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8 Jul 2021

Simple tips to get rid of nasty smells and flies in your kitchen

Nobody wants lingering odours or fruit flies darting about your kitchen - our tips will help minimise this

Every year we welcome familiar summer scents, from freshly-cut grass and barbecues to beers and sun creams. But there's also summertime smells that, particularly with the arrival of warmer weather, we'd rather forget.

Fortunately we can battle foul kitchen smells with some good cleanliness and know-how.

Read on for our top cleaning tips for sinks, dishwashers, bins and fridges, plus learn how to get rid of pesky fruit flies.

How to get rid of nasty sink smells

Any nasty smells coming from your sink will likely be coming from the pipes and plughole.

There are a couple of home pantry ingredients that you can use as a quick remedy for this:

  • Boiling water
  • Vinegar/lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Essential oils (to mask any remaining smells)

If this doesn't work you may want to consider using a drain unblocker, which will help dissolve whatever is causing the smells.

For our top recommendations, find out the best kitchen drain unblocker.

Preventing sink blockages and smells

You can prevent sink smells and blockages by doing the following:

  • Scrape plates - remove as much solid food residue as you can before you put them in the sink (or dishwasher).
  • Get a drain protector - this can catch any bits of food residue (that you missed when scraping) so you can more easily put them in the bin rather than down the plughole.
  • No coffee grounds in the sink - never throw these down the sink. The grounds should go in your food waste, compost or bin.
  • Collect fat - Do not pour grease down the sink. Instead, pour it into a heat-resistant disposable container (which is non-recyclable, such as a microwaveable instant rice packet) before waiting for it to solidify and put it in with your general waste. The container has to be heat-resistant as the hot grease could easily melt some plastics and leak on your counter surface.
  • Enzyme cleaning sticks - you can buy these to stick down the plughole once a month to prevent germs, odours and blockages.

How to fix a smelly dishwasher

Scrape and rinse your plates

Dirty dishes can quickly build-up a stink in hot weather. To avoid this, scrape plates as thoroughly as possible.

You could even run a 'pre-rinse' wash on your dishwasher if it normally takes a few days for you to fill the dishwasher.

This will run a few litres of cold water through the dishwasher to rinse away much of the surface grime from your dishes, glasses and cutlery. As such, it could help fend off nasty smells.

Give your dishwasher a deep clean

If you think the source of smells is coming from deeper within your dishwasher it could be time to give it a clean.

Start by cleaning out the dishwasher filter at the floor of the dishwasher interior.

The inner filters can be cleaned under the kitchen sink tap with a soft brush. The outer metal filter just needs rinsing with hot water.

Next up is the door seal. Check around it for any nasty mildew and smelly spots. A quick wipe with an all-purpose cleaner will do the job of getting rid of this.

Finally it's time to run a deep clean. You can do this by running your dishwasher, empty, on the hottest wash it can do (normally the intensive wash).

You can use a dishwasher cleaner for this, as it will give this empty wash an extra push to get rid of limescale and grime from the pipes and inner workings of your dishwasher.

Some swear by vinegar to clean their dishwasher, but we err on the side of caution here. Read our full story on the risks of using vinegar when cleaning.

More tips and a step-by-step video: How to clean your dishwasher

Preventing smelly rubbish bins and fruit flies

In hot weather, nasty kitchen bin smells and fruit flies can crop up in just a day without any warning, so it's worth knowing how to get rid of them and prevent them reappearing.

How to clean a smelly bin

The obvious first step is to take out your rubbish; the most likely source of smells.

Then it's time to clean inside and out of the bin. This is easiest to do in the garden, with the help of a hose, if possible. But you can still do it in inside with an anti-bacterial spray or a diluted bleach solution.

Now that your bin is all clean, consider moving it out of direct sunlight if that's where you normally keep it. Choosing a cooler part of your kitchen will slow down waste decomposition, reducing smells and the likelihood of maggots.

Lastly, before replacing the bin liner, sprinkle bicarbonate soda in the base of the bin to absorb smells. If you have a cat, you can use cat litter inside as an equally effective alternative.

If you aren't already, it's worth having a smaller separate food waste bin, both to prevent food waste being mixed in with general waste and so you empty it more regularly (useful for preventing smells and flies).

Getting rid of flies

Fruit flies occur when the female finds a home in fermenting fruit (likely in your bin in summer), laying hundreds of eggs in the flesh.

The time between eggs being laid and the flies developing into adults is a matter of days. Luckily the flies themselves also only live a few days. So your best bet is simply to reduce the chance of it happening again and to lessen the nuisance of flies while they are alive.

  • Follow our bin cleaning tips above to minimise the amount of food the flies can feed on.
  • Wipe up spills immediately, these can provide an enticement for the flies.
  • Don't leave food or dirty plates out. This includes kissing goodbye to your fruit bowl for now - keep it in the fridge or cupboard.
  • Wipe down kitchen surfaces and the sink daily, preventing flies from finding any morsels of food there.

Home-made fly traps

You could try making your own fly trap - some of these include:

Apple cider vinegar and cling film
Fill a bowl, glass or ramekin with apple cider vinegar and cover it with the film and poke tiny holes in the top. The vinegar will attract the fruit flies, and once they're inside, they won't be able to escape the plastic wrap barrier.

Apple cider vinegar and washing-up liquid
Just a drop of washing-up liquid mixed with the vinegar will decrease the surface tension, making it easier for flies to get stuck in the liquid and unable to escape.

Beer or wine trap
Leave a bottle of old wine or beer out near where the fruit flies were spotted. They'll be lured in by the stale beverage, but the narrow neck of the bottle acts as a natural barrier to keep them trapped.

We tried out the apple cider vinegar and washing-up liquid mix first-hand and were pleasantly surprised. The apple cider vinegar attracted flies, keeping them away from other food (e.g. the bread bin).

After just a few days, it had caught and killed at least 15 flies. The only downside is that you will have to put up with the faint whiff of vinegar every now and then.

Keeping your fridge fresh

Clean up inside

The source of the smell is most likely going to be unnoticed spills or food that's gone off. But a deep-clean should help you tackle the problem.

Firstly take all the food out and check if anything's gone off. Then remove the drawers and shelves and clean them separately. Then clean the inside of the fridge and dry it off before placing everything back inside.

Check the fridge's drip tray or drain

If you've cleaned the fridge but a smell is still lingering you might want to take a look at the drip tray behind the fridge, or the condensation drain pipe that runs down the back of your fridge. They could be full of gunk.

Store your food correctly

Strong-smelling food could be the issue, so make sure you're storing your food properly in sealed containers. No one wants that Stilton smell on all your food.

Your fridge's water tank might need cleaning

If your fridge has a chemical smell and you have a built-in water dispenser, it could be that the filter needs changing. You should find brand-specific instructions on how to do this in the user guide that came with your appliance or by Googling it.

Maybe it's not even your fridge that smells...

If after all that, there's still an unpleasant whiff in the kitchen, you'll have to look around for a different culprit. Blocked drains, food wastage bin, a forgotten and rotten banana at the bottom of the fruit bowl could all be suspects.

For more on cleaning your fridge and keeping it fresh, read our full story on reasons your fridge smells.