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How To Get Rid Of Bad Smell In Soil

We want our home to feel fresh and clean, but a musty odor from our plant’s soil can detract from that. Everyone in the hobby has experienced a problem with a foul odor in their potting soil at some point. We do end up encountering the ever-dreaded question – how to get rid of bad smell in soil?

The smell of fresh soil is earthy and pleasant. However, a foul odor in the dirt of your indoor or outdoor plants is not normal.

The root cause of foul odor in potting soil is a lack of aeration, poor drainage, and overwatering. A bad odor in the potting mix can also be caused by improperly decomposed organic matter.

Allow the soil to dry before mixing 1/3 cup activated charcoal with four quarts of potting mix to eliminate the putrid smell.

If your soil smells bad, it could be a sign of an underlying problem that should not be ignored. Continue reading to discover how to get rid of bad smell in soil issues and what causes them before your plants suffer.

Get Rid Of The Foul Smelling Soil

The first step in removing the odor is to increase the amount of air space between the soil particles by mixing in soil amendments to take up some of that space.

Smelly soil can be remedied by mixing in soil amendments like perlite and vermiculite to improve the soil’s aeration and drainage properties.

Soil amendments would increase the air spaces between soil particles while also providing a path for water to drain freely if they were added.

The first 2 to 4 inches of soil usually have the most organic material, as well as the most microbes and bacterial activity.

This is why, in most cases, topsoil is also dark in color. A lack of oxygen in the top layer of the soil can result in a foul odor.

Dealing with stinky soil would entail removing this layer of topsoil in order to solve the problem.

Here are some simple ways to get rid of that noxious odor from your soil.

Add Activated Charcoal

Gaseous chemicals cling to the activated carbon surface until the filter surface is saturated.

Adsorption is a process that attracts and removes foul gases from the air by containing thousands of small pores within the carbon’s structure.

This is a good way to get rid of bad odors, but it won’t make them go away. The smell will return once the activated carbon has been saturated.

Take Away the Rocks

Gently till away the first few inches of topsoil with a shovel or a rake.

If you’ve dug up some rocks with your trowel, keep them in a separate container.

To compensate for the space that the stones have taken up, add more soil to the mix.

The removal of rocks will aid in the prevention of soil compaction and will open up air spaces in the soil for improved drainage.

Pull Out Old Roots

Another cause of poor drainage is the presence of dead roots in the soil. When roots are left in the soil after a harvest or growing season, they can cause drainage issues the following season.

Old roots rot and emit a foul odor into the soil. It’s critical to get rid of old roots.

You can do this with a root picker or a small shovel purchased from a gardening store. Simply dig up all of the dead roots from the soil. 

Add On Soil Amendments

Soil amendments such as perlite or vermiculite can help improve drainage and aeration in the soil. These soil amendments can help to eliminate odors from the soil.

Perlite and vermiculite are minerals that can be used as potting soil additives. They are a light material that improves soil drainage and aeration. It can also improve the structure of the soil and make it more solid.

Adding perlite, vermiculite, or sand to the potting soil will improve drainage and aeration, resulting in better drainage and reduced odor formation in the future.

Other Available Options

Don’t worry if the answers above don’t seem to work. Here are a few other options.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon has been used to make potting soil smell better. It also helps to keep fungus at bay. Aphids are killed and bugs, spiders, wasps, earwigs, and silverfish are kept at bay with the use of cinnamon oil.

Baking Soda: Baking soda has been used in indoor gardening to absorb odors and kill fungus in the soil, as well as to prevent powdery mildew, black spots, and other diseases on leaves. To avoid ion toxicity, use sparingly.

Hyssop: Hyssop’s earthy, woody scent can be used to mask odors, repel insects like vegetable mites, kill oxygen-consuming moss, and aid in the creation of aerobic soil.

Non-synthetic Zeolite: Zeolite is a non-toxic, natural substance that not only masks but also eliminates odors. Rock-formed zeolite is reusable as well.

Special Clays: Other options include clays like attapulgite and bentonite, which are known for their excellent odor-absorbing properties. Furthermore, bentonite has pesticide and disinfectant properties.

Prevent Soil From Getting Smelly

To avoid overwatering, the plant must be watered properly. Make sure the soil is dry before watering. 

Feeling the soil is the best way to water. If the soil appears to be dry, thoroughly water the plants and then allow the soil to dry before watering again.

The soil becomes too wet and slimy if the plant is overwatered, which can lead to root rot as well as pests and diseases.

