My Whole Apartment Stinks After Cooking. Help!
November 5, 2017 7:14 AM   Subscribe

My small apartment absolutely stinks after cooking. What Can I do.

I burn these little candles, but they don't seem to help. I feel like every time that I walk in the door, it stinks. I am super neat and like things to smell nice. Opening the doors or window isn't always an option due to weather.

What can I do? Is there a specific type of candle that I should burn? I am not a fan of the smell of Febreeze and those sprays. I am partial to Vanilla.
posted by EddieF to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What are you cooking? How are you cooking? Do you have an exhaust, or other above stove fan, maybe with a charcoal filter? You do mention being super neat, so I imagine you're cleaning up shortly after cooking, and wiping down any walls that could get spattered?
posted by kellyblah at 7:17 AM on November 5, 2017

You need a way to exhaust cooking fumes while you're cooking. Assuming you don't have an externally vented hood, the best way to do this is putting a powerful box fan blowing out into the nearest window. Another window has to be open somewhere else to provide "make up air.'

Otherwise, every time you cook you're spreading oil and scent molecules all over the room and the best you will be able to do is attempt to cover up the odor with something else. I have not found this to be an effective solution.
posted by slkinsey at 7:18 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

You aren't going to solve stinky by adding more smells, unless the new smells are so strong as to overpower the old smells. But even then there can be a pervasive undertone of stinky under the new smell.

There's really no substitute for ventilation. Do you have a kitchen and/or bathroom fan (that vents to the outdoors) that you could run long enough to get the air exchanged? Otherwise the option is to crack some windows (and consider using a window fan/box fan, as mentioned above), which as you note isn't ideal on a cold day, but is way better than stinky.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:19 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Assuming that the weather that stops you from opening windows is cold weather, reconsider. Opening windows for a half hour will cool the air in your apartment fairly rapidly, but the furniture, walls, and other objects in it will stay warm for a lot longer. The air will warm up again quickly once you close the windows. Changing the air is really the only way to eliminate smells.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:42 AM on November 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

Venting is your primary target. If you're willing to gear up a bit, you can easily and cheaply build a window vent with off the shelf parts from Home Depot and a quick hour or two of assembly. Look for in-line duct fans and dryer venting. Years of studio-life taught me that getting the smells out before they were a problem was the best track.

But! Boiling a couple cups of water with a glug of white vinegar in it will neutralize odors better than most other things I've found. It even suppresses the funkiest of kimchi and curry smells at our house.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:55 AM on November 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

I used one of these odor absorbers to de-funk my car after I spilled a whole latte in it. You may need a few for a space as big as an apartment.
posted by Drosera at 7:57 AM on November 5, 2017

One thing that can aid ventilation are HEPA air filters with charcoals (this last bit is the piece that helps with odor). They help circulate air. I had to get one because I'm allergic to my cat, and in addition to solving that problem, it helps control the inevitable smells that having a pet brings because it has the charcoal filters (which you will have to replace). It's not a catch all, but it helps. You can get one depending on the size of the space in question, and if you don't have any issues with dust or allergens, you probably don't need to buy a True HEPA--just a HEPA would do (=much cheaper).
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 8:17 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with the others about ventilation. After cooking, spray down with bleach or boil white vinegar and water on the stove. Both will get rid of lingering smells faster.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 8:21 AM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Venting with windows and fans or an air purifying machine that addresses odor are really your choices if you don't want to partially cover smell with another smell.
posted by quince at 8:30 AM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can make your own homemade air freshener by boiling some water with chopped up lemon, some rosemary, and a little vanilla. Or try orange peels with cloves and cinnamon.
posted by hydra77 at 8:42 AM on November 5, 2017

Changing the air is really the only way to eliminate smells.

so unless you do have a functional fan/exhaust system for your cooking area, you either need to open those windows (and probably turn on a fan), or learn to live with people knowing what you had for dinner. Burning incense or whatever will perhaps mask the smells, but it just leads to deeper problems of ... funkiness (for lack of a better olfactory term).

trust that all of this comment is informed by experience, including particularly the funkiness part
posted by philip-random at 8:52 AM on November 5, 2017

If you can't get ventilation working an essential oil diffuser can help hide the smells. Throw a nice citrus essential oil in there and you're off. I keep a cheap diffuser & lemon essential oil in the kitchen on top of the fridge to plug in when I cook something particularly smelly.
posted by wwax at 9:16 AM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm in the same boat. Ventilation and air pruifiers,of course, but you may be limited in what you can do in this area.

