Fish Smell 101: How to Get Rid of Fish Smell

If you’ve ever cooked fish or seafood at home, you’ve likely later wondered how to get fish smell out of your house. It’s no secret that fish has a very distinctive odor and it’s not a pleasant one to have lingering around your kitchen or living space. 

So how do you cure your craving for all things seafood while still keeping your home smelling fresh? Here are a few tips.

How to Get Rid of Fish Smell

Why Does Fish Smell?

First, let’s start with why fish smells at all. When you cook beef or chicken, the scent usually only lingers for a few hours at the very most. So why does fish smell in your house for days and days, potentially? 

The fishy smell begins to develop as soon as a fish is caught and exposed to air, at which point a chemical process begins. The longer a fish is exposed to the air, the more it smells. 

But not all fish smell the same. There are a few factors that make some fish smellier than others. Not only will the freshness of a fish determine how smelly it is, but so will the individual species. The same above linked article notes that “fin fish, especially cold-water, surface-dwelling ocean fish” are the smelliest. That means haddock or cod are going to be smellier than freshwater salmon or trout. 

On top of this, the way you cook your fish will determine how much it smells as well. If you fry your fish, for example, you’ll notice that the scent sticks around longer than it might if you had baked your fish. 

How to Get Rid of a Fish Smell in Your House

Regardless of how your fish smell got there, though, now you've got it — so how do you get rid of it? The same article above had a few ideas.  

First, try boiling a mixture of oil and vinegar on your stovetop. The scent should, after a few minutes, make the fish smell dissipate. If you don't have any oil, Reader's Digest says you can also mix the vinegar with water, for a similar effect. If you don't quite prefer the vinegar smell to the fishy smell, you can add other scents to the mixture, such as cinnamon or lavender.

You can also use other methods of clearing your house from odors, says Den Garden, including simply opening all your windows and doors in the offending space, turning on fans and lighting a candle. Certain scents are better for masking the strong scents of fish than others, including cinnamon, as mentioned, lemon and other citrus. 

But what if the fish smell isn’t limited to just your kitchen? What if you’re not just wondering how to get rid of a fish smell after cooking, but you're looking to rid a more concentrated area of that fishy aroma?

How to Get Fish Smell Off Hands

If you’re specifically looking to get a fishy smell off your hands, there’s one easy hack to try. Just rinse your hands with toothpaste. Use it the same way you might use soap and scrub, scrub, scrub all your nooks and crannies. Toothpaste that contains baking soda is the best for this particular purpose. 

And, if your hands still smell just a tad fishy, you can also rinse your hands in lemon juice after using the toothpaste. 

How to Get Fish Smell Out of Microwaves

So let’s say you maybe cooked your fish in the microwave, and now your microwave smells like 100% fish. Delish says to rid your microwave from that fishy smell by dampening a dish towel, squeezing on a few drops of dish soap and then tossing the dish towel into the microwave. Turn your microwave on a low setting for a few minutes and let it do its thing (keeping a close eye on it all the while!). Once the microwave is off, leave it and don’t open it for at least 30 minutes. Then, open the microwave and rub the walls down with the still-warm dish cloth. 

How to Get Fish Smells Out of the Fridge 

But the fish smells don't just begin when you cook the fish. Sometimes they can linger around in your fridge, where you’ve been storing your seafood. So how do you get those fishy aromas out of your fridge, so they won’t impact any of your other food? 

MyRecipes says to mix equal parts water and vinegar and then wipe down your entire fridge. Yes, this will take some time, but if you made the mistake of leaving your fish uncovered in the fridge, this is necessary. Let your fridge dry this way for a few hours before putting everything back inside. Anything that wasn’t tightly sealed should probably be tossed, as the fish smell can permeate anything that isn’t airtight. 

No vinegar on hand? You can also use a mixture of baking soda and water the same way. 

How to Get Fish Oil Smell Out of Clothes

If that fishy scent is in your clothes after, say, frying up a batch of fish, there are similar things  you can do. The Spruce recommends mixing a cup of baking soda with warm water, then letting the clothing items soak in the mixture overnight. Afterward, wash the clothing item in your washing machine, on the hottest possible setting, and then let it air dry, preferably in sunlight. 

Stop the Fishy Smell in the First Place  

But whether you're looking for how to get rid of a fish smell on your hands or how to remove the fishy odor from your microwave, the best thing you can do is stop the fishy smell before it starts at all. 

The best way to do this is to choose fresh fish, that hasn’t had as long a time to develop that fishy odor, which comes from exposure to oxygen. Then, as you prepare your fish for cooking, wear cooking gloves, to keep the scent from your skin. When it’s time to cook, always cook your fish in a space with maximum air flow. Turn on that overhead fan in your kitchen or opt to grill your fish out on the back deck, where the open air will keep the fishy smell to a minimum.  

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