Onions are a delicious kitchen staple that add flavor and complexity to a wide range of savory dishes, from stews and soups to casseroles and sides. But cutting and cooking onions can leave your kitchen – and all surrounding rooms – reeking of the pungent, tear-inducing odor of the vegetable. While the odor can cling to everything for days, it isn't impossible to get out, especially if you try more than one strategy to get rid of the onion smell.
Open the Windows After Cooking
Before you try anything more complex, simply open your doors and windows. If you can, open more than one, so you get a cross breeze coming through the kitchen. If it's not too cold, leave the doors and windows open for as long as you can. Even if it's chilly outside, opening windows for a minute or two can improve the situation.
Use Your Exhaust Hood While Cooking
During the cooking process be sure to use your kitchen exhaust hood to keep the air circulating and to filter out smoke, fumes and smells. Leave the exhaust on for a while after you finish cooking so it can continue to clear the air.
Have you done all the dirty dishes? Make sure your sink is empty and your countertops are clean before you try other ways to get the onion smell out of the house. Also make sure the garbage is empty, your dishwasher is running and your garbage disposal is not filled with onion scraps.
Set Out Some Vinegar
A small bowl of white vinegar set out on the kitchen counter will actually absorb smells. Pick a decorative bowl for fun and set it near the stove or wherever you're preparing or cooking onions.
For really stubborn or far-traveling onion smells, put some vinegar in a saucepan and simmer it on the stovetop or put it in a Crockpot with the lid off. This slightly more aggressive vinegar approach might cause your home to smell briefly like vinegar, but that smell will fade into...no smell at all!
Make Some Green Tea
Set some water to boil in the pots and pans that reek of onions. Once the water boils, turn the heat off, drop in a few bags of green tea and let them steep. Not only will this fill the house with a much better smell, but it will remove the onion stench from your cookware. You can decide whether to consume the tea or use it for other purposes around the house, from skincare to cleaning.
Simmer Some Spices
Fresh air and vinegar are two ways to eliminate the onion smell without replacing it, but there are also a few ways to replace the smell with something more pleasant. One of the best options is to make potpourri that you can simmer on the stove. Use whatever you're inspired to try, but a couple of classic options are: apples and cinnamon, oranges and cloves, pine needles and lemon.
Make an Essential Oil Spray or Use a Diffuser
If you have a few essential oils on hand, it's easy to make a spray that's inexpensive and natural. Just fill a spray bottle with water and add eight to 10 drops of the essential oils of your choice – some of our favorite combinations are lemon and lime, rosemary and lavender, and tea tree oil and eucalyptus.
If you have an essential oil diffuser, that works too. Just load it up with water and a few drops of oil, then plug it in on your kitchen counter.
Try Commercial Air Fresheners
Not everything needs to be DYI, especially if you're strapped for time. If you have some spare cash, head to just about any store and buy a commercial solution. Spray fresheners work quickly, especially on fabric couches and curtains, to neutralize smells. Plug-in fresheners can also be good options for long-term solutions. Or treat yourself to a scented candle or incense in your favorite fragrances.
Sarah Aswell is a freelance writer living in Montana.