12 Ways To Prevent Lingering Cooking Smells Before They Start

updated Aug 30, 2023
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Kitchen smells aren’t so bad when you’re actually cooking, but who wants to wake up to the smell of last night’s dinner in the kitchen? Instead of trying to remove food odors after they linger, try to prevent them from getting out into the air, your walls, or your textiles before the stench happens.

Quick Overview

How to Prevent Lingering Cooking Smells

It’s important to get rid food odors before they get into the air, walls, or textiles. There are several ways to prevent lingering cooking smells, including using a charcoal filter splatter screen while you cook or cleaning surfaces, the fridge, and trash can regularly. Read on for more ways to keep kitchen smells at bay.

Here are some suggestions for keeping kitchen smells at bay.

1. Use a charcoal filter splatter screen

Of course, any splatter screen will keep food and liquids from splashing onto your stovetop or backsplash while you cook, to play a small part in preventing smells. But this charcoal filter will also absorb cooking scents as you cook, which means both splattered tile and kitchen smells could be a thing of the past in one fell swoop.

Credit: Cat Meschia

2. Boil a vinegar-water solution on the stove

Steam is another powerful way to prevent scents in the kitchen. Ryan Nicholas, owner of Simply Clean Oxford, suggests boiling a half cup of vinegar with a cup of water in a small saucepan if you’re going to be cooking with potent ingredients. “After adding the ingredients to the saucepan, boil or simmer on the stove to produce steam, which will absorb odors in the air,” he says. “Run your stove vent to produce even better results.”

Credit: Carly Diaz

3. Simmer potpourri while you cook

Nicholas also says boiling then simmering a potpourri simmer pot of orange or lemon peels, cloves, and cinnamon sticks in water will eliminate odors during the cooking process. Similar to the vinegar solution, the steam from the potpourri will absorb smells you don’t want to spread, while the potpourri will leave a more palatable scent lingering. Aim for citrus ingredients when you can since lemon is known to cut through yucky smells.

4. Try a countertop or plug-in air purifier

Nicholas also recommends running a small, portable air purifier while you cook. It’s not only a convenient solution for deodorizing your kitchen before a scent spreads—especially smoke-related odors—it will also remove bacteria, viruses, mold, and pet dander from the air. An air purifier will help deodorize rooms that already stink, too.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Cook with a bowl of baking soda nearby

Rather than just masking smells, baking soda literally absorbs them, so it’s a good idea to keep a bowl of baking soda around when you’re making something potentially stinky—especially acidic foods like tomatoes, fish, or veggies. Since most unpleasing smells are acidic, a neutralizing agent like baking soda will balance the pH, reducing odors along the way.

6. Make sure your fridge is set to the right temperature

Most refrigerator smells can be prevented by tossing expired items, but if your fridge continues to stink, there might be a temperature issue. To keep your fridge from smelling off, make sure it’s set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Higher temps will cause your food to go bad more quickly, leading to odors.

If you suspect your fridge’s built-in thermometer might be wearing out and reading incorrectly, you can buy an inexpensive thermometer to hang from the shelves inside.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. Sprinkle some baking soda in your trash can

Baking soda is a cost-effective, odor-absorbing superhero—and it’s versatile, too. To keep your garbage from stinking up your entire kitchen after disposing of smelly foods (like fish), sprinkle some baking soda in the bottom of your trash bag before throwing anything away. (Keep baking soda in a well-labeled salt shaker to make this easy effort even more simple.) You can also put a little baking soda in a garbage bag that’s already begun to stink.

8. Drop some lemon in your garbage disposal

Hang on to your lemon rinds! Flushing lemon down your garbage disposal with other food scraps can decrease food-related smells in your sink area—plus, the oils from the lemon will cut through grease build-up in the disposal. A delicious-smelling win-win!

9. Add kitty litter to your trash can

Because it’s designed to absorb cat-related odors in a litter box, kitty litter will do the same trick in the bottom of your trash can before you put a bag in. Just make sure to replace it when it becomes damp.

Credit: Lula Poggi

10. Run your hood vent and open the windows

A big part of preventing kitchen smells is running your hood vent when you cook (especially if you’re sauteing or frying something particularly odorous on the stovetop). Since many hood vents just circulate air instead of bringing fresh air inside, it can also help to pop your windows open while you cook when the weather allows. You can also just open up windows, or even a door if you don’t have a vent.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

11. Set out a bowl of coffee grounds 

Before you toss those old coffee grounds, sniff around your kitchen. If it stinks, you can leave a bowl of coffee grounds on the counter, ideally near the source of the bad stench. Coffee is acidic, so it can help cut through unwanted smells (along with adding a better smell on top of that unwanted one). 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

12. Stay on top of cleaning 

Cleaning your kitchen isn’t just for aesthetic purposes and hygiene. Food residue, over time, can contribute to a rank-smelling space. Make a routine of cleaning out your fridge regularly and tossing any expired food. You can also scrub the inside of your trash can in case it’s harboring any lingering odors, and be sure to stay on top of cleaning out your garbage disposal, whether you use disposal tablets or toss half a lemon wedge down every so often.