13 Effective Ways to Get Fish Smell Off Your Hands (That Actually Work)

The fishy smell on your hands is terrible. Here’s how you fix it:

The best way to clean your hands of fish smell is to rub lemon juice on them, and use some baking soda (or a pea-sized amount of toothpaste) on wet hands and scrub. The citric acid in lemons and mild abrasiveness of baking soda or toothpaste all help break down and absorb odor molecules from the skin.

Over the years, fishermen have found a variety of practical ways to deal with the seemingly permanent smell that comes along with the love of fishing. The majority of these options are things that you probably have already in your home. So go ahead and read through this list of some of the easiest ways to take care of the unpleasant fish smell on your hands. You’ll be happy you did!

By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.

Key takeaways

  • One of the most effective techniques is using a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda or toothpaste.
  • Another great way is to wash your hands with just cold water and vinegar.
  • Make sure to wash your fingers and fingernails really thoroughly, as that’s where most of the smell will stick.

Here’s some other tips, in video form:

How To Remove Fishing Odor From Hands

1. Rubber Gloves

cleaning fish with gloves

By far, the most effective way that I’ve found for getting fish smell off your hands is preventing it from getting on your hands in the first place!

This can be easily accomplished by purchasing a pair of rubber gloves (dish gloves work too). I personally don’t like the bulk of dish gloves, so I keep a box of latex surgical gloves on hand.

Gloves are perhaps the best and easiest way to not have to deal with that lingering smell.

2. GOJO Soap

Have you ever heard of GOJO? Chances are that if you’re not in some type of construction, you haven’t. GOJO is an industrial hand cleaner that many people swear by, including me.

While a lot of construction workers use GOJO to clean their hands from oil, grease, dirt, etc, it’s also great at removing that unpleasant fish smell from your hands.

One thing to keep in mind though…GOJO has a very strong scent, regardless if you choose the original or orange scent. So while you may be able o remove the smell of fish from your hands, the GOJO scent will likely remain for a bit.

3. Stainless Steel (Kitchen Sink)

stainless steel soap

This is probably one of the most well-known tricks to get rid of the garlic smell on your fingers, but does it really work to get rid of the fishy smell that’s left lingering on your hands? As a matter of fact, yes, it does work!

All you have to do is rub your hands and fingers for a few seconds on a stainless steel sink and then wash up normally. I personally keep a bar of stainless steel soap in my tackle box and in my kitchen drawer. This is a great technique: you can do it anywhere with a stainless steel kitchen sink – and it’s a pretty neat trick too!

4. Ketchup

Have you ever heard that if you get sprayed by a skunk, the only way to get the stench off is by taking a tomato sauce bath? If not, check this article out.

Anyways, ketchup works in much the same way with that fishy smell.

All you have to do is grab the bottle of ketchup from your fridge, pour a generous amount into your hands, and rub it in. After it’s been on for a few minutes, go ahead and wash your hands with some soap and warm water.

5. Toothpaste

It seems as though toothpaste isn’t just good for cleaning teeth, it also works well at taking away fishy odors. Squeeze a generous amount of toothpaste on your hands, rub all over and then rinse it off with only water.

TIP: I’ve heard that the kind with baking soda works best

6. Lemon Juice

cleaning hands lemon juice

There’s a reason that cleaning supplies often use lemon extract in their ingredients! That’s because it works!

Who doesn’t love the smell of lemons? When trying to get rid of unwanted odors from fish, go ahead and squeeze some lemon juice right on your hands. Rub it around and then wash up with some warm soap and water.

7. Baking Soda

Due to the PH of Baking Soda, it easily removes any fish odor that lingers on your hands. All you have to do is mix some baking soda with water to make a thick paste. Apply to your hands and leave it on for a few minutes.

After several minutes you can rinse it off and the smell of fish should be a thing of the past.

8. Saltine Crackers

Maybe you thought ketchup seemed strange, but this one might be the most interesting (and surprising) way to get rid of fish smell. I mean, can saltine crackers really take care of fish smell?

As surprising as it may seem, yes they can.

