This page is intended for younger visitors that are just starting to live on their own. It will help prevent making some of the mistakes that I've made and that I see others make.
Odors in the Home:
It's apparent that some people don't understand what it takes to prevent having odors in the home. If you have to use air fresheners to mask odors in your home, this page will help you greatly.
Sources of Odors:
In generally, the source of foul odors is the gases that are produced as a by-product of bacteria and fungus as they live/grow. This alone should make you interested in doing whatever is necessary to prevent/eliminate foul odors. Virtually every living thing needs moisture to survive. When moisture is abundant, it greatly increases the ability of microorganisms to reproduce.
Many people place garbage directly in a trash/garbage can. You should never place kitchen waste into a garbage container without a liner (bag). This is one area where you don't want to skimp. It's important that you buy liners that don't leak. If, when removing the liner, you see that the can has become soiled, you need to wash it out immediately. Generally, there will just be a small amount of liquid so it's easily cleaned (if there is any solid material, remove it with paper towels before washing). If you're thinking that you can't do this because you don't have anywhere outside where you can wash the trash can, don't forget that you have a shower. Wash the can with the same bathroom cleaners that you'd use to clean the shower stall. Some people use bleach for this type of cleaning but you shouldn't use bleach in the shower because it can be VERY slippery.
One of the most important things that you can do to prevent odors in garbage containers (particularly those in the kitchen) is to never dispose of anything that's moist/wet unless it has been specially treated or contained. I know that many people are thinking that you can prevent odors by simply taking the garbage out every day. Well, for those who are not physically capable of doing that (the elderly, those who are injured and not as mobile as normal...) or when the weather is bad, when there is a problem with animals getting into the trash, these tips can help.
Treating Food Packaging:
Treatment is generally as simple as saturating the moist material with ordinary, inexpensive table salt. As an example, many people buy chicken that's packaged with a pad that soaks up excess moisture. As you probably know, in 24 hours, this can turn from essentially odorless (when removed from the refrigerator) to something that is extremely nauseating. To treat this type of packaging material, remove the plastic wrap. Pour all free liquid from the container and thoroughly coat the top of the absorbant pad with table salt.
If the pad isn't wet enough to allow the salt to dissolve, add about 1 tablespoon of salt to about 1/2 cup of hot water. Pour a small amount of the saltwater onto the pads. If it doesn't appear to soak in well, add a bit of liquid dish soap to the solution. Let it sit for a few minutes and then place it in the sink so that most of the remaining free liquid can drain. Take the plastic wrap and submerge it in a cup of heavily salted hot water and squeeze out as much water as possible. If possible let these air dry before placing them in the trash.
For materials that can't easily be treated to prevent odors, you can contain them to prevent odors. Many people have left-over food that needs to be disposed of. This is where Ziploc type bags can help. Although zipper bags are generally water-tight, you don't want to use them to dispose of things like leftover soup. For foods like soup that are mainly water, pour them into a colander/strainer and let the liquids drain into the sink. After virtually all of the moisture has drained away, pour the remaining solids into a zipper bag. When pouring it into the bag, it's easier if you fold the top down two times. This will help keep the bag open and will prevent any of the waste from getting on the part of the bag that you will have to handle to close it. When you close it, force as much air out of it as possible. If any significant air remains, the bag could pop open when someone forces other items down on top of it.
You may think that zipper bags would be great for containing odors but that's not the case. The plastic is semi-permeable and the odors will pass though the plastic. For things that very quickly accumulate large bacterial colonies (like chicken packaging), you need to treat it.
Used Coffee Grounds:
This one of the worst offenders when it comes to kitchen odors. Many people simply dump them into their kitchen garbage can. If they're left there for more than about 24 hours, they will begin to produce significant odors that can seep into the surrounding cabinets. To completely eliminate this problem, place a couple of layers of paper towels into a baking pan and dump the grounds onto the paper towels. Then spread them out. They will dry out completely within a few hours. At that time, you can safely dump them into the trash. The paper towels can be reused several times. You can put wet coffee grounds in a zipper bag to help reduce the odors but the smell will get through the bag in a couple of days.
