The Natural Ingredient That Will Banish A Fishy Smell From Your Kitchen

Imagine cooking grilled salmon, fish pie, or baked tilapia while waiting for your guests to arrive. The food looks great, the house is clean, and you're ready to enjoy a cozy evening with your family and friends. There's one problem, though: your home, especially the kitchen, smells like fish. You spray some room freshener or light a scented candle, but nothing works. Believe it or not, the solution is easier than you think — and all you need is a bit of lemon juice.

Lemon, vinegar, and other acidic foods neutralize the compounds that give fish its distinct smell. The explanation is pretty simple. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 96% of the water on Earth is saline. For example, ocean water is around 3% salt by weight (per the American Society for Nutrition). Like humans, ocean fish need to maintain a proper fluid balance to survive, but excessive salt can disrupt this delicate balance. That's why they produce certain amino acids and amines, two classes of compounds that help them metabolize salt water.

One of these substances is trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), which changes into trimethylamine (TMA) when fish are killed. This chemical reaction results in that pungent odor we're all familiar with. Lemon juice and other acidic ingredients reduce TMA's potency, dissipating the smell.

Get rid of stubborn fish smells with lemon juice

The American Society for Nutrition explains that lemon causes TMA to bind to water, neutralizing fish odors. All you need to do is add lemon wedges or juice to the fish while cooking. Not only will this trick eliminate the odor, but it will also make your home smell better. Similarly, you can rub half a lemon on the fish before cooking it. And if you're concerned about your breath, squeeze some lemon juice onto the fish before serving.

Vinegar has similar effects, but since its flavor is more potent than lemon, you may not want to use it in your recipes. You could mix 3 tablespoons of white vinegar and 1 cup of water and then boil it in a small pan. Vinegar's odor will neutralize that fishy smell in your kitchen and dissipate over the next few hours. You can also leave a cup of vinegar on your kitchen counter to eliminate cooking smells. What makes it so effective is its content of acetic acid, a natural compound that bonds with volatile molecules like TMA. If all else fails, bake a cake or a batch of cookies to mask that fishy smell and delight your guests.