Another vote for boiling vinegar. Bonus: if you have any stainless steel pots this will also clean them up and make them shiny.

I'm always on the lookout out for preventative measures. I don't use anything scented in my laundry but I add some white vinegar to the wash and I think my clothes smell clean. I was pretty dedicated to using a splatter guard when I cook,but it wasn't great. I've switched to a Frywall, which is much neater and doesn't steam the food. Using my fake instapot also helps to contain smells and messes. If you're into deep frying I'd buy one of those enclosed fryers.

I've also accepted that I just can't do certain things in my tiny apt.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:26 AM on November 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Stop with the candles and stuff - they leave bad enough smells in the best case, and nothing smells worse than scented products on top of stinks.

In addition to fixing your ventilation and washing your walls and whatnot, I have used unscented febreze-type air sprays (not the fabric ones) and they do help. I'll usually spray (liberally) myself out of the room when I'm leaving for the day, and by the time I get back it has settled and there are less smells in the room. They won't solve the problem alone, but it's another piece.
posted by brainmouse at 10:19 AM on November 5, 2017

Another vote for boiling vinegar.

seconded. In fact, vinegar is rather a miracle liquid (oft requiring dilution in hot water). Great for cleaning hard wood floors, getting those rolled-in-dead-thing smells out of dogs. And apple cider vinegar solved my chronic itchy scalp issues for less than five bucks.
posted by philip-random at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Aside from ventilation, how is your garbage set up? If you're not throwing out your organic waste every night already, try doing that as well.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:02 AM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I open the window (if its very cold, only a little bit) and point a desk fan at the opening as well as using the crappy exhaust fan over the stove. It helps a lot. Also, clean all dishes, wipe down the stove and if necessary burn a scented candle for a while. But some foods (bacon, fish, anything fried) just stink so I either cook them outside or not at all.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 12:22 PM on November 5, 2017

I think opening the window/door is the only way. When it's cold, I leave my balcony door open for maybe 30-60 minutes and I put a box fan in front. First I have the box fan blowing air outside so it'll pull the food smells out. Then I turn the fan around and have it blow fresh air in. I had a problem with flies getting into my apartment when I did that, so I made my own screen with sheets of screen, duct tape and magnets. It's worked great at airing out my apartment and eliminating smells.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:01 PM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Open a window as well as turning on the extractor hood. If you only open the window, there's nothing driving the air flow; if you only turn on the hood, the air has nowhere to come from.
posted by Xany at 6:46 PM on November 6, 2017

Assuming that the weather that stops you from opening windows is cold weather, reconsider. Opening windows for a half hour will cool the air in your apartment fairly rapidly, but the furniture, walls, and other objects in it will stay warm for a lot longer.

I agree. In my husband's family it's custom to air the house every day, even in the dead of winter, by opening the windows a few inches, and leaving them open for 20 minutes or so. I was initially resistant to the idea because I thought it was crazy to let the warm air out, but once my mother-in-law was staying with me in February and aired the house out this way and it made a huge difference, and any change in the temperature of the room evened out within a quarter hour of closing the windows.

So, I would cook your food, eat it, and while you're washing up open one, or preferably all (for the cross-breeze) the windows in your house. Even in the dead of winter. Ten minutes and your problem's solved.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 6:37 AM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

A related aside about stove vent hoods: some of them, especially in apartments, are not actually ducted to the outside. They make noise, and they stir up the air some, but they don't push any of it outside. Obviously, they're no help with eliminating odors.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:21 AM on November 8, 2017

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