5 Food Scraps That Will Make Your Kitchen Smell Great

Kitchens can often be one of the smelliest rooms in the house. From sinks and drains emitting unpleasant odors — to foods past their prime in the refrigerator or lingering fish smells infecting the whole house — to stinky trash cans, the funk can be hard to control. While regular cleaning will keep the worst of it at bay, you actually have most of what you need to make things smell great all the time ... probably already in your kitchen. Spices, leftover citrus peels, and — heck — even coffee grounds are great tools in your arsenal for a fresh-smelling kitchen.

Yes, food scraps can be given a second life as zero-waste air fresheners. Rather than rely on harsh chemicals and expensive cleaning products, remnants from your food prep that would normally become trash or compost can be used in their place. Cuttings, peels, pods, and other scraps you usually wouldn't eat can be transformed into lovely and fragrant aromas, for free.

Lemon peels

Citrus fruits are some of the most powerful hacks you can use to eliminate bad smells in the kitchen. While there are many ways to naturally clean your kitchen with fresh lemon, the leftover peels work wonders with their bright scent ... oranges are great for this too.

One of the easiest ways to put those rinds to work is as a refreshing spray. Place the scraps in a spray bottle and fill it with water or white vinegar. Allow the mixture to soak — the longer the better as it will infuse more of the lemon scent into the liquid. Spray this into the air or use it to wipe down countertops, sinks, or the inside of your fridge.

You can also drop a few small pieces of peel into your garbage disposal and run it with the water on. This will release their fresh scent while simultaneously cleaning the device's blades.

Vanilla pods

Vanilla is another strongly-scented ingredient that can leave your kitchen smelling amazing. The next time you use vanilla pods, don't throw away those fragrant shells. Instead, use them in a simmer pot to get rid of overpowering smells lingering in your kitchen after a big cook.

A simmer pot is as simple as it sounds — just boil a pot of water then turn the heat down to a low simmer. Drop your spent vanilla pods into the simmering water and soon enough, your entire kitchen will smell like freshly baked cookies. Keep an eye on the water to make sure it doesn't evaporate, refilling it as needed. 


Rosemary is a delicious herb to cook with, and an even better one for scenting the air. With its slightly astringent and herbal notes, it lends a particularly clean essence to the atmosphere, without leaving any sort of chemical residue. You can throw rosemary leaves and twigs into a simmer pot, although just leaving them out in a bowl on your counter will infuse the area with their pungent perfume too.

You can gently pound them in a mortar and pestle — this light bruising will release their oils for a stronger redolence. Fill sachets with the herb and place them in cabinets, drawers, and your pantry for a lovely whiff of the plant every time you open the doors. When using fresh herbs, be sure to swap them out every few days to ensure the scent lasts.

Cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon sticks are another potent food scrap that can eliminate strong odors. After using them in your cooking or baking, save them to reuse when you're whipping up smellier meals. For example, you can get rid of fish smell with cinnamon in boiling water — this will mask the fishy smell with the cinnamon's wonderfully spicy aroma. Combine the cinnamon with a spent vanilla pod and apple peels in the simmer pot for the fragrance of hot apple pie.

You can also grind some cinnamon powder off the sticks and sprinkle it into the bottom of a trash bag. This helps to balance trash odors and gives off a clean smell without needing to purchase artificially-scented bags.

Coffee grounds

Coffee grounds are another unexpected but highly effective way to make your kitchen smell fantastic. After brewing up a pot of coffee, save the grounds for this purpose. You can remove fridge smells with coffee grounds simply by leaving some in a bowl and placing them inside on a shelf to deodorize. The grounds don't just cover any off-putting odors but actually absorb and neutralize them, replacing them with coffee's slightly nutty, flowery, and earthy scent. Simmering the grounds or leaving them out in an open container to diffuse the air works well too.

While fresh coffee is obviously going to have the strongest scent, you can absolutely re-use the grounds to a similar effect. Pour your grounds onto a parchment-lined pan and bake them on low in the oven until they've thoroughly dried out. Not only will the baking process infuse your home with coffee's wonderful scent, but the dried grounds can be used throughout the kitchen to deodorize.