Give Now  »

wfiu logo
WFIU Public Radio

wtiu logo
WTIU Public Television

Choose which station to support!

Indiana Public Media | WFIU - NPR | WTIU - PBS

Noon Edition

Back To Basics 

close pin

Stinking Up The Place



What's the best way to get rid of unpleasant odors? Ditch the air-fresheners, which simply mask smells with an aroma, that may be equally as offensive. Instead, you need to get back to the basics.

Coffee grounds and charcoal are called "physical deodorizers," because they absorb tiny particles in the air that are causing the smell. The problem is, eventually they reach a state called "equilibrium," in which the deodorizer has absorbed all it can. Then it actually starts releasing the bad smell itself.

Clearing The Air



Baking soda clears up bad smells, and not because it puts out its own perfume, or because it absorbs particles. Instead, it chemically neutralizes the odor.

Baking soda is "basic," meaning the opposite of "acidic." Most smells people think are bad strike us that way because they are strongly acidic.

Sour milk is acidic. So is garlic. So are onions. Actually, baking soda is pretty unique in that it can also neutralize odors that are too basic, such as dead fish. The closer to chemically neutral something becomes-not too basic, not too acidic-the less bad it smells to us.

So tackle the odor with a scientific approach.

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science