How To Remove Fish Smell From Hands After Fishing

After a fun day of fishing, your hands will surely smell bad. The fishy smell sticks to the skin and can be difficult to remove, especially if you fished carp. Also, cleaning the fish will cause more smell to get into your skin. Sometimes, it’s not enough to use hand soap and water since there will still be a lingering odor that’s quite unsanitary. In this post, I share how to remove fish smell from hands so that it wouldn’t become a problem for beginner anglers.

If you want to avoid or remove the awful fish smell from your hands, these tricks will help a lot:

Why does fish smell fishy?

how to remove fish smell from hands

If you’re fishing on a lake or a river, the fishes are exposed to a lot of pollutants. Also, the likes of snails, slugs, and other underwater creatures produce body wastes. All of these can be eaten or rubbed into the bodies of fishes. Bottom feeders like carp are just some of the smelliest catches because they ingest and get exposed to such dirt.

But why do fishes smell fishy in the first place? Also, how come ocean fishes are smelly despite being soaked in saltwater?

Well, ocean water is around 3% salt. Meanwhile, fishes have less than 1% of mineral levels inside their bodies. To prevent ocean water’s saltiness from causing fluid imbalance, fishes then fill their cells with amino acids. Most ocean fishes fill their cells with an amino acid called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO), an osmolyte.

TMAO itself doesn’t smell fishy. The smell only develops when the fish gets killed. After its death, bacteria will convert TMAO into trimethylamine, which is known for its fishy scent.

The longer the fish isn’t cleaned or cooked, the more trimethylamine is produced. This is a sign of decomposition.

If you catch fish and touch it, the foul smell will accumulate on your hands. At the end of the day, your palms are reeking with the fishy smell.

How to remove fish smell from hands

1. Lemon juice and vinegar

how to remove fish smell from hands

To remove the nasty fishy smell on your hands, you only need two kitchen items: vinegar and lemon juice. Mix equal parts of lemon juice and vinegar on a small container. After that, soak your hands in it and rub profusely.

Vinegar is known as ‘liquid gold’ in terms of disinfection. It kills germs and neutralizes odor without the toxic side effects associated with commercial cleaners. It will also prevent your hands from smelling like a sour, fishy dish from using lemon alone.

If the smell is strong, you can scrub your fingertips with the lemon wedges. This will remove the scent that got stuck between your skin and fingernails.

However, this will surely sting if you have wounds. Still, it’s an excellent disinfectant, so the pain is worth the try.

2. Toothpaste

how to remove fish smell from hands

If you don’t want the sour smell of lemon and vinegar, toothpaste is your next best option. While this may sound like an odd recommendation, the use of toothpaste actually makes perfect sense. It removes any foul taste and smell from your mouth, right? If so, it will work for your hands, too.

Toothpaste products are packed with cleaning agents that will help neutralize odor on your hands. You can use this as a typical hand soap, ensuring that you scrub your fingertips as fishy gunk can squeeze through your fingernails.

However, toothpaste isn’t easy to spread if you have rough hands. My tip is to dilute the toothpaste on warm water and soak your hands in it. You can wash your hands twice or more with toothpaste until all the smell is gone.

3. Baking soda

how to remove fish smell from hands

Another foolproof way to get rid of the fishy smell from your hands is by using baking soda. You only need to mix equal parts of baking soda and water. Mix this until you have a pasty consistency.

Once you have the right consistency, you can now rub it all over your hands. Scrub it all over, focusing more on the gaps between the fingers and your fingertips. You can leave it on your hands for one to two minutes as long as your skin isn’t too sensitive.

After that, you can rinse your hand to see if it still has a fishy smell. You can wash it again or pair it with the other solutions here for the best results.

4. Detergent

One trick that really works for me is washing my hands with laundry detergent. Just a warning that this isn’t for those with sensitive skin. The laundry powder is warm and can dry the skin easily. Nevertheless, it works well in eliminating the fishy smell.

Any laundry soap will do. Put a lavish amount on your hands and lather it up. Rinse it and see if your hand still smells. I recommend drying your hands with a towel and smelling it again. In some cases, there would still be a slight hint of fishy smell. Washing again will do the trick here.

5. A pinch of salt

If you don’t want anything harsh, a dash of salt will help reduce the fish smell on your hands. I recommend using rock salt as it has a scrubbing effect that will help remove trapped dirt. You can also make a saline solution where you can soak your hands to remove the fish smell.

There’s no rocket science behind the use of salt. Like vinegar, it has a disinfecting effect. However, if you have wounds, this will sting so badly.

6. Coffee grounds

Another trick I discovered is that coffee grounds, used or not, help a lot in neutralizing fish smell. Take note that you need coffee grounds, not coffee, to put in your hands.

Get some coffee grounds and scrub them all over your hands. Make sure that everything is covered. Also, don’t worry about having coffee grounds stuck on your fingernails. It’s actually a good thing as the tips of your fingers trap smell and dirt.

Aside from disinfecting your hands, coffee grounds will also leave a nice scent. You can take it to a fancy level by using different coffee types.

7. Cilantro

If you’re looking for a more natural approach, cilantro is an excellent option. I know that it’s getting weirder and weirder, but this really works. Chop a few cilantro leaves and scrub it all over your newly-washed hands. This will help remove the remaining fish smell.

Some say rubbing your hands with garlic works, but I don’t recommend it. The garlic method will just hide the fish smell, not to mention that it will make your hands reek all day. Garlic can also burn the skin if rubbed directly.

8. Stainless steel rub

I must admit, this next method sounds fishy. Some recommend rubbing your fish-smelling hands on stainless steel. It’s believed that sulfur, which causes the fish smell, bonds well with stainless steel. So if you rub your hands on it, the scent will be transferred to the steel material.

It could be your faucet, a stainless steel pole at home, or stainless steel cookware. However, not all stainless steel items will work here. Also, it’s not a good idea to wipe your fishy hands everywhere.

Anyway, I don’t think there’s no harm in trying this method. I suggest using stainless steel cookware so that you can wash it after. If it doesn’t work, you can proceed using other guaranteed methods here.

How to protect your hands from the fish smell

To be honest, your hands will really smell fishy if you’re angling. The goal here is to limit your skin contact to your catch. Here are some tips I recommend:

✔️Wear gloves!

This is a no-brainer solution if you don’t want the fish scent to stick to your hands. Choose fishing gloves with a water-resistant or waterproof material. Also, you should consider a full-finger design instead of open-finger gloves that still allow the entry of fish-related bacteria.

✔️Get a fish cooler

The problem with letting your catch sit openly at the back of the boat is bacterial buildup. This will make your catch smell fishier than putting it in a cooler filled with ice. Your goal should be to preserve the condition of your catch so it won’t smell too much by the time you’re cleaning it.

✔️Wash your hands right away

After unhooking a catch with bare hands, see to it that you’ll rinse right away. While this will not remove all the foul smell, it will reduce the stink brought by the dirt you got from the fish.

✔️Keep your boat clean

Sometimes, you get extremely fishy hands because your fishing boat smells like it. After each fishing trip, see to it that you wash your vessel. It’s like washing your car after a long road trip. This will remove any nasty dirt that will smell awful, especially if you went fishing on a murky lake or the open sea.

Final words

Knowing how to remove fish smell from hands is a tricky task for every angler. But with the right methods, you can remove the nasty odor. You can use some kitchen items like lemon, vinegar, and baking soda. You can also integrate some laundry supplies for the best results.