How to Get Rid of Bad Kitchen Smells for Good: 10 Professional Tips

Kitchens are prone to all sorts of odors, from food smells to mildew and mold. While some aroma in the kitchen is normal, persistent bad smells can be annoying and downright unpleasant. Luckily, there are many things professionals do to banish bad kitchen smells for good.

Here are 10 tips and tricks used by cleaning experts, chefs, and more to get rid of funky odors and keep your kitchen smelling fresh.

1. Identify and Address the Source of the Smell

The first step to permanently eliminating any bad kitchen smell is to identify and treat the source. Commonly, odors stem from:

  • Spoiled or stale food. Inspect your fridge, pantry, garbage can, etc. and throw out anything that has gone bad.
  • A dirty garbage disposal. Food particles and waste can rot in the disposal and cause bad smells. Run lemon peels and baking soda down the drain to clean and deodorize.
  • Dirty dishes. Dirty plates, pans, and utensils that sit in the sink or dishwasher can start to smell. Stay on top of your dishes by washing them right after use.
  • Mold and mildew. Check under the sink, refrigerator, cabinets, and tile grout for any mold or mildew buildup. Use a mold killer to remove it and prevent the musty smell from returning.
  • Grease buildup. Kitchen exhaust, stove vents, and ovens with grease splatter can get quite stinky. Degrease appliances regularly to avoid rancid cooking smells.

By addressing the root of the odor, you’ll be able to get rid of bad kitchen smells more effectively and for the long run.

2. Air Out the Kitchen

One of the simplest things professionals recommend to banish kitchen odors is to thoroughly air out the space.

Open windows, turn on vents or fans, and let fresh air circulate for at least 10-15 minutes everyday. This will help dissipate and ventilate lingering food smells, grease, etc.

For a quick air purge, try boiling lemon water on the stove. The circulating citrus steam helps absorb other scents.

3. Use Baking Soda

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a natural deodorizer that professionals rely on to get rid of stubborn smells.

Sprinkle baking soda into smelly drains, over trash cans, and directly onto surfaces like countertops and sinks. Let sit for several minutes before rinsing. The baking soda will help absorb and neutralize funky odors.

You can also set out bowls of baking soda around the kitchen to soak up ambient odors. Change the baking soda every few days until smells dissipate.

4. Clean with Vinegar

White vinegar is another go-to odor eliminator for professionals. Acetic acid in vinegar helps kill bacteria that causes odors and break down lingering smells.

Wipe down surfaces with undiluted white vinegar and allow to fully dry to sanitize and deodorize.

For extra cleaning power, boil a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water in a pot. Simmer for several minutes and allow the vinegar steam to permeate the kitchen.

5. Use Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is an absorbent material that effectively traps smells and toxins. Professionals often use activated charcoal filters to remove odors.

Place charcoal bags or containers around smelly spots in your kitchen. You can also put charcoal directly into air vents to filter the air.

Another option is to make a DIY charcoal fridge deodorizer. Fill an open bowl or tube sock with activated charcoal and place it in the fridge to keep odors at bay.

6. Clean the Garbage Disposal

A dirty garbage disposal is a common culprit behind bad kitchen smells. Food scraps get trapped and cause unpleasant odors.

To clean a smelly disposal, professionals recommend grinding up lemon or orange peels inside it. You can also use baking soda and vinegar. Run each down the disposal, let sit for 5-10 minutes, then rinse with hot water.

Doing this regularly keeps your disposal fresh and odor-free.

7. Wipe Out the Fridge

The refrigerator is home to many expired foods and spills that can make bad smells.

To banish odors from the fridge, take everything out and give it a deep clean. Throw away expired foods and wipe down shelves and drawers with a baking soda and water solution.

Disinfect questionable stains and spills with undiluted vinegar. A thoroughly cleaned fridge will smell as good as new.

8. Use Eco-Friendly Cleaners

Chemical-laden cleaners often just mask odors instead of removing them. Professionals use eco-friendly cleaners that actually break down and destroy smells.

Look for plant-based, non-toxic cleaners scented with pure essential oils. Lemongrass, peppermint, and tea tree oil scents help neutralize funky smells as you clean.

DIY cleaners made with vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, lemon and other natural antibacterials can get rid of odors rather than just cover them up.

9. Replace Old Kitchen Towels

Dirty kitchen towels collect bacteria and food odors over time. To keep unwanted smells away, swap out towels for fresh ones regularly.

Wash kitchen towels frequently using odor-fighting ingredients like baking soda, borax, or white vinegar in the wash cycle. This prevents lingering odors from getting reheated and redistributed in the kitchen.

Have plenty of towels on hand so you can easily grab a clean one to wipe up messes and spills. Rotating towel use helps minimize overall odor buildup.

10. Upgrade Appliance Filters

Refrigerator filters, range hood filters, and dishwasher filters are common hot spots for odors. Grease, food debris, and residue get trapped and begin to smell.

