Cleaning the house can kill off your sense of smell (and so can ignoring toothache!) (2023)

Cleaning the house can kill off your sense of smell (and so can ignoring toothache!)

By Charlotte Dovey
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Cleaning the house can kill off your sense of smell (and so can ignoring toothache!) (1)

Vital: Our sense of smell is important in alerting us to potential dangers

Our ability to smell vastly improves our enjoyment of life — indeed, it’s thought that 90 per cent of our sense of taste is actually down to smell.

Smell is also vital in alerting us to potential danger — such as smoke, for instance, a gas leak or spoiled food.

Our sense of smell is triggered when microscopic particles released by substances such as perfume in the air or freshly ground coffee are breathed up through the nostrils, explains Henry Sharp, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at East Kent Hospitals.

‘The cells send an electric signal to an area at the bottom of the brain specifically concerned with smell, known as the olfactory bulb,’ he says.

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‘Smell can also be triggered as we chew food, through the channel that connects the roof of the mouth to the nose.’

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Sense of smell is often affected temporarily by a cold because the nasal passages become blocked with excess mucus, and the tissue that lines the nostrils becomes inflamed and swollen.

However, in some cases a loss of smell can persist. Experts stress that most problems can be tackled if caught early.

‘If you experience problems for more than six weeks after a cold or flu, or suddenly become aware of problems, it’s important to see your GP,’ says George Murty, a consultant ear, nose and throat specialist at the University Hospitals of Leicester.

‘They will take a history, check for any obvious blockages and, if necessary, refer you on to a specialist.’

Here, our experts detail some of the possible causes of both a temporary and permanent loss of smell:

HOUSEHOLD CLEANING PRODUCTS

Cleaning the house can kill off your sense of smell (and so can ignoring toothache!) (5)

Your sense of smell could be affected by too much cleaning.

‘Using strong household cleaners, such as bleach, a few times a week in unventilated areas such as a small bathroom can cause the toxic smell to affect the delicate lining and sensory cells in the nose,’ says Mr Murty.

‘This applies to the serial cleaners among us at home, but is also particularly relevant to those who work in industries that use chemicals such as chlorine, acids or solvents — or are even surrounded by metal dusts — on a day-to-day basis.’

Whether the sense of smell returns depends on how long there’s been a problem and how badly the cells have been affected: it can be permanent.

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DIABETES

Nerve damage — or neuropathy, the long-term complication of diabetes — is most commonly associated with pain and numbness or tingling in the hands, legs or feet.

But this damage can also extend in some cases to the sensory nerves in the nose controlling smell.

In a recent study at University Hospital Henri Mondor in France, all 68 diabetic patients scored significantly lower in recognising smells than the 30 healthy participants.

PREGNANCY

Cleaning the house can kill off your sense of smell (and so can ignoring toothache!) (6)

With the joy of changing nappies ahead of you, loss of smell during pregnancy may be no bad thing.

‘Affecting up to 30 per cent of women during pregnancy, smell loss — usually reduced rather than total — tends to occur during the second and third trimester,’ says Mr Murty.

‘This occurs because the higher amounts of oestrogen during this time lead to increased blood flow in the body (to accommodate for the growing foetus).

‘This then causes the tiny blood vessels in the nose lining to swell up, blocking the pathway of any particles going up the nose.'

BLOOD PRESSURE MEDICATION

Your heart function may improve with high-blood pressure medication but your sense of smell might not.

Although rare, it is a documented side-effect for certain heart medications — including Enalapril — although it’s not clear why.

Fortunately, arranging a change of medication with your GP will usually remedy problems rapidly.

TOOTH INFECTION

Ignore a sore tooth at your peril; as well as being painful, it could affect your sense of smell.

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‘Infection occurs when bacteria spreads inside the teeth or gums, causing a chronic dental infection or, in some cases, a dental abscess,’ says Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, from the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Bacteria can spread into maxillary sinuses, the small, air-filled spaces behind your cheekbones — and can cause inflammation, soreness, fever and a loss of smell.

AGEING

Cleaning the house can kill off your sense of smell (and so can ignoring toothache!) (7)

Along with deteriorating sight and hearing, a reduced sense of smell is another sign of ageing.

Up to 25 per cent of those over 60 may suffer from this — and this figure may increase to 62.5 per cent in those aged 80 to 97, according to a study carried out at San Diego State University and the University of California.

