14 Ways To Get Rid Of Pesky Fish Smells In Your House After Cooking

Fish is a healthy and delicious dinner, but sometimes the catch of the day (or at least its odor) can overstay its welcome. If your house smells like fish for days after cooking, you aren’t alone. It’s just one of those smells that likes to hang around.

Why Does Fish Cause an Unpleasant Smell in the Kitchen?

Fish and other ocean creatures can be notoriously smelly, thanks to a chemical called trimethylamine (TMA). To maintain the right balance of fluids and salts from ocean water, marine life rely on trimethylamine oxide and similar amino acids.

Unfortunately, TMA happens to hit humans right in one of our sensitive factory receptors in the lining of our nose. We tend to find this smell disagreeable probably because it’s often emitted by rotting organic material. When the chemicals inside a fish’s body are exposed to the air a process called carboxylation begins. Enzymes called amine are released in this process and the fish’s own cells break things down and discharge the TMA chemical – and the smell.

Which Types of Fish Smell the Least?

Here are a few things to consider when purchasing a fish, if you are looking to avoid the fishy odor.

  • Fresh fish will smell and taste the least fishy
  • Freshwater and anadromous fish (fish that migrate from freshwater where they hatch to the ocean where they spend most of their lives before returning to freshwater to spawn) smell less fishy than 100% saltwater fish due to the absence of TMA
  • Bypass bottom feeders, like catfish, to avoid a “muddy” odor

Therefore, a fresh anadromous (salmon) or freshwater (trout) will be the best option to avoid fish odor. However, most of us love to experiment with different types of seafood.

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How to Get Fish Smells Out of the House

A lot of people enjoy fish but don’t want the smell of fish lingering in their house. There are a few steps that you can take to keep your house from smelling like fish. 

Fresh is Best

The best and most important, first step is to buy fresh fish. The best tasting fish that will have the least odor is a fish you catch yourself. If that’s not possible, we recommend you buy your fish close to the source. The shorter the supply chain, the fresher the wish will be.

Get Rid of Fish Smell During Prep

There are a few things that you can do to prevent a fish from smelling before you start cooking. Keep the fish in its original packaging until you’re ready to cook it. This will help keep the fish fresh and prevent the spread of any odor it may have. Keep a box of baking soda, activated charcoal, or another odor absorber in your fridge while storing the fish; this can help absorb any odors that may come through the packaging.

When you are ready to cook it there are few steps you can take to reduce the smell.

  • TMA can can be rinsed off the surface of the fish with tap water
  • Soak the fish in milk for about 20 minutes. The casein in the milk bonds with the TMA and extracts some of it, therefore reducing the fish odor.
  • Rub an acidic ingredient like lime, lemon, or vinegar on top of the fish.

Acids and milk are both great odor absorbents. They work similarly to baking soda and charcoal, only you can apply them directly to the fish. If you cook fish often, it’s good to have some lemon juice or vinegar on hand for some of those stronger smelling fish.

But how does lemon juice reduce the fishy odor? The citric acid from lemons neutralizes the amines from fish by converting them into perfectly healthy salts that will not be airborne like the amines.

If you purchase fresh seafood and don’t plan on cooking it within three days of purchase you should freeze it. This will maintain the freshness of the seafood and keep it from developing a fishy odor.

Keep Fish from Smelling While Cooking

Applying heat to fish will release its odor. Inevitably, cooking with fish is going to cause your kitchen to smell a little fishy. However, there are a few cooking techniques that you can use to keep the smell from spreading.

  • Make a pouch. Wrapping your fish in parchment paper or foil will help seal the smell and prevent it from enveloping your entire house. Additionally, it will help infuse the fish with whatever other ingredients you included in your pouch.
  • Try poaching your fish. Cooking your fish in simmering water will help trap the TMA in the liquid. Using milk as the liquid of choice is especially beneficial as it’s great for trapping the smell and leaves you with a flaky, creamy fish.
  • Always cook your fish with maximum air flow. Turn on that overhead fan in your kitchen.
  • Grill your fish. Cooking your fish outside will prevent the fishy smell from ever entering your house.
  • Wear gloves while preparing your fish to prevent the smell from sticking to your hands.

No matter what you do, your house will have a little hint of fish smell after cooking with it. However, if you use the above methods, you should be able to reduce the smell.

Cleaning Up Any Lingering Fish Smells

While the smell of cooking fish can be pleasant, the stale fishy aroma in the air when you’re finished can definitely be unpleasant. Here are some things you can do to minimize fishy smells after preparing and cooking fish.

