Posted on: May 24, 2008 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 11

If you’ve ever been to a high-end fish market before, you may have noticed that the place smells absolutely clean. You won’t detect a hint of spoiled fish, days-old seafood, or anything that smells of rotten food. By the time you get the fresh fish home after a long drive from the fish market, the fish starts to rot and smell bad. When fresh fish starts to smell really fishy, people won’t make a beeline for the kitchen or the dinner table.

The smell of aging and rotting fish is very unappealing, even for those who like fish a lot. The smell can come from preparing fish, or improper storage of fresh fish. Fish smells can also come from preserving or fermenting fish. If you have a problem with this stench in your kitchen, here are some ways to get rid of it.

Why Do Fish Smell?

Fish are among the most delicate ingredients available on the market. Once fresh fish is pulled out of its natural habitat, it starts to die, rot, and stink. All meats rot and decay eventually, but fish is very delicate and does not keep well unless preserved or fermented.

Fishmongers try their best to keep fish from smelling bad by packing them in wet salt, ice, or keeping them alive in aquariums or holding tanks (In case you want to build from scratch, learn how to build a fish tank). By the time you take the fish home, though, you only have a very short window of time before it starts to stink. Fresh fish needs to be prepared and consumed as soon as possible.

Use Separate Cutting Boards

Fresh fish tastes very good, but you can run the risk of cross-contamination to or from other foods. Fresh fish, along with other meats, can harbor harmful bacteria like salmonella and other parasites. If you prepare fish at home, you need three separate cutting boards:

  • One for vegetables, fruits, and other fresh produce
  • One for meats like pork and beef
  • One for chicken and fish.

The cutting board you use to prepare fish should not be used to cut other ingredients. To keep the odor from making its way to your other cutting boards, you should store your fish-cutting board in a separate drawer or rack from your other cutting boards.

Wash With Hot Soapy Water

Hot running water and a lot of soap are your best bet against fishy smells. Not only does soap get rid of the offensive odor, but it can also kill harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. Fish odors carry more than a putrid smell; they also carry potentially toxic microorganisms that can make their way into your body and make you sick.

Here are some tips to make washing more effective:

  • Use antibacterial detergent. Ordinary detergent works fine, but it may not be able to kill the germs and bacteria that come with the slime, water, and fish odors. Use antibacterial detergent if it’s available. If you don’t have antibacterial detergent, add a bit of alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to your detergent to give it antibacterial properties.
  • Keep the water running. Keeping the hot water tap turned on may sound like a waste of water, but it’s more expensive to take your family and dinner guests to the hospital. As much as possible, use hot running water when you wash your hands and your cooking utensils to remove all the bacteria and the fishy smells.
  • Sanitize your boards. Don’t forget to sanitize your boards after you have prepared the fish. Cutting boards can still harbor nasty bacteria and odors no matter how well you clean them. A capful of ordinary household bleach works best for sanitizing your chopping boards. Don’t forget to rinse your boards well before storing them.

Use Kitchen Ingredients

Some common ingredients from your kitchen can also help remove fish smells:

  • Lemons. Lemons are not only great for cooking; they can also help remove the stinky fishy smell on your hands when you prepare fish. A couple of halves of lemons soaked in water make for a great way to rinse your hands after preparing fish. You can also use lemon wedges and lemon juice as an ingredient to help enhance the flavor of the fish, and remove unappealing odors and flavors while cooking it.
  • Baking soda. Plain baking soda can help take away not only the slimy residue when you prepare fish, but can also help remove odors. It also helps to keep an open box of baking soda inside your refrigerator or freezer compartment if you store fresh fish.
  • Vinegar. Like lemons, vinegar is a great way to remove fishy smells from your hands when you handle or prepare fresh fish. Cane vinegar is OK, but it’s best to use distilled white vinegar for washing your hands. You can also add vinegar to some fish dishes to remove the fishy odor and taste.

Store Fish Properly

Fresh fish has a very short shelf life. To get the freshest flavor and to prevent foul odors, you must use fresh fish as soon as you take it out from the water or buy it from the fish market. If you do need to store fresh fish and keep it tasting fresh, you need to wrap it in a few layers of cling wrap and store it in a freezer. Don’t pack the fish in water, or else you’ll just end up with slimy, stinky fish. Fillets spoil easily, so you need to use them quickly (Learn how to filet a fish). Fish heads spoil relatively slowly, and can be used for stock and broth.

