How To Deodorize A Garage {Step By Step}

A smelly garage is not only uncomfortable to work in, it can also be a sign of something wrong in the garage. Maybe a mold problem, a clogged drain, or a leaking lawn mower. Below are some common reasons for a stinky garage and tips on how to deodorize a garage. 

Why Is My Garage Smelly?

Why Is My Garage Smelly

Because most homeowners turn their garages into multifunctional spaces, there are several possible sources of an unpleasant garage smell. 

Here are the most common ones. 

  • Garbage cans and recycling bins stored in the garage. 
  • The floor drain. A clogged or dirty drain emits a foul smell. 
  • If you are experiencing a fuel smell, it could be coming from your vehicle or any gas or diesel equipment stored in the garage. Even a small leak of gas or diesel can stink up the entire garage.
  • If you are getting a chemical smell, it’s probably coming from cleaning products, paint cans, varnish, equipment and car fluids and any other chemical products stored in the garage.  
  • A musty smell is a sign of moisture that has accumulated on the floor or walls. It’s likely you also have a mold or mildew problem in your garage. Poor ventilation can also make your garage musty.  
  • If your garage constantly smells like dust, it’s probably dust. This can come from the floor (if it’s an unsealed concrete floor), through the door or windows, or from the HVAC system. In some cases, a dusty or earthy smell can also indicate the presence of mold.   
  • Equipment and vehicles can also cause an oil or grease smell. 
  • Sometimes, your garage is smelly simply because it’s dirty. If you haven’t deep cleaned the garage in a while, it’s going to have a mixture of smells including musty, dusty, chemical, oil, and others. 
  • Getting an ammonia smell? It’s probably pet waste. Your cats may have found a nice hidden corner to relieve themselves. If you keep the litter box in the garage, it can also stink if you don’t change the litter often enough. Other sources of ammonia smell include fertilizer and some cleaning products. 
  • Skunky or rotten smell is a sign something has died in the garage, most likely rodents or some other pest. 

How To Get Rid Of Bad Smells In The Garage?

The first step is to identify the source of the smell. That’ll allow you to tackle the problem once and for all. 

Refer to our list above to pinpoint where that smell could be coming from. 

If it’s difficult to find the source, you may need to take the garage apart to find where the smell is coming from. Dead rodents can be especially hard to find. 

Here’s how to deal with different kinds of bad smells. 

Gasoline or Oil Smell 

  • Check whether your vehicle has any leaks. Small leaks can be difficult to notice because the gasoline evaporates as soon as it hits the floor. Try parking the car in the driveway for a night and see if the smell persists. 
  • Also check any equipment that uses gasoline or diesel. If you find a leak, repair it as soon as possible. 
  • If it’s an oil smell, check for oil leaks from the car or equipment such as the lawn mower. Repair any leaks you find.  
  • If you have oil or grease on the garage floor, pour cat litter or sawdust on it to soak up the spills. After a few hours, remove the sawdust and clean the spots with a degreaser or laundry detergent. 

Musty Smell 

  • Look for moist areas on the floor or wall. Figure out where the moisture is coming from and fix it. It can be a plumbing or roofing leak. Sometimes, ground water can penetrate through the wall or floor.  
  • If there is mold or mildew, make a solution of bleach and vinegar and apply it on the affected spots. Let it soak into the mold then scrub the area clean. 
  • Air the garage often and make sure there’s good ventilation. If necessary, get a dehumidifier to reduce humidity and condensation in the garage. 
  • Make sure anything you store in the garage is dry. This includes equipment, sports gear, and gardening tools. 

Dusty Smell 

  • If you have an unsealed cement floor, seal or epoxy it. It’ll reduce the amount of concrete dust in the air. 
  • Change the filter in the AC or HVAC system to ensure it’s not blowing dusty air into the garage. 
  • Check the weather seals around the garage door and window to see if they are letting in dust. If necessary, replace them.
  • Vacuum the garage 2-3 times a week and regularly wipe down surfaces to prevent dust build-up. 

Chemical Smell 

  • Check that any chemicals and cleaners stored in the garage are properly sealed in their containers. 
  • Improve ventilation in the garage to make sure any chemical fumes and volatile organic compounds dissipate quickly outside. 

Smelly Drain 

  • Pour baking soda into the drain and follow it up with vinegar. Then run hot water through the drain to rinse it. This will unclog the drain and get rid of unpleasant smells. 
  • Pour a bit of mineral oil in the drain to keep it from getting smelly again. 

Smelly Garbage Cans 

  • Do not leave garbage in the bins for too long. Even if the bin is not full, empty it daily to prevent odors from building up. 
  • Consider getting a garbage bin that seals in the smells. Some garbage bins even include a filter to trap bad odors. 
  • Consider storing garbage bins outside rather than inside the garage where it’s easy for bad smells to quickly build up. 

Smelly Litter Box

  • Clean the litter box and replace the litter frequently. 
  • Get one of the newer litter boxes that are designed to completely lock in the smells so that you don’t have to empty it as often. Most include an odor filter. 
  • Move the litter box to another location. 

How To Freshen Up Your Garage?

Once you identify the source of the smell and fix it, it’s a good idea to give your garage a deep clean. 

This eliminates any other smells lurking about and freshens up the garage. 

Here’s a helpful video on how to scrub and clean your garage floor using detergent and a pressure washer. 

But don’t just focus on the floor. Clean the garage door, wipe down storage cabinets and surfaces, and declutter any old stuff that you no longer need. 

Deep cleaning the garage reduces dustiness and mustiness. As you clear everything out, you might also discover hidden mold spots or a dead rodent that’s the source of a stink that’s been bothering you. 

Once you deep clean the garage, there are a few ways to keep it smelling nice and fresh all the time. 

  1. Install an air filter system to eliminate any bad odors that you couldn’t completely get rid of. 
  2. When the weather allows it, open the garage door or windows a few times a week to air it out. This will get rid of trapped smells and moisture. 
  3. Leave a few open containers of baking soda or activated charcoal around the garage. These are natural deodorizers – they absorb smells. Replace them monthly.
  4. Improve airflow in the garage by installing a ceiling fan or adding ventilation. This will keep the garage smelling fresh even when the door is closed. 
  5. Organize storage to prevent clutter. Instead of dumping camping equipment or gardening tools in a corner, have designated storage spaces that allow them to breath and stay dry. For chemicals, store them in sealed containers or cabinets. 
  6. Clean the floor drain at least once a month using baking soda and vinegar. Rinse with hot water then pour some mineral oil inside. 
  7. Use an air freshener or an essential oil diffuser to keep the space smelling nice. 
  8. Don’t forget to clean the garage regularly. 2-3 times a week run a vacuum over the floor to remove dust and other fine particles. Every month or two, do a deep clean. 

Do Concrete Sealers Reduce Bad Smells?

Unsealed cement floors are more likely to smell than sealed floors. 

That’s because the unsealed concrete absorbs water, oil, chemicals, urine and other substances. This results in lingering smells that can be difficult to get rid of. 

Concrete sealers prevent water and chemicals from penetrating into the concrete. It reduces mustiness, mold smells, and other unpleasant odors. 

A sealed garage floor is also more resistant to stains and is easier to clean. The finished look also looks great and can transform the garage into a functional living space. 

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