Top 5 Causes of a Pantry Smell and How to Fix Them

Something is wrong if you smell something putrid in your pantry. Because this area of your home contains a lot of food, it’s especially important to keep an eye out for strange odors. We encourage you to read the research we’ve compiled on pesky pantry odors for your health and safety.

There are numerous reasons why your pantry smells bad, but here are the most common:

  • Mold or mildew
  • Mouse droppings
  • Bugs
  • Food spoilage
  • Dead animals

You should check out this post if you want to know how to eliminate pantry odors. We’ll show you how to keep your pantry smelling fresh all year long in the tips below.

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Eliminate the Bad Odour From Your Pantry

Why Does My Pantry Smell? Five Common Explanations

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Let’s go over the five most common causes of pantry odors to help you figure out what’s causing that stinky stench. We’ll also give you some pointers on how to keep these nefarious bugs out of your pantry.

1. Mold Or Mildew in The Pantry

Wooden drawers in a pantry with open shelves
Mold in pantry
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Mold and mildew are two of the most elusive causes of bad kitchen odors. It’s often difficult to detect these nefarious fungi until they ravage your entire pantry. Once mold has colonized your home, you’ll likely notice musky odors that resemble stinky gym socks.

The most important aspect of mold is that it thrives in moist, humid environments. So, if you live in a state like Florida or Texas, you must be especially cautious about mold in your kitchen.

To keep mold at bay, make sure to clean up any spills in your kitchen as soon as they happen. It’s also a good idea to clean out your pantry on a regular basis and spray it with a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and water. You might also want to consider purchasing a small dehumidifier, such as the one shown below.

2. Mouse Droppings in The Pantry

Four mouse trap on a dark floor
Beware of mice

If mice or rats get into your home, you’ll most likely notice strong odors near your pantry. Although poo pellets do not usually have a strong odor, you will detect a sickening ammonia odor wherever rodents pee. Because these pellets have serious negative health effects, you must deal with this situation as soon as possible.

Although mice can infiltrate your home anytime, they are most likely to seek warmth during the winter. To keep mice out, it’s critical to seal up any holes in your house with good caulking. It would also help if you put all of your pantry items in airtight containers to prevent rodents from chewing their way through the packaging.

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If you already have a rodent infestation, we always recommend contacting a certified exterminator for professional advice. To deal with this situation, you could try a few bait devices

3. Bugs in The Pantry

A hand holding bug spray towards flies
Be careful about bugs

Most pests, like mice, infest your pantry in search of free food, particularly grains. Not to scare you, but grains frequently contain weevil larvae that are impossible to see. It can take weeks for these eggs to hatch and weevils to emerge.

If you want to keep pests out of your pantry, you should inspect grain packages for damage or tears. It would also help if you kept your pantry free of crumbs to avoid attracting unwanted weevils.

When you get your grainy goods home, you might want to put them in the freezer for two days. Surprisingly, this is the most effective method for eliminating any remaining larvae in your food packages.

It’s always a good idea to keep your grains in pest-proof, airtight containers for extra protection. To deter common pantry pests, scatter a few fresh bay leaves around your grains.

4. Food Spoilage in The Pantry

Spoiled red and yellow bell papers
Food spoilage in pantry

Although many pantry staples have a long shelf life, food spoilage is possible. Brown rice, potatoes, and tortillas, for example, can emit some pretty strange odors if left in your pantry for too long.

Making a list of what’s in your pantry and planning recipes that use these ingredients is the simplest way to prevent food spoilage. Indeed, some families plan “pantry weeks,” focusing on making recipes from what they have in their pantry. This is not only a great way to declutter your pantry, but it could also save you a lot of money!


Of course, you could also store your pantry items in airtight containers to keep them fresh. Alternatively, you could freeze some foods, such as brown rice, to extend their shelf life even further.