After that, there’s the issue of drainage. Maybe you’re watering your plants properly and following a watering schedule.

It’s possible that the soil you’re working with lacks adequate aeration and is poorly draining. It’s also possible that the pot lacks a proper drainage system.

Check to see if the pot has a good drainage system to avoid overwatering.

Next, if the soil isn’t draining well, consider adding pumice to improve aeration.

If the soil is bad, consider repotting your plant in a newer pot with better drainage and a good potting mix.

Soil With No Smell Is Not Good Either

Soil should have a distinct odor. Odorless soil indicates the absence of rhizobacteria, endophytes, and epiphytes, all of which are beneficial to plant growth.

Something is out of balance when there is no scent at all.

Check the nutrients in your potting soil. Check your soil’s pH to see if it’s in the right range.

Understand how healthy soil appears and smells. Of course, using good soil in the first place is the only surefire way to avoid stinky soil in your indoor herb garden.

But how can you tell if you have the right soil if you’re just getting started?

What Does Healthy Soil Look Like

Good soil has a dark appearance as a result of organic matter degrading. It could also contain plant food, such as mineral fertilizers, which would be a good sign.

Avoid purchasing chemical-laden soils because they will cause far more harm than good.

There are a variety of soil mixes available, but good soil should have the following features for healthy plant growth:

Maintains Optimum Moisture Levels

Good soil will hold only the amount of water required for nutrients to move from the soil and be absorbed by the plant.

Roots cannot grow and remain healthy when the water content is too low or too high. They’d either die or develop root rot.

No Presence of Weeds

Weeds won’t grow in good soil because your plant’s roots won’t have to compete for nutrients with their own. Many different things can go into making good soil.

Good Drainage

Water quickly drains away from your plants if you have good drainage. It will also prevent roots from drowning if there is too much water.

Good Aeration

Good soil should have enough air pockets for your plant to breathe. For plants, oxygen is essential because it improves the efficiency of the respiration process.

It is also required by bacteria and other microorganisms in the soil for the conversion of organic matter into plant nutrients.

How To Make Good Soil

There are top 5 ingredients available to make good soil.

Organic Substances

The most important component of good soil is organic matter. It is in charge of retaining water and nutrients and making them available to the plant.

Decomposing bacteria in organic matter aid in the breakdown of poor-quality soil, adding valuable nutrients and improving drainage.


Compost is a very important part of your soil. It aids in water retention, improves soil drainage, and introduces beneficial bacteria into the soil. It improves the quality of your soil and keeps your plants healthy.


Gravel is a low-cost, easy-to-work-with material that improves drainage. It improves aeration in your soil and provides a good drainage structure. This promotes root growth by allowing air and light to penetrate the potting mix, encouraging the growth of healthy roots.


Sand improves soil structure, prevents drainage issues, and increases the amount of air in the potting mix. Because sand replenishes mineral nutrition in the soil, it will provide more nutrients to your plants.

This is due to the fact that sand is typically very sterile and does not hold a lot of water. Sand increases aeration and oxygen levels in the soil, allowing beneficial aerobic bacteria to break down organic matter.


Clay is an essential component in the formation of good soil. It aids in the retention of water, the supply of minerals to the plant, the improvement of drainage, and the absorption of nutrients by the plant.

Bacteria found in clay aid in the breakdown of organic matter. It is often referred to as living soil because it provides a healthy environment for the plant.

The most important thing to remember about your soil is that it must meet the needs and conditions of your plants. What is beneficial to one plant may not be beneficial to another.

Final Verdict

The anaerobic breakdown of organic material beneath the first few inches of soil can cause a foul odor. This indicates good bacterial activity, but not good drainage or aeration.

You can get rid of the smell by adding a few soil amendments to the mix. 

Adding perlite and vermiculite to your soil will aerate it while also providing pathways for water drainage, which is essential if you want your soil to stop stinking.

Adding activated carbon to the mix can also help solve the problem while you look for a better way to provide a good soil mix for your plants.


Q. Is it possible to reuse root-rotted soil?

A: Sterilize the soil before reusing it. This will ensure that no diseases or fungus grew in the soil as the roots rotted.

Q. What is the best way to sterilize root rot soil?

A: Soak the soil around your plants thoroughly and leave it to soak overnight. Because hydrogen peroxide degrades quickly when mixed with water, use the hydrogen peroxide and water mixture right away.

Q. Will bleach clean the soil?

A: If the goal is to remove harmful fungi and bacteria, bleach will sterilize the soil. But it will make the growing environment inhospitable and contaminated.

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