How to Keep Your Home Smelling Fresh Through Anything Whether it's pets, kids, smoke/vape, or worse, here's how to smell clean

Smell elicits emotion and memories, and a fresh smell can make a great first impression on a guest.

I’m a fan of fresh air, and it’s not easy keeping things inside your home clean. Even when I was living in the van, air circulation, filtration, and freshening was important.

If you have pets, it’s even more vital to keep things clean. It gets harder, of course, with dogs rolling around in anything and any stagnant poop or pee not being cleaned properly.

There’s nothing worse than walking in someone’s home to smell cat urine from a litter box they’re too lazy to keep clean. Living in a small space means I need practically industrial air cleaning inside my home.

And don’t get me started on people who smoke inside (except marijuana, which you have no choice but to consume in the privacy of your own home).

One solution won’t cut it, but thankfully I’m familiar with industrial cleanroom standards from some of my ghostwriting work.

Here are a few tips to keeping your air clean with military-grade standards used worldwide.

Maintaining Standards of Clean 

Hospitals, laboratories, manufacturing plants, and other buildings that require controlled environments follow certain standards.

Essentially, particles in the air can be destructive (or even deadly) in a workplace like a lumber mill, where sawdust constantly fills the air. Imagine that sawdust catching fire, and the effects in your lungs are moot.

This is where High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) and Ultra Low Particulate Air (ULPA) filters are used.

Now you don’t need to worry about the latter, but you’ve certainly heard of HEPA filters. Unidirectional airflow is also key in cleanrooms, which basically use the air ducts as a vacuum to pull air through the filters.

ISO standards from 1-9 apply to cleanrooms to determine how many particles are allowed per cubic foot of air before it’s contaminated. The size of the particles also makes a difference in how effectively it’s removed from the air.

An effective cleanroom can replace all the air in the room with clean air dozens to hundreds of times throughout a working shift.

Now we’re not going to worry too much about the official ISO 14644-1 Cleanroom Standards, but the idea of replacing and filtering the air is the key ingredient in keeping a fresh-smelling house.

Types of In-Home Air Filtration

Nobody wants their home to feel like a laboratory or hospital (ok, I’m sure there’s someone out there with the fetish). So to keep air clean, we need to combine a few different methods.

The first thing I have to mention is effort, work, and participation on your part will be key. My family (and most homes I lived in over the years) often fought over garbage, cleaning, and chores. No amount of air filtration will overcome your lack of attempts to try.

Now here are six the types of filtration you’ll find in consumer air filters on the market. I use them all:

1. Basic Air Filters – If you have any type of ventilation in your home (even a window A/C unit), it should have a basic air filter on it. These mesh filters offer the most basic protection against pet hair, dust, and other larger particles.

I like to put dryer sheets over my vent filter to add freshness to the air and prolong the life of the basic filter. Basic filters need to be changed once a month, although I extend that to every other month with the dryer sheets.

Blueair 211 Plus Air Purifier

2. HEPA Air Filters – HEPA air filters are effective in trapping 99.97 percent of particles 0.3 microns or larger. They were originally designed during the Manhattan Project to help scientists catch radioactive particles.

I use several smaller HEPA filters in my bedroom and bathroom to ensure they stay fresh. The filters need to be replaced about twice a year and they’re not washable. These are a great start to air filtration, but it’s not even close to where I stop.

Levoit Air Filter

3. Activated Carbon Air Filters – My main air filter is a Levoit Tower Pro which you can find for $400 on Amazon, which is much cheaper than the $470 price on Levoit’s website. They sent me the product to try out, and it has the first two levels of filters above, along with an activated carbon filter.

It also has an intuitive, color-coded reading on top of the PM2.5 value of my air. There are few particles, allergens, or odors that get through this machine that keeps the living room and kitchen fresh and clean. It’s also nice to have a SmokeBuddy handy if you smoke.

4. Heat and UV Lights – UV light and heat are also good ways to kill germs (i.e. – boiling water or cooking food). I use the Airfree Iris 3000 (another marketing freebie) in my kitchen to keep food fresher longer. It certainly worked while I was in jail, when smells from the trash can could easily have overwhelmed my entire apartment.

With the light turned to purple (the closest I can get to ultraviolet), this device constantly pulls air in, heats it to over 400 degrees, and pushes the sterile air out. It can clean a 650 foot room, killing microbes and other organisms that may survive other filtration.

5. Air Filtering Plants – NASA has a great list of plants that naturally filter air, and I have several of these around my home too. They’re a decorative and natural way to clean indoor air.

Boston ferns, spider and snake plants, various ivies, palms, and other plants filter benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, and other nasty ingredients from the air. Just be sure to check if your cat or dog can be around certain plants before buying and installing them in your home.


6. Ionizers – There was a time when Sharper Image Ionic Air purifiers were like lava lamps. Everyone wanted one, but they weren’t really that great unless used in tangent with the others listed above.

Ionizers use electrostatic attraction to remove some viruses, bacteria, and other living organisms from the air. You’ll need to clear the air, so to speak, before that’s much of an improvement, though.

7. Electrostatic Filters – Although not as popular as HEPA, electrostatic filters have one major advantage in that they’re washable without deteriorating or losing effectiveness. Like Ionizers, they basically use negative and positive ions to attract particles.

I use a Wynd Plus Smart Air Purifier while working in case I need some extra-filtered air. It’s somewhat of an upgrade from the SmokeBuddy’s HEPA/carbon filter combo, so I like to have it nearby for an extra oomph when medicating indoors.

With these air filters going all it takes is a weekly cleaning and occasional Febreeze/Lysol spraydown of the house to keep things clean.

I also love hanging blankets on the walls to refresh easily with Febreeze.

And you can burn candles or use wax melters, incense, or essential oils to add another layer of good smells to the noticeable lack of bad.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

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