- A quality odor eliminator will remove or cover up odors while freshening up your space.
- We spoke with an expert from the American Cleaning Institute to best explain how they work.
- Hamilton Beach is our top pick because it uses three carbon filters to eliminate odors.
Whether you’re cooking up a new concoction in your kitchen, pet-sitting your neighbor’s dog, or stumbled upon stinky gym shoes left behind, household odors are inevitable. To combat these unpleasant aromas from circulating, an odor eliminator will work wonders to remove wonky smells.
Malodors come from a variety of sources including bacteria (spoiled food and body odor), fungus (mold and mildew), and volatile organic compounds or VOCs (paint fumes).
While scented cleaning sprays may mask smells, Brian Sansoni, SVP of communication at the American Cleaning Institute, said that if you really want to remove an odor from your home, you have to eliminate the bacteria or germs at the source.
“Fragrances that cover an odor might be used alongside an odor absorber or a product that kills odor-causing bacteria,” he said.
Sansoni said that odor-eliminating sprays use chemical compounds like cyclodextrins to trap odor molecules, but you can also use baking soda to absorb odors. Odor eliminators are safe to use on upholstery, curtains, and carpets to neutralize any smells, while surface cleaners with antimicrobial ingredients will help to kill odor-causing bacteria. Be sure to check your product label to ensure it’s recommended on certain surfaces.
Here are the best odor eliminators of 2021
- Best odor eliminator overall: Hamilton Beach TrueAir Room Odor Eliminator
- Best odor eliminator for pet odors: Mister Max Original Scent Anti-Icky-Poo
- Best odor eliminator for carpets: Arm & Hammer Extra Strength Carpet Odor Eliminator
- Best odor eliminator for small spaces: Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag
- Best odor-removing air freshener: Renuzit Snuggle Super Fresh Air Freshener
The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Room Odor Eliminator will automatically neutralize odors in a room for up to three months and comes with replaceable filters.
Pros: Continuous odor elimination, can be used with or without fragrance filter, low wattage, quiet, covers 100 square feet, replaceable filters
Cons: Replacement filters not readily available in all mass-market stores
The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Room Odor Eliminator is only a small 8-inch cube, but it’s a mighty tool for removing odors. Simply plug it in and the TrueAir fan pulls in air, pushes it through three carbon filters, and traps dust and malodors to leave your room smelling fresh. There are two settings and I keep it on low, which makes very little noise. You can increase the speed to tackle tougher smells — like tobacco smoke or pet odors — too.
The product claims to cover a 10-by-10-square-foot room for three months. After that, the filters should be replaced. Changing the filters is very simple and if you don’t use them all the time, the filters are effective for more than three months. It also comes with a fragrance cartridge, Green Meadow, that you can use or skip.
I’ve been using the device for several months and my home is less dusty and smells fresh. It’s powerful, effective, and you can store it in a closet when it’s not in use for easy storage.
Best for pet odors
If you want to keep the pet but not the smells, Mister Max Anti-Icky-Poo is your best bet.
Pros: Eliminates tough pet odors, environmentally safe to use around humans and pets, 100% money-back guarantee
Cons: Doesn’t remove visible stains, not readily available in most mass-market stores.
Pets have accidents but even if you thoroughly clean after them, the odor often lingers in the carpet, upholstery, tile grout, and hardwood floors. And once the animal catches a whiff of that spot, it will return to the scene of the crime. Enter Mister Max Anti-Icky-Poo — the cleaning agent that will have your home smelling fresh and void of lingering pet smells.
I have a precious rescue pup that tends to urinate when startled or when she feels threatened. When accidents happen, I simply grab Mister Max and give the area a good spray. Live bacteria and enzymes in the formula destroy the odor molecules, so there is no residual stench remaining.
Safe to use on all types of floors (it even penetrates concrete), carpets, and fabrics, the nontoxic Mister Max comes in a light scent or an unscented formula, and features a 100% satisfaction guarantee if it’s not up to par for your household.
Best for carpets
Arm & Hammer’s Extra Strength Carpet Odor Eliminator only takes a light sprinkle and a good vacuum to freshen up your room.
Pros: Eliminates odor from carpet and upholstery, contains baking soda to fight tough stains
Cons: Scent can be overpowering if too much is used
Soft surfaces like carpets, area rugs, and upholstery are magnets for odor molecules. The fibers grab hold of the molecules and simply won’t let them go. This is particularly true for natural fibers like wool that are barbed, and synthetic fibers made from petroleum products that like to hold onto greasy molecules.
To get the most benefit from this product, I sprinkle a very light dusting of Arm & Hammer’s Extra Strength Carpet Odor Eliminator and then use a slightly damp sponge mop to work it into the carpet fibers (use a damp sponge when cleaning upholstery) and then step away for an hour or so. When I come back and give the area a good vacuuming, it’s amazing to see how much soil is trapped in the powder.
Best for small spaces
When your closet, car, or even the inside of your sneakers is less than fresh, toss in a Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag to effectively absorb odors.
Pros: Nontoxic, natural product containing no petroleum-based chemicals, available in a variety of colors and sizes, reusable for two years
Cons: Doesn’t remove odors immediately, takes several hours for effects to kick in
Small spaces packed with lots of clothes, shoes, or linens can begin to smell stale, and the last thing you need is another strong scent layered on top. Luckily, the Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag contains 200 grams of bamboo charcoal to absorb odors, hassle-free.
Moso bags come in several sizes to fit any space and will last up to two years. They can be “recharged” by placing them in the sun for one hour per month. This helps remove the moisture that has accumulated in the charcoal. Since this is a natural product, after two years the charcoal can be composted for the garden, making it a sustainable product to have on hand.
I love that the bags come in several colors and I use them to freshen clothes and linens in every closet, in the laundry room near the dog’s crate, and in my car to keep it fresh.
Best air freshener
Renuzit Snuggle Super Fresh Air Freshener provides continuous odor elimination, thanks to its long-lasting gel formula.
Pros: Biodegradable gel, no batteries needed, scent level is adjustable
There are dozens of air fresheners in the market, and they’re available in various forms — from sprays and oil diffusers to plug-ins and gels. The problem with almost all of them is that they only add fragrance to the air and don’t eliminate odor. For an air freshener that actually gets rid of odors, I use the Renuzit Snuggle Super Fresh Air Freshener.
The science is similar to that in fabric refresher sprays, where offensive odor molecules are trapped by ring-shaped cyclodextrin molecules (imperceptible to the human nose). The 98% biodegradable gel in the formula traps malodor molecules and eliminates odors.
Housed in a contemporary-looking container, the air freshener can be opened as much or as little as you’d like to release the Snuggle fragrance. There’s no need for batteries or an outlet, either. I’ve been using this gel for many months and the bathroom still smells fresh and clean even when it has had plenty of traffic.
Our testing methodology
I have more than 40 years of experience testing cleaning products. Our picks are based on hands-on testing and use. We also interviewed Brian Sansoni, SVP of communication at the American Cleaning Institute, on what to look for in an odor eliminator.
In making our picks, we looked at the following criteria:
- Efficacy: We looked at how well each odor eliminator removed odors from household areas. This involves how quickly the scent was removed, how long it took to make the living area smell great, and if it was consistent over time.
- Ease of use: We looked at how easy each machine, spray, or stationary product was to use.
- Good value: We looked at how closely efficacy and ease of use corresponded to price. While price wasn’t the primary consideration, we found that you don’t have to spend a lot to get good performance.
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