10 Habits People with Nice Smelling Kitchens Swear By

published May 9, 2023
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You spend a decent amount of time in your kitchen, so as much as possible, you probably want it to feel like an inviting space. Keeping your food prep and eating areas clean and organized can make a big difference, but smell is just as important when it comes to ambiance. 

The problem? Your kitchen, more than most other spaces in your home, tends to accumulate unwanted odors. Luckily, implementing a few simple habits can keep yours smelling nice, no matter what you cook. Below, 10 habits of people who pride themselves on their nice-smelling kitchens. 

1. Cleaning their vent filters

Keeping your kitchen smelling fresh and clean is all about staying on top of maintenance and clean-up, says Ben Kuhl, CEO of Shelf Expression. One important area to maintain is your vent hood filter. If your filter accumulates too much oil, it won’t be as effective at fending off cooking smells, and it may even begin to smell rancid itself. Kuhl likes to regularly wash his filter with hot soapy water whenever it gets greasy. 

2. Sanitizing their dishwashers

You’d think your dishwasher would smell as fresh as your clean dishes — but over time, it’ll accumulate food scraps and bacteria, which can get smelly fast. Vanessa Gordon, CEO and publisher of East End Taste Magazine, always cleans out the food trap in her dishwasher after using it. She also uses a dishwashing sanitizer once or twice a week to stave off unwanted smells in both the appliance and on the dishes. 

3. Throwing away food scraps ASAP

The longer you leave uneaten food in your kitchen, the higher likelihood that it’ll start to smell bad. That’s why Gordon makes a point to put away leftovers in sealed containers and discard scraps right away (rather than letting them sit on dirty dishes on your counter or in the sink). 

Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

4. Taking the trash out often

If you cook anything particularly smelly, like fish or meat scraps, it’s a good idea to take the trash out right away. Ryan Farley, CEO of LawnStarter, doesn’t take out his entire kitchen trash daily — instead, he bags pungent food scraps separately and takes them right out to the dumpster. 

5. Growing fresh herbs

Preventing unwanted smells is just one part of the equation. People whose kitchens tend to smell great also add appealing scents to their spaces. For example, Gordon suggests keeping fresh herbs on your kitchen counter, such as sage, cilantro, or mint. Your space will smell better, and you’ll also have easy access to cooking!

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6. Checking kitchen house plants regularly

Speaking of plants: A bit of greenery can go a long way in brightening up the kitchen — but houseplants can also contribute to gross kitchen smells if left unchecked. “If kept in high-humidity areas or overwatered, potted plants can grow mold,” says Grace Baena, interior designer at the used furniture marketplace Kaiyo. If your plants are too moist, you might notice a musty, earthy smell. To prevent these unwanted smells — and keep your plants happy — follow Baena’s example and be sure not to overwater your plants in areas with high condensation and humidity. 

7. Cleaning up messes ASAP

The “clean as you go” method isn’t just a tried-and-true way to save time on chores. It can also help prevent unwanted odors in your space. “Whether you’re cooking or preparing food, clean the dirty surfaces and dishes as you go,” suggests Nick Valentino, VP of market operations at Bellhop Movers. “This will do wonders for keeping odors from lingering in the air!”

8. Ventilating properly

To keep strong food scents from building up in her kitchen, Michelle Giordano, a community outreach advocate at Live Another Day, prioritizes good ventilation — whether opening windows or turning on exhaust fans while cooking. “This helps to circulate fresh air and reduce any lingering cooking smells,” she says. 

9. Simmering delicious smells

Another one of Giordano’s favorite ways to keep her kitchen smelling warm and inviting is a natural herbal air freshener. She recommends simmering a pot of cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel on the stove. If you’d rather neutralize smells than add new ones, she sometimes boils vinegar on the stovetop to fight off lingering kitchen odors.

10. Decorating with fresh (or dried) flowers

Sarah Barnard, a California-based interior designer, is a big fan of decorating her kitchen with fresh flowers to bring a sweet and bright scent into the space (not to mention a fun touch of color). If you’re looking for longevity, consider hanging dried flowers or even herbs, which you can use for cooking. “Hanging these in the kitchen to dry can contribute to a soft and romantic kitchen aesthetic while releasing beautiful scents into the space,” Barnard says. 

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: 10 Things People with Nice-Smelling Kitchens Always Do