5 Tips to Remove Kitchen Odors

By: the Editors of Publications International, Ltd. & Rachael Schultz

Is something stinking up your kitchen?
Is something stinking up your kitchen?
©iStockphoto.com/Angela Ollison

The dishes are clean, the counter's wiped down, and table settings are in order. Your kitchen looks perfect enough for a magazine to come in and photograph. But what would the photographer say as she stepped inside and took a deep breath?

If you have odors lingering in the air from last night's dinner, you're not alone. The first step to getting smells out of your kitchen is finding the culprit. It's not always as easy as pinpointing the trash can or the leftover Chinese food in the fridge, but you can usually find it if you just follow your nose until you cringe.


Even once you find the smelly criminal, though, you're put to task on how to clean it. Unfortunately, the tried and true, soap-and-sponge method doesn't always live up to its squeaky-clean reputation when scrubbing away at a wooden cutting board or plastic containers.

You'll need a tougher method to get those odors out of your kitchen -- but don't worry, tougher doesn't always mean more expensive. Try our 5 tips to easily kick odors out of your kitchen without breaking your piggy bank -- or your back. We'll start with the fridge.

5: Refrigerator

Do you suffer through warm drinks just because you can't stand the smell when you open the freezer to get ice? Do you cook only dry goods out of the pantry because you have to hold your breath every time you open the fridge? If your refrigerator or freezer has taken on some not-so-pleasant odors, it's probably time for a good cleaning. First, check all the bottles, containers and foods and toss out any that are beyond their "use by" date -- sometimes that's enough to cure a stink problem.

If not, thoroughly wipe down the walls, shelves and other surfaces inside the fridge with a damp sponge sprinkled with baking soda. Finally, rinse and wring out the sponge, moisten it with white vinegar and wipe down the rubber seals and any other areas in the fridge that are prone to mildew growth.


4: Trash Odors

Your fridge smells weird, so you vanquish those odors by throwing out old leftovers, and the kitchen's scent soon returns to normal. You feel confident at your ability to stay on top of a smelly kitchen until you wake up the next morning, sleepy-eyed, and make the mistake of opening the trash can lid. Who needs coffee when you have the smell of old leftovers or last night's dinner to knock you back?

No worries; this is an easy fix. To mask odors from trash, place fresh lemon or orange peels in the bottom of your garbage pail. To kill two birds with one stone, clean up the peel from the orange packed in the kids' lunchbox by tossing it under the bag instead of inside one! That way, you're cleaning up while also deodorizing! Replace as needed to keep the container smelling sweet.


3: Smelly Fish

There's a reason lingering smells are stereotypically represented by a fish swimming through the air in your kitchen: The odor of cooking your aquatic entrée may last after all the leftovers are gone.

Help absorb the odor of fish during cooking by setting out a small glass bowl or shallow glass dish of bleach. Place the bowl in an out-of-the-way spot on a counter or table in the kitchen so that you won't knock into it and splash the bleach onto your clothes or into food. Also, be sure it's out of the reach of kids and pets.


Then, when you're washing up after the meal, carefully pour the bleach down the kitchen drain to deodorize it too.

2: Plastic Containers

You get an A+ for saving leftovers and using reusable containers, but, unfortunately, all your hard work to avoid waste can leave you with smelly Tupperware. You may think the container's near the end of its life because no amount of washing will get the smell of chopped onions out, but don't be so quick to toss it.

A good way to remove stubborn food odors from plastic containers without spending a penny is to crumple a piece of newspaper into the clean, dry container, secure the lid tightly and leave it until morning. Then remove the paper, and the odor will go with it.


1: Wooden Kitchenware

Adorning your kitchen with wooden bowls, spoons and salad tongs can give the room a natural and organic feel. On the other hand, it'll be a dead giveaway that you're not in a serene forest when your woodenware makes your kitchen smell like the dinner it helped spoon out -- it seems unlikely that chicken a la king or beef stew occur anywhere in nature.

Because wood is so porous, woodenware can be hard to clean, but it doesn't have to be. Get rid of odors on wooden bowls, wooden salad utensils and wooden cutting boards by simply rubbing the surface with the cut side of a lemon. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!


Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.