# What causes the smell in rotten meat-grease and how can I get rid of it thoroughly?

We've just spilled the can of used meat-grease we collect so that it doesn't go down the drain and it turns out it was rotten. Now the granite counter-top and the wood-laminate floor of the kitchen smell very bad even after repeated cleaning with (1) dish-soap, (2) vinegar and (3) Murphy's Oil Soap as well as an enzymatic product called anti-icky-poo.

Extensive googling suggests that the smelly chemical is either putrescine or cadaverine. Am I right about that? How can I clean my kitchen such that it does not smell so bad?

• did you try febreze? not kidding... – shigeta Sep 27 '13 at 23:50

If the stench is caused by putrescine or cadaverine, then you are in luck! Both putrescine and cadaverine are amines ($$\ce{RNH2}$$), which react with acids to form water-soluble ammonium salts ($$\ce{RNH3+}$$). Most soaps, surfactants, and other cleaning products are basic to help remove fats and oils (by hydrolysis). Try white vinegar, which contains acetic acid. If that fails, you can buy muriatic acid (a dilute solution of hydrochloric acid), which is used to clean pools. Find it wherever pool supplies are found.

Caution: While both of these solutions are fine for the granite, muriatic acid may not be fine for your floor - test in a small hidden area first. Vinegar should be okay for the floor as long as you don't let it soak.

Putrescine:

• Thank you so much! The white vinegar did the trick, I just had to leave it soaking there for a few minutes. – Daniel Miles Dec 7 '13 at 0:36
• I'm not sure about muriatic acid from the pool store, but muriatic acid from a home improvement store is likely to be on par with concentrated hydrochloric acid (about 12 molar, 37%). That concentration is extremely corrosive and not safe to wiping a kitchen. – MaxW Feb 18 '17 at 15:16
• Muriatic acid is HCl at about 6% m/v. – Alchimista Dec 4 '19 at 8:36

If you are right, and the smell is coming from an amine, then you may need to clean a lot more than you have. Even if you think you've done a thorough cleaning, amines have very low odour thresholds. I can't find specific numbers for putrescine and cadaverine; however, another amine generated in decaying animal protein, trimethylamine, has an odour threshold of 0.00021 ppm.

We can do a back of the envelope calculation here. Volatile organic amines need to be at a concentration of 1 ppm in order for the vapor pressure to be high enough to generate an odour. Your odour is "strong" so let's choose a concentration of 10 ppm. The goal is to use our cleaning product to get the concentration of amines from their current level (10 ppm) to the desired level (0.00021 ppm) so that we don't smell it any longer. I read on many bottles of commercial cleaning products "kills 99.99% of the germs!" so let's go with that number as the cleaning efficiency. If I get rid of 99.99% of the amine in one wash, that's:

$$10-10\cdot0.9999=0.001~\text{ppm remaining}$$

That means we need two good cleanings to get the amines to a level where they cannot be detected by our noses. Note that this is a simplified problem and assumes that the fats don't interfere with the cleaning efficiency and that you are able to clean every surface exposed to the grease with 99.99% efficiency. These are typically the limiting factors in cleaning.

These types of odours are a serious issue for swine and poultry farmers and one of their approaches to eliminating odours is through proper air flow. Get some fans going to dilute the smell, as this will make life a bit more manageable and will also help in ultimately eliminating the odour.

I think that the problem is that you have meat-grease that creates a hydrophobic layer inside tiny holes of your granite and wood.

I recommend, with all the necessary precautions (eyeglasses and gloves), a solution of hot caustic soda for your granite. This will saponify the fat so you can remove it.

For the amines, you have to use an acid: HCl and vinegar are good choices but I would try citric acid too. Hot solutions tend to be more efficient.