Room smells horrible after guest left—what to do

I am a host and just had a guest leave after 8 weeks. The guest used some sort of plug-in fragrance that has a very strong smell and I can’t seem to get rid of it. She’s been gone 5 days now and I have another guest coming in 2 days. I have washed the bedding, leave windows open and have a large Hepa filter on top speed but the smell has only decreased slightly and still gives me a headache because it is so strong. What else can I do the clear out the smell? Should I make a claim against her security deposit for the extra cleaning effort required? I believe the smell must have become embedded in the walls, rug, and mattress based on how long it’s lingering.

Did you have it as part of your house rules that guests can’t use plug in fragrances?

No, I’m a new host so am just figuring out what types of things I should add to my house rules.

I find white vinegar does a good job of dissipating odors. You can try leaving a bowl out, but I’ve had the best luck wetting part of a towel and waving it around the room (I do it like a rodeo “rope 'em cowgirl!”, but you can use your own style)

Rather than adding this specific situation to your house rules, many hosts like setting up intermittent cleanings on long term stays so they can address this sort of situation much earlier on. If you pop by weekly to change sheets and do bathroom wipe-down you can also catch overflowing garbage, smoking, running the heat full blast with windows open, or other crazy guest hijinks.


Have you washed walls and curtains? I had guests from India for 5 weeks …opening the front door, the whole house smelt like a curry house. Had to wash the walls and ceiling in the kitchen to shift the smell. Those diffuser things are oil based and add a layer to every surface.


I concur! Your only hope is vinegar and washing the walls and floors down.

Do you go into the room every week to change the bedding etc? If not, I’d definitely start doing that so that you can keep an eye on the room.

It’s difficult at first knowing exactly what to put in rules or guidelines. Try and put yourself in the guest position and things you may alter. Things that I have NEVER thought about before that I have had to put in written form to guests: 1) Dont put outdoor furniture in and vice versa, 2) Dont leave your animal unattended for 12 hours, 3) please bring your own laundry soap, 4) Please extinguish candles upon exiting (seriously!!), 5) please open the windows if you are frying heavy foods in oil…etc. etc
The list goes on and on. Some are so obvious and some aren’t. You will be amazed at what you think is common sense but what guests do not.

Can you air the mattress and rug outside in the sun? How about a carpet cleaning machine? How about steaming the mattress and rug? Can you wash the curtains? Soft furnishings are a more likely culprit than the walls, but do that next. As people say, instigate a cleaning schedule next time so you can prevent problems in future.

White vinegar in a spray bottle and walk around the space misting the air, ceiling, walls. More elegant but not as much fun as waving a vinegary rag around your head!

If the space is carpeted, quick job with a rental carpet cleaner should pull the scent out there.

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I agree with KenH that white vinegar in a spray bottle dispels stinky air just like magic.

A guest left the suite smelling like a trade show for cheap perfumes. The vinegar spray freshened the whole area after just one walk-around. I did spray the mattress and curtains, and washed the pillows and duvet with some vinegar added to the machine.

I did a hearty LOL picturing you rounding up those smells with your vinegar towel.


LOL - That was great! Got a hearty laugh out of that one!

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But then how do you stop everything smelling of vinegar?! When I do my shower screen it smells eye watering for a day. I dread to think how long it would linger in soft furnishings.


I haven’t noticed a lingering smell of vinegar, but I open the windows and turn on the bathroom fan after spraying.
You could add some water with the vinegar in the spray bottle as it really doesn’t need to be full-strength to rid the space of yucky smells.

I have a mountain cabin that I rent. There have been times when it smells a little “earthy” after guests leave. I have just taken a bag of baking soda and spread it liberally in the carpets. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and then do a thorough vacuum job. It makes a world of difference and only costs a few bucks.

I also try to leave the windows and blinds open. Obviously letting air go through helps, but sunlight also helps to kill anything in the air that smells.


I followed many of the suggestions here—sprayed vinegar, washed all the bedding, sprinkled baking soda odor remover powder on the carpet, ran a hepa air filter 24/7 for a week while the room was vacant. It’s been 1.5 months since the offending guest left and the smell still lingers! My current guest has been here a month and hasn’t complained, but I’m starting to worry this smell won’t go away. I have hardwood floors and a large 8x10 area rug, and no curtains for oils to leech into (wood blinds only). Is it possible the smell has penetrated the mattress? Am I going to be forced to replace the mattress? What else can I do to get rid of this smell?

Have you aired the mattress in the sun? Have you steamed it?

Not knowing the cause of the smell doesn’t help. Have you taken the blinds down and cleaned them? Checked everywhere with a black light to see if you can find anything?

Put the mattress in a smaller closed up room like a walk in closet, bathroom, storage room, mudroom, laundry room and see if that room develops the smell. If so and you have the time you could try cleaning/airing the mattress but I’d probably just buy a new one, take it off my taxes and mention it as a feature of the room.

If not the mattress then you may have to refinish the wood floor, paint, replace the rug.

I mentioned in the original post that it was an oil plug-in fragrance. It’s a queen mattress and box springs which aren’t easy to move, so I have not done that yet but I guess that’s the next step. I literally just remodeled this room—paint, refinished hardwood floor, new blinds, new furnishings, so I hope I don’t have to go so far as to redoing it all.