5 Must-Have Tips to Remove Pesky Fish Smells (And Prevent Them Later)

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated April 19, 2022
A woman using digital tablet while cooking salmon
Photo: filadendron / E+ / Getty Images

Don’t let lingering fish odor keep you from enjoying a fabulous dinner

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If the smell from your Friday fish fry is going into next Wednesday, don’t fret. You’ll want to use our five tips next time to get ahead of the odor elimination and stop your home from smelling like it’s under the sea. 

1. Clean Your Fishy Mess Right After Dinner

After a fish dinner, there isn’t time to let pots and pans soak or have a leisurely glass of wine. If you don’t want to wake up reminded of last night’s salmon, you’ll need to clean your kitchen ASAP. You can use your go-to cleaning solutions, but a spray bottle filled with a 1-to-1 solution of white distilled vinegar and water will give you an extra bump of odor-removing power. Start cleaning with these steps: 

2. Maximize Your Airflow 

You need strong airflow to get the fishy smell out of the house and to bring fresh air inside. 

  • Open the windows.

  • Use the over-the-range exhaust fan and ceiling fans to circulate the air. 

  • Use portable floor and countertop fans to create more air movement. 

3. Introduce More Techniques to Fight That Fish Smell

Boiling lemons in a pot
Photo: nzfhatipoglu / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Fish smells are intense, so you’ll probably need to plan a couple of rounds of odor removal after cleaning your kitchen. Layering a few solutions will help you get rid of the odor faster. You might even need to repeat some techniques the next day. 

  • Boil water on the stove and simmer cinnamon sticks, lemon or orange peels, and ground ginger. 

  • Fill a bowl of white distilled vinegar and leave it on the counter to absorb the smell in the air. 

  • Place a bowl of baking soda in the oven or microwave to soak up the odor. Keep the doors closed for a day or two. 

  • Spray a fabric freshener on any porous surface, like carpets, seat cushions and curtains. 

  • Diffuse essential oils (like citrus) in other rooms of the house.

  • Spray a canned aerosol odor eliminator in the air. 

  • Bake brownies or cookies to replace the fish smell with a sweet one.

4. Plan Preventive Measures for Your Next Fish Dinner

There’s science behind the reason fish smells are overpowering. When it hits the air, the natural breakdown of acid and fat compounds—especially trimethylamine oxide’s (TMAO) conversion to trimethylamine (TMA)—causes the stench. If you prepare, you can get ahead of the reaction and reduce the fish smell intensity and the hours it lingers. 

  • Only buy and prepare fresh fish. 

  • Purchase less smelly fish like Pacific cod, tilapia, and sole.

  • Rinse the raw fish in cold water to get rid of TMA. 

  • Soak raw fish in milk for 20 minutes. Milk casein proteins help reduce TMA odor.

  • Use lemon in fish dishes. It reacts with TMA to cut down on the smell. 

  • Cook fish in foil or parchment paper. 

  • Don’t forget to use hood vents, open windows, and turn on fans. 

  • Shut interior doors to bedrooms and living spaces to control the odor flow. 

  • Cook fish outside whenever possible. 

5. Bring in the Pros 

Sometimes, you need professional help to combat lingering fish odor, especially if your pescatarian family eats fish often. For example, if you find that your over-the-range exhaust fans or ceiling fans aren’t up to par, you may need to call a local electrician. Or, consider hiring a top-rated home cleaning service to deep clean your kitchen and appliances.

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