How To Get The Fish Fry Smell Out Of Your House Fast

It could mean something more dangerous than just last night’s leftovers.

We don’t mean to alarm you, but if your home smells fishy—and you didn’t cook tilapia for dinner—this could be a serious problem. It is actually completely normal for overheating electrical components, such as circuit breakers, outlets or wiring, to smell like fish. The smell isn’t actually coming from the electrical components themselves. The heat-resistant chemicals that wires, outlets and circuit breakers are made of will omit a fishy odor when they’re overheating. The longer these devices are left to overheat, the more likely they are to cause a fire. And the likelihood of a fire increases the more these overheating devices are surrounded by flammable materials, like paint, wood, insulation or wallpaper.

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Why does my house smell like fish when I didn’t cook any?

Electrical hazards that may cause overheating include:

  • Wrong-sized fuses or breakers
  • Overloaded circuits
  • Loose or flimsy wires
  • Frayed cords
  • Wire insulation breakdowns
  • Older homes with electrical systems not up to code

Also, your house could be in danger of an electrical fire if:

  • Your circuit breaker keeps tripping
  • You keep smelling a curious burnt smell (not coming from the kitchen)
  • Your outlets or light switches appear to be charred or discolored
  • You just know you’ve got really old wiring (Is your home over the hill?)

What to do if you smell an undiagnosed fishy odor in your home?

Call an electrician immediately. They can track down and fix the overheating component and will also check for any other possible problems.

Often this fishy smell is mistaken for sewer gas, mildew or decaying animals stuck in the walls, attic or basement. Hint: Those things will never, ever smell like fish. A fishy odor is a very distinct thing, and it does not denote any of those aforementioned problems.

Just to be clear:

  • Mold smells musty.
  • Sewers smell sulfuric.
    • Gas leaks also can smell sulfuric, so if your house smells like rotten eggs, get out of there immediately and call the fire department.
  • Dead animals smell rotten (unless, of course, that dead animal is a fish).

How to get rid of fish smells in the house

Okay, so maybe it’s not an electrical issue. Maybe it really was just fish. And maybe it was really delicious, but now you’re sick of smelling it three days later. We’ve got some suggestions:

  • Wash any cooking tools that touched the fish immediately if you haven’t already to remove the smell and prevent it from lingering.
  • Leave a bowl of vinegar out on the counter overnight to absorb lingering seafood smells.
  • Simmer either vinegar or lemon peels in water on your stove for 20 minutes or so to neutralize the surrounding air, sort of like a natural potpourri. Bay leaves, rosemary or vanilla extract are beloved DIY potpourri ingredients, too.
  • Or better yet, try simmering water with cinnamon sticks, cloves and ground ginger. It’ll smell like chai. Yummy.
  • Spray fishy-smelling rooms with Febreze Air for a quick burst of relief. It doesn’t just mask—it actually cleans away odors with OdorClear Technology.
  • Deep clean upholstered furniture by laundering all removable covers in the washing machine.
  • Baking soda absorbs odors—making it the perfect deodorizer. Sprinkle it all over your upholstery, from couches to pet beds and carpet. Let it sit overnight and vacuum up in the morning. If the upholstery had absorbed the fish smell, the baking soda should neutralize it.
  • Leave out a bowl of absorbent coffee grounds to soak up the fish smell.
  • Lightly mist any hard-to-wash fabric items with your favorite scent of Febreze Fabric to eliminate fishy odors.
  • Wash the walls, clean the garbage disposal, scrub your dishwasher filter. Clean anything that was exposed to that fishy smell, whether during cooking or just passively absorbing it.
  • Clean your cutting boards and baking sheets to get rid of fishy residue.
  • Deep clean your stovetop and burners, in case any fish-flavored or -scented oil splattered onto them.
  • Wipe down the stove’s backsplash with a gentle dish soap like Dawn and warm water.
  • Toss all your kitchen towels directly into the washing machine (but not in with the other laundry, or you’ll have fishy-smelling clothes, too!). Add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar, and run on a hot cycle.
  • Deodorize fabrics with a DIY cocktail of diluted vinegar and water, including curtains and carpets.
  • Dust and wash your kitchen blinds.
  • Air out your house. Open all of the windows and doors. Let some sun in, which can help kill odor-producing germs and bacteria.
  • Invest in an air purifier. Because who doesn’t want purer air these days?
  • Turn on the essential oil diffuser, light some scented candles or incense and/or buy a bouquet of fresh flowers to combat the fishy smell—or at least offset it with a more pleasant aroma!

Prevent fish smells in the kitchen

And, hey! The next time you cook fish, try these tricks that should cut down on the fish’s potent odor during cooking, but won’t affect its overall flavor.

  • Soak fish in milk for at least half an hour before cooking it.
  • Soak your fish in water mixed with 1/4 cup of vinegar or 1/4 cup of lemon juice before cooking it.
  • Hang a damp kitchen towel near the stove while you’re cooking your fish, which may help to absorb the fishy smell and prevent it from traveling throughout your house.
  • Make sure all your kitchen windows are open while cooking fish.
  • Don’t forget to turn on the exhaust fan while cooking.

If your house still smells funky or fishy, we’ve got a million more ideas about how to make your house smell good (none of which include cooking more fish).

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