How to Remove Pantry Odors

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]mong the many annoyances in daily life, strong odors in various areas of your home can be one of them. Say you just cooked fish in your kitchen – how do you get rid of the smell that lingers for days afterward? This is especially relevant to those who like to spend time in the kitchen, strong odors can become a nuisance extremely quickly.

Luckily, there are a several ways to absorb and reduce strong odors naturally. That’s right – you can put away the Febreze because there are plenty of other options to return areas of your home to their regular, nothing, smell.

One problem area for many people is in the pantry. Because you are storing many different types of food, for longer periods of time, the pantry is one of the number one places where strong and unpleasant odors may linger. If you’re in a disaster situation, and stuck in the house, you happen to have to go to into the pantry often as most people do. This can quickly become an annoying and unpleasant task.

So, making sure to clean the pantry often and rotating your stock to avoid items that might go bad first, is always a great way to prevent unwanted smells from drifting further. If you happen to have a hidden pantry, then you definitely do not want strong smells alerting people to it.

This is why it is so imperative to know how to get rid of these unpleasant odors in the pantry, and just about anywhere else.

baking soda

Baking Soda

The tried and true method for removing unpleasant smells has been, for a very long time, baking soda. Baking soda is often touted as a remedy for curing terrible smells because it does not just mask odors – it absorbs them completely, leaving your pantry, fridge, or any other area of your home, completely smell-free.

So, what is baking soda? First off, baking soda is sodium bicarbonate (sodium hydrogen carbonate). You’ll probably notice that this chemical makeup is reminiscent of regular kitchen salt (sodium chloride); that’s because baking soda technically is a salt.

Though baking soda typically appears as a powder, it is a crystalline like we know most salts to be. As you’ve probably noticed, baking soda is used for a great many things in the household – from cooking, to cleaning, to pest control, and many more.

This is why there are several methods to freshen up your pantry or refrigerator using baking soda:

  • The most commonly cited method is leaving a shallow dish of baking soda uncovered to the air in your pantry. Replace this container as necessary.
  • If you find that your pantry smells because something has spilled or rotted in it, you may discover that you have to clean the surface itself before the smell will truly go away. Do this by mixing a solution of baking soda and hot water (a quarter cup to a half cup of baking soda dissolved in a few cups of hot water) and using this mixture to scrub the surface. Any deeply ingrained smell won’t stand a chance.
  • If you keep your garbage can in your pantry, you can sprinkle a few tablespoons of baking soda into it to absorb any malodors in the trash as well.



If you’ve ever gone shopping for perfume, you’ll know that coffee grounds are often placed in small containers on shelves to “clear your palette”, so to speak, for smelling different perfumes. Luckily for us, coffee grounds can be used to clear up more than perfume smells.

Similar to baking soda, coffee beans, or coffee grounds, can be used to absorb bad smells in areas of your home. However, unlike baking soda coffee grounds will be fragrant on their own, so this is a great method if you simply enjoy the smell of coffee. If you don’t like the scent of coffee, then you might want to try one of our other solutions.

The best way to use coffee as a deodorizer for your pantry is to place a few grounds, or whole beans, in a shallow dish and leave this dish in your pantry. Replace the grounds (or beans) as needed. Unfortunately, this will leave you with stale coffee, but if you have coffee that is already stale, this is a great way to get some use out of it.

Another tip is that if you have some leftover brewed coffee grounds, don’t throw those either. They can be used to scrub shelving, bins and floors that have had rotting garlic, onions, potatoes, or other strong offensive odors that could draw the attention of sensitive noses.



Another miracle worker in the household world is vinegar, which has a variety of uses, from applications in gardening to cooking and cleaning. You can spray a concoction of vinegar and water onto surfaces to clean and disinfect them. So, it makes sense that this versatile acid would have deodorizing properties as well.

The reason for this is that since most smells have a pH level of above 7, which makes them a base. Vinegar is an acid. So, when vinegar molecules come into contact with odor molecules, an acid-base neutralization occurs; thus, eliminating both odors – in this case, your bad smell, and eventually, the smell of vinegar).

Vinegar smells on its own, but because of the way it eliminates odors, the vinegar smell does go away after some time. There are many ways to utilize vinegar for removing bad smells from your pantry.

  • Like coffee and baking soda, you can simply leave a shallow container of white vinegar or cider vinegar open in your pantry to neutralize bad odors. You can apply this method to any part of the house where you want to eliminate odors – not just the pantry!
  • Many people suggest simmering about a cup of white vinegar on your stove for roughly an hour to neutralize odors throughout the whole house. Make sure you leave your pantry door open so that it works in there as well.
  • For the really ingrained odors, such as rotting food or spilt items on a surface, you can also use a vinegar-water solution to scrub the area and deodorize it. There are many formulations for cleaners involving vinegar; one common ratio is one cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water. You can do some trial and error to see what ratios work the best for you. However, its recommended that you do some research beforehand to make sure that vinegar works well with the type of surface that you need to clean, as not all surfaces are compatible with vinegar.