Get Rid of Fish Odor with Vinegar

There’s no doubt about it, vinegar is pretty useful stuff. But did you know it can blast away fish odors? It’s really easy, too. Just add a quarter cup of white vinegar to two cups of water and boil it in a pan on your stove. The acid will neutralize the fish scent and leave everything nice and fresh.

Get Some Air Flowing

If it’s super hot or cold outside, no one wants to open a window. Still, getting rid of a fish odor is way easier with a little airflow. Start by cracking the window in your kitchen or dining room and turning on the vent fan over your stove. If you need to, you can always bring in a plug-in fan to really get things moving. You’ll be surprised how quickly this works to clean out the fishy smell.

Embrace Essential Oils

Have some essential oils handy? They can be a quick way to eliminate fish odors. You can put a few drops in a pot of boiling water on the stove, or add some to a diffuser if you have one. Lavender is a good bet, as well as any of your citrus choices.

Boil citrus Peels to Get Rid of Fish Smells

Citrus has some serious superpowers (anyone who has ground up a lemon in a stinky, garbage disposal knows what we are talking about). Peel an orange, lemon, or lime and boil the zests in a pot of water on your stove. Leave simmering on low for a few hours. The citrus will chase off that smell in no time.

Leave Out a Cup of Coffee Grounds

Coffee isn’t just for waking you up, it also eliminates odors. If that fishy smell won’t go away, pour a handful of coffee grounds into a cup and leave it in the smelly room. The coffee grounds will suck the fishy smell from the air and mask it with a bold scent.

Get Rid of the Smell Source ASAP

We cannot stress this enough! As soon as you are done enjoying your meal, you should immediately get rid of all the smell sources and clean your surfaces with a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice.

We suggest tightly wrapping and refrigerating any leftovers. Wash the dishes and utensils you used for serving and cooking. Take out the trash if it is filled with fish carcasses.

Getting rid of the odor source and cleaning up your kitchen as quickly as possible will reduce the fish smell significantly.

Wash Your Dish Towels

Fabrics can hold odors longer than other surfaces. If you cleaned your kitchen from head to toe, took out the trash, used a deodorizer and still smell fish, it could be because it’s on your kitchen towels. Swap out and wash your dish towels regularly to prevent lingering odors in your kitchen.

Light a Candle

Masking fishy odors can be as easy as lighting a few candles around the house. Candles don’t necessarily eliminate odors, but they can help disguise the smell for a short period of time. Use this method with another method that eliminates odors for the best results.

Bake Something Tasty

Not that you need an excuse to make something delicious for dessert, but we’re actually giving you the perfect reason right now. Cooking something else pushes out the fish scent and replaces it with yumminess instead. Go for a baked dessert, like pie, cookies, or cake so the scent has a chance to spread through your kitchen. Hello brownies, goodbye fish.

Wash Your Hands With Toothpaste

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 use soap and scrub all your nooks and crannies. Toothpaste that contains baking soda is the best for this particular purpose. And if your hands still smell a tad fishy, you can also rinse your hands in lemon juice after using the toothpaste.

Additional Tips to Get Rid of the Fish Smell in Your Kitchen

  • Hang a wet towel near the stove or oven while your fish cooks. Wet towels are great at absorbing fishy smells.
  • Place a slice of apple in the pan you’ll use to cook the fish. You can also place it in the oil as the fish cooks. Apples are excellent for absorbing fish smells.
  • To reduce the smell of fish, place around 8 to 10 mint leaves in the pan when cooking. This can help prevent the smell from overtaking the house. 
  • If your oven smells foul after baking, add 3 to 4 drops of vanilla essence in a cup of water. Let the cup heat slowly in the oven. Within minutes, your oven will smell fresh.

How to Eliminate All the Fuss and Smells of Preparing Seafood at Home

Everyone deserves a night off from cooking and what better way to kick back and relax than enjoying a delicious seafood meal at the Black Marlin Bayside Grill. You don’t have to worry about shopping, prepping, seasoning, cooking, or cleaning up afterward.

Fish tastes a whole lot better than the smell it can leave behind. A fishy, unpleasant smell can linger in your home, depending on how the fish is prepared. We’ve armed you with the tools to reduce the odor but keep in mind when you dine at the Black Marlin Bayside Grill, this isn’t the case. You don’t need to open a window, boil vinegar, or burn any candles. Leave it to the pros at the Black Marlin and you’ll have a clean smelling house while enjoying a wide variety of seafood options (the freshest seafood on Hilton Head Island) and the added bonus of all the health benefits that seafood provides.