Replace old filters regularly per manufacturer instructions. Clean reusable filters with hot water and mild detergent to refresh them.

Using fresh filters means air and water circulate cleanly through kitchen appliances rather than redistribute bad smells.

Common Kitchen Odors and How to Eliminate Them

Now that you know how professionals banish bad smells for good, let’s look at some specific kitchen odors and the best ways to get rid of them.

Garbage Odors

Rotting food waste in the garbage is one of the worst kitchen smells. To deodorize the garbage can:

  • Empty the garbage frequently, at least once a week.
  • Layer the bottom with baking soda or sprinkle some inside before adding a new bag.
  • Place a piece of charcoal in the can to absorb odors between changes.
  • Use scented bags or liners infused with citrus oils to mask smells.
  • Keep the garbage can clean by washing with hot, soapy water monthly.

By actively managing your garbage, you can avoid putrid smells lingering in the kitchen.

Burnt Food Smells

The smell of burnt food like charred pans, popcorn, and oven spills can be quite stubborn. To remove burnt food odor:

  • Boil lemon water on the stovetop to help neutralize and air out smells.
  • For burnt pans, boil water and vinegar in them to loosen residue and eliminate odors.
  • Scrub ovens and microwaves with baking soda and vinegar then air out well.
  • Simmer cinnamon and cloves to overpower and replace burnt food smells with pleasant aromas.
  • Clean stovetops thoroughly after any spills or splatters to prevent odors from burning in.

With some elbow grease, you can definitely get rid of even the most severe burnt food smells.

Mold and Mildew Smells

Dampness in kitchens can lead to mold and mildew buildup that smells earthy and unpleasant. To knock out mold odors:

  • Inspect under the sink, fridge, caulk, and cabinets for any visible mold. Remove with household mold cleaner.
  • Mix tea tree oil with water in a spray bottle. Spritz onto affected areas to kill mold and bacteria.
  • Pour undiluted white vinegar over moldy surfaces and let sit overnight before scrubbing clean.
  • Setup a dehumidifier in the kitchen during wet seasons to prevent excess moisture that mold loves.
  • Keep the kitchen well-ventilated when cooking, cleaning, or washing dishes to discourage mold growth.

Attacking mold and mildew at the first sign of smells prevents them from getting out of hand.

Onion and Garlic Smells

Pungent onion and garlic smells can stubbornly linger in the kitchen. To remove them:

  • Simmer a pot of water, lemon slices, and vinegar on the stovetop to absorb oniony smells from the air.
  • Rub hands thoroughly with lemon juice after prepping onions to remove odors before they spread.
  • Place bowls of ice cubes around the kitchen as you cook – the cold air helps dissipate strong food smells.
  • Set out charcoal bags or baking soda near cutting boards and prep areas to contain garlic and onion odors.
  • Stash onion and garlic scraps in the freezer until taking out the garbage to keep smells contained.

With a few tricks, these aromatic culprits don’t have to make your whole kitchen stink.

Frequently Asked Questions About Eliminating Bad Kitchen Smells

How can I make my kitchen smell good all the time?

  • Keep up with a thorough weekly cleaning routine.
  • Take out garbage frequently.
  • Wash dishes, wipe counters, and sweep daily.
  • Use natural deodorizers like baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils.
  • Open windows regularly to circulate fresh air.
  • Fix any moisture issues to prevent mold smells.
  • Clean appliances and replace filters often.

How do you remove old food smells from kitchen cabinets?

  • Empty cabinets and wash with hot water and mild detergent.
  • Spray inside cabinets with a mix of 2 tbsp baking soda and 1 quart water. Allow to sit overnight before wiping clean.
  • Place bowls of baking soda or activated charcoal inside cabinets to continue absorbing odors.
  • Line shelves with baking soda then place fresh liner or wax paper before returning items.

What gets rid of smelly drains?

  • Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. Cover and let react for 5-10 minutes before rinsing.
  • Mix 1 cup salt with 1 gallon boiling water. Pour down the drain to disinfect and deodorize.
  • Use a wire drain brush to scrub out debris.
  • Remove drain stoppers and pipes to thoroughly clean hidden dirty spots.

How do you get bad smells out of a fridge?

  • Remove all food and shelves. Wash with baking soda solution.
  • Fill a bowl with charcoal and place in fridge to absorb odors overnight.
  • Make a baking soda and water paste. Spread onto stained areas in the fridge and let sit before scrubbing clean.
  • Boil vinegar and water solution in the fridge with door open to kill odors.
  • Replace old filters and clean condensation trays that collect smells.


While kitchens will always have their own unique scent, persistent bad smells are definitely avoidable with the right strategies. Like professionals, be diligent about addressing odor sources, cleaning with deodorizing ingredients, replacing filters, and airing out the space.

Implementing even a few of these professional tips can help banish unwanted kitchen odors for the long haul. With a little regular effort, you can keep your kitchen smelling fresh and pleasant.

Here’s to a sweet-smelling, odor-free kitchen!