Most people would agree that the smell fish give off sometimes is unpleasant, to say the least.
Live fish do not have much of an odor, but once a fish is dead, the odor becomes stronger in a very short time. And, this odor can attach itself to fabrics, plastics, and yourself as well, and can be difficult to remove.
But there are ways to accomplish this. Few Significant Others are inclined to be cuddly with someone who smells like a can of sardines, but most are not.
Fortunately, removing fishy smells is doable with the right techniques.
What Causes The Bad Fish Smell?
The fishy odor is caused by chemicals that are released from fishes cells as a product of decomposition. This is nature’s way of letting scavengers know there is work to be done. For things like crawfish, catfish, etc…, this is like ringing the dinner bell.
In fish that live in saltwater, a particular balance of minerals has to be maintained internally. Seawater is around 3% salt by weight. Organic tissues need a mineral balance of around 1%. Marine fish use amino acids and amines to reduce the salt content in the cells. The chemical they use is trimethylamine oxide (TMAO).
Once a fish is dead, bacteria and enzymes convert the TMAO into trimethylamine (TMA), which to humans and other animals, is interpreted as the strong fishy smell.
TMA readily binds to fabrics and other materials, but acids cause it to bind to water, making it less volatile and smelly. That’s why most fish recipes include acidic ingredients such as lemon, lime and orange juices, and tomatoes.
Freshwater fish do not use TMAO, and are much milder in both flavor and smell. However, they can develop other odors from geosmine and methylisoborneol, which are produced by blue-green algae. This comes across as a musky, muddy odor. Geosamine and Methyllisoborneol are broken down by acids, so lemon juice is still a good ingredient for freshwater fish.
There are several things that can pick up a fishy smell, and each one requires a different procedure to de-stink it.
The main areas are clothing, the kitchen, your hands, fishing gear, and the car. Removal involves the use of acids, detergents, and even ultraviolet (UV) rays in the form of sunlight.
Getting Rid Of Fishy Smell From Clothing
To remove the fishy smell from clothing or other fabrics, the TMA and other chemicals have to be completely removed from the fibers. A lot of the techniques will depend on what kind of fabric you are cleaning, and how color-fast it is.
One of the best ways to remove the olfactory offender is to liberally dust the clothes or fabrics with baking soda and place them in a plastic garbage bag.
Seal it tightly and let it set at least 4 hours. Longer is better. Overnight is not too much. Wash the fabrics in very warm water (just a little less than scalding is about right), then dry them on the clothesline so the UV rays from the sun can break down any remaining chemical.
Do not use a dryer, because this will cause the chemicals to set in the fibers.
You can also pre-treat the fabrics with oxy-bleach (not chlorine bleach). Be patient, as it may take a few times to completely remove the odors permanently.
Removing Fishy Smell From Kitchen
To remove fishy odors from the kitchen, you can wipe all of your knives, cutting boards and countertops with a solution of at least 10% chlorine bleach and water.
Rinse well with cold water. You can also clean the sink out with Comet, or Ajax, then rinse well with cold water. Open the doors and windows to let everything air out. You can place a pot of water on the stove to boil, then add lemons or lemon juice.
Let it boil for a while, and clean the atmosphere. Finish by burning a few candles.
Oh, and be sure to take out the trash….
How Do I remove Fishy Smell From My Hands?
This will sound weird, but believe it or not, one of the best things to remove fishy smells from your hands is stainless steel.
Anything made of stainless steel will work, such as a pipe, tool, or the side of your knives blades (but be careful).
Just rub your hands over the stainless steel, and the chemicals on your hands will transfer to the steel. Then they can be rinsed in a 10% solution of chlorine bleach and water, and the smells will be gone… You can also clean your hands with lemon juice, then rinse well with water.
Vinegar also works.
For really difficult smells, you can lather your hands up with toothpaste.
Scrub the well, then rinse with clean water. Other ways to remove the fish smell from your hands is to wash them with mouthwash.
Baking soda will also remove the smell from your hands. Dishwashing liquid can also be effective.
You can also scrub with old coffee grounds. This is especially effective.
Removing Bad Fish Smell From Your Fishing Gear
Fishing gear is easy to de-smell.
Chlorox and water do a great job. Just allow your gear to set in the sun for a bit afterward
You can also use vinegar or baking soda.
These will not leave any odor after they have dried.
Car Smelling Like Fish? Here’s The Solution!
The same techniques for the kitchen will work on your car or truck, but it is really much easier just to take it to a car wash and have it detailed.
Let the car wash people deal with it. They know what they are doing, and they can use the work. It is not that expensive and will save you a lot of time and trouble. Your spouse will let you go fishing more often if she/he gets a nice clean, detailed ride afterward.
It’s Part Of Fishing!
The smell of fish is part of fishing. But others who do not fish don’t understand this. Learning these techniques will go a long way towards keeping the peace. Have some consideration for others. Keep your gear, areas, and yourself as free from the essence of fish as much as possible.