Our small house reeks of fish -- help!
December 22, 2017 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Last week, my housemate cooked perhaps the most putrid cod I have ever smelled. When I came home, every part of the house smelled of fish -- even upstairs where my room is. I immediately opened all the windows to air the place out, but the next morning, the house still smelled as strongly as it had the night before. I have tried to get rid of the smell, and am at my wit's end. What can I do to rid our house of this odoriferous demon?

Here's what I've tried so far:
> Thoroughly cleaned the oven with oven cleaner
> Thoroughly cleaned the stovetop with Softscrub (and rinsed with vinegar)
> Removed all rugs
> Cleaned all countertop surfaces with vinegar solution
> Thoroughly vacuumed all carpet in the house multiple times
> Sprinkled baking soda and vacuumed again
> Sprayed carpet with vinegar, vacuumed again
> Sprayed everything with vinegar solution
> Laundered pillow cases and cushion covers
> Sprayed each room with Ozium twice a day for 4 days

Every time I walk in the house I can smell it. It seems to have permeated the very structure of the house, but I can't put my nose on any one spot that smells fishy. What can I do?!
posted by joebakes to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wet Swiffer on the kitchen walls and ceiling.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:44 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Burn it to the ground. Seriously just burn stuff in your house like candles or incense sticks etc. In similar situations this has worked for me. As well as a pot of vinegar boiling away on the stove. Good Luck.
posted by MT at 1:45 PM on December 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

Rent or buy an ozone generator. That should do it.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:00 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Put open bowls of ground coffee and baking soda everywhere to absorb odors, including the fridge and closets.
posted by Red Desk at 2:03 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is a really obvious question, but you've taken the trash out, right? Likewise the dishes are done and some lemon juice run through the disposal if you have one?
posted by restless_nomad at 2:04 PM on December 22, 2017 [14 favorites]

This seems extreme. Do other people smell it, people who don't live there? Could you be traumatized enough by it that it has become psychosomatic?
posted by AFABulous at 2:34 PM on December 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Run coffee grounds through the garbage disposal if you have one and haven’t already. Just be sure to run a lot of water through so they don’t impact and clog your drain.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:34 PM on December 22, 2017

While I’m thinking of it, change the furnace filter (if you have forced air) and get a carbon pad to go with the filter, if there is room. (They’re pretty thin so this can usually be done.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:37 PM on December 22, 2017

Are you sure you are definitely still smelling the fish? If so is there a possibility that a piece of fish got dropped under a cupboard and missed in the clean up? It seems odd you can still smell it so strongly.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 2:41 PM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

What about the kitchen vent? Have you cleaned the hood above the stove? How about washing any dish towels? Throw out the sponge used to clean? Take any curtains to be dry cleaned.
posted by AugustWest at 2:50 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Get a big bag of activated charcoal--they sell it for a lot of different uses (aquariums, closet odors, face scrubs, etc.), just find the biggest cheapest bag--and put bowls of it around the house. (I use it in the fridge in place of baking soda, and it works wonders.)
posted by lovecrafty at 2:53 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

- Definitely wash the walls, possibly the ceiling.
- Open bowls of white vinegar
- Bad Air Sponge
posted by radioamy at 3:14 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you borrow a cat or dog and see if they hone in on an area?
posted by AFABulous at 3:56 PM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Every time we'e had a lingering fish smell, the filters on the range hood were the culprit. Took them out, scrubbed them with dish soap, and the odor went away. (That being said, our lingering fish smell was never as bad as yours sounds, so I wonder if a piece got dropped somewhere....)
posted by Westringia F. at 4:01 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Has housemate laundered the clothing they were wearing? Do that.

If the pillowcases and rugs picked up the odor, anything difficult to wash like winter coats will have as well.
posted by yohko at 4:32 PM on December 22, 2017

Also, wash the walls.
posted by yohko at 4:32 PM on December 22, 2017

As well as a pot of vinegar boiling away on the stove.

I hear that bowls of apple cider vinegar is an old real estate trick to get rid of odors
posted by thelonius at 4:50 PM on December 22, 2017

I've commented before that when our neighbor passed away in his house, when the police finally agreed to enter his house three days after we'd first requested a welfare check, they put coffee grounds in a pot and burned them on the stove in order to "remove" the smell (it doesn't actually remove the offending smell but our noses will ... seek out? focus on? the smell of the burnt coffee above other odors).
posted by vignettist at 8:40 PM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Cross ventilation will certainly help; you want as much outside air flowing through all your rooms as it's possible to arrange. But opening windows willy-nilly is not necessarily going to get you the result you want unless there's a strong breeze. Unless you think carefully about how the resulting airflow is going to work, you risk helping even more stink escape from the kitchen where the walls and ceiling will have been most thoroughly coated.

If the kitchen has an exhaust fan that vents to outside, then to start with you should turn that on, close all the windows and external doors in the house, then open your bedroom window wide and prop your bedroom door open just a few inches. You want outside air being drawn into your room on one side as stinky air is drawn out on the other, and you want that outside air preferentially diluting the stink in your bedroom before escaping into the rest of the house. You don't want to give stinky air from the rest of the house much opportunity to diffuse back in against the stream of air going houseward from your bedroom door.

If the kitchen doesn't have its own exhaust fan, you might be able to arrange windows and internal doors in such a way that outside air comes in your bedroom window and has to go through the kitchen on its way to the bathroom exhaust fan.

If none of that is actionable, you might try improvising a kitchen exhaust fan with a box fan propped in a kitchen window pointing outwards.

The general principle is that since the kitchen is the epicentre of this stink earthquake, you want air from everywhere else in the house flowing back toward the kitchen until all the stinky volatile oils that have currently attached themselves to your household surfaces have been dispersed.
posted by flabdablet at 11:54 PM on December 22, 2017

Get some spicy tea or mulling spices. Or cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. Saucepan on the stove, plenty of water, simmer all day, adding water or fresh spices as needed. Put cut lemon or other citrus/peels in the microwave, nuke but don't burn, half power is good. I'd clean with pine sol and born scented candles.
posted by theora55 at 9:14 AM on December 23, 2017

Aside from what others have suggested I would get or borrow an essential oil diffuser and get some lavender oil and diffuse that for awhile.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:24 AM on December 23, 2017

Febreze works.
posted by Enid Lareg at 10:45 AM on December 23, 2017

A roommate did something similar to me -- previously.
posted by quadrilaterals at 10:47 AM on December 23, 2017

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