Stinky Fish That Taste Good

Believe it or not, many dishes from all over the world are made from stinky fish parts. While they stink, they taste really good and are a perfect accompaniment to many dishes. Here are some of them:

  • Garum was a fish sauce that came from Ancient Rome. It was made from the crushed, fermented innards of eel and tuna, and soaked in brine. Garum was a very important part of Ancient Roman cuisine, and was eaten by commoners and elites alike.
  • Bagoong is a kind of fish paste that is used all over the Philippines. It is made from salted and fermented small fish like anchovies and bonnet-mouth fish. Bagoong is a very salty dish that is often used to give a deep, full-bodied flavor to many vegetable dishes. A by-product of bagoong is patis, or fish sauce.
  • Kusaya is a Japanese food famous all over the world for its taste as well as its odor. Kusaya is dried fish soaked in brine. In feudal Japan where salt was once used to pay taxes, brine was used and reused to save on taxes. Kusaya is considered a very healthy and nutritious dish.

A lot of things smell fishy, but none have the same powerful odor as stinking, rotting fish. Cooking, preparing and storing fish does not have to stink up your kitchen. With these simple hints and tricks to get that stinky smell of fish out of your home, you never have to put up with that rotten fish smell ever again. If you enjoy reading this article, you’ll surely enjoy reading how to get rid of refrigerator smells.

11 People reacted on this

  1. I have two cats and have tried everything. I recently found an amazing new product called Room Shocker. It not only took the urine smell out but it also helped with my husband’s allergies. It seems that it completely purifies the air and eliminates any severe bad odors right at the source. I ordered it online from a website called BiocideSystems.com. The best part was I didn’t have to scrub anything. Very low maintenance just leave it in a room for a few hours, come back and the smell is gone!

    This product seems to work well for all severe bad odors.

  2. During the hurricane we accidently left fish in the fridgerator and the power was out for 2 weeks, now the entire house smells like fish. I completly cleaned out top and bottom of the fridgerator but its been 2 days and the smell isn’t fading. I have all the windows open, all my fans going. I don’t know what else to do, please help!!!!!!

  3. the guy i,m seeing cooks alot of fish when you ender the house it smells like fish and it takes your breath. WHAT CAN HE DO ABOUT THAT TO GET THAT SMELL OUT OF HIS HOUSE HELP!!!!!!!!

  4. My mom taught me this tip that really works. When I am cooking fish, I get a small sauce pan and put a couple of cups of water in it with a couple tablespoons of vanilla (artificial vanilla is cheaper and still works). Then I boil this on the stovetop as I am preparing or cooking fish. I don’t know why it works but you won’t smell the fish during or after. You don’t need a lot of the mixture, just enough to keep it boiling and the vapours rising as you’re cooking. I usually keep it boiling a bit after I’m finished cooking just to be safe.

  5. I fish a lot! And my wife not only complains about me fishing all the time, but the way everything smells!! We found a product that actually eliminates the fish smell. I spray What Odor? in my boat and around my cleaning station to get rid of the fish smell. My wife is still mad that I fish all the time, but she doesn’t have to smell it any more!!

  6. Defishing soap… and it got the cigarette, and onion smell off too.
    attracts fish before baiting the hook wash your hands, and i can kiss hubby again too

  7. my mam cooked a fish and now my house is like a aquarium coz it reeks of fish
    how could i get rid of it?

  8. Anyone have dishes that smell fishy or like worms after being washed in the dishwasher?

    I have battled this problem for years and tried numerous things in order to get rid of it. At this point, I am somewhat confident that it comes from putting pre-rinsed or dirty dishes into the dishwasher and closing the door. This creates a very humid environment, thus smell fishy even after washing. Now I leave my dishwasher open about 6 inches so that air can circulate allowing the water to evaporate more quickly. So far no problems. Hope this helps anyone else having this problem.

  9. I used kumquats and it worked. I got fishy hands because of fish oil. I tried to cut in half so i dont have to swallow whole…

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