‘As we age, the number of fibres in the olfactory bulb starts to decrease, hence there’s less sensitivity to smells,’ says Jamie M. Boyce of the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, who has written a paper on the effects of ageing on smell and taste.

VITAMIN DEFICIENCY

The production of red blood cells is probably vitamin B12’s most important role, but it plays a key role in our ability to smell, too.

Cleaning the house can kill off your sense of smell (and so can ignoring toothache!) (8)

This is because it helps maintain the sheaths which surround and protect nerves, and are vital for transmitting electrical signals, including those from the roof of the nose to the olfactory part of the brain.

‘A deficiency occurs when the vitamin, which is found in foodstuffs such as dairy products, meat and eggs, fails to be absorbed through your small intestine,’ says Dr Anton Emmanuel, gastroenterologist at University College Hospital, London.

The usual triggers are age and acid reflux medication.

NERVE DISORDERS

Scientists have long been looking for ways to identify Parkinson’s at the earliest stages of the disease — the earlier it is treated, the better.

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Now studies are showing that a loss of smell can predate the onset of clinical symptoms by several years.

In one study carried out in Honolulu, researchers found that men with the lowest smell recognition scores were more than five times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease compared with those with the highest scores.

A loss of smell is caused by the same disease process that leads to problems with movement, a better known symptom of Parkinson’s.

Essentially, the disease leads to a reduction in the number of brain cells that produce dopamine, the chemical that controls communication between nerve cells.

‘Alzheimer’s is another degenerative neurological condition for which a loss of a sense of smell and ability to distinguish between smells is among the earliest symptoms — sometimes years earlier,’ says Dr Cockerell.

NASAL POLYPS

Sinusitis causes inflammation, which leads to a headache, temperature and a loss of smell, which is more significant than that experienced in a common cold.

‘If the inflammation of the sinus lining is long-standing and unchecked, nasal polyps may form, which look a bit like grapes hanging down from the sinuses inside the nose,’ says Mr Sharp.

As these are thought to be caused by this chronic inflammation, treatment usually involves steroids or surgery.

Generally, the patient’s sense of smell can be improved.

HEAD INJURIES

Cleaning the house can kill off your sense of smell (and so can ignoring toothache!) (9)

According to a study at Montreal University in Canada, anything from mild to severe traumatic brain injury — such as a sports injury or car accident — can cause a problem with smell.

It’s also more likely to happen if the injury occurs to the front of the brain, which responds to smell messages.

‘It occurs because the force of impact shifts the brain within the skull, tearing the delicate nerve fibres that connect your nose to the brain,’ says Dr Oliver Cockerell, a neurologist at Barts and the London NHS Trust and the London Clinic.

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Unfortunately in these cases, there is no specific treatment, but in up to 39 per cent of patients the nerves can re-grow, and this can occur up to three years after the injury,

FAQs

Can bleach kill your sense of smell? ›

Your sense of smell could be affected by too much cleaning. 'Using strong household cleaners, such as bleach, a few times a week in unventilated areas such as a small bathroom can cause the toxic smell to affect the delicate lining and sensory cells in the nose,' says Mr Murty.

Can bleach mess with your taste buds? ›

However, it might be a good idea to take extra care next time you open the bleach. The harsh chemicals present in many cleaning products can do serious damage to smell and taste receptors, especially if used in unventilated areas.

How can I get the smell back after bleach? ›

- Use vinegar and baking soda as a natural odor neutralizer. - Air dry outside if the bleach smell is still present after washing. - Use all-natural cleaning products instead of those that contain fragrance.

Why do I keep smelling cleaning products? ›

An olfactory hallucination (phantosmia) makes you detect smells that aren't really there in your environment. The odors you notice in phantosmia are different from person to person and may be foul or pleasant. You may notice the smells in one or both nostrils.

Can a tooth infection affect your sense of smell? ›

The maxillary (cheek) sinus is quite close to these teeth- and often the tooth roots extend directly into the sinus. A dental infection in this area often can lead to a sinus infection that could interfere with the sense of smell.

What happens when you inhale too much bleach from cleaning? ›

Breathing high amounts of chlorine gas can lead to a build-up of fluid in the lungs and severe shortness of breath that could lead to death if untreated. Immediately or within a few hours after breathing chlorine gas, the lungs can become irritated, causing coughing and/or shortness of breath.

