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Expert Home Staging Tips: Cast Out Evil Odors

ForSaleByOwner September 7, 2023

Which smells can stop a home sale? Knowing the odors and aromas you should utilize or eliminate when staging your home for sale can help you turn a house hunter into a homebuyer. Darlene Parris, Interior Redesigner, Organizer and Home Stager with Los Angeles-based UPSTAGED!, guides you through how to cast out evil odors and entice buyers with pleasant fragrances.

Cleaning a kitchen sink with gloves on

No matter how well you have staged your home by cleaning, decluttering and depersonalizing it, if house hunters encounter unpleasant smells when they come to your showing it could all be for nothing.

Smell is the sense most tied to memory and emotions. The olfactory bulb, the part of the brain that transmits smell information from the nose, is closely linked to both the amygdala and hippocampus, which process emotion and control associative learning.

So, what does that have to do with selling your home? It means that potential buyers may react emotionally to unpleasant smells, forgetting about all the great features that your home has to offer and quickly putting an end to the viewing. By contrast, the right aromas can leave a potential buyer with a lasting positive memory and help them attach and connect to your home.

You may not be able to prepare for how a house hunter reacts to smells in your home, but you can prepare your home for a showing by following these instructions for eliminating objectionable odors and adding appealing aromas.

Objectionable Odors

Potential buyers will see and smell everything that you don’t. That’s simply because you are acclimated to your environment while it’s completely new to them. They will smell last night’s dinner, they will be able to detect the scent of your dog and they will know if you enjoyed a cigar after your meal.

Offensive smells that can linger in your home include:

  • Pet Odors
  • Smoke
  • Body Odors
  • Aromatic cooking (fish or heavy spices)

One way that you can isolate the unpleasant scents in your home is to invite your friends or family members over to tell you what they notice. In order to ensure that you neutralize any bad odors, work methodically and spend extra time on the rooms of your home that could prove the most difficult.


Thoroughly scrub all surfaces and dry them properly after cleaning to reduce the chance of mold and mildew. Avoid the overpowering scent of cleanser by using less abrasive cleaning products before utilizing bleach or other heavy chemicals. Get as much fresh air and sunlight into the bathroom as you can, especially if you have had to use strong disinfectants. If you have an exhaust fan use it for additional ventilation.

When it comes to plumbing, try cleaning your drains with an industrial cleaner. Have a plumber check your pipes for any cracks or leaks that may be causing a powerful smell. Replace all bathmats, rugs and towels with new linens before you begin showing your home.


The kitchen can be a breeding ground for unappetizing smells. From the refrigerator to the microwave, garbage can and garbage disposal, odd smells can emanate from any and all of these culprits. Luckily, there are usually a few simple fixes to eliminate these smells.

In addition to cleaning out your kitchen appliances you can also keep baking soda in your refrigerator in order to neutralize smells that may come from bits of food. Placing a bowl of vinegar on your kitchen counter can also help to absorb unpleasant smells that may come from the kitchen, although this should be removed in advance of the showing.


The bedroom can develop musty smells from sweat, body odor and old clothing that may be a turn-off for buyers. Make sure that you replace your bedding with a new set of linens and wash not only the clothes that you wear on a regular basis, but also those that have hung in the back of your closet gathering dust for the last several years.

Appealing Aromas

You shouldn’t just neutralize offensive odors, you should also find appealing aromas to fill your home. These pleasant smells can help endear house hunters to your home and help seal the deal on your home sale.

Top 5 Best Smells

A group of neurobiologists have actually conducted research to discover what smells have almost universal appeal. While the test they performed was small, they found that they could predict if someone would find an odorant pleasant or unpleasant across cultural backgrounds. They found the following to be the top 5 best smells:

  1. Lime
  2. Grapefruit
  3. Bergamot
  4. Orange
  5. Peppermint

When looking for pleasant aromas to fill your home, you may want to consider starting with these simple scents.

Baked Goods

You have probably already heard about baking cookies for an open house. Anecdotal evidence strongly indicates that the smell of baked goods have a lasting impact on house hunters.

Kathleen Henon, a home seller, has used this strategy over the last 30 years for almost half a dozen home sales. “Each time we sold a home — and we’ve moved five times in the past 30 years — I would bake before anyone came to see the house,” said Henon. “And as soon as people walked in our house to look around, you could see the look on their face, like they were in a warm place, a place they could see themselves in.”

These pleasant scents when used in conjunction with these timely home staging tips for fall can do wonders for helping you sell your home by owner.

This is part 4 of a 5-part series about staging your home as you prepare to host potential buyers at showings and open houses. Learn more about decluttering in Part 3 of our Expert Home Staging Tips.