Q: My parents are selling their house. Thanks to Marie Kondo’s books and the Swedish Death Cleaning movement, their house looks great, but I am arguing with my mom about the room sprays and lavender potpourri she’s always used. I think that’s way too strong. What do you recommend?
A: As you already know, the way a house smells is a really important aspect of creating a welcoming place any time, whether you’re selling or not. Someone walking in will get a whiff of cleanly goodness, or, not so good, and makes snap judgmental decisions on whether they want to stick around.
Obviously a clean house is the best way to get a fresh-smelling one, and to create a positive good first impression for anyone’s nose. As you clean, air out the whole house. Opened boxes of baking soda and fresh ground coffee make great deodorizers, along with simply lighting a match. Clean all the bedding, including mattress and pillow protectors, and replace or deodorize mattresses and pillows. Pack up clothing, coats, towels, and other fabric items you don’t use regularly, and freshly launder the rest.
Vacuum and dust every nook and cranny, including vent fans and grilles, under area rugs, around the trim around the doors and windows, shelves, closets, bed frames and under the bed. Thoroughly clean and sanitize bathrooms, especially around the back of the toilets and inside medicine cabinets. Take down and wash the light fixtures, and add fresh, bright lightbulbs. Vacuum window treatments or have them cleaned. Deodorize the garbage cans, spice cabinet, drawers, and all the appliances, especially if they’re included with the house. And, if at all possible, avoid cooking anything, um, interesting.
Of course pay special attention to pet areas including bedding, food areas, and wherever the cat box is. Even leashes, pet clothes and carriers. Use the vacuum and products designed to neutralize these odors liberally.
Once you have an aromatic fresh slate to work with, there are better scents to use for selling a house including tried-and-true vanilla; citrus, including orange or lemon; clean, fresh scents like cilantro and cucumber; herbs such as thyme or rosemary in the kitchen; and woodsy scents such as cedar. Many people might think your mom’s heavy air fresheners are masking bad odors. And lavender is a lovely scent to use when you want to fall asleep, less so when you want potential buyers interested in your house.
Most of all, keep the fragrance light. Less is much, much more. Remember that we acclimate to scents over a short period of time, and any scent becomes less noticeable. Candles smell great even if you don’t light them. Reed diffusers and potpourri bowls are also useful.
When you think you have everything ready, invite a friend or two over and ask what they think. Good luck!