Does something seem fishy – or perhaps simply smell that way?
Whether you’ve just finished reeling in the catch of the day before cleaning, deboning, and frying it up or simply using some prepackaged fish for your seafood dish, there’s just no escaping the fishy smell that can linger long after you’ve finished handling them – or is there?
With these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to wash away that “fishy smell” once and for all and enjoy some fresh seafood without smelling like it.
1 – Rubber Gloves
Perhaps this one is a bit obvious, and it’s not so much ridding your hands of a fishy odor as preventing them from smelling like fish in the first place, but there’s no denying it works.
It is certainly one of the most convenient solutions to the situation. All you have to do is pull them on, work with the fish, and then strip them off when you’re finished.
Of course, that begs the question, which gloves are best for this purpose? Far too often people overlook how warm, moist, and utterly miserable your hands can feel inside gloves that fit tightly or don’t breathe properly.
You should thus make sure that the gloves you choose are breathable and fit closely enough so as to cover your hands fully without being so tight as to be uncomfortable.
2 – Lemon Juice and Vinegar
There are actually two variants to this, both lemon juice on its own and lemon juice mixed with vinegar.
Lemon juice alone can reduce the fish scent just because it’s so distinct in its own right.
However, there’s also the possibility that your hands could instead just smell like an awkward fish dish garnished with lemon, in which case you’ll want to mix it with vinegar for a more proper DIY cleaning solution.
To get the most out of your lemon juice and vinegar cleaner:
- Pour 1 cup of vinegar (240 ml) together with 1/4 cup of lemon juice into whatever Tupperware or mixing bowl you’ll be using to brew up this concoction
- Mix these ingredients for a few minutes before adding a dash of detergent
- Let it sit for 30 minutes
- Once the solution has sat for long enough, dip your hands into the solution and scrub them
3 – Baking Soda Paste
Few substances are DIY mainstays as much as baking soda. There’s nothing it can’t clean with a bit of ingenuity and the right mixture, and the same is true here.
By mixing up your own baking soda paste solution, you can have your very own fish odor remover on your hands.
To get the most out of this method:
- Pour together 2 tablespoons of baking soda and a teaspoon of water
- Mix the solution together with a large spoon until it starts to form a paste
- The solution shouldn’t be too powdery or watery, so if it feels too skewed one way or the other, add more of the other ingredient
- Baking soda naturally absorbs odors, so once the mixture is ready it should soak up that fish smell from your hands
4 – Stainless Steel
If you are new to the world of handling and cooking with fish, you might be surprised to see stainless steel here. However, odd as it may be to think a piece of metal could be the key to deodorizing your hands, it’s true – and here’s how.
The chemicals that cause that nose-wrinkling fishy smell contain sulfur, which in turn form bonds with stainless steel. Interestingly enough, the same chemical composition that allows it to neutralize that fishy odor is also what makes stainless steel rust-resistant.
Of course, not all stainless steel surfaces are equally suited to having you rub your hands all over them. They might do as a last result if you’re extremely careful, but you really shouldn’t go wiping your hands all over knives.
Faucets may work better, since at least they won’t cut you, but do you really want them smelling of fish?
Probably not, which is why you might want to invest in an inexpensive stainless steel bar. You use it just as you would a bar of soap, rubbing it between your hands, either with or without water.
5 – Tougher Cleaners
At this point, you might well be wondering why soap doesn’t simply leave your hands smelling clean and fresh, or at least fish-free.
The answer here has to do with the fact that soap doesn’t remove the chemicals that cause the fishy smell in the same way stainless steel does, that is, by bonding with or otherwise eliminating them.
As a result, you’ll need to make use of tougher cleaners if you are going to get rid of that fishy smell. We’ll focus on a couple in particular below, but on the whole, it’s fair to say these cleaners are a lot more heavy-duty in nature than stainless steel, traditional soap, or even baking soda.
Then there’s the fact that the fishy odor that you want to get rid of is trapped on the top layer of your skin. If you can’t get rid of the smell itself, can you get rid of the tiniest bit of that top layer?
Don’t worry, you won’t be shedding excess amounts of skin like a snake or leaving your hands stripped to the bone, this just means that these methods clean a bit deeper than others, and leave your skin a bit chafed in the process.
In fact, one thing to keep in mind with this solution is that it can irritate already-sensitive skin. If your skin is already soft or tends to get irritated by detergent or other high-strength cleaners, you should probably look at other alternatives on this list instead.
That said, while they may leave those with sensitive skin a bit too red and raw for their liking, cleaners such as pumice soap and soap stones are perfect examples of tougher cleaners at work.
