25 Helpful Tips to Stop Clothes from Smelling Like Cooking


My family loves to cook with strong spices and seasoning, but although they are delicious, they also make all the clothes in our closet smell like cooking for the next few days. It is embarrassing to go to work and school smelling like last night’s meal. So I did some research to solve that problem.

Here’s a list of 25 essential tips to stop clothes from smelling like cooking.

If this is your first visit to my site – I am on a mission to give you a healthy home with my experience as a Licensed Professional Mechanical Engineer (P.E.) specialized in building design.

“Good health is a crown worn by the healthy that only the sick can see.”

“الصحة تاج على رؤوس الأصحاء لا يراها إلا المرضى”

– Arabic Proverb

1. Close bedroom and closet doors to block odors

Block the quickest path for odors to reach your clothes by closing the bedroom and closet doors.

Odors and fumes travel to the path of least resistance. Meaning, the fumes have an easy time getting to your clothes if the doors are wide open because there are no obstacles in the way.

Closing the doors creates a pressure difference in the air that makes it more difficult for food odors to get through.

Keep the doors closed before, during, and after you cook.

2. Place towels under bedroom and closet doors

Also, place towels at the base of the bedroom and closet doors to block food odors from traveling between the cracks.

Most doors have a small gap between the bottom of the door and the floor, which is known as a door undercut. That gap is large enough to allow fumes and odors to pass into your bedroom and closet, even if the doors are closed.

Make sure to only place the towel after you leave the room and close the door so that the towel is outside of the room. Some people make the mistake of putting the towel in the inside of the bedroom and closet – which creates an air-gap as they pull the door closed away from the towel when they exit the room.

3. Turn off home’s AC-unit to stop odor travel

Your home’s air conditioning unit may be the reason your clothes smell like food!

Odors will travel through the ductwork and air vents when your air conditioner is on. That’s because the fan will suck the air out of your kitchen and blow it directly into other rooms of your house, including your bedroom and closet.

So make sure to turn off the air conditioning unit by using the thermostat on your wall.

4. Close air vents in bedrooms to stop odor travel

You should also close the air vents in your bedroom and closet. That is because odors can slowly travel into those rooms through the ductwork and air vents, even if your air conditioner is off.

Also, you can even close the vents in your bedroom while the air conditioner is on. That will allow you to only block air from entering certain rooms, while the rest of the home gets airflow and stays at a comfortable temperature.

5. Turn kitchen fan on high speed to remove odors

The most well-known way to remove cooking odors is to simply turn on the kitchen exhaust fan. By removing the food fumes in the air, you are protecting your clothes.

Always use the highest fan setting because it usually removes over 300% more air than the lowest fan setting. Some people use the lowest setting because it is quieter – but that is the price to pay for clean-smelling clothes.

6. Run kitchen fan for 1-hour after cooking

Keep the kitchen exhaust fan on for at least 1-hour after you finish cooking. That will remove lingering odors that are still in your home.

Use the lowest fan setting if the highest setting is too annoying to handle for an entire hour.

7. Clean the kitchen exhaust hood filter regularly

Cleaning your kitchen exhaust hood filter will unclog the gunk that builds up and allow the fan to suck out more food odors from your stovetop.

A clogged filter can reduce your fan’s airflow rate by 50% or more.

The video below teaches an easy step-by-step method of cleaning your exhaust hood filter on your own.

8. Turn on your bathroom fan while cooking

You can turn on your bathroom exhaust fan while you’re cooking to remove food odors that escaped your kitchen.

Your kitchen exhaust fan can’t capture all of the cooking fumes, so your bathroom fan will capture surviving odors before they travel to your closet!

If you want to learn more about bathroom ventilation, check out my previous post:

9. Open windows to flush out odors with fresh air

The best weapon against food odors is fresh air!

Open as many windows as you can before you start cooking to bring in as much fresh air as possible. Keep them open for about 1-hour after you finish cooking.

Opening windows will also help your kitchen exhaust fan suck out more air because it reduces the air-pressure difference that the fan would have to overcome.

However, opening your windows can damage your home and your health if there are high humidity levels, high air pollutant levels, high noise levels, security risk, etc. I wrote an entire post that teaches you when it is safe to open the windows in your home. Check it out:

10. Place a fan in the window and blow outside

Place a small circulation fan in your window and point the fan to blow outwards. That will suck out the food odors in the home and discharge them outdoors. It works almost like another kitchen exhaust fan.

Most small circulation fans can suck up to 300% more air than your normal kitchen exhaust hood.

The kitchen exhaust hood will remove the fumes at the stove, while that fan in the window will remove odors that escaped the kitchen.

11. Put away backpacks, shoes, yoga mats, etc.

Before you cook, put away all other fabric wearables that some people may overlook including shoes, backpacks, yoga mats, coats, purses, briefcases, hats, etc.

Those items can all trap food odors just as easily as your normal clothes and could be the source of your smelly embarrassment when you leave the home.

12. Pack favorite outfits in large Ziplock bags

Pack your favorite outfits in an extra-large, plastic Ziplock bag if you want to take serious precautions against food smells.