All you have to do is first wash your hands in soap and water. Once your hands are completely dry, take a few crushed-up saltine crackers and rub them all over for a few minutes. Rinse off and you’re all good to go.

9. Salt

If you talk to any old fisherman, this is a trick that many swear by. Simply add a generous amount of salt to your hands while you are washing up and start scrubbing. Fishermen promise that the fishy odor will be gone in no time.

10. Coffee

coffee grounds

Now before you run to get a pot of hot coffee, you should know that you need to be using coffee grounds that have not yet been used. The delicious smell of coffee will work to neutralize the odor on your hands. Just take some fresh grounds, rub them around and after a few minutes wash off.

11. Hand Sanitizer

This is probably one of the easier options on this list and it works just as well as the rest. Due to the rubbing alcohol and other compounds in hand sanitizer, it easily kills bacteria and all of the smells that go along with it. If you don’t enjoy the smell of hand sanitizer, then this option wouldn’t be one for you.

12. Baby Wipes

Head on over to the grocery store and pick up a pack of baby wipes, because they will help take care of many unwanted scents. The ingredients in baby wipes are specially formulated to take care of neutralizing unpleasant odors, so these work well for fishy hands also.

13. Cilantro

Isn’t cilantro used to make guacamole? Yes, but the strong smell of this herb is also very effective in taking care of fish stink. All you have to do is take some fresh cilantro and rub it all over your hands, then rinse off. You’ll be amazed at how well it does to neutralize the smell.

14. Vinegar Solution

Washing your hands with cold water and vinegar removes fish smell from your hands almost always. This simple solution works because of the natural deodorizing power of vinegar, which neutralizes and eliminates the stubborn odor.

The Science Behind Fish Odor on Hands

The fishy odor that clings to your hands after handling fish is primarily due to compounds called amines. When fish is caught and exposed to air, its flesh starts to break down, releasing these amines. The most notable of these is trimethylamine, which has a distinctively strong and unpleasant smell. This odor is particularly challenging to remove because it is water-soluble and binds easily to skin. Traditional soap and water often fail to completely eliminate this smell because they don’t neutralize the amines. However, acidic solutions like vinegar or lemon juice are effective because they chemically react with the amines, converting them into non-volatile compounds that don’t emit a strong odor, thus effectively removing the fish smell from your hands.

Why Does Fish Smell Stay on Your Hands?

The characteristic fish smell is primarily due to a compound called trimethylamine oxide (TMAO). When a fish dies, bacteria on the skin and in the gut start breaking down this compound, converting it into trimethylamine (TMA), which has a strong, fishy odor. Human skin, being slightly porous and oily, can absorb TMA, allowing the smell to stick around.

Moreover, the handling of fish often involves touching fish slime, which contains proteins and amino acids. These substances can adhere to the skin and under the nails, contributing to the lingering scent. The skin’s natural oils can trap these compounds, making them harder to wash off with just water.

Why Does Fish Smell Linger So Long?

The longevity of the fish smell on hands is due to the chemical nature of TMA, which is a volatile amine. This means it readily turns into a gas at room temperature, which is why the smell can be so pervasive. Additionally, TMA is water-soluble, meaning that merely rinsing your hands with water doesn’t effectively remove it. It often requires a substance that can neutralize or chemically alter TMA to remove the odor effectively.

Furthermore, the longer the fish substances remain on your skin, the more they interact with your skin’s bacteria, which can produce additional odors. This biological activity can make the fish smell even stronger and more stubborn. The texture of the skin, particularly around the fingernails and creases, can also make it difficult to remove all traces of fish, leading to a lingering smell even after thorough washing.


After reading through this article and a list of ideas to get rid of the fish smell on your hands, you’re probably wondering which one you should try. The reality is that they are all effective ways, and each person will find their own, personal preference. Find the one that works for you and the one that you like best.

With that being said, in my opinion, the best way to get rid of the fish smell on your hands is to wear gloves! If gloves are not your thing, then I recommend buying some hand cleaner such as GOJO. I personally like the orange-scented kind.


Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

Recent Posts