What happens if someone puts bleach in your drink? ›

This can result in nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Consumption of concentrated bleach products can lead to permanent gastrointestinal damage and may result in death. If someone swallows bleach, get help online with webPOISONCONTROL or call Poison Control immediately at 1-800-222-1222.

Why do I smell like bleach? ›

High ketone levels cause your blood to become acidic and your body odor to be fruity. In the case of liver or kidney disease, your odor may give off a bleach-like smell due to toxin buildup in your body.

How toxic is bleach to humans? ›

Bleaches, Laundry

Household bleach (sodium hydroxide) is not technically speaking considered corrosive or toxic, even if ingested. However, bleach exposure can cause irritation in the eyes, mouth, lungs and on skin. Individuals with asthma or other breathing problems are particularly susceptible.

Is bleach and vinegar toxic? ›

You should never clean with these two ingredients combined. Mixing chlorine bleach, which contains sodium hypochlorite, with any type of acid like vinegar creates chlorine gas, a dangerous chemical that's deadly in high volumes.

Can smell anything after cleaning with bleach? ›

Open Windows & Keep Rooms Ventilated

A common misconception is that bleach's strong odor is caused by chlorine. Bleach produces a strong, chlorine-like smell due to a chemical reaction that occurs as the bleach breaks down proteins. The more regularly you clean with bleach, the less strong the scent will be when used.

What does ammonia smell like? ›

It has a strong odor that smells like urine or sweat. Ammonia occurs naturally in water, soil, and the air, and is also found naturally in plants, animals, and the human body. The human body makes ammonia when it breaks down protein into amino acids.

What happens if you smell too much cleaning products? ›

Some household products release chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOC), which can lead to eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches and nausea, along with loss of coordination and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

How do you keep smells away? ›

Rather than plugging deodorizers into your electrical sockets or lighting an arsenal of scented candles, use a few household staples such as baking soda, distilled white vinegar, coffee grounds, vanilla extract and lemons to get rid of odors once and for all.

How do you keep it clean and smell good? ›

5. General Vaginal Hygiene
  1. Avoid scented tampons, pads, and liners.
  2. During your period, change your tampon 4 to 5 times a day. ...
  3. Wash or wipe the area regularly during your period.
  4. Consuming probiotics like yogurt can help prevent yeast infections and reduce vaginal odor by keeping your vagina's pH levels in order.

Does tooth decay affect smell? ›

Another symptom of tooth decay is having bad odor in the mouth. The bad smell is caused by waste that the bacteria release in the mouth as well as decaying food particles and poor oral hygiene. The debris produce sulfur compounds that creates an unpleasant smell or bad breath.

Can dental work affect smell? ›

People may also lose their sense of smell or taste through negligent dental treatment. If the sense of taste has been affected since the dental treatment, or if the tongue feels numb, then some of the nerves in the mouth may have been negligently damaged.

Can your sense of smell be damaged? ›

In addition, the olfactory pathways, which send messages between the nasal passages and the brain, can become impaired from age and from certain medications. Also, certain medical conditions can dull or diminish the sense of smell. These include: Alzheimer's disease.

What happens if you mix bleach and hydrogen peroxide? ›

Can You Mix Hydrogen Peroxide and Bleach? Like any other household cleaner or chemical, hydrogen peroxide is another thing you shouldn't mix with bleach. It can create toxic gases that are dangerous to anyone in the area.

What should you not mix bleach with? ›

Don't mix bleach with ammonia, acids, or other cleaners.

Mixing bleach with common cleaning products can cause serious injuries. Be sure to always read the product label before using a cleaning product.

How quickly does bleach poisoning set in? ›

For the majority of cases, which involve household bleach that has been diluted in water, symptoms begin within minutes. These include heavy drooling (especially in cats) and redness and irritation on the skin and in and around the mouth.

What happens when you drink alcohol everyday? ›

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including: High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.

What happens if you drink too much water? ›

When you drink too much water, your kidneys can't get rid of the excess water. The sodium content of your blood becomes diluted. This is called hyponatremia and it can be life-threatening.