5. Dead Animals in The Pantry

A person cleaning under the furniture
Keep your pantry clean

A dead rodent’s odor is one of the most repulsive odors you’ll ever encounter in your home. Wherever this poor creature dies, it will emit unbearably foul odors you cannot ignore.

Although rodents can die anywhere in your home, they are most commonly found in crawlspaces or attics. However, because mice and rats frequently feed in the pantry, it is not impossible for them to die near the kitchen.

Unfortunately, the only way to eliminate this odor is to remove the carcass from your home safely. Even if you have a strong stomach, disposing of a dead mouse can be difficult, especially if it is in a difficult location. When disposing of a dead mouse, you must also use extreme caution (e.g., gloves and a protective face mask).

We always recommend speaking with a professional exterminator before attempting to deal with mice infestations or dead rodents for your own safety.

Don’t Put Up with Pantry Odor

An unpleasant odor can be a major source of frustration in the pantry. Not only does it reduce the aesthetic appeal of your kitchen, but it also makes it difficult to buy and store food items.

The good news is that strong odors from the pantry can often be eliminated with a few simple maintenance steps. By regularly removing expired items, using containers that seal tightly, and giving the shelves a thorough cleaning once a month, you can ensure that your pantry remains free of foul smells. Taking these preventative methods now and monitoring any additional odors can help keep your pantry smelling fresh even when storing foods for months.

How Do I Keep My Pantry Smelling Good All The Time?

Now that you’re aware of the most common causes of bad odors in pantries, it’s time to look into how you can get rid of them. In this section, we’ll go over some of the best ways to get rid of all those nasty aromatics in your pantry.

What Is The Best Thing To Absorb Odors In The Pantry?

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In your kitchen, baking soda is the most effective odor absorber. Indeed, many professional chefs sprinkle baking soda on a dish and store it in their pantry for one to two months. Consider spraying the affected area with a mixture of warm water and baking soda if the odor is particularly bad.

Although baking soda is the tried-and-true odor absorber, activated charcoal is gaining popularity. You may have heard about how this compound can whiten your teeth. It should come as no surprise that activated charcoal is one of the world’s best odor absorbers, given how effective it is at absorbing plaque.

There are numerous activated charcoal products on the market that are intended to eliminate odors. Take a look at these bamboo charcoal odor-absorbing bags, for example:

Although baking soda and activated charcoal are effective odor absorbers, they are not the only options. Here are three more excellent odor absorbers for your pantry.

  • Vinegar, white
  • Coffee grounds or coffee beans
  • Shaved sea salt


You may have discovered that coffee beans are often placed on shelves to “clean your palette,” so to speak, so you can try different perfumes. Luckily, the aroma of coffee beans can also be removed. Usually, coffee beans are used to absorb bad smells in areas of the home. Coffee beans, however, can also be used to eliminate offensive odors. If you don’t like the scent of coffee, a great option is one of our other strategies.

Coffee beans can be used to neutralize the smells of baking soda. Simply place a few beans or grounds in a shallow dish and leave it in your pantry. Since this will leave you with stale coffee, if you have already stale coffee, this is an excellent way to utilize it.

Vanilla Extract

Two small bottles standing in front of greenery
Smell of vanilla is perfect

Although vanilla extract doesn’t have as many deodorizing abilities as the techniques listed above, it still has a powerful and pleasant aroma that is great at masking malodors in the home. You might want to use vanilla extract in this manner if you like the way it smells.

There is a range of strategies for using vanilla extract to neutralize odors, including those that are more powerful and targeted and those that can be used on a larger scale, such as the entire kitchen or home. If you leave the pantry door open while attempting these, you should notice a difference in the smell.


Air vent on the ceiling
Ventilate Your Pantry

The most commonly overlooked strategy to deal with pantry odors is opening the door and allowing fresh air. It is rather frequent that pantries are enclosed, and occasionally they are actually separate rooms. If everything else is equal and there are no other problems, stale air might be odiferous enough to be very noticeable. By venting pantry, you can increase ventilation by opening the door or by using a fan to increase airflow. Depending on your objectives, financial constraints, and lifestyle, things might be as simple or as complicated as you would like them to be. A floor fan blowing through the louvered doors of a pantry may be sufficient to freshen it.

