How to Get Lingering Food Smells Out of Your House

Elisa Greenberg
Written by Elisa Greenberg
Updated September 6, 2022
A father and daughter cook
Photo: bernardbodo / Adobe Stock

Smells of fish, fried foods, and bacon—be gone!

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You set the table, poured the wine, and served a delicious seafood meal to your guests. After an eventful evening, you wake up the following day to a fishy smell coming from the kitchen. Don’t worry; it happens to the best of us. Here’s how to get bad food smells out of the houseand ensure your kitchen (and whole house) is fresh and clean again.

1. Turn on the Range Hood

The range hood over your stove can help remove smoke while searing a steak, but it also functions to remove odors while you’re cooking. Turn the exhaust fan in your range hood on to help minimize smells while making something particularly pungent, so there’s no worry about the lingering scent of dinner.

2. Open Your Windows

Before you begin cooking a dish with pungent ingredients, open your windows to circulate fresh air. If you forget this step while preparing or serving your meal, open your windows the next day (weather permitting) and use a fan to push the potent air outside. 

3. Use a Charcoal Splatter Screen

Splatter screens are handy for preventing grease from popping and dirtying your stove and counters. So why not upgrade to a charcoal splatter screen, which is available for about $20 at major retailers? This handy kitchen tool has a charcoal filter that helps absorb cooking odors before they can spread across the house.

4. Clean the Kitchen Quickly

After hosting and toasting, the last thing you want to do is clean your kitchen. But if you let dishes pile up in the sink and allow splashed food to stay on your countertops and appliances, you’ll have to endure a not-so-sweet fragrance the next day. So, grab your gloves and scrub out the smell right away. Follow our ultimate kitchen-cleaning checklist to keep foul odors away.

5. Bake or Boil Lemons

Lemons are a workhorse in the kitchen. They brighten savory or sweet dishes, help with cleaning, and they can make the kitchen smell incredibly fresh. To neutralize strong odors, bake lemons in the oven or boil them on the stovetop for about 10 minutes.

6. Leave Out a Bowl of Baking Soda or White Vinegar

You can clean your whole house with baking soda and vinegar, so it stands to reason that these ingredients are powerful enough to push out smells of this morning’s bacon or the burnt popcorn from movie night. Fill a bowl or jar with baking soda or white distilled vinegar, and leave it by the stove or on the counter overnight to eliminate odors.

7. Make a Stovetop Potpourri

A closeup of stovetop potpourri
Photo: AmberLaneRoberts / iStock / Getty Images

Stovetop potpourri is popular in the fall and winter to bring a cozy, festive aroma to your home. But you can whip up a potpourri recipe any time of the year to remove foul odors. Try the following:

  • Fill a pot with water.

  • Add citrus, apples, pears, cranberries, split vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, herbs, and spices. 

  • Bring the mixture to a boil.

  • Turn down the heat and let it simmer for as long as you’d like.

  • Be sure to add more water as needed.

8. Put Out Coffee Beans

A woman smells coffee beans
Photo: PeopleImages / E+ / Getty Images

You know when you’re making breakfast, and all you can smell is the coffee you’re brewing? There’s a reason for that. The nitrogen in coffee can neutralize other odors. Place bowls of coffee beans or ground coffee around your kitchen or even in your fridge to remove old food smells, a great tip to have a fresh fridge.

9. Deodorize the Trash Can

Sometimes, the smells emitting from your kitchen aren’t from cooking but from a trash can that needs cleaning. Even trash cans with lids can get overwhelmingly smelly if not cleaned regularly. To de-stink a trash can, clean it with soap and water or a multipurpose cleaner. You can also place dryer sheets, kitty litter, or baking soda at the bottom of the trash can to absorb foul smells.

10. Drop a Lemon Slice in the Garbage Disposal

Another common source of kitchen stink is your garbage disposal. You can’t exactly stick your hand down there to clean it, so how can you get rid of old, lingering food smells? Lemons come to the rescue again. Try the following steps:

  • Toss a small slice of lemon or pieces of lemon peels into the garbage disposal.

  • Run the disposal until the lemon pieces are ground up. The citric acid can help remove any stuck-on food, and the lemon scent will overpower smelly food odors. 

11. Hire a House Cleaning Pro

If the stinky smell persists and you’ve already tried all the above steps, it’s time to consider hiring a local house cleaner. They have the know-how and the tools to deep clean your kitchen so you can enjoy cooking without worrying about the smelly aftermath.

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