Do you drink milk after drinking bleach? ›

If you've ingested bleach, call poison control so they can walk you through what you should do and whether you need to go to a hospital. In most cases when only a small amount has been consumed, you only need to dilute the sodium hypochlorite in your system by drinking 4 to 8 ounces of water or milk.

Why does my discharge smell like pee? ›

If you experience an ammonia-like vaginal odour, urine might be involved. This can happen if you have a urinary tract infection (UTI). 'This is more likely if a UTI is left untreated and you might be leaking,' explains Dr Rosén.

Why does my discharge smell like onions? ›

Food. As you might expect, eating a lot of onion or garlic can cause your vaginal discharge and urine to take on a strong onion or garlic scent. Asparagus can also cause your urine to take on a strong scent, which could be mistaken for vaginal odor.

Why does my private area smell like ammonia? ›

If you notice the smell of ammonia around your vagina, it could be due to extra sweat, urine, or an infection. If the smell doesn't go away with regular rinsing and drinking more water, contact your doctor. You may need a prescription to help treat an underlying infection.

Should you wear a mask when cleaning with bleach? ›

Eye protection and a face mask are highly recommended when using bleach given the toxicity of the fumes, but gloves are mandatory, as bleach corrodes skin on contact (it actually breaks skin down and begins to form chemical burns – that's why you might think your skin feels oily after coming into contact with the ...

Can you mix Lysol and bleach? ›

10. Lysol and Bleach. The disinfectant Lysol shouldn't be mixed with bleach. The bleach oxidizes the 2-benzyl-4-chlorophenol that is in Lysol, resulting in various irritating and toxic compounds.

Is bleach toxic to dogs? ›

However, it is not a safe choice to use around dogs and other pets. Bleach contains chlorine, which is considered toxic to many animals and, at the very least, will damage a dog's fur and at the other end of the spectrum is life-threatening when swallowed.

Which is better for mold vinegar or bleach? ›

Is Vinegar More Effective Than Bleach? Vinegar truly is better than cleaning with bleach when it comes to killing mold. The EPA does not recommend using bleach to kill or remove mold, except in special circumstances. In most cases, “a background level of mold spores will remain” after the application of bleach.

Can you mix baking soda and white vinegar together? ›

These two common household materials can serve as natural cleaners to remove grime and keep your surfaces clean. Because vinegar and baking soda are on opposite ends of the pH scale, they can be combined and used as effective cleaning solutions.

What happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda? ›

When baking soda is mixed with vinegar, something new is formed. The mixture quickly foams up with carbon dioxide gas. If enough vinegar is used, all of the baking soda can be made to react and disappear into the vinegar solution.

Why does my pee smell like metal? ›

It's usually caused either by a UTI or an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria naturally found within the body. When caused by bacteria, the bacteria will affect the urine as it sits in or passes through the bladder. This can lead to strong, sulfur-smelling urine.

What foods make urine smell? ›

Foods that convert to sulfur compounds in your body can make your urine smell rotten. This smell is commonly compared to rotten cabbage or rotten eggs and can come from eating asparagus, garlic, and onions. There are rare conditions that create a rotten smell, too.

Why do I smell like pennies when I sweat? ›

Key takeaways. A metallic smell on your body is typically a type of body odor triggered by handling copper or other metals. It can also result from your body burning protein rather than glucose during a workout.

What health problems can cleaning products cause? ›

VOCs and other chemicals released when using cleaning supplies contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches. Studies are underway to assess how these chemicals affect people who have asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Can cleaning make you sick? ›

Bleach, ammonia or quaternary ammonium compounds (a type of disinfectant), phthalates, and many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in typical cleaning products have all been linked to respiratory illnesses, including asthma, according to Allen Rathey, principal of The Healthy Facilities Institute.

Can cleaning products make you ill? ›

Besides the obvious factors that can weigh in on sickness while cleaning, some people find the harsh chemical cleaners used in the process is enough to make them sick. Common cleaners like bleach and store-bought products containing bleach and other chemical additives can cause sickness if they aren't handled properly.

How do I keep my house smell free? ›

Tips to make your living room smell good
  1. Sometimes vacuuming sends out a stinky odor. ...
  2. Mind the carpet. ...
  3. Eliminate odors with a Febreze Plug. ...
  4. Use a diffuser with a couple of drops of your favorite essential oils. ...
  5. Open a window and let the fresh air in. ...
  6. Find your zen by burning incense. ...
  7. Light a candle.

