How to get Fish Smell off Hands – 13 great Methods

The one downside to fishing is getting that fish smell on your hands.

At one level, it is a sign that you are enjoying some success – you don’t get smelly hands when you aren’t catching fish!

But it is always nice to be able to clean your hands quickly and easily and get rid of any lingering fish smell.

We’ve put together a list of handy ways to get the fish smell – which comes from a chemical called trimethylamine oxide that resides in fish slime – off your hands.

1.Hand cleaner or soap

It’s simple and obvious, but if you are near a tap you can simply wash the smell off with soap and water. Most liquid or solid soaps and hand cleaners are effective in removing odor, particularly in warm water.

2.Industrial hand cleaner

Industrial hand cleaners used by mechanics and other tradespeople and are really effective

The professional grade hand cleaner that mechanics and other tradespeople use are a step up again from soaps. These will easily remove all traces of fishy odor from your hands and are recommended for getting rid of strong fish odor. Brands such as Gojo are really good and include pumice grit, which really helps clean all areas of your hands. Gojo has a really strong orange smell and these kind of industrial cleaners can leave your hands very dry – but there’s no doubt they are the best way to remove smells and grease.


In the same vein, the abrasive quality of toothpaste means that it can be used to clean the fishy smell off your hands if you don’t have access to soap or an industrial cleaner such as Gojo. Squeeze a bit of toothpaste on your hands, rinse with water and then rub your hands together and you’ll soon be rid of that fishy smell.

4.Lemon Juice

Lemon juice works in a couple of ways – the citric acid helps break down the fish slime and the sweet smell or lemon helps mask the fishy smell. Lemon juice can be used on its own in the field or in conjunction with soap when you get back home to remove any unpleasant odor.

5.Baking Soda

Baking soda is another good substance for keeping your hands smelling fresh after fishing. It is both abrasive and an absorber of odors – that’s why people stick a box of it in the fridge. Sprinkle some on your hands with or without soap and rinse in warm water.

6.Stainless Steel

This one is a bit more out of left field. People have long mantained that rubbing your hands on stainless steel – whether that’s a knife or the side of a sink – will remove the smell of garlic from your hands and there is no reason fish smells would be any different. For me, it’s not one I can attest to working, but if you are caught without any other options it is worth a try.

7. Ketchup

Ketchup has a strong track record in helping people remove strong odors. After all, it doesn’t come any stronger than the odor of a skunk, for which tomato juice or ketchup is the preferred remedy.

The chemical compounds in tomato juice apparently break down the odors, and ketchup is a common ingredient on most fishing trips.

Try squeezing on to your hands, rubbing it on and leaving it for a few minutes before rinsing it away. Most times the fish smell will be gone with it!

8. Saltine Crackers

This is another one from left field, but a method that many old time anglers swear by. Crush up some saltine crackers with your hands and rinse off the crumbs and you’ll find the odor gone. This method is sometimes used in conjuction with lemon juice for removing fish odor.

9. Salt

Salt is an abrasive and it also soaks up water and liquids such as fish slime. Grinding some salt together in your hands is a great way to get rid of fish smell. Simply rinse off the salt and you’ll find the fishy odor disappears too.

10. Coffee Grounds

Using coffee grounds to clean your hands is another camp based remedy that relies on both the abrasion of the grounds and the chemical compounds in coffee to get the fish smell off your hands.

11. Alcohol based Hand Sanitizer

Here’s one that doesn’t require water to remove fishy odors. Since the pandemic we’ve all become very familiar with alcohol based hand sanitizers. These products are great for neautralising fishy odors when you don’t have access to water or water supply is limited. Squeeze some on your hands, rub it in well and let it evaporate off and the smell will be gone. Most also contain a mild scent that will help overcome any residual fishy scent. We always have a small bottle of this stuff in our tackle box, sling pack or fishing vest.

12. Wet Wipes

Wet Wipes, or baby wipes, are used to tackle some nasty smells of course. They are no less effective with getting rud of the fish smell from hands. A pack of these is a great thing to have in a kayak or boat, or back at camp, when you are on a fishing trip at your favourite fishing spot.

13. Cilantro

This sweet smelling herb is another way to get the fish smell off your hands if you don’t have access to any other above remedies. Rubbing some cilantro on your hands will remove the unpleasant smell. Be warned that it will be replaced by the smell of cilantro – which most people don’t mind but some people don’t like – unless you have some water handy to give them a rinse.

Final Word on Removing That Fishy Smell

With these 13 methods to removing fishy odor from your hands you are pretty much covered whatever the circumstances. If you have water or a stainless steel sink, then soap, industrial hand cleaner and even toothpaste, coffee grounds or baking soda good are methods to remove fish odors. If you don’t have access to water, or it is in short supply, try lemon juice or cilantro.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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