my schnoz can't take it anymore.
February 18, 2012 10:24 PM   Subscribe

How do I cancel out really pungent odors left behind by someone's cooking?

Lately I've noticed that the odors from my roommate's cooking have been making me really sick. She typically cooks with a lot of spices, minced garlic in particular, and though I've repeatedly asked her not to she tends to eat very little of what she makes and instead dumps the leftovers down our sink or into the garbage. Our apartment is small enough that the smells of these foods altogether are overwhelming and i have seriously woken up in the middle of the night after she cooks and thrown up at the smell. The burnt garlic left behind gives me migraines.

I really like this girl and she's already been super accommodating about my sensitive hearing, so I ask you: how can I cancel out the smells her cooking leaves behind more effectively?

I have tried leaving windows open, febreze, lemons down the sink, and vinegar in the microwave, but those are fire-putter-outers. Ideally I am looking for a solution that is not chemical-centric but beggars can't be choosers.
posted by iLoveTheRain to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Cancelling won't work as well as air exchange and source removal will. Get the leftovers in the garbage (for your wasteful roommate), remove the garbage, and buy a box fan
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:29 PM on February 18, 2012

do you like the smell of cloves? i find boiling some water and popping in a bunch of whole cloves to be quite wonderful.

do you like popcorn? i suggest popping some to replace the pungent smell with something delicious.
posted by fuzzysoft at 10:37 PM on February 18, 2012

From your prior question about cleanliness, because you have sensitive hearing, and because you have a sensitive sense of smell, it seems to me that you would be happiest living alone. Is that a financial option for you?
posted by insectosaurus at 10:41 PM on February 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: No, living alone is not an option. I have dealt with the cleanliness issue, and the hearing issue as well. I would rather just find a way to lesson the impact of her cooking as I am not the only person affected by it (her friends and my own are grossed out too).
posted by iLoveTheRain at 10:47 PM on February 18, 2012

Seconding the bit about running a box fan (pointed out the window), if you're able to do that in your climate. Running a vent fan (if you're lucky enough to have one) while cooking will help, and running it after the fact may help.

Have you tried leaving out a small bowl of ammonia? I know you've tried vinegar, but that's never worked for me, while ammonia totally has.

Oust (which is a room spray, but one aimed at neutralizing odors rather than covering them up with a sickly floral smell) might help, too. While I've not tried it myself, I've also heard great things about odor absorbing sponges/gels--it might be worth it to pick up a few different types and see if any of them are effective for you.
posted by MeghanC at 11:08 PM on February 18, 2012

Sorry--I've used (and love) Oust, but haven't used the odor absorbers. Just wanted to be clear.
posted by MeghanC at 11:09 PM on February 18, 2012

Cooking doesn't leave smells behind, per se. The mess that occurs as a result of cooking does, though.

Ask her to stop putting the leftovers down the garbage disposal. Instead, she should put her leftovers into a plastic bag and take it out to the dumpster immediately. I find that the plastic bags you get in the fresh produce section of the grocery store are ideal for this. Getting rid of leftovers is crucial to extinguishing the smell.

Other than that, she should be washing her dishes and pots / pans after she eats, and clean the stove top if there is any sort of grease or residue left from the cooking. Any detritus from the washing of dishes should be put in the aforementioned plastic bags and tossed immediately.

After that, if there is any remaining smell lingering in the air, you just need some cross-ventilation to get rid of it.

Covering up the smell doesn't exactly solve the problem; getting rid of the cause of the smell is what will make you happy.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:48 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

A few options:

1. Leave out a large bowl of vinegar. Your roommate could foot the costs (partially or completely). Takes away a lot of smell and can be used over several days.

2. Spray down the counters with bleach.

3. Throw some charcoal (another air purifier) at the bottom of your trashcan and make roommate take out trash daily. That means any food that goes between the trashcan and the trash liners won't smell. Feel free to use charcoal in the fridge.

Do you have sensory sensitivity by chance?
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:13 AM on February 19, 2012

Use nappy sacks for the leftover foods. Maybe you call them diaper sacks. The tiny plastic, scented bags that you put dirty nappies in. Tie them up properly then dispose of in you main garbage bin, not your indoor one.
posted by taff at 12:20 AM on February 19, 2012

I've found lighting candles helps dissipate smells.
posted by costanza at 12:46 AM on February 19, 2012

When you open windows, make sure you're opening enough to get cross-ventilation. I had a similar problem with cheese smells once and couldn't get rid of the smell for two weeks even by opening multiple windows in the kitchen. when I finally just opened all the windows in my apartment, the smell was gone within a few hours.

But mostly, your roommate needs to get better at ridding the apartment of smelly things immediately.
posted by Etrigan at 5:29 AM on February 19, 2012

I can sympathize with you. When I was living in a semi-detached house a few years ago, the neighbors had this one recipe that smelled like a bad mexican bathroom incident. It would seep through the walls making me sick to my stomach. I couldn't eat, it was so vile. It was not in my rights to ask them to stop- people have the right to feed themselves, so I made sure to keep the ingredients on hand for food that smelled good to me. Those days quickly became my baking days.

Spurge on a high quality air purifier with HEPA filter.

Once the garbage has been taken out and the dishes washed, you can light a match and blow it out, that usually clears the air pretty good here.

Whenever I caramelize onions, the smell hangs around and will actually wake me up in the night. I love the way it smells but I get so hungry! The fastest way for me to get rid of the smell is to bake a cake. This is after I have washed the dishes and taken out the trash. It sounds like your roommate likes to cook. Why not ask her to try baked goods after she cooks her favorite dishes? Brownies, cakes, and pies are great. Even just baking an apple in the microwave, with cinnamon and butter, could help.
posted by myselfasme at 9:06 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

The two of you should come up with a way to store the smelly food refuse in a closed container. Where I live, everyone is supposed to save "food trash" for compost, and a lot of people use a covered countertop container like this or this. You could also use a small waste basket covered with a plate or the lid of a pan.
posted by wryly at 4:11 PM on February 19, 2012

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