Apartment Smells Like Cooking, And Not The Good Kind Of Cooking

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Dear Home Ec 101,
I live in an apartment, and my kitchen is open to the living room like in most apartments. The house always has a remnant cooking smell even when I keep all the doors and windows open. My carpet, couch and everything smell. It is a little embarrassing when i have company. Air fresheners don’t seem to solve my problem either.
Please help!!!!
Apartment Dweller

what to do when the cooking smell lingers too long

Ivy says:

I also live in a house where the kitchen is open to the living room, so I understand where you’re coming from. I have several suggestions, a combination of some or all of these might solve your problem. First, I’m sure you already are, but just in case- if you’re not using the range hood fan whenever you cook something on your stovetop, make sure you always use that. It makes a big difference.

What you want to do is try to neutralize the smell. I’d start with renting a floor/upholstery cleaner and giving the carpet and upholstery a good cleaning. I like to use Kids N Pets whenever I’m using one of those. It does a good job of neutralizing smells. Between cleanings, Febreze Fabric Refresher is good for keeping things smelling nice.

When cleaning, don’t forget to wipe down your walls, windows, and blinds. Walls especially can harbor smells. If you have flat paint, you will not be able to wash your walls, but if you have any other finish, you can actually wash them.

Guide to Household Odors
Click the picture for lots more tips!

When you’re having company over, you can use a simple boiling pot with cinnamon in it to make the house smell fabulous. The cinnamon sticks work the best, but ground cinnamon works as well. Or, you can just use some awesomely smelly candles, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Well, Home Eccers, did I forget anything?

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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10 thoughts on “Apartment Smells Like Cooking, And Not The Good Kind Of Cooking”

  1. I live in an apartment and had this problem too. (Oh my, the smell of bacon lingers for days.)

    Sad to say, most range hoods in apartments don’t really do anything. What has worked the best for me is to generously sprinkle baking soda over the carpet, sweep it in with a broom, and then vacuum it up the next day.

  2. I lived in a dorm room, and when I moved in, it was rather, let’s just say smelly, from the guys who drank and smoked there. Since i was not able to hire a carpet cleaner, I just kept vacuuming, and using febreze on my curtains and carpet daily. After about a week it got MUCH better, and after two weeks the smell was completely gone!

  3. If you don’t have cinnamon sticks or don’t want the stove on, here’s a quick variation. Liberally wet a paper towel and sprinkle cinnamon on it. Pop it into the microwave for 2 or 3 minutes (depending on how wet your towel is). The inviting smell of cinnamon will be wafting in a matter of minutes! Rather than throw away the towel, just re-wet and pop it in again!

  4. When I moved in to my house the guy before us smoked in it and well it smelled. I bought two air purifiers that were on sale for pretty cheep and in a couple of weeks there was no more smell. They work really well and are great in the kitchen. I don’t have a range hood thingy, so this is what I use.

  5. I just burned fish in my apartment the other day, so I speak from experience. Try filling a saucepan full of water with 2-3 lemons juiced into it; throw the rinds in as well. Let the whole thing boil for 20-30 minutes. For really persistent smells you can boil white vinegar, but you’ll probably want to follow with the lemon water to get rid of the vinegar smell!

  6. Vanilla works great for a kitchen that smells. Put vanilla(a few tablespoons) in a very small bowl. Microwave on high for 30 – 45 seconds.

  7. Found these out the hard way, after spending entirely too much time and energy dutifully scrubbing everything else:

    1. Remove the filter from the range hood and clean it in the dishwasher, clean the hood inside with something that cuts grease (Windex is good, or dilute vinegar, or any of the spray kitchen cleaners). I now run the filter through the dishwasher every time I brown ground beef or cook something wonderfully odiferous. Note: If the range hood recirculates rather than venting outside, all it will do is remove fat from the air, not cooking odors.

    2. Clean the sink with scrub containing bleach, let sit 20 minutes to kill everything, then rinse thoroughly with plenty of hot water. Run the disposal while rinsing, then run disposal a second time with lemon rinds.

    3. Check under your stove to see if there is a drip jar. I have a Jenn-aire stove, and it does. I suspect that the previous owner never emptied it in the six years she lived in the house — it had overflowed, had exuberant mold growth on the surface (definitely not mildew — it was blue-grey and fluffy), and reeked like something a-mouldering in the grave. I replaced it with a clean spaghetti jar, used the jar lid to seal the old one, bagged it and threw it out in the garbage can outside. I now replace the drip jar every six months or so, more often if there have been a lot of overflowing pasta pots.

    4. Empty the kitchen trash can every day after dinner, whether it needs it or not. Onion skins and empty milk cartons stink, even through a covered garbage can under the sink. Periodically wash the trash can.

    5. This one I picked up while living in Germany, where the houses are very tightly sealed against drafts: air out the house every day. Fully open the windows while cleaning to get a full air exchange (yes, it will get cold in the winter, but it turns out that tightly sealed houses often have a higher concentration of pollutants than the outside air anyway, so just on that basis it’s worth it!). The furnace or air conditioner will return your home to the desired temperature quickly enough.


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