Is There A Menthol Smell In Your House? (Possible Causes & Fixes)

Jessica Vaillancourt
by Jessica Vaillancourt

As far as strange smells in your home go, menthol is one of the most pleasant. But you’re probably sniffing around wondering why on earth your house smells like a candy cane. While it might remind you of the holiday season, it’s still a mystery you’d like to solve. So what is causing that minty menthol smell in your house?

The menthol smell is probably emanating from your kitchen or bathroom medicine cabinet. Maybe you’ve recently baked or cooked with peppermint, or have medicinal products in your bathroom made with menthol. If someone in the home vapes or smokes cigarettes, you may also be smelling the menthol in these tobacco products.

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What is Menthol?

Menthol is a chemical naturally derived from the oil of mint plants. This waxy substance is white or clear, and can also be made synthetically. Menthol is commonly added to tobacco and other medicinal products for its soothing and flavoring properties.

Menthol scent is a combination of eucalyptus and peppermint — a fresh and cool scent. You’ll likely recognize this minty smell in products like Menthol cigarettes, mint gum or candies, and Vicks VapoRub. It is fine to consume and put on skin, as long as the menthol is diluted.

Causes of Menthol Smell in House

The presence of menthol smell in your house should not be a major cause of concern. Natural menthol on its own is a safe, non-toxic substance. It is commonly put into candies, gums, medicinal rubs, and more. Regardless, you probably want to know where it’s coming from. Let’s explore the following places you might be smelling it and some likely menthol sources.

Medicine Products in Your Bathroom

Menthol is an ingredient often used in many modern medicines. That’s because menthol has a cooling, soothing effect on pain, dryness, and irritation. It can ease muscle pain, soothe throat soreness, and even help clear sinuses. Common over-the-counter medicines that have a menthol scent include:

  • Blistex chapstick
  • Vicks VapoRub
  • Listerine mouthwash
  • GOLD BOND lotions
  • Icy Hot pain-relieving patches
  • BENGAY heat rub
  • TheraFlu
  • Mint toothpastes and mouthwashes

When people smell menthol, they may immediately think of Vicks VapoRub. Vicks is a mentholated topical ointment. It can be rubbed on the chest or back to help suppress coughs or clear nasal congestion.

Vicks VapoRub has a really strong eucalyptus and menthol scent that can linger for hours after use. Its thick, oily consistency stays on the skin for a while after application, and the odor can overpower your nose.

While the scent is less powerful, mint toothpastes can have menthol as well. Do you use peppermint toothpaste to brush your teeth? Is your toothpaste tube leaking? The menthol smell may be attributed to this.

Cooking or Baking with Mint or Peppermint Oil

Prolific bakers everywhere will be very familiar with peppermint oil or extract. Using peppermint oil to bake peppermint bark, cookies, brownies, and mint candies adds a delicious flavor. Pure mint leaves can also be added to infused waters, ice creams, and various dishes.

Baking peppermint cookies or brownies in the oven made with peppermint oil will release a menthol aroma into the air. If there is a strong menthol scent in your home, ask yourself if you’ve recently used mint-derived products for cooking. Also rule out if there is a mint plant in your home, or a mint bundle stashed somewhere in your fridge.

Smoking Cigarettes or Vaping

Are you smelling menthol but haven’t cooked with mint or used menthol medicines? It could be the presence of menthol in a burning cigarette, or vapor from a vape pen. In the 1930s, cigarette manufacturers began adding menthol to some of their products. The menthol counteracts the drying effect of tobacco smoke.

It also helps improve the taste of the some 7,000 chemicals and additives in cigarettes. Menthol flavored cigarettes are still on the market today. If you or someone in your home smokes menthols, this is probably the explanation for the smell.

If you rent an apartment, it’s also possible the previous tenant smoked. Smoke smells get trapped in the walls for months or even years.

Similar to cigarettes, certain vapor juices in vape pens have menthol and mint additives to soothe the throat. They also make the vapor taste more pleasant. Their vapors enter the atmosphere and can linger, giving your home a mint scent.

Note: Exercise caution when inhaling tobacco and nicotine. These products are unsafe to your health and can cause lung cancer.

