What if your home was an abode of aromatherapy? You could lay your head on your sofa’s cushion and catch a faint whiff of lavender, or enter your bathroom and breathe in a soft fragrance of lemongrass. In your room, a gardenia plant would greet you with its sweet aroma…
Or not, especially if you are allergic or sensitive to smells. Maybe just a clean, fresh scent in every space.
To help you achieve that, we spoke to three professional home organizers in the UAE – Shelina Jokhiya, founder of Decluttr Me, Fern McGahey, founder of Calm the Clutter and Salam Shaban at the Tidy Mess for the best tips on keeping your house smelling freshly washed and like a spring meadow all day.
Five steps for a fragrant home
It is very much a strategic operation.
1. Clockwork cleaning
Every inch of your home needs to be cleaned like clockwork. “Deep clean every quarter, and clean every day or a few times every week, depending on how big the household is,” says Jokhiya.
For mammoth upholstered furniture like sofas that pose a problem, she recommends investing in the occasional professional cleaning.
Deep clean every quarter, and clean every day or a few times every week, depending on how big the household is.
Moreover, your trusty cleaning items also need care. Have you noticed how vacuuming sometimes fills your home with a musty smell? “Your vacuum needs to be cleaned regularly – emptying it is not enough, you have to rinse it or properly brush it out and put it out in the sun to take away the odours,” says McGahey.
2. Disciplined decluttering
“Especially when I’m decluttering, I sometimes find that they haven’t gone through the cupboards – and I find dead bugs and old food,” Jokhiya says.
Not only to spark joy KonMari style, but also to prevent any musty, nasty odours in your cupboards, say goodbye to the expired food, cobwebs, and dirt buildup. Shaban warns, “They say if you have bad fish in the refrigerator, that’s it, there’s no going back from that.” Yikes!
3. Airy aeration
Keep the air flowing through your home by using your air conditioner, leaving the windows open occasionally and switching on the exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms after use. Open your drawers and cupboards regularly, even the ancient ones full of barely used items. “Anything that’s closed will accentuate odours or make it feel musty,” says McGahey.
Sometimes they can clean their whole house and they don’t know where the smell’s coming from, when it’s from their AC. So, get your AC filter cleaned as it can create a moldy smell.
But this also means cleaning your air filters from time to time. McGahey adds, “Sometimes they can clean their whole house and they don’t know where the smell’s coming from, when it’s from their AC. So, get your AC filter cleaned as it can create a moldy smell.”
If you love home cleaning videos on Tiktok or Instagram, you will know that there are two magic ingredients when it comes to cleaning and removing odours from any space. You guessed it, it’s baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, and white vinegar.
Musty carpets? Just sprinkle baking soda on them, leave for 10 minutes and then vacuum, advises McGahey.
A clogged sink that also seem to harbor fruit flies. McGahey says, “Baking soda and vinegar, if you put that down your sinks, it deodorises any smell. Let it sit for a while, and then pour boiling water down the drain.”
An unavoidable smell (perhaps kimchi) in your fridge that you’d like to get rid of? “Just put baking soda or white vinegar in a bowl and it changes up the smell, and you can change it up often,” said Jokhiya. You can also remove odours from other spaces at home by leaving a bowl of white vinegar open overnight.
You also get commercial deodoriser sachets you can place in your cupboards, fridges or even shoes.
5. A blossoming fragrance
Now it’s time for the magic. Whether by using diffusers, aromatherapy sticks, incense, or the occasional candle, you can place springs of scent around your home – perhaps a calming lavender for your bedroom, fresh citrus swirls in your bathroom, and a sweet cinnamon kitchen.
Shaban explains how she keeps her home smelling great: “I use a lot of diffusers and every couple of days, you need to remember to flip the sticks to initiate the smell again. In the main living area, I turn on an electric diffuser every single day for some time, and for the kitchen we light an incense or candle - you could say every room has a way to stay fresh. I don’t recommend turning the diffusers on all day.”