Vinegar remains one of the most useful household items due to how diverse its uses are. Deodorizing your pantry is just one of many other uses for the chemical.

vanilla extract

photo: Brian Boucheron via Flickr

Vanilla Extract

Unfortunately, vanilla extract doesn’t have quite as many deodorizing properties as the methods listed above. Nonetheless, it does have its own strong and delightful smell that is excellent at masking malodors anywhere in the home. If you like how vanilla smells, then this might be the perfect tactic for you.

There’s a wide range of methods for using vanilla extract to mask bad odors, and some of these work better for larger areas, such as the entire kitchen or home, rather than just one space, like the pantry. However, if you keep your pantry door open while attempting these, you should see a difference in the smell throughout.

  • Bake a small amount of vanilla extract (two tablespoons) at 300 degrees Fahrenheit in an oven safe container for 20 minutes. Make sure that you place the container on the middle rack of the oven. Don’t forget it’s there, or else it could burn.
  • Similarly, you can also simmer vanilla on your stovetop for 20 minutes, or microwave it on high for a minute. Once the smell of vanilla has propagated to your satisfaction, dump out the extract and enjoy your new and pleasant-smelling home.
  • If your pantry has a lightbulb in it, you can sprinkle a few drops onto it and turn on the lights. The heat from the lightbulb will cause the extract to evaporate, scenting the air with a delicious fragrance. You can also buy rings that go around lightbulbs to disperse the smell.

While this method won’t eliminate the odor quite as thoroughly because it does not absorb or neutralize smell as well as the previous two methods. Vanilla is a strong enough ingredient to mask odor fairly well, so that your house smells pleasant instead of unpleasant. If you’re aiming for a pantry that smells like nothing, this may not be the best method for you.

dried mustard

photo byt Ron Dollete via Flickr

Dried Mustard, Sage, Mints, or Other Herbs

Add a half-cup of dried mustard into 1.5 gallons of water. Wet a sponge, paper towel, or old rag with this solution and wipe down walls, shelves, and flooring to remove the smells. You can also pour this up into a spray bottle to make applying easier.



Ordinary table salt absorbs orders, as well as makes a nice scrubbing agent.

  • Sprinkle the salt on any spills or areas where jars of canned food items have gone bad and exploded in the pantry. You just need to add a little bit of water to make a paste. Softly scrub the area to remove the cause of the odor.


Lemons, and Other Acidic Fruits

Many people have heard of using lemons, and the successes of it. The ascorbic acid in many citrus fruits will eliminate rank odors.

  • Cut the lemon or citrus fruit in half and place it with the cut side up in a bowl of water. Leave this in the corners of the pantry and allow it to work its magic.
  • Another way to use citrus fruits is to make a pomander. These are extremely simple to make. Just stick cloves into the fruit until the surface is completely covered. Tie a string or twine around it and hang it up in your pantry. This will keep things smelling fresh for several years.
  • You can also mix lemon juice and water for another cleaning solution to get rid of ingrained odors on surfaces.

Miscellaneous Methods & Final Notes

The best part about many of these solutions is that these items are generally easily found in your home. Almost everyone has access to at least one of these solutions – even if you find yourself in a disaster situation and you’re stuck in your home. Now, you know that there are plenty of methods available to you for eliminating bad odors, which is great in case you’re stuck for a while.

Additionally, there are some other miscellaneous methods that can help reduce odors in your pantry.

  • Placing a dryer sheet in your pantry, or anywhere else, where you want to deodorize – even the inside of a musty book. A dryer sheet left overnight will deodorize it.
  • You can simmer a mixture of spices on your stove to get rid of bad odors throughout your home and make your home smell like autumn. Achieve this by simmering lemon or orange peels, cinnamon sticks, and cloves in water for as long as it takes to smell better, or to the scent of your liking. Make sure to leave your pantry door open or place the steaming pot of spices on a towel in the middle of your pantry. Close the door to trap the aroma inside. After a little time, you can remove the pot from the pantry after it has cooled and the scent has died down. You can also reheat this mixture to use in another room.
  • Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the corners of your pantry can mask any light malodors as eucalyptus is antibacterial and antifungal.

As you can see, there are a range of methods available for deodorizing your pantry and various areas of your home. If you find yourself stuck at home for a long period of time, like when the SHTF, then making sure your shelter is a pleasant place to be can make all the difference. These methods, through some easily accessible materials, you can be comfortable within a pleasant-smelling home.

2 thoughts on “How to Remove Pantry Odors”

  1. Avatar

    Vanilla extract would be an expensive choice for a deodorizer. I would stick with baking soda – cheap & effective.

  2. Avatar

    It seems thee are very good options for hard surfaces. What would you suggest for sour liquid which has seeped into particle board a bad smell (It cannot be moved outside into the sun)?

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