Why Does My Pantry Smell Bad?

Why Does My Pantry Smell Bad
Why Does My Pantry Smell Bad

The aroma of food from your kitchen can inspire a feeling of welcome and comfort. However, if the odor becomes overwhelming or the quality could be better, it can be an unpleasant surprise for you, your visitors, and your neighbors. A couple of reasons why your pantry smells bad or unpleasant are that there is dust and dirt on the shelves or you let too much water damage the containers. So, why does my pantry smell bad?

Spoiled food, pest activity, a mold or mildew infestation, or a dead rat hidden behind one of the walls or beneath the floor are four likely reasons for offensive pantry aromas.

You might not think much of the smell coming from your kitchen, but have you ever thought about how you might smell to others? When we go into a new home and realize the house does not seem clean, it’s usually because of a lingering smell. It can be difficult to get used to cooking food without someone noticing that something isn’t right. As for your pantry, it is also crucial for this storage area in the kitchen to have an inviting aroma.

A musty or damp smell can be noticed when opening up cabinets due to improper ventilation or when items are left in there too long, and they unlatch their scent onto other foods around them. If there is an issue with the ventilation in your kitchen, it will be necessary for food not to be stored in these areas. If you notice this, it is best to fix them before storing more of the same food items.

You should also clean off all containers immediately after using them because the moisture from meat and oils from oil-based items can breed mold. 

You should also not store foods with strong smells, such as fish, meats, and dairy products, with anything else. If the odor is terrible, consider hiring a professional cleaning service. Although it is essential to clean your pantry regularly, we found out that a simple ammonia-based cleanser in an open container was all you needed to eliminate an overwhelming smell.

The odor can also come from other foods, like spoiling meats or dairy products. If you notice a bad smell lingering around your pantry and have tried everything possible to fix it, there may be something wrong with the unit itself. For example, if your shelves are loose or not even falling apart on the floor, this could cause a bad odor.

How do I get rid of smell in my pantry?

Ingredients to Clean Moldy Smell From Pantry

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda or ammonia-based cleanser


  • Pour water into a bowl and add baking soda or ammonia-based cleanser. 
  • Stir the solution well until it starts bubbling. You can put the solution into a spray bottle if you want to use it to spray.
  • Pull all the containers out of your pantry.
  • Spray the solution onto one shelf at a time and wipe with a paper towel. Be sure to leave nothing but clean shelves in your pantry.

Other solutions are available if you have an odor you cannot eliminate. For example, vinegar is an acidic cleaner that removes odors and dirt. Another option would be to buy a pantry deodorizer product such as Febreze or Lysol Disinfectant Spray, Sanitizing, and Antibacterial Spray. Both of these products are quality brands that are commonly used to get rid of odors.

You should also keep any open containers inside your pantry covered. For example, you could use a large plastic food container with a lid. This will allow you to use the food while keeping the smell contained and not spread throughout the house.

How to keep pantry smelling fresh?

Baking soda is the best odor absorber in your kitchen. Many trained chefs will sprinkle baking soda on a meal and keep it in their pantry for one to two months. However, if the smell is powerful, think about spritzing the afflicted area with warm water and baking soda.

Coffee: You may have observed that coffee beans are frequently arranged on shelves. Coffee beans are commonly used to neutralize unpleasant odors in the home. However, you can also use coffee beans to eliminate unpleasant smells.

Vanilla Extract: Despite having fewer deodorizing properties than the methods mentioned above, vanilla extract still has a powerful and pleasant perfume that is excellent for covering up unpleasant aromas in the home. If you enjoy the scent of vanilla extract, consider using it this way.

Aromatic oils: The natural aroma-enhancing properties of essential oils have made them popular. They also have a natural deodorizing quality that often replaces undesirable scents with pleasant ones.

Other acidic fruits and lemons: Many individuals know the benefits of using lemons. Many citrus fruits contain ascorbic acid, which gets rid of foul odors.

Dehumidification: A vital part of the food industry since you can use it for meat, dairy, and even fruits. However, if you don’t want to throw out the food causing the bad smell, keeping a small appliance in your pantry may be wise to reduce smells. You can also use this appliance if you have foods that need refrigeration because they are not sold prepackaged. This will keep your food fresher while reducing the smell associated with spoilage or lack of proper storage space.

