How To Clean Smell From A Mortar And Pestle

One of the related issues associated with people who grind is finding out how to clean smell from a mortar and pestle.

We surely use our mortar and pestle to grind different things; from herbs, spices to other hard objects like cinnamon and the rest, and so, it is therefore important to find out how to really clean the mortar and pestle such that smell and scent from a previously ground material will not seep into the next.

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Some mortar and pestle users will advise you that nothing is wrong with having the smell of a previously grind flavour in your next one, but then again, it is dependent on your preferences to know what you want from what you don’t.

Also, sincerely, what if what was grounded the last time could spoil the taste of what is to be grounded now.

Some people will also advise that you get different mortar and pestle for different uses. Are you a herbalist that you’d want to have different mortar and pestles and in your kitchen. What if you cannot afford to buy different mortars, huh?

These and so many more are reasons why it is important to find ways of cleaning smell completely off your mortar and pestle.

What causes smell in a mortar and pestle?

use of mortar and pestle

Like I have mentioned earlier, it is important to properly clean your mortar after grinding a particular spice like ginger such that the residue will not contaminate any other spice you want to grind afterwards.

It is when you fail to properly remove the stains and residue from the mortar that they begin to smell.

And in the normal sense, the smell in mortars is quite inevitable when you use them regularly.

The only way to completely prevent the smell from mixing with other ingredients is to have different mortars for grinding different spices. But this is a very expensive thought.

There are other smarter ways to go about it. With just one mortar and pestle, you can ground so many spices without having taste A in taste B. We will look into that in this article.

But there are some particular items that you should avoid grinding too often with mortar. Ingredients like ginger, garlic and some types of green leaves tend to remain on your mortar even after you wash them. You could use other grinding tools like electric grinder for them.

I noticed that whenever I use my mortar for grinding garlic, the smell lasts longer than when I use them for other spices. So, one may need to repeat the process of removing smell from mortars often until the smell eventually goes.

Isn’t it interesting that some people still argue that a pestle and mortar is supposed to have remnants of past spices and that it adds to variety and such? Well, as someone who is concerned about perfect taste, I will not buy this.

When your mortar smells, not only will it disgust you but will, in one way, disrupt the genuine taste of the spice you are grinding. So the essence of getting rid of smells from your mortal and pestle after grinding can not be overstressed.

In addition, there are claims that when you leave your mortar unused for a very long period of time, they start emitting some Odour. The odour can be likened to the one you get when you leave a book in the library for years.

So if at all you have a mortar that you do not use, make sure you bring it out of the cupboard and soak it for some time. This should be done from time to time. It will preserve the natural and original smell of your mortar and will make it last longer too.

So, whether you use a granite mortar and pestle or a wooden one, this solution should apply across the board.


Let’s get to it.

Ways You Can Clean Smell From Your Mortar And Pestle

How To Clean Smell From A Mortar And Pestle

Fill your mortar with warm water and leave it for two days

This usually works for wooden and granite mortar and pestle especially.

Soak your mortar and pestle in warm water, apply unscented detergent into the water and leave it for 24-48 hours. Thereafter, you can wash, clean off with a dry cloth and then allow to dry.

This should work or your mortar and pestle.


Grind your rice in your mortar

Remember I mentioned this on how to clean a new granite mortar and pestle.

One traditional way of cleaning smell out of your mortar and pestle is to grind your uncooked rice in it. This usually works 10%, although some level of effort and hard work is needed to grind the rice into a powdery form.

Use baking soda to clean out the smell

Add about a quarter of baking soda into your mortar and accompany with about 4 drops of unscented detergent or dish soap. Pour your warm water and turn the mixture into a paste using your pestle. Make sure all the sides of your mortar and pestle are coated completed with the mixture.

Afterwards, add another quarter of vinegar and stir the solution very well, to capture all the smell in the mortar and pestle. Leave it for about 1-2 hours and rinse out the solution from your mortar and pestle.

Try it and let me know how it works out for you. I’ll be in the comments.

Are there home remedies to get rid of smell in mortars?

There are home remedies to get rid of the smell in mortar and pestle. As a matter of fact, most of these home remedies are the best approach.

