Unilever logo
Cleanipedia UK logo

How to get rid of cooking smells: 13 foolproof methods

Whether it’s a hearty soup or a spicy curry, cooking smells usually start off as a welcome addition to the kitchen, but can often linger for way longer than we’d like them to. Here’s how to get rid of them.


Reading Time: 7 minutes

By Cleanipedia Team

A pan of lemon skins boiling to fragrance a musty smelling house
Cleanipedia-Mobile-Leaderboards OP2b-2 new product info and offers

Figuring out how to get rid of cooking smells can be tricky, as it really depends on what’s in the pan, pot or oven.

Luckily for you, we have some tried and tested methods and easy DIY ideas that will banish those lingering food smells for good. Whether it's Sunday’s bacon butties or Tuesday’s fish supper, these quick fixes will have your kitchen smelling sweet in no time.

How to get rid of cooking smells: 13 DIY ways to remove food smells from your kitchen

1. Let some air into the kitchen (but keep smells out of everywhere else)

It may sound obvious, but opening a window is the easiest way to get rid of kitchen smells. Doing it before you start cooking – instead of when you first notice the smell – can help, as fresh air will be already circulating.

Cleanipedia-MPU-banners OP2b new product info and offers

It’s also important to contain the smells, lest the pong spread around the house. Fabric readily absorbs odours, so if you don’t want your kitchen curtains smelling like fried chips or curry for the rest of the week, keep doors to other rooms closed.

2. Remove food smells with bicarbonate of soda

Is there anything bicarbonate of soda – aka baking soda – can’t do? We love using baking soda for cleaning, but did you know that it’s also a natural deodoriser? You can simply leave out a bowl containing a few tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda near the cooking space and it will soak up all those strong smells.

The Poll

When buying dishwasher tablets, which of these is most important to you?

0 Votes

You could take things one step further and make your own DIY air freshener by mixing a few tablespoons of bicarb with some water and a few drops of your favourite essential oil and putting it on the hob on low. Top tip: Bicarbonate of soda can also get rid of smells in places like the microwave – just mix two tablespoons of bicarb with one cup of water and place uncovered in a microwave-safe container. Run it on high for 3-4 minutes then simply wipe down afterwards.

3. Neutralise stubborn odours with coffee

Got some grounds that are a little too past it to brew? Place a small bowl of unbrewed coffee grounds near cooking areas and they will help neutralise strong smells.

4. Get rid of cooking smells by boiling lemons

Another DIY kitchen cleaning hero, lemons can be used for all sorts of kitchen cleaning, but their fresh, citrus aroma is great for clearing the air after a big cooking session.

If you’ve used lemons in your cooking, this can be a great way to put the leftover bits to use: just pop a lemon half or quarters into a pot of boiling water and bring to a low simmer. For extra smell-elimination, add a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to the mix first. Lemons are also great at removing strong food odours from your hands – just squeeze some juice over your hands, rub and rinse.

5. Use potatoes to absorb bad smells

Potatoes not only taste great, but are naturally absorbent and can therefore act as an all-natural kitchen smell remover. Try placing diced potatoes with sea salt on top of your pots and pans, leaving for two hours to soak up any unwanted odours.

6. Light a chef’s candle (or any candle)

A great way to get rid of smells without introducing any new ones is to burn a chef’s candle. Designed specifically to eliminate food smells, if you light it just before you start cooking it can seriously reduce the amount of odours that build up.

Alternatively, you can burn regular scented candles once you’re done cooking – citrus, herbal (think mint) and clean scents (like linen or cotton) all work great in kitchen spaces.

7. Clean as you go to tackle curry smells

The key to figuring out how to get rid of curry smells lies in understanding that often those lingering aromas aren’t actually coming from the pot, but from other areas in the kitchen. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after prepping (or use our lemon method above), pop the lids back on any spice jars immediately after using them, soak chopping boards once you’re done with them and wipe down countertops with an odour-neutralising spray.

Curry smells love to hang around, so it’s especially important to keep doors to other areas in the home closed while cooking and to make sure to wash or at least soak any pots and pans used while they’re still warm.

Curry left in the pan can burn and start to smell too – check out our guide to cleaning burnt pots and pans for tips on how to get them sparkling again.

Cleaning as you go is also important when dealing with dairy products, as these deteriorate fast. Stinky milk smell getting you down? Whether it’s on a carpet, sofa or bed, our tips on how to get rid of the smell of spilt milk will help if you sort it, and fast.

8. Master how to get rid of kitchen smells by tackling the sink

Sometimes, it’s not what’s in the pot, but what’s been poured down the sink that’s the problem. If your sink is emitting unpleasant odours, boil some water in the kettle and pour it directly down the plughole. You’ll be surprised how often this is all that’s needed to clean away stinky stuff in the pipes.

Still getting a pong? Pour 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda down the plughole followed by two cups of vinegar. The resulting chemical reaction will cause it all to bubble up. Leave for a couple of minutes before following up with some very hot water, either from the kettle or straight from the tap.

9. Reduce fish smells by cleaning as you go

The prospect of the lingering fish odours can put you off the idea of cooking fish entirely. But there are a few things you can do to reduce the smell. The easiest is to make sure your fish is fresh – fish should smell like the sea and nothing else. For tips on how to remove fish smells from your hands, your fridge and your house, check out our in-depth guide to getting rid of the smell of fish.

10. Say so long to bad smells with a simmer pot

Replace unpleasant odours with something lovelier by having a simmer pot ready to go. Scents like cinnamon, clove and citrus work well, making this a great method to try during winter months. Just pop a few whole spices and some orange peel into a bowl and bring to a gentle simmer.

11. Get your fridge fresh

If you haven’t been keeping on top of leftover food or just haven’t cleaned it for a while, the whiffs when you open the fridge door can be pretty unpleasant. But have no fear: there are a few ways you can get rid of fridge smells naturally.

Try soaking a few cotton wool balls in vanilla extract and leaving them in a bowl or container inside the fridge. The smell of citrus more your thing? Halve a lemon, put it face down in a bowl for a few days and it will act as a great fridge odour absorber.

It’s also important to stay on top of the cleaning. As well as giving your fridge a regular clean, fresh food spills should be wiped up immediately. For more, check out our tips on how to remove bad smells from a fridge or follow our essential fridge cleaning tips.

12. Banish bad bin smells for good

If you’re binning any leftover food or cooking residue, put the bin bag into your outdoor wheelie bin as soon as possible as it will start to smell, and fast.

Always make sure your bin lid is shut properly after you put waste in it and clean your bin regularly using antibacterial products like Cif Antibacterial Multi-Purpose Spray. If bad bin smells are a common occurrence, try lining the bottom of the bin with newspaper to soak up any leaks from the bin liner, then sprinkle with baking soda to neutralise smells.

13. Get rid of fry smell with vinegar

To eliminate the lingering aroma of frying food or cooking oil, make sure to follow our tips on ventilation and cleaning as you go. If that hasn’t done the tick, bring one cup of water and one tablespoon of vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. That should act as a deodoriser, but you might want to follow up by burning a nice scented candle, as though vinegar is a powerful natural cleaner, its smell isn’t always what you’d like to linger.

Originally published