What is the best odor eliminator for pantry?

Suppose you are experiencing a smell in your pantry, and the odor is bad. In that case, you can get a few odor eliminators on Amazon that effectively eliminate odors. They include: 

  1. A spray of Ozium Air Sanitizer: Stench-eliminating sprays are the way to go when you need to get rid of a nasty scent immediately, and Ozium is the best for neutralizing, rather than concealing, an unpleasant odor.
  2. Lysol Antibacterial Spray: The best thing to do when something spills or seeps through a garbage can’s liner and emits a foul odor is to wash the trash can thoroughly with hot, soapy water. When my trashcan smells terrible, I use Lysol spray, which promptly eliminates the odors.
  3. Moisture absorbent with activated charcoal, DampRid: Desiccant DampRid absorbs moisture from the air to assist in controlling humidity and moisture levels. High moisture levels will also increase bacterial development and add to persistent odors. DampRid takes care of that issue by helping control moisture-borne scents like mold and mildew.
  4. DampRid Fresh Scent Hanging Moisture Absorbers: Not only can basements and attics develop odor issues due to excessive humidity, but the pantry can also develop musty odors due to too much moisture. DampRid hanging moisture absorbers as a remedy for this specific issue.
  5. Harris vinegar for cleaning: White vinegar can be used as an odor remover in the pantry to eliminate the buildup that traps bacteria. It can be poured into small bowls and left out to eliminate airborne odors. Although white vinegar also functions as an odor remover, cleaning vinegar is often stronger than conventional white vinegar, with an acidity level of 6% vs. 5%.
  6. Zero Odor Laundry Odor Eliminator: If you can’t stand the smell of white vinegar, you’ll be happy to use Zero Odor Eliminator. It eliminates lingering odors in the pantry just as effectively as vinegar.

There are also a variety of other products that you can use to clean the odor out of your pantry. 

  • The first item is a mixture of vinegar and water. This can be poured into the unit and will help with the smell and may also eliminate any mold or mildew that might be present in your space. 
  • Coconut oil can also help with a bad odor. It can be used as a cleaning agent in your pantry in addition to occasionally being a cooking component.

Pantry basic cleaning tips

  • Allow your cabinets to dry after cleaning them before putting anything back into them. The fastest way to dry them is to open all the cabinets and leave them in a room with good air circulation, such as an attic or garage. After a few hours, or if the air is still insufficient, you should use an electric hair dryer to speed up the drying process.
  • Inspect all food containers and ensure they are completely clean before reusing them. Some may need to be dishwasher-safe and should be cleaned by hand with hot, soapy water.
  • Replace plastic wrap and Tupperware lids to avoid any food bits falling off while cooking in your oven or microwave.
  • Always store your food in cool, dry, and dark places away from sunlight. This will help ensure moisture doesn’t damage the food’s quality.
  • For easy access to all your kitchen gadgets, keep several baskets and containers around the kitchen to fill the needed items.
  • If you have many items in your pantry, it is a good idea to list everything that is being stored. Having everything stored together will make it easier to find what you need and ensure you keep food and other supplies when moving things from room to room.


A smelly pantry is an issue; it causes discomfort, but whether the smell is caused by rotting food, bug activity, mold, mildew, or a dead mouse. The fact that these odors go away when you clean them up may be the only benefit. Find the source of a bothersome stench in your pantry using the knowledge you’ve gained and use the recommended products to freshen up your pantry.

If you are noticing a bad odor in your pantry, it can be helpful to remember that there are many foods that you can use to help eliminate this odor. For example, you can place an apple or an orange inside the unit to help keep the food fresher and remove unwanted smells. A few drops of vanilla extract or oil can also be a great way to mask any other smells that might be a problem in the kitchen.

You should also think about the food you are storing and how long it has been stored for. If items are left over from last year, then it is not wise to store this product again for another year. If you have items that are obviously past their expiration date and could be dangerous to eat, then it is time to get rid of them.

Having proper ventilation is crucial for a kitchen, and it’s also important to have a clean and organized pantry. You will be able to enjoy your food while cooking in the kitchen, but there should not be any lingering bad smells that could make it hard to enjoy your food.