What absorbs smells in a room? ›

Some of the best odor eliminators are coffee grounds, tea, vinegar, oats, and baking soda. Leaving a bowl of any of these odor absorbers out in a room that's due for a little freshening up will help clear out the less-than-pleasant smells from the air.

Why does my bedroom smell in the morning? ›

As we sleep, our bodies naturally shed skin cells, secrete natural oils and may lightly sweat – although some people may sweat more than normal. [5] If you're sweating a lot at night, it could also mean bacteria is building up overnight, leaving an unpleasant smell to wake up to in the morning.

Why does my vaginal discharge smell? ›

Bacterial vaginosis is an overgrowth of bacteria typically present in the vagina. It's a common vaginal condition that can cause vaginal odor. Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection, also can lead to vaginal odor. A yeast infection usually doesn't cause vaginal odor.

What keeps house smelling good? ›

Absorb bad smells with baking soda.

A few bowls of baking soda scattered around the house and replaced weekly. “This is especially helpful in the pantry and in a small kitchen,” she says. “Baking soda does a wonderful job of absorbing, not masking, odors — plus, it's easy to find and cheap!”

What's the importance of keeping it clean? ›

Maintaining a clean environment is for the health of all humans, as their health completely depends on the atmosphere. A bad environment is solely responsible for spoiling the health of the people around. Dirt and disease go together.

Why does bleach affect smell? ›

A common misconception is that bleach's strong odor is caused by chlorine. Bleach produces a strong, chlorine-like smell due to a chemical reaction that occurs as the bleach breaks down proteins. The more regularly you clean with bleach, the less strong the scent will be when used.

What happens if you get bleach in your nose? ›

Contact exposure to bleach will can severe burning and irritation to the eyes, nose, skin, and even throat. Inhaling bleach fumes in large concentration can lead to a build-up of fluid in the lungs and even severe shortness of breath that could lead to significant health problems.

What do you do if you inhale bleach and ammonia? ›

If you do accidentally mix bleach and ammonia, get out of the contaminated area and into fresh air immediately. If you're having a hard time breathing, call 911 or your local emergency services, and then call your local poison control center at 800-222-1222.

Can smelling bleach make you feel weird? ›

Bleach Has Harmful Effects on Your Body

After accidentally inhaling the fumes, some individuals have reported feeling stinging in their nose and eyes, coughing, and lightheadedness, all of which are symptoms that indicate the corrosive properties of the substance.

Can bleach fumes cause brain damage? ›

Chlorine bleach exposure was associated with impaired neurobehavioral functions and elevated POMS scores and symptom frequencies. Alternatives to chlorine should be used.

What happens if bleach gets into your bloodstream? ›

Bleach causes red blood cells to rupture, thus preventing them from carrying oxygen to essential organs and other parts of the body, which could possibly bring about a slow death.

What does bleach do to your hair? ›

Not only does bleaching raise the outer cuticle, it also damages the bonds inside the hair too (hair is made up of three types of bonds: hydrogen, disulfide and salt bonds) causing them to weaken and break, and when the internal structure of the hair is compromised, strands are more likely to split and snap.

Can smelling ammonia make you sick? ›

If breathed in, ammonia can irritate the respiratory tract and can cause coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Inhalation of ammonia can also cause nose and throat irritation. People can smell the pungent odor of ammonia in air at about 5 parts of ammonia in a million parts of air (ppm).

Can cleaning with ammonia make you sick? ›

Ammonia is corrosive. The severity of health effects depends on the route of exposure, the dose and the duration of exposure. Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia in air causes immediate burning of the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract and can result in blindness, lung damage or death.

How long does ammonia poisoning last? ›

Symptoms usually subside within 24-48 hours. Absence of symptoms following inhalational exposure to ammonia essentially rules out significant injury. Individuals with reactive airway disease, such as asthmatics, are particularly sensitive to ammonia inhalation.

What to do if you feel sick after cleaning with bleach? ›

Chlorine poisoning is a medical emergency. If a person swallows or inhales a chlorine-based product and shows symptoms of poisoning, contact the emergency services or go to the hospital immediately. In the United States, a person can also contact the National Poison Control helpline on 1-800-222-1222 for advice.

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