This is why you must clean your kitchen light bulbs for a nice-smelling kitchen

Finding it difficult to pinpoint the source of an elusive odor in your kitchen? If your light bulbs are neglected during your kitchen cleaning routine, they could be the culprit – here's why

Large lightbulbs, black countertop, tile backsplash
(Image credit: Brandon Architects / David Tsay)

Grease and grime are occupational hazards in the kitchen, and for the most part, they are remedied by cleaning. However, when was the last time you cleaned your light bulbs? 

Just like on any other surface in the kitchen, light bulbs will attract grease. Yet, unlike your worktops, your light bulbs also heat up – leading to the cooking smells to linger and permeate throughout the room. 

In a kitchen, where greasy vapors and various smells are common, light bulbs can become unintended diffusers of unpleasant odors. So, when cleaning a kitchen, it's essential to give your bulbs a quick wipe to remove grease and to keep the space smelling fresh.

Why you must clean your kitchen light bulbs for a nice-smelling kitchen

Green deVOL kitchen decorated for Christmas

(Image credit: deVOL)

When it comes to things people with nice-smelling kitchens always do, many often overlook an inconspicuous yet significant component: cleaning kitchen light bulbs. 

Light bulbs, particularly those situated above stoves and preparation areas, are magnets for airborne particles, including grease, oils, and various food byproducts that harbor bacteria and impurities. 

'When you turn on your kitchen lighting, the bulbs generate heat, which can trigger chemical reactions and cause organic matter to decompose more quickly,' explains Will Cotter, cleaning expert and COO of Fresh Space. 'This can produce some pretty volatile compounds that contribute to the overall odor emanating from the bulb. When bulbs get dirty, they can also trap moisture, which creates a humid environment ideal for bacteria and fungi growth.' 

This, coupled with the humidity produced when boiling water or cooking food, can promote mold and mildew formation on light bulbs, leading to musty odors spreading throughout the kitchen. 

'Thankfully, it’s an easy fix. All you need to do is grab a damp cloth and give those bulbs a good wipe-down,' says Will Cotter. 'Not only will it help with the smell, but it will also make your bulbs shine brighter.'

How to clean kitchen light bulbs

Lulu and Georgia kitchen

(Image credit: Lulu and Georgia)

1. Before cleaning, turn off the power and let the bulbs cool to avoid burns or damaging the bulbs.

2. Wipe the bulbs with a cloth to remove any loose dust or debris.

3. For stubborn grease buildup, use a mild dish soap diluted in warm water or a vinegar-water solution for effective cleaning. Take a soft cloth or sponge dampened with the solution and gently wipe down the surface of the bulbs. This helps to remove any stubborn dust, grease, or food particles that may have accumulated.

4. After cleaning, use a clean microfiber cloth to dry and polish the bulbs for a streak-free shine. 

'Certain types of bulbs require specific cleaning techniques to prevent odors,' says Robert Brennan, founder of Brennan & Co. Cleaning Professionals. 

'For fluorescent and LED bulbs the ballast and heatsinks generate the heat. The bulbs need to be fully removed and cleaned with degreaser on both the glass and then the base of the bulb between the glass and where it plugs into the socket.'

You can find this STANLEY degreaser cleaner at Amazon.


USANOOKS Microfiber Cleaning Cloth | Was $15.99, now $9.99 at Amazon

Microfiber cloths are gentle yet effective for cleaning delicate surfaces without leaving lint or scratches.

Perfect for safely cleaning bulbs, this pack of 12 is a worthwhile investment for your cleaning supply list

More cleaning tips

  • Make cleaning kitchen bulbs a regular part of your kitchen cleaning routine: Set a schedule to check and clean the bulbs at least once a month to prevent grime buildup, and ensure they continue to emit bright, clean light.
  • 'Dry thoroughly: After wiping down the bulbs, it's essential to dry them thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth to prevent any water or moisture from lingering. This helps to prevent mold and mildew growth and reduces the risk of odors developing,' says John Larson, cleaning expert at Best Cleaning Tools.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals: It's a kitchen lighting rule that when cleaning your bulbs you must avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners that could damage its surface or affect the quality of light. Stick to gentle cleaning agents to ensure the bulbs remain safe and effective. 
  • Replace when necessary: If you notice any signs of damage, discoloration, or diminished brightness in your bulbs, it may be time to replace them. Old or damaged bulbs can not only affect the quality of light but also contribute to unpleasant odors in the kitchen.
  • Consider LED bulbs: LED bulbs are not only energy-efficient, but they also tend to generate less heat, reducing the likelihood of grease and dirt buildup. Consider switching to LED bulbs for your kitchen lighting to make maintenance easier and keep your kitchen smelling fresh.
  • Proper ventilation: This is essential for maintaining a fresh-smelling environment. Use exhaust fans or open windows while cooking to reduce the accumulation of grease and odors on kitchen surfaces, including bulbs.

SYLVANIA ECO LED Light Bulb | $13.46 from Amazon

This pack comes with 8 frosted bulbs. Available in 5 different colors, these lights are a more low-maintenance and energy-efficient lighting option for a kitchen than traditional bulbs.

Regularly cleaning your kitchen light bulbs will only help to make your home smell nice, who doesn't want that?

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past five years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including recipe articles, reviewing products, writing ‘how to’ and ‘when to’ articles. Lola now writes about everything from organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate student, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.