11 Smart Ways for Getting Fish Smell Off Your Hands

You love fishing, and you don’t even mind handling the fish after you exit your fishing boat, but one thing you can’t stand is the stench of fish that lingers on your hands for way too long. You’ve tried soap and water to minimize the odor but to no avail. How do you get the fish smell off your hands?

Here are some trusty and true methods for removing fish odor from your hands:

  • Toothpaste
  • Cilantro
  • Baking soda paste
  • Baby wipes
  • Vinegar and lemon
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Stainless steel
  • Coffee grounds
  • Ketchup
  • Salt
  • Saltine crackers

Yes, we know how unconventional and even downright weird some of these suggestions are, but bear with us. Once you try them for yourself, you’ll want to share these fish odor removal tricks with all your angler buddies! 

Fishy Smell on Your Hands? Try These 11 Odor Removal Methods


Let’s just start with a really strange one, shall we? Although you typically use toothpaste for your teeth, there’s something to be said for slathering it on your hands as well. 

To use this method, turn on the nearest faucet or tap so the water is warm. Moisten your hands, including the backs. If your arms smell like fish too, then wet them. 

Then squeeze some toothpaste out of the tube and into your palm. You don’t need more toothpaste than you’d use when brushing your teeth unless you have to clean up to your elbows. Then it’s okay to squeeze a bit more toothpaste out. 

Begin rubbing the toothpaste on your skin the same way you would a lotion or balm. It’s going to feel a bit weird, especially if your toothpaste is grittier rather than smooth, but just go with it. 

Once you’ve rubbed in the toothpaste nice and good, run your hands and arms under the faucet until all the toothpaste residue is gone. Your skin will smell minty fresh, and the fish odor will be a thing of the past.

So why does this work? Toothpaste is designed to neutralize stinky odors like morning breath while combatting bacteria. It just so happens that toothpaste is effective for stinky odors such as fish smells as well.

We recommend toothpaste with baking soda to get the fish smell well and truly gone. 


Yes, you read that right, we’re recommending you use cilantro to lessen the fish smell on your skin. 

Cilantro or coriander is an herb with an earthy and citrus-like aroma. To use it to erase fish odors, you’ll need fresh cilantro leaves, not the dried stuff that you’ll find in a plastic canister on grocery store shelves.

Take the cilantro leaf and apply it wherever the fish smell is the most concentrated. When you’re done, rinse your hands with water. Do you smell the stinky aroma of dead fish anymore? We didn’t think so!

This method is a lot faster and less messy than cleaning with toothpaste, which makes it quite appealing. 

Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda acts as an odor absorber, which explains why you always see it as an ingredient in air fresheners. That also explains why we’re recommending it here. 

Of course, you don’t want to just dump baking soda on your hands, and the good news is, you don’t have to. You can prepare a paste and then rub that over your digits like you did the toothpaste.

You need water and baking soda in about equal quantities. Combine them until they make a paste. Then take some of the paste, cover one hand in it, and lather it up with both hands. Make sure you cover every square inch of your hands that smells like fish.

Let the baking soda mixture sit on your skin for maybe a minute or two. Then run your hands under a tap and wash away any baking soda residue. You might need to use soap and water if your hands feel sticky or smell like baking soda. 

Baby Wipes

Anglers should always keep a pack of baby wipes in their tacklebox, as the wipes will come in handy for lingering fish odors especially. 

Like several of the other products we’ve discussed to this point, baby wipes are designed for neutralizing smells. Although those smells are usually more of the fecal variety, the wipes are surprisingly quite efficient at removing fish odors as well. 

All you have to do is grab a wipe, rub it over your hands, and you’re set. Baby wipes are gentle enough on the skin that there should be no irritation, and you’ll not need to wash your hands after using the wipes either. 

Vinegar and Lemon

What happens when you combine two of the most powerful cleaning agents? You’ll get rid of those fish odors, stat. We’re talking, of course, about vinegar and lemon. 