Essential Oils

Cosmetic bottles on a beige surface with bits of lavender
Oils emit good odour

The popularity of essential oils is owed to their all-natural fragrance enhancement qualities, and they also have a natural deodorizing quality that typically replaces unpleasant odors with pleasant ones. Because there are so many essential oils available for purchase and so many ways to disperse their fragrances, you may use electric essential oil warmers or atomizers, simple non-electric alternatives like vials and diffusers, or even the simple act of applying a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the corners of your pantry to mask unpleasant odors.

Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil in your pantry may mask any unpleasant odors produced by bacteria and fungi since eucalyptus is antibacterial and antifungal.

Dried Mustard, Sage, Mints, or Other Herbs

Different types of herbs on a wooden surface and a hand holding
Herbs will help you

To remove odors from surfaces, mix half a cup of dried mustard powder with 1.5 gallons of water and wipe down shelves, walls, and floors using a wet sponge, paper towel, or old rag. You may also spray this solution onto surfaces to make the process easier.

Lemons, and Other Acidic Fruits

Lots of lemons standing on a table in a box
Lemons for easy solution

Many people have heard of using lemons and the effects they have. Ascorbic acid, present in many citrus fruits, will eliminate foul odors. To make a pomander, cut the lemon or fruit in half and place the cut side up in a bowl of water. The lemon or fruit should be positioned in the corners of the pantry to work its magic. You can also use citrus fruits to make a pomander. It is extremely simple to make.

Simply stuff cloves into the fruit until the surface is covered. Tie a string or twine around it and hang it up in your pantry. The citrus fruit will keep odors away for several years in addition to the cleaning power of lemon juice and water.

Can Airtight Containers Prevent Pantry Smells?

Airtight containers are excellent for preventing unpleasant pantry odors. Because these containers emit no odors, they significantly reduce the likelihood of attracting pantry pests or rodents. Furthermore, unwelcome intruders such as weevils cannot sink their teeth into these pest-proof containers.

As an added bonus, airtight containers keep your food fresher for longer than the original packaging. By avoiding spoilage, you eliminate another source of bad pantry odors.

Airtight containers are now available in various shapes and sizes to suit every pantry.

What’s A Good Pantry Cleaning Routine?

Although odor absorbers and airtight containers are excellent ways to keep your pantry fresh, they should not be used in place of regular cleanings. Indeed, housekeeping experts recommend cleaning your pantry at least twice a year.

After removing all the food from your pantry, fill a spray bottle with one teaspoon of bleach and one quart of warm water. Apply a light layer of this mixture to your shelves with a clean sponge and toothbrush. Before putting any food back into your pantry, ensure all the bleach has dried.

Please ensure that your kitchen is well-ventilated when using this bleach mixture for your safety. You should also wear protective eyewear, a face mask, and gloves when cleaning.

FAQs On Specific Stinky Smells In The Pantry

If you’re smelling a particularly odd odor in your pantry, you might want to check out these final sections. Many people have asked questions about the two pantry odors on the internet.

How Do You Get Rid Of Rotten Potato Smell In The Pantry?

Potatoes are a pantry staple, but you must keep an eye on them for spoilage. When these potatoes go bad, they emit a foul odor that could harm your health. If you ever notice this odor in your kitchen, you must remove these rotten potatoes for your family’s health as soon as possible.

After removing the potatoes from the pantry, inspect the area where they were stored for stain marks. Scrub away any traces of these dreadful tubers with dishwashing detergent, water, and a clean towel.

To remove lingering odors, fill a spray bottle with a 2:1 mixture of water and white vinegar. Once you’ve prepared your container, spray the mixture on the area where the potatoes were and leave it to absorb the odors while you sleep. You could use a clean washcloth the next morning to remove any remaining marks.