Pick out your outfit for an upcoming dinner date or business meeting and put them in the bag before you cook. That will protect those most important outfits without having to put your entire closet in a plastic bag.

13. Hold off on washing and hang drying clothes

Schedule your weekly laundry session for after you plan to cook, to prevent the clothes from absorbing food odors.

Wet clothes seem to absorb odors more easily than dry clothes. So, delaying your clothes washing and drying until 3-4 hours after cooking can protect your outfits from food smells.

14. Cook outdoors whenever possible

Cook outside with your grill, pressure cooker, or instant pot to keep the odors outdoors and away from your clothes.

You can use your grill as an oven or griddle – and some grills even have burners on the side for pan cooking.

You can also plug your pressure cooker, crock-pot, or instant pot into your outdoor electrical outlets and set them on a table outside. Use a long extension cord if you need to plug those into your indoor electrical outlets.

15. Cook with only fresh fish and seafood

Cooking with fresh fish and seafood will prevent the strong “fishy” smell that will absorb into your clothes.

Fish contains a chemical called trimethylamine oxide that breaks down after the animal is killed. That creates the infamous, strong fish odor that many people cannot stand.

Fresh fish have much less of that chemical, so they smell much better.

16. Wear an outfit dedicated to cooking

Designate some old clothes to be your cooking outfit so that you do not get odors on your nicer garments.

Wear that outfit every time you prepare a meal. I know some people who have used the same cooking outfit for years.

You will no longer be afraid to ruin your cooking outfit, while your other clothes are protected in the closet.

17. Boil coffee grounds to neutralize food odors

Boiling coffee ground will neutralize the food odors in the air and prevent the smells from absorbing into your clothes.

Carry the steaming coffee grounds from room to room to kill the smells all over your home. You can even leave the steaming pot in your closet for 15-minutes to kill the odors on your clothes.

18. Burn incense to mask food odors

Burning incense will only cover up food odors, not eliminate them. So you should burn the incense only after you have taken steps to neutralize the food odors in your clothes.

You can choose your favorite scent to burn and leave it in your closet for 15 to 30-minutes to absorb into your clothes.

You should not burn the incense for more than 30-minutes because too much of it can irritate your lungs and nasal passages. After you burn it you should open a window or turn on your AC-unit fan to get some fresh air into the room.

Also, do not leave the burning incense unattended as to not create a fire hazard.

19. Boil cinnamon or citrus peels to mask odors

A healthier alternative to incense is boiling cinnamon and citrus peels to mask the food odors in the air and on your clothes. That cinnamon-citrus combination creates a pleasant smell that many people enjoy.

That will not eliminate the food odors, so make sure to take the steps to eliminate the food odors first.

20. Spray odor-eliminating air fresheners

Some canned air fresheners are “odor-eliminating,” so they can neutralize the food odors in the air to prevent the smells from absorbing into your clothes.

But be careful – only use a small amount of the air freshener at one time, because they can be harmful to your lungs and nasal passages. Open your windows and use plug-in fans to get some air circulation after spraying.

The tiny droplets from air fresheners can be considered volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are harmful particles in the air that can damage your health in large amounts. Some other sources of VOCs include aerosols, paints, and even furniture. Check out my other post that dives into the risks of VOCs in your home:

21. Use a scent machine to neutralize food odors

You can also invest in a scent machine to neutralize food odors in the air before they get to your clothes. They are small devices that you plug in and they actively remove odors from the air.

Many restaurants, gyms, and hotels use scent machines to get rid of unwanted smells, so they are proven to work well.

Some residential-level scent machines are good for small rooms or homes. Look up the coverage area of the machine in the product description to match it with the floor area of your home (square feet or meters).

22. Watch out for garlic, onions, and curries

Garlic, onions, and curries are amongst the most stubborn food odors. They cling to fabrics and can often be smelt in clothes, curtains, or upholstery even hours after cooking.

Exercise caution and take extra odor-blocking measures when using these ingredients in your cooking, or else the smell may linger in your home.

23. Hang your clothes outside to air out

Airing out your clothes is a quick fix and it avoids an increased electricity and water bill from having to re-wash clothes.

It may take longer to get the smell out, depending on the weather outside, but it is an easier and cheaper alternative.

24. Avoid strong foods if you have a big date

Avoid cooking strong foods in your home if you have an important meeting or date coming up in the next couple of days. That will avoid all risks of having a smelly outfit.

If you do cook, try to avoid odorous ingredients like onions, garlic, curry, and other strong spices.

25. Wash your clothes after cooking

Your last option is to re-wash your clothes if all other precautions are not taken. It may be tedious, especially if the clothes are unworn, but it is the best option for getting rid of unwanted odors.

You wouldn’t leave the house with bad breath so why leave with bad-smelling clothes?

As a bonus, instead of machine-drying your clothes, opt for hang-drying. By doing so your clothes will better hold on to the fragrant scent of fabric softener.

Author of Apartment Conscious

Welcome to my site! I am on a mission to give you a healthy home with my experience as a Licensed Professional Mechanical Engineer (P.E.) specialized in building design. I work for a prominent architectural engineering firm in the US. I have several certifications and years of experience in designing homes, apartments, hotels, and other commercial buildings. Check out my full About page for more.

Recent Posts