Vinegar can erase odors even in the air while lemon juice is an excellent odor neutralizer. To harness the abilities of both, mix equal quantities of the ingredients in a shallow basin or bowl and squirt in one drop of your favorite dish soap.

Stir with a spoon and let the ingredients settle for a half-hour. Then dunk your hands in and scrub. As an FYI, vinegar and lemon juice can be harsh on sensitive skin, and any cuts or scratches on your hands will burn or sting when you clean them with the vinegar and lemon mixture. Even still, this method sure does get the job done. 

Hand Sanitizer

If soap and water don’t work to remove the fish smell from your hands, then why would hand sanitizer? Well, it’s because hand sanitizer includes ingredients that dish soap does not, with rubbing alcohol chief among them. 

Plus, hand sanitizer is the most effective way to clean your hands when you don’t have access to a sink, such as when fishing. Anglers should carry hand sanitizer in their back pocket or in their tacklebox or gear bag. If your hands don’t smell of fish, then you can bet your buddy’s will! They’ll appreciate your generosity and ingenuity. 

Stainless Steel

No, we’re not saying you should begin rubbing your hands on any stainless steel parts of your fishing boat. Instead, buy some stainless steel bar soap

At first glance, this soap doesn’t look any different than the bar soap you might have in your shower caddy, but it is.

The soap is made of stainless steel, which makes it an excellent choice for getting rid of strong smells, everything from fish to garlic. You use stainless steel bar soap the same way you would any soap.

You’re probably wondering why stainless steel is an effective odor remover, right? Stainless steel can grab the sulfur compounds from the fish that are now all over your hands. The soap then removes the compounds so your skin smells fresh.  

Coffee Grounds

Do you have some unbrewed coffee grounds you were going to use to make tomorrow’s coffee? If you don’t mind foregoing your fresh cup and picking it up at a café instead, those unused coffee grounds can really come in handy right about now.

Coffee grounds are full of nitrogen that will combat odors. You can use coffee grounds whenever a cleaning recipe calls for baking soda. Unlike using baking soda though, your skin will smell excellent when using coffee grounds as a cleaner. 


This is another rather unconventional cleaning method, but trust us, it works. Ketchup contains more than tomatoes, but vinegar as well. It’s vinegar’s acetic acid that’s made it a beloved household cleaner, so in many applications, ketchup works just as well. 

Open a packet of ketchup or uncap the bottle in your fridge. Squeeze out enough to cover your hands but not so much that you’re making a mess on your kitchen floor. Rub the ketchup all over your digits and then give it a couple of minutes.

Under a running tap, rinse your hands of all the ketchup. Then wash your hands using soap or your fingers will smell more like tomatoes than fish! 


Among anglers, this one is a bit of an oldie, but that doesn’t mean it’s ineffective. When applied directly to your fishy-smelling hands, salt is supposed to remove the smell. You don’t need anything special besides regular ol’ table salt for this trick.

If you’re dubious, allow us to explain why this should work. Salt is an odor remover, so by applying it directly on your stinky skin, the fish smell should lift. Go on and give it a try! 

Saltine Crackers

If you thought coffee and ketchup were the only edible fish smell removal options, we’ve got one more: saltine crackers.

Here’s how you can repurpose the crackers. When you’re home, wash your hands in the faucet using water and soap as you normally would. Then crunch up a couple of saltines and apply them on your freshly-washed digits. Let the crackers sit for a minute or two and then rinse away the residue with water.

Final Thoughts

When your hands reek of fish, you’re not without options for getting rid of the unwanted smell. Try using unconventional, edible methods such as saltine crackers, ketchup, or coffee grounds. You can also rely on stainless steel bar soap, salt, cilantro, or toothpaste.

If all else fails, you can always trust in conventional cleaners such as baking soda, vinegar, and lemon. Best of luck!

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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