You could also eliminate bad potato odors by rubbing baking soda and a dab of water into the affected area. Scrub this mixture in with a clean sponge and set aside for 15 minutes before wiping it away.

Why Does My Pantry Smell Like Fish?

You shouldn’t smell fishy odors in your pantry unless you use a fish sauce bottle. A fishy odor is frequently a warning sign that something is wrong with your home’s electricity.

Surprisingly, many plastic materials near electrical units can emit a fishy odor when they begin to melt. These problems are especially common in the winter when Americans use heating units. So, if you smell something fishy, check your electrical outlets and call an electrician for an inspection.

Although electrical problems are the most common cause of strange fishy odors, here are a few other possibilities to consider:

  • A dead rodent was discovered in the ductwork.
  • Sewer water seeping into your pipes.
  • Water quality is an issue.
  • The drip pan in the refrigerator is filthy.

How do you get rid of smelly pantry?

The most effective way to eliminate bad smells in your kitchen is by pouring a bit of baking soda onto the affected area and leaving it for one-two months. If this doesn’t work, mix warm water with some powder before spraying away!

How do I get rid of the smell of rotten food in my kitchen?

To remove musty smells from your fridge, fill bowls with baking soda and close the door. Keep them inside for up to a week before replacing these again so that they continue absorbing odors!

Why is there a bad smell in my kitchen?

What might be causing a bad smell in your kitchen? One likely location to look for the cause is near or around any garbage can. If you don’t have one, then it could also come from the disposal unit and/or misplaced rotten food that has been sitting out too long without being refrigerated properly first!

Why does my pantry smell like urine?

Many rodents, such as mice, secrete a strong scent to mark their territory. This distinctive odor is often found in enclosed areas and pantries where food items are stored – spaces with higher concentrations of smells than open rooms like bedrooms at night when people can peacefully sleep without being disturbed by pests searching for snacks while causing screams and angry outbursts.

Why does my pantry smell like bad breath?

It’s bad enough that you have a pantry full of food, but why does it smell so rank? It could be one or, moreover, causes spoiled items; pest activity like mice and ants running around looking for tasty tidbits inside your cupboard; mold/mildew creating an unpleasant odor when they grow out-of-control on moisture-rich areas such as old boxes left unchecked after delivery guy drops off a new shipment from Amazon Prime!

Why does my pantry stink?

Why does your pantry smell so bad? One reason could be that it’s been infested with mice, and they’ve left their droppings all over the place. Another potential cause would involve an outbreak of fungus or mold, which can grow quickly in dark places like this dry goods storage area where there are no natural breezes to keep them at bay!

How do you keep food cabinets from smelling?

You can use baking soda to eliminate foul odors from old produce and even make your house smell good! Simply fill a small container with the powder or grounds, poke holes in its lid then put it wherever you want.

How can I make my kitchen smell free?

The easiest way to keep your kitchen from smelling is by boiling lemons. To make lemon steam, fill up an empty spray bottle with water and add one or two drops of dishwashing liquid before spraying it on surfaces with odors that need neutralizing-the the whole house will probably smell fresh for hours! You can also try leaving out the baking soda.

Why does my kitchen smell like rot?

Mold is one of the most common sources of smells in your house. It can be found anywhere, but it’s often present when damp areas or spaces aren’t airtight, like kitchens and bathrooms – especially if they have poor ventilation systems!
Mold growth could cause an unpleasant musty odor which usually indicates its presence by producing black fungus on surfaces such as wood flooring (or other types)of drywall; however, you should always consult professionals before taking any remedial actions because some molds may trigger allergic reactions.

Why does my kitchen smell like sewage?

