How to Get Rid of Smelly Kitchen Cabinets

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A few common household ingredients can help you conquer smelly kitchen cabinets.
A few common household ingredients can help you conquer smelly kitchen cabinets. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Smelly kitchen cabinets can ruin your desire to eat and prepare food or have lingering conversations in your kitchen. Complaining about the problem won't return your appetite; you're going to have to don your detective hat and sniff out the problem. You'll likely find most of the items you need to absorb the odor around your house. Try remedies one at a time rather than all at once, so you know what works and what doesn't.

Things You'll Need

  • Airtight plastic bags
  • Bleach
  • Cotton cloth or sponge
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Vanilla extract
  • Coffee grounds
  • Activated charcoal

Remove all the contents from your cabinets to determine the cause of the smell. Sniff each one and and toss out the offensive items. Secure items in airtight plastic bags before throwing them away to keep the funk from seeping into your trash. Throw away perishable items, such as spices and dry goods, that have absorbed the odor. Soak dishes and other cooking utensils in hot water and a dash of bleach to disinfect germs and odor-causing particles.

Scrub the inside and outside of your cabinets with a clean cloth or sponge dipped in a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Rinse and wring out the dirty cloth or sponge using fresh water from the sink before dipping it back into your cleaning solution.

Sprinkle baking soda inside your kitchen cabinet to absorb leftover odors. Let it sit for 24 hours; leave the cabinet door propped open during this time to air it out. Wipe up the baking soda with a clean cloth or sponge soaked in water and vinegar.

Place an open container of vinegar in your cabinet for a full day to absorb lingering odor. If the smell remains, place a cotton ball soaked in vanilla extract in the cabinet for a full day to combat the stink. If neither strategy works, place an open container of fresh coffee grounds in your kitchen cabinet. If that doesn’t work, put an open container of activated charcoal in your cabinet to get rid of residual smells.

Tips & Warnings

  • If nothing works to eliminate the smell, consider replacing your old smelly kitchen cabinets with new ones. Perhaps the odor is in the chemicals used to seal the wood, or maybe the smell is caused by rancid food odor particles that have inextricably linked themselves to your kitchen cabinet material. Consider installing open shelves, rather than cabinets, so odors don’t have as much surface area to cling to and aren’t shut behind closed doors.

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