As you have seen in the steps I showed you above, they involve the use of water, rice, soda and the rest. These are things you can get easily.

I’ve been trying to do some deep research on chemical substances that can actually do the job without causing any negative effects on the mortar or pestle. I’ll definitely write an article on it when I find it.

So stay in touch or subscribe to the newsletter to get notified when the article comes up.

Mortars are quite traditional in nature, they are manual and not sophisticated. So if you are looking for the easiest way to solve any problem relating to mortars, it should be one with a similar nature.

Some people also let their mortar soak in vodka or some other high-proof spirit. This is also effective to a great extent. It could take out the pepper smell or whatever smell out of your mortar.

After grinding or munching a spice with your mortar and pestle, you wash them properly and keep. But when you notice that the smell of that spice you’ve ground is still present, you need to take a drastic approach to get rid of it. I am happy that you now know how to go about that.

Just in case you tried these ways that I’ve shown you, and you do not get a desirable result, please reach out to me in the comment box. There may be others who have tried other ways that worked for them.

But at the very least, soaking your mortar for a long period of time, then rewashing it and repeating the process till the smell fades should be effective. Most caterers who prepare local dishes that have to do with the use of mortar and pestle normally take this approach too.

While there are people who see smell in their mortars as no big deal, there are others who are really concerned about the taste and smell like me.

These steps I have shown you is what I use in getting rid of the smell in my mortar and it will work for just any other mortar. Wooden, granite, ceramic or what have you.

Can you use one mortar to grind various ingredients?

Some mortar users argue that the best way to avoid all these problems of smell and remnants is to have a particular mortar for each spice you choose to grind.

But like I’ve mentioned in the beginning, you don’t want your kitchen to look like a shrine, do you?

Now that is funny but true.

Yes, You can use a single mortar and pestle to grind various spices. It has been locally and originally made as a multi-purpose grinding tool for preparing food. 

The only important thing you should not neglect when using one mortar for various purposes is that it must be properly cleaned after each use.

If you do not want a taste of the previously ground item to be transferred to the other, then make sure you get rid of the smell with the steps I’ve shown you above.

It is a general belief that when you use a tool for various purposes, it will not last as long as when you use it for a particular purpose.

For example, if I have three different mortars and I use them separately for grinding three different ingredients each time. They tend to last long.

In this connection, preservation of your single mortar for a long period of time begins from the first time you use it. How properly do you handle it?

Do you soak it for the required amount of time? Do you care to get rid of the smells? Do you clean it in the proper way? How often do you season your mortar?

These are what you should carry out to ensure your newly bought mortar and pestle lasts for long.

How to prevent smell in new mortars and pestle after each use

use of mortar and pestle

If it is your first time owning a mortar and pestle, I’ll show you something that will help you prevent or avoid smell after you use it for the first time.

At this stage, your mortar is still fresh, it has not been used and it is waiting to be used.

Any spice that goes into the wooden bowl first will definitely leave something behind, which is the smell of such spice or ingredients.

Since it is new, the smell will definitely last for long. If you can not handle it at this level, you may have to grind ingredients with that smell till when you get rid of the mortar.

But to avoid all these, you need to clean and season your new mortar and pestle.

The first thing you should do if it’s your first time using a new mortar and pestle is to clean out the stone dust that is inherently left during the manufacturing process. Similar to having a new dutch oven, yeah?

Needless to say, you should know by now that it is a dangerous and grave move to wash your mortar with detergent or soap.

After washing the mortar thoroughly with clean warm water, let it air dry. It is not wise to start grinding with a wet mortar as it can glue up your dry ingredients.

And as a newbie in using mortars, you may be wondering how you ensure that those flavours don’t transfer when you wash only with water.

Well, none of my research says that you must use rice too frequently. Just scrub with the rough end of the sponge or brush can clean any spices and pastes from the mortar. There are always two ways to kill a rat.

Above all, Store your mortar and pestle where it won’t be hit.

You know how these mortars can be very heavy, especially those of wooden and granite. So it is best to store them in a cupboard on the ground. Just to avoid any Crack or chip in the bowl.