They are especially effective at getting rid of slimy or oily textures, which is naturally a big problem when working with fish, and one more way that odor can linger.
6 – Go with GOJO
If you work in construction, there is a fair chance you have used GOJO before. This is another one of those tougher cleaners mentioned above, and it’s used to clean away the kind of grit, grease, grime, and oil that comes with working with your hands in construction-related projects.
Luckily for us, it’s also good at getting rid of the oily slimy chemical texture and odor after you’re done working with fish.
That being said, as with lemon juice, this is another case of replacing one strong scent with another. The “OJ” in “GOJO” is for “Orange Juice,” and once you use it, your hands will smell strongly of oranges.
Still, most of us would choose an orange scent to that of stale fish, so if you don’t have sensitive skin, do like citrus-scented cleaners, and want one of if not the strongest cleaner on this list on your side, you probably want to go with GOJO.
7 – Catch up with Ketchup
Here is one of those things that sounds crazy but is absolutely true, you can actually banish the fishy odor from your hands with a bit of ketchup.
Part of the reason people are so keen on this answer is the fact that ketchup and tomato juice or paste is often touted as being able to handle skunk odor. Granted, that’s a radically different animal and odor, but if it can handle something as odious as a skunk, surely it can handle foul fish smells.
Well, odors don’t exactly work that way. For one thing, they’re chemically-based, so the chemical composition of skunk smell would be different from that of fish. For another, tomato paste and juice as well as ketchup don’t eliminate but mask skunk spray odor.
Still, that’s certainly better than nothing, and while its effectiveness varies wildly between the two animals, there are those who feel that it masks the scent better than other alternatives.
As such, this is a good stopgap measure if you have some ketchup handy and nothing else on hand. A quick spritz of ketchup can help mask the fishy scent until you get your hands on something that can banish it for good.
8 – Try Toothpaste
Set this down as yet another odd-sounding remedy that really can help get the fishy smell off your hands when applied properly.
This is also another alternative that owes its reputation as a fish odor remover primarily due to what it can do with other odors.
Toothpaste is naturally good at getting rid of bacteria when you brush your teeth. The thinking follows, therefore, that it should also be good at getting rid of foul fish smell.
That said, it’s pretty obvious that what we’re dealing with in the case of fish isn’t bacterial or plaque buildup per se, as with your teeth, but the oily slimy leavings from fish skin.
This thus falls right in line with the ketchup example insofar as it isn’t being used for the odor-removing purpose for which it was first recommended, but it might still have some value.
One piece of advice – you want to make sure that your hands are moist when using toothpaste. It will not spread very well if your hands are rough. Besides, the combination of toothpaste and chaffed hands probably isn’t the best for your skin.
Still, a bit of toothpaste combined with warm soap might help mask the fishy scent in an emergency until you can find something better.
9 – Soap and Saltine Crackers
Here you were thinking that soap alone might be enough to wash your hands, how silly – clearly saltine crackers are the way to go! Well, actually, both combined (strange as it may seem) can help get rid of that odiferous fishy scent clinging to your hands.
This is another example of choosing a method of odor removal that is all about trying to get the scent off of your hands and onto something else.
Combining soap and saltine crackers should give you a soggy crumbly solution that you can wash over your hands and which, in turn, can take the fish smell off of them.
10 – A Dash of Salt
“A Spoonful of Sugar” may work for Mary Poppins when it comes to cleaning up nurseries, but to clean that fish odor from your hands, a pinch of salt might be the way to go.
Once again, the trick is to get the fish smell off of your hands and onto the salt. There is no real mystery to this remedy, simply rub it on your hands, add some water, and voila.
11 – Coffee Grounds
By now you should be able to guess how this type of remedy is designed to work. You’re not pouring coffee onto your hands – that’ll both scald your hands and be a tragic waste of a perfectly good cup of coffee.
Instead, simply rub your hands with coffee grounds to both rid yourself of the scent and replace it with the smell of java.
12 – Baby Wipes and Hand Sanitizer
This is another answer that shouldn’t be too difficult to guess how it’s meant to be applied. You simply use these as you would at any other time.
They work to remove the bacteria from your hands if there is any, and they might wipe off the fish smell in the process.
It’s not a foolproof method, but it’s worth a try.
13 – Try Cilantro
We can’t end this list without one more foray into the weird world of using food products to get the fish smell off your hands.
Once again, all you have to do is wipe your hands with cilantro to get rid of the fish scent. As long as you don’t mind your hands smelling of cilantro, you should be golden.
Some of these methods may sound fishy, but they can all help get that fish smell off your hands once and for all.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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