pillows.
- Carpet, rugs and upholstered furniture: Many area rugs are machine washable; if you have large rugs or installed carpeting, consider renting a rug cleaning machine (which can also be used on upholstery). For a less labour-intensive freshening up try a powder deodoriser that can be vacuumed up, such as Armor All Carpet and Upholstery Foam Cleaner.