What is the fish smell in my house?

We share the possible causes, solutions and prevention tips you need to know.

woman holding nose at bad smell

by Gabrielle Albert |

Fish is a notoriously smelly food. But unless you’re cooking it every day, a fishy odour that lingers for days, weeks or months could be a sign that something isn’t quite right with your electrics and shouldn't be dismissed.

Why is there a fish smell in my house ?

It might sound odd, but most of the time, a fishy smell can be an early indicator of a serious electrical problem that could potentially lead to a fire.

When a circuit develops a fault and overheats, the plastics and heat-resistant chemicals used in sockets, circuit breakers or wiring insulation often emit a fishy or urine-like smell.

This odour can be carried throughout the house by things like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. It may grow stronger or fainter with changing temperatures and circuit usage, sometimes making it difficult to pinpoint exactly where it’s coming from.

What should I do if my home smells fishy?

If you ever notice this smell and you haven’t cooked fish, you should inspect your home immediately and check switches and plugs for any signs of heat or burning.

If you can identify the source of the smell, turn off the appliance straight away. If you can’t, you should isolate the circuit using your RCD (residual-current device) and call in a certified electrician to carry out an inspection as soon as possible.

RDC Residual Current Device

In many cases, the culprit could be something simple like a loose connection in a plug or socket that needs attention – or a socket that has been overloaded by a high-powered appliance like a tumble dryer.

Sometimes only the plug socket itself will need to be replaced. In other cases, the damage may be more extensive, requiring replacement or repair of wiring, new breakers, or upgraded components to achieve higher current ratings.

How to prevent electrical items from overheating

1. Make sure your circuits aren’t overloaded

This happens when too many appliances which work on high power are connected through the same socket.

2. Keep an eye out for short bursts of sparks when you plug-in appliances or devices

This is a warning sign that the wiring may not be in the best condition.

3. Ensure electrical items have portable appliance testing (PAT)

This is where electrical appliances are checked through a series of visual inspections and electronic tests and is the best ensuring that your appliances are safe for use.

How to get rid of the smell of fish after cooking

Ever wondered why some types of fish smell stronger than others? It all depends on the freshness. Odours released from fish begin to develop immediately after they are caught and killed, as bacteria on the surface break down.

Obviously, the quicker it is taken from the sea and cooked in the kitchen, the less smelly it will be. However, as long as the flesh is still firm and the skin is shiny rather than slimy, it is usually still fine to cook and eat.

If you love the taste of fish but hate that post-cooking smell it leaves, here are five tips to prevent those unwanted odours wafting through your home:

Light scented candles

Scented candle

If you know you’re about to cook fish, it’s always worth lighting a scented candle an hour before you begin to help eliminate any unpleasant odours. If it’s not safe to do so, try using a plug-in diffuser instead.

Air Wick Essential Oils Candle, Purple Lavender

lavender scented candle

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If you need a strongly scented candle to relieve bad smells in the home, look no further than Air Wick. This purple lavender meadow candle has a fresh and calming scent and contains natural essential oils, so your home will continue to smell beautiful from the first to the last burn.

Verified customer review: "Candle has a really lovely lavender smell that I find helps clear any doggy smells really well."

Shearer Candles Egyptian Cotton Small Scented Silver Tin Candle

cotton scented candle

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If youu2019re not a fan of the smell of lavender, why not try a cotton scented candle insead? This uplifting scent, with a hint of clove, will fill up your home with the smell of freshly cleaned washing (a scent that is always super satisfying). And with a burning time of 20 hours, youu2019ll be sure to get plenty of use out of it.

Verified customer review: "Bought as a gift and the recipient was very happy."

Contain the smell

Before you start cooking, go around the house and close all the doors – this will help confine the fish smell to the kitchen. Then be sure to ventilate while you cook, using the extractor fan and opening a window or a back door.

Bundle with baking paper

Foil and parchment

Wrapping fish fillets in baking parchment or foil before cooking helps to retain moisture while helping to prevent any odours from escaping. In the culinary world, this method is also known as 'en papillote.

Be picky


The type of fish you're cooking makes a big difference in terms of smell. Oily fishes like mackerel and sardines typically omit a stronger smell than leaner fishes such as cod, haddock and sole.

Empty the bin

If you’re left with any leftovers from your meal, make sure you empty your kitchen bin and dispose of it in your main refuse bin as soon as possible. The last thing you want to wake up to in the morning is a house that smells of fish!

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