If you eat canned foods, you should rinse the cans thoroughly and let them drain in the sink before placing them in the trash.
The sponges/scrubbers that are used to wash dishes can be another source of odors. When washing dishes, it's important that you remove as much food as possible from the dishes before washing them. This is often the easiest with a rubber spatula. Scrape everything into a zipper bag and seal it up. What's left can be removed with standard yellow/green type scrubbing pad. It's important to remove as much of the food as possible before washing because the food particles are what feed the bacteria and fungus that grow in damp sponges.
Some dishwashing liquids are better than others at preventing the microorganisms from growing in sponges. In the past, anit-bacterial soaps used triclosan as the anti-bacterial agent. L-lactic acid (currently used in Palmolive dishwashing liquid) is one of the best anti-bacterials available. From my experience, it's much more effective than the triclosan that is (was) used by other detergent manufacturers. No matter how good the anti-bacterials are, eventually a sponge will start to produce odors. I've seen it recommended that you place them in the microwave for a minute but that's not worked well for me. To treat a sponge, place it in a small container and cover it's entire surface with table salt. Then run enough hot water over it to allow the salt to flow down into the sponge. Let the sponge sit in the saltwater overnight. This will eliminate the odor from all but the most disgusting sponges. Doing this once a week and using a good anti-bacterial dishwashing soap will completely eliminate any odor problems from your sponges (or it has for me).
Food in the Drain:
Many times, small pieces of food will get stuck in the sink drain. If there is a lot of food, you should spoon it out. If there are just a couple of bits, turn a spoon upside-down and work the handle around in circles in the drain. Do this with water running in the sink. Doing this will break up the bits of food and allow them to drain away. It's a bit like a poor-mans garbage disposal. It only takes a few hours for bits of food in the drain to start to produce odors so you should get rid of them as soon as you notice that they're there.
This doesn't have anything to do with odors in the home but since some of the previous content was food related, I thought that it was relevant. Earlier, I stated that this page was mainly intended for people who are just getting out on their own. There are a couple of things that can help you to avoid buying food that may not have been properly packaged or refrigerated.
Many frozen food items like shrimp or chicken thighs/breasts are individual frozen (many times that's stated on the bag). For these foods, they should not be one solid frozen mass. If they were individually frozen and were separate pieces when packaged, they should remain separate. If it is one solid mass, it means that it has been thawed out and re-frozen. The problem is that you don't know how long that it remained un-frozen so you can't know if is safe to eat. The food is frozen to prevent the growth of microorganisms. When it's allowed to thaw, it has to be used immediately to prevent it from spoiling.
Vacuum Packed Foods:
Another packaging method that's designed to prevent the growth of microorganisms is vacuum packaging. This is commonly done with things like hotdogs and sausage. When you buy this type of food, you should see that the packing is held very tightly to the contents and that there is very little air in the package. If the packaging is loose, compare it to other items of the same type to see if they look the same. When the packaging has become loose, it means that air (and anything else near the puncture) has been pulled into the packaging. This is not likely something that you'll want to eat.
Other Sources of Odors in the Home
The bathroom and laundry are another area where attention to detail is important to prevent odors. The biggest problem with the laundry is typically fungal growth. This happens when laundry is allowed to remain wet for longer than it should.
If you're not a neat-freak, drape your bath-towel and washcloth over the shower curtain rod after you shower. This will allow them to almost completely dry and will help prevent mildew growth when you throw them in the hamper (or in the pile on the floor, for those who do that sort of thing). If you allow mildew to get a foothold, it will be very difficult to get rid of it. Using heavy bleach can help get rid of it but don't expect the odor from the mildew to be eliminated in one washing. Sometimes it's nearly impossible to get rid of the smell of mildew after it gets into the towels (or any cloth material).
It's also important that you not leave your clothes in the washer for any length of time after they have finished washing. They can quickly mildew. For clothes that cannot be bleached, it can mean that they have to be thrown away.