How to get rid of cooking smells in a small kitchen

From prevention to the best natural products to employ, the experts share their top tips

white kitchen with island and bar stools
(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

One room in our homes where smells can really gather is in the kitchen. There are a few scents to make your small kitchen smell absolutely gorgeous but there are some lingering scents that can be tricky to combat and counteract. And those are primarily cooking smells. 

‘The smell of food is one that can be a pure delight whilst cooking and fresh, but once the meal is eaten and out the way - it’s safe to say we all want our kitchen to be fragrant and food odour-free,’ says Olivia Young, cleaning expert at Astonish. ‘To do this can prove a bit difficult if the dish you served up was a particularly ‘smelly’ one and even more so if you’re cooking in a small kitchen space.’

There are certain kitchen scents that are especially pungent. From bacon and garlic, to fish and seafood, spicy food, onions and even grease, these are the kinds of smells that stick around far longer than we’d like them to.

Then there’s the general whiff of a smelly bin or pots and pans that are sitting ready to be cleaned. But there are some quick and easy ways to help counteract and even avoid these smells from building up in the first place.

galley kitchen with white kitchen cabinets with pink floral blinds

(Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles)

‘Strong cooking odours can linger in small kitchens more so than larger rooms, in part because they tend to have less ventilation,’ says Adam Oldfield, Director at StovesAreUs. ‘In a small kitchen you may only have one window, in comparison to three or four in a larger room — and this is especially the case for kitchens without an external door.’

‘The scent also has less space to circulate, meaning it doesn’t just linger longer but it may even smell stronger too,’ Adam adds.

Smaller kitchens are also often closer to living areas, and in many instances actually part of living areas,' reveals Steve Horner from Cladding Monkey. 'This spreads smells from small kitchens around the property and into living spaces, penetrating soft furnishings and making the scent much more noticeable than it would be if the kitchen was separate.'

How to get rid of cooking smells in a small kitchen

Grey and white L-shaped kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

‘The best way to remove kitchen smells is to prevent them,’ says Sam Whigham, founder of cleaning company Wilton London. A few of the suggestions are simply good common sense, such as cleaning up your dishes as soon as possible and routinely wiping down surfaces and taking out your bins.

But the experts also have a few top tips for getting rid of the smells from cooking, particularly in a small kitchen.

Ventilate during and after cooking

kitchen sink with garden view

(Image credit: Future PLC/Barbara Egan)

‘Windows are generally the best way to ventilate a small kitchen, especially if they can open wide,’ notes Steve. However, the alternative is an extractor fan. ‘This helps pull any smells, moisture and even grease from the air which makes a big difference.'

Many modern kitchens will also have a cooker hood or chimney, which you can switch on to keep air circulating in the first place. This could be something to consider installing if you don’t already have one as it can really help to remove cooking smells as and when the fragrances are emitted during the process of preparing or cooking meals.

However, ‘don’t forget to clean the filter of your extractor fan every three to four months to ensure it is ventilating the kitchen efficiently,’ reminds Adam from StovesAreUs.

Clean your kitchen appliances more regularly

Fruit in storage bins

(Image credit: Future Studios / Phil Barker)

When was the last time that you gave your microwave a deep clean? Or checked to make sure that there weren’t any spills or out of date items in your fridge?

Our kitchen appliances go through a lot and when you consider how often they are used  – for example, your oven, microwave or even the best air fryer – smells can quickly build up if they aren’t cleaned regularly. 

‘The inside of a fridge can quickly become smelly,’ as well, Sarah notes. Have a look through and make sure to throw away anything that has been opened for a while or out of date. ‘Then, wipe up any spills or crumbs. If you need to complete a deeper clean on the fridge, use a sponge and wash all of the surfaces with some all-purpose antibacterial spray.'

Wash any fabrics that the smells have clung to

grey gloss kitchen with yellow rug and bright tea towel and oven glove

(Image credit: Future PLC / Katie Jane Watson)

‘Scent sticks to fabrics more than any other material, so wash any linen that has been exposed to strong scent. For example, the clothes you’re wearing, or any towels that have been used whilst cooking,’ declares Sam.

‘Tea towels can quickly build up smells as they tend to be used often. In addition, they can also be susceptible to bacteria growth. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to wash them every few days to keep them fresh and clean,’ says Sarah.

‘If you have mats and rugs in the kitchen, be sure to vacuum them regularly and wash them. This will get rid of any smells that may be trapped in the fibres,’ Sarah adds.

The best natural solutions to get rid of cooking smells

‘If you’ve been enjoying a strong-smelling dish, such as seafood or bacon, but you’re struggling to shake off the cooking scent, the good news is that there are a number of ways to disperse this odour using common household items you may already have in your cupboard,’ Adam remarks.

Baking soda

Bicarbonate of soda beside measuring spoon and jug

(Image credit: Future PLC)

‘Baking soda isn't just your best friend in the kitchen when it comes to baking delicious treats - it's also a formidable odour eliminator’ reveals Olivia.

‘Simply fill a bowl with the baking soda, place it on your countertop and leave it to work wonders overnight. The bowl will absorb those lingering smells and odours floating around your kitchen, leaving you with a fragrance-free sanctuary come morning,’ she adds.

You can even sprinkle some baking soda at the bottom of your bin, before you replace the bin bag, or place an open box or container of it in your fridge to keep pungent smells at bay.


Bowl of lemons with one cut lemon on wooden chopping board

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

‘Citrusy top notes work quickly to mask unwanted scent,’ Sam asserts. ‘You can also make use of waste in your kitchen to mask nasty smells. Simmer a pot of water with any left-over citrus peels.’

This method is also ‘stronger and more environmentally friendly than store-bought sprays and aerosols,’ according to Steve. 


An open kitchen coffee-making station

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

‘Fun fact, coffee beans are used to neutralise your sense of smell when testing scents, like a palate cleanser for your sense of smell,’ Sam says. And because of this, this strong and neutralising can really help to get rid of any unpleasant cooking smells.

‘Coffee beans contain nitrogen and this means that they are able to absorb odours,’ according to’s cleaning expert Sarah Dempsey. ‘Try placing some unused coffee grounds in a bowl and leave this bowl out on the countertop for a few hours. This should help to remove the smells.’


White vinegar bottle with a measuring jug

(Image credit: Future PLC/Phil Barker)

Vinegar also works and can be used in a similar way, as it is another natural odour absorber. 

Ellis Cochrane

Ellis Cochrane has been a Freelance Contributor for Ideal Home since 2023. She graduated with a Joint Honours degree in Politics and English from the University of Strathclyde and between her exams and graduation, started a lifestyle blog where she would share what she was buying, reading and doing. In doing so, she created opportunities to work with some of her dream brands and discovered the possibility of freelance writing, after always dreaming of writing for magazines when she was growing up.

Since then, she has contributed to a variety of online and print publications, covering everything from celebrity news and beauty reviews to her real passion; homes and interiors. She started writing about all things homes, gardens and interiors after joining Decor & Design Scotland as a Freelance Journalist and Social Media Account Manager in 2021. She then started freelancing at House Beautiful, Country Living and in Stylist’s Home team. Ellis is currently saving to buy her first home in Glasgow with far too many Pinterest boards dedicated to her many design ideas and inspirations.