According to Jokhiya, McGahey and Shaban, these are your options for adding beautiful scents at home:
Aromatherapy sticks – Perfect for bathrooms. “Because the bathroom is a small, confined space, these really go a long way,” says Shaban.
Diffusers – “For example, a lavender oil every evening for two hours just to set the tone for the room, to calm and get ready for sleep,”
Essential oil sprays – With lavender, for example, Jokhiya recommends lightly spraying it on your bedsheets or pillows 10 minutes before sleeping for a calming end to your day.
Boiling cinnamon for the kitchen
Dried potpourri bag for closet
Scented sachets for closets and cupboards
Herbs in water – “You could put fresh herbs like rosemary or lavender in your kitchen in a cup,” says McGahey.
Scented cleaning products, or you can DIY by adding a couple of drops of essential oil to your cleaning solution before you clean
“Boiling cinnamon will really give you a natural scent in the kitchen,” says Shaban. “Some people grind coffee; it really takes over and is a natural smell.” You can even leave the ground coffee
Essential oil options? McGahey says, “My favourites are jasmine and orange. I think a lot of people really like vanilla, I find that quite common, more like a sweeter, softer fragrance – when mandarin, lemon or mint is more a clear, fresh fragrance.”
A flower for you
Another beautiful way to gently add scent to your home is to grow a fragrant plant - imagine opening your balcony door in spring and being greeted by the sweet smell of jasmine. Ajayan Vasudevan, horticulturist and division manager at Uniflora, a UAE-based landscaping and flower delivery company recommends and explains the needs of these plants:
Gardenia jasminoides (Gardenia) – The flowers are fragrant and short lived; it prefers plenty of indirect light.
Stephanotis floribunda (Stephanotis) – The plant has fragrant blooms and likes plenty of indirect light.
Plectranthus ambionicus (Cuban Oregano) - It is an outdoor plant but can be kept indoors in a good amount of light; no flowers, but leaves are scented and aromatic
Pelargonium graveolens (Geranium) – basically this is an outdoor plant; the leaves are scented/aromatic; loves lot of indirect light.
Jasminum sambac (Jasmine) – this is purely an outdoor plant; flowers are fragrant, but the plant is to be kept in an area which receives plenty of indirect sunlight.
Now, here’s how to tackle some specific areas at home too –
“If you’ve left the garbage for long, but then you light a candle – you’re just going to get a mix between a candle smell and a trash smell. It’s important to tackle the root cause,” says Shaban.
In the kitchen, it boils down to keeping your sink clean and free of food, taking out the trash immediately when it fills up (and cleaning to remove any food residue from your garbage bin) and deodorising and adding scent after cooking.
For the fridge – check every week to remove the old food. “The fridge also needs to be wiped down regularly because spills can occur and you might not notice it,” says McGahey. She also advises using a citrus spray after cleaning to keep it smelling fresh.
For the bin, you can also place a bin freshener. “There are special bin fresheners that you put inside the lid, to get rid of smells,” says Jokhiya.
Instant fix: The guests are arriving, and you’ve just finished cooking a main dish? You can switch on your exhausts, boil potpourri of citrus and cinnamon, grind coffee or light an incense or candle for immediate scents.
McGahey says, “It is usually the fabrics that create a nasty, damp smell – you must check that everything is dry and clean. You must ventilate well – and hang up your bathmats and towels in the sun.”
Light your favourite candle or use a diffuser and take special care to clean your rugs and carpets as they absorb odour.
If you were wondering about whether you could spray your furniture with your favourite essential oil, Jokhiya advises caution. She says, “It might stain it depending on the materials.”
Bedrooms and wardrobes
“Keep the bedroom as aerated as possible, there’s lots of fabric in the bedroom so you want to keep that air flowing,” says McGahey. She also advises hanging children’s bedding in the sun often to prevent an old smell.
“Especially if they live near the water and need to get rid of musty smells, I recommend lavender sachets or wax tablets in the wardrobe,” says Jokhiya.
This article was first published on January 23, 2023.