Mold can be a very unpleasant and unwanted presence in your home. It’s one of the most common sources of bad smells, so if you notice a musty smell coming from anywhere inside – that could mean mold is present! You might think it grows only in places with high humidity, like bathrooms or kitchens, but actually, it can be lurking everywhere under surfaces where water has trapped air molecules between joints, which then release these chemicals as they react together over time.
Mold loves dark environments because this helps them consume more food resources than light does, thus preventing loss of life by starvation.

Why does my pantry smell like pee?

Have you ever had a mouse problem? Mice have a distinctive, musky smell that smells like stale urine. This odor can be particularly noticeable in enclosed areas such as pantries or cabinets where they are likely hiding out from the world and its pest control products!

Why do my cabinets smell musty?

The worst thing that could happen to your kitchen is you have a mold problem. This type of fungus thrives in moist environments, so it’s no surprise there are many causes why cabinets might smell bad- from water stains on the ceiling due to overzealous drying after washing dishes by hand or flooding during heavy rainstorms all the way up through the creation of gross mildewing patches near where foodstuffs rest until they’re forgotten about later down below. With such versatility, this pesky creature can implant itself pretty much anywhere!

What absorbs odors in the pantry?

One of the most effective ways to absorb odors in the pantry is through activated charcoal. Activated charcoal works by trapping odors and other particles in its tiny pores, making it an ideal material for odor absorption. It can be placed inside a container, such as a jar or a cup, with holes punched into it and then placed on a shelf near the strongest odors. Additionally, baking soda can be used to reduce unpleasant smells.

Baking soda has long been valued for its absorptive properties; when opened and left in the pantry, it will help neutralize any cooking aromas that have become trapped over time.

What is the most powerful odor eliminator?

The most powerful odor eliminator is activated charcoal. Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions. It has the ability to capture odors and toxins from the air and trap them within its microporous structure. This means it will absorb foul smells like tobacco smoke, pet odors, food smell, and more from your home.

How do I get rid of onion smell in my pantry?

Removing the onion smell from your pantry is a simple process that doesn’t require expensive products or complicated instructions.

First, you should start by ensuring no onions in your pantry and eliminating the source of the smell. Once all onions have been removed, you’ll need to clean the area thoroughly. Start by wiping down surfaces with a mild solution of water and dishwashing soap to remove any grease or residue that may be present. Allow this to dry before moving on to the next step.

Next, it’s time to deodorize your pantry with natural methods that don’t rely on harsh chemicals or fragrances. Baking soda is an excellent option at removing odors as it absorbs both bad smells and moisture in its porous structure. Sprinkle some baking soda onto a cloth or sponge and wipe down every surface in your pantry, including shelves, drawers, and walls if necessary; alternatively, sprinkle some baking soda directly onto the shelving unit itself for maximum effect before vacuuming it away after 15 minutes has elapsed (a vacuum cleaner will prove handy here).

To finish off, consider creating sachets filled with herbs such as bay leaves, which are known for naturally neutralizing odors while also providing a pleasant scent when opened (think potpourri!). Place one sachet per shelf, and your pantry should now smell fresh without using harmful detergents or sprays!

Why does my pantry smell so bad?

  1. Spoiled or expired food – Check all the food items in your pantry and dispose of anything that is past its expiration date or has gone bad.
  2. Improper storage – Ensure that your food items are properly sealed and stored in airtight containers. This will prevent odors from spreading and keep your pantry smelling fresh.
  3. Poor ventilation – Lack of proper ventilation in your pantry can lead to a buildup of moisture, which can cause mold and mildew to grow and create an unpleasant odor.
  4. Pest infestation – Insects and rodents can often cause bad smells in pantries. Check for signs of infestation such as droppings or gnaw marks, and take appropriate action to address the issue.
  5. Dirty surfaces – Food spills and crumbs can accumulate in your pantry over time, leading to mold and mildew growth and causing unpleasant odors. Regularly clean and disinfect the pantry surfaces to prevent this.

How do you neutralize a smell?

