Ah, the great smell of cooking-onions, peppers, fish, Indian cooking, Asian cooking-all the stuff we love to eat… and smell! But for people who get headaches or have other reactions to cooking odors, sometimes these lingering cooking smells are really offensive. So how do you get rid of cooking smells in your house? Well, there are several good techniques, but to effectively remove cooking odors, we need to look at what these smells are made of, and why they tend to linger.
Just about every kind of food has a combination of water, organic compounds, oils, and structural components like protein/fibers. When food is cooked, the structural components, the fiber, the cells, etc break down through heat and chemical reactions to release molecules into the air that are composed of gases, vapors, and tiny particles-some just oily gas/vapor molecules, and others that have a combination of particles/vapors. The biggest reasons why cooking odors tend to linger is the overall oily or ‘sticky’ nature of most of them-which makes them to stick to surfaces like walls, countertops, furniture, and their tendency to stay airborne for a long time.
If you’re cooking with oil, butter, or spices, all of these tend to increase the amount airborne oily ‘smell’ molecules that are released. This is why Indian cooking, Asian cooking, stir fry, fish, or any other oily foods with lots of spices tends to leave stronger, longer lasting odors in the air. If the food itself is oily like fish, seafood, or foods that have a high fat content (pork, etc), this will increase the amount of oily molecules floating around, too.
As we said earlier, these cooking odors are composed of both particles and organic compounds in gas / vapor form. To remove organic compounds like these from the air, you really need activated carbon, the right type of carbon, and enough of it to remove cooking smells for a long time (a carbon filter will absorb cooking odors but does ‘fill up’ after a while and needs to be replaced). The particles that are floating around are easily absorbed by a true HEPA filter that traps particles down to 0.1-0.3 microns in size. Having both HEPA and activated carbon filters can go a long way toward solid cooking odor control. And you will probably need to clean floors, wipe down cabinets, kitchen walls, etc., periodically as well to keep cooking odors to a minimum.
So far, the best recommendations we have found for eliminating cooking smells are: 1) open windows, 2) turn the house A/C system on high during and for a couple of hours after cooking and make sure it’s on ‘cool’ as this actually pulls moisture (removes odors better) out of the air, 3) use a quality portable air purifier such as the Austin HealthMate Plus or Aller Air 4000 Vocarb, with activated carbon and a HEPA filter in the kitchen and / or in the area where you are most of the time and keep them on HIGH while cooking and for a couple of hours after you finish. 4) if you really need to change the smell, we’ve found that Febreze and Glade Hawaiian Breeze sprays do help-but don’t overspray or you may make the problem worse.
We hope this helps those with sensitivity to cooking odors–so you can continue to enjoy cooking and eating foods you love!
Rex Murphy is an avid health enthusiast, former martial arts instructor, US Army Officer, an expert in the field of air purification, and has a Bachelor of Science degree from Auburn University.