As I live in a very rural part of the world where the main industries are all agriculture-based, I am subjected daily to a vast array of odors. All manner of foulness surrounds me and leaves me downwind no matter what direction the wind's blowing. Perhaps it's the smell of money, as many farmers are fond of saying, but to me it just smells like crap. There isn't much one can do about odors carried on the wind. But at least we can get some control and keep odors to a minimum within the shelter of our own castles. Every odor is a little different. If you're asking yourself how to get rid of odor, you have to ask another question in reply: What kind of odor are we talking about? With that question answered you can then tailor your cleaning strategy appropriately.
Steps Toward Eliminating Odors
Identify and remove any obvious causes of odor. The first step in getting rid of any smell or odor is going to be getting to the root of the problem and removing it. If you saw the event that caused the odor then it shouldn't be too hard to figure out what to do next. But sometimes smells and odors are sneaky. In the case of some pet odors the odor-causing agent might permeate a fabric or carpeted surface and dry without leaving a stain. Mildewy smells are usually related to excessive humidity or leaking water. In the worst cases, both of these examples might require removing material and replacing it.
Wash the area to get rid of odors. One of the things about living in a consumerist society is that there is a product for every problem. Some might argue that this isn't a good thing. It just means we have a lot of choices when we decide to clean something. For most odors scrubbing with a basic detergent will do the job quite nicely. Some other options include power washing, steam cleaning, enzymatic cleaners, oxygen-based washes, and bleach solutions. With all of these it is important to rehydrate the area, scrub it around, and then rinse and remove the odor-producing substance. A wet dry vacuum cleaner might be helpful in this situation.
Ventilation will help to get the odor out of your living area and keep an area dry. This should go without saying. A lot of odors in our houses could be eliminated with a little more airflow. This is tough in the winter months, but there is little that is more refreshing than cracking a couple of windows on a nice day. Things get stale and stagnant when there is no airflow. It can also make certain areas of our houses warmer and wetter than others, which increases the potential for mildew growth. This is also true for areas that could soak up liquids and dry slowly. You could go from getting rid of one smell to creating a new one.
Ionizing air filtration and ozone machines can be an effective way to reduce smells and odors. Although these two styles of products are often mentioned in the same breath, they are actually quite different. The air filtration machines, ionizing or otherwise, work by drawing air in one end, forcing it through a filter to remove particulates, and letting it out the other end clean as a whistle. Ozone machines create a form of oxygen that likes to bond to stuff in the air and leaves it chemically un-smelly. Both machines require maintenance and the gas created by an ozone machine, in high concentration, can be unhealthy for living things—so follow the directions.
Masking with deodorizers doesn't really avoid odors. However, deodorizers can make life tolerable. I tend to burn a lot of incense and scented candles when I'm home because I prefer those smells to the odor of stale mastiff fart (I have four). Some people also like the fruity plug-in fragrance dispensers or the flowery aerosol spray—I find them overpowering. If you are able to find the source of the smell, remove it, clean the area, and then keep the air around it moving. Most odors should be eliminated by doing this. Unless of course they're leaking out of your dog's rear end.
Professional Odor Removal
Unless you are dealing with something like a dead body, sewage backup, damage from floods, or cleaning up after a hoarder, most odors can be eliminated with a little bit of detective work and elbow grease. However, we always have the option of calling in somebody else to do the job for us. A quick glance through your yellow pages should yield a couple of options for you to investigate. Be sure to ask if they have experience cleaning up odors similar to the ones you have. Also insist on getting a quote for their estimated costs as sometimes services like this can get quite expensive.