There are several ways to neutralize bad smells, depending on the source of the odor. Here are some effective methods:

  1. Ventilation: Open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate and neutralize any musty or stale odors.
  2. Baking soda: Sprinkle baking soda on carpets, upholstery, or other surfaces that are the source of the bad smell. Let it sit for several hours or overnight, then vacuum it up.
  3. White vinegar: Soak a cloth or sponge in white vinegar and place it in the area with the bad smell. The vinegar will absorb the odor over time.
  4. Charcoal: Place a bowl of activated charcoal in the room or area where the bad smell is originating. Charcoal can act as a deodorizer and absorb unpleasant odors.
  5. Essential oils: Add a few drops of a natural essential oil such as lemon, lavender, or tea tree oil to a spray bottle filled with water. Spray this mixture throughout the room or on surfaces to help mask bad odors with a pleasant scent.
  6. Cleaning: Regular cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, carpets, and upholstery can help prevent bad odors from developing in the first place.

By doing a little detective work and using some simple methods, you can keep your living spaces smelling fresh and clean.

How do I get rid of a weird smell in my kitchen?

  1. First, start by cleaning all surfaces with an appropriate cleaner for the material – this could be a lightly dampened cloth for wood or stainless steel surfaces, or a specific plastic cleaner if necessary. Once everything looks clean, move on to step two!
  2. Check any exposed pipes and drains – these might have started leaking recently and need repairing; alternatively they might just need some vinegar poured down them so they stay nice and clean inside! If there are no obvious leaks visible then move on to step three.
  3. Clean out your refrigerator – This can often be a source of strange smells, especially if something has been left too long inside without being consumed! Throw away anything that has passed its expiry date (even if it doesn’t appear spoilt), deep clean the internal shelves using warm water and appropriate cleaning products; subsequently give it time to dry while open before closing it again (this will particularly help in preventing further mould growth).
  4. Lastly look around at least once per week for any other problems – pay particular attention around door seals as these tend to develop cracks due to regular wear & tear which will allow air/odours between rooms over time; also inspect/clean window sills for dirt accumulation which may also cause unpleasant odours when disturbed during normal use routines e..g walking around nearby etc…

How Do You Get Rid of Pantry Smell?

To get rid of the pantry smell, start by removing all items and cleaning the shelves and walls with a solution of half-cup white vinegar mixed into a half-gallon of water. You can also use baking soda or coffee grounds to absorb odors. Place a container of baking soda or coffee grounds in the pantry for several days. If the odor persists, you may need to check for any spoiled food, pest activity, or mildew that could be causing the smell.

Why Does My Pantry Smell Fishy?

A fishy smell in your pantry could be due to spoiled food or certain types of plastic packaging. Some plastics, when heated or cooled, can emit a fishy smell. If you’ve checked and there’s no spoiled food in the pantry, consider checking the plastic containers or packaging. Replacing them or keeping them out of the pantry might help eliminate the smell.

What is That Smell in My Kitchen?

Various factors could contribute to unpleasant smells in your kitchen. It could be from spoiled food, garbage, a dirty refrigerator, or even your sink drain. In some cases, it might be due to a gas leak, which should be addressed immediately. To identify the source, do a thorough clean-up of your kitchen, ensuring all appliances, cupboards, and the garbage bin are cleaned and free from spoiled food.

Why Does My Food Cupboard Smell?

Food cupboards can develop a smell due to various reasons such as stale or expired food, spices, moisture leading to mildew, or even pests. Ensure that all food items are stored properly, ideally in airtight containers, and regularly check for and remove any expired products. Cleaning the cupboard with a vinegar solution and using natural air fresheners like baking soda can also help eliminate the smell.

Jessica holden

Experienced Executive Assistant with a demonstrated history of working within the furniture industry. Skilled in furniture styling, visual communication, project management, and proficiency with Adobe Creative Suite. Strong arts and design professional with a (BA) Creative Direction for furniture design focused on Industrial Design from School of the Art Institute of Chicago.