Air Fresheners or Diffusers

Like the vapors and smoke from cigarettes and vape pens, diffusers can cause a strong menthol smell. A diffuser, or an aroma lamp, is used to diffuse essential oils into the air by heating it and letting it evaporate. Essential oil diffusers are often used for aromatherapy and to add pleasant scents to rooms prone to stink.

Do you have a plug-in air freshener or essential oil diffuser somewhere in your home? If you’re using a peppermint essential oil or eucalyptus oil, this is likely the cause of the menthol smell.

You Have Phantosmia

It’s hopefully clear by now where the menthol smell is originating in your home. If it’s not a menthol-made medicinal, beauty, or tobacco product, or an essential oil diffuser, you may be experiencing phantosmia.

Phantosmia, or phantom smells, is an olfactory disorder in which a person smells odors that aren’t really there. These smells can include anything from mint to sewage to burning smells. Phantosmia is relatively uncommon, so if you suspect you have it consult your doctor.

How to Get Rid of Menthol Smell in House

If you have a strong aversion to the smell of menthol, you probably want to get rid of it. The best method of menthol odor removal will depend on the source of the smell. If you have an essential oil diffuser, switch to a non-mint or eucalyptus oil. Try to avoid products made with menthol, especially Vicks VapoRub, as these scents can linger for a long time.

Use Odor Eliminators

You can utilize odor eliminators strategically placed where the odor is strongest. Odor eliminators work by breaking down odor molecules and dissipating them. Here are some effective DIY and homemade odor absorbers and eliminators to try:

  • A bowl of distilled white vinegar
  • A bowl of baking soda
  • Activated charcoal
  • Burning beeswax candle

Place these in bowls and set them out around rooms that smell strongly of menthol, such as the kitchen or bathroom. In addition to identifying and containing the source of the menthol, odor eliminators will speed up the process. And if worse comes to worst, air purifiers may help clear up the smell.

Clean Peppermint Oil Spills

Do you have a peppermint essential oil spill on your hands? This will require a little more elbow grease to get rid of. Take these steps to clean and deodorize a peppermint oil spill:

  • Treat the oil spill with liquid laundry detergent. These liquid soaps are effective at treating oil-based stains. If your affected item is fabric and machine washable, treat the item with a liquid detergent then run it through a wash cycle.
  • Treat the oil spill with a baking soda paste. Create a paste using baking soda and distilled white vinegar, and cover the peppermint oil spill with it. Let it sit for a few hours, or even overnight. Then shake it off or vacuum, and wipe off with a rag. Baking soda and vinegar are effective at cleaning while absorbing scents from items.

Clean Your Essential Oil Diffuser

Clean your essential oil diffuser to rid it of that stale, old minty oil. To do this, first empty the diffuser of any remaining water and oil. Then fill the reservoir halfway with fresh water.

Add ½ a tablespoon with distilled white vinegar. Then plug in the diffuser and let the water and vinegar solution diffuse for 20 minutes. This will help clean and deodorize it. Wipe it down afterwards with a little dish soap and a rag.

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Related Questions

Why does menthol feel cold?

Menthol feels cold because its molecules activate cold-sensing nerve receptors in your skin. This biological trick makes you feel as though you’re experiencing a temperature change. In addition, menthol has an anesthetic numbing effect, so nerves feel dampened after exposure to menthol.

What does menthol do to your lungs? Menthol is an added ingredient in many types of cigarettes. Menthol has soothing, anesthetic properties that can ease throat irritation. Also, it lessens the drying effect of cigarette smoke in the lungs. The downside of menthol in cigarettes is that in making smoke more tolerable, smokers often hold it in their lungs for longer. This increases the chances of lungs absorbing the toxic chemicals. 

Is peppermint oil safe for cats?

Peppermint oil is not safe for cats. Felines lack the enzymes needed to process certain compounds found in essential oils. The inhalation, skin contact, or consumption of peppermint oil can have serious side effects on their health. These may include serious liver damage, respiratory failure, seizures, or even death. 

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Jessica Vaillancourt
Jessica Vaillancourt

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