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How to Prevent Bad Odors From the Standing Water in a Flower Vase

Lesley has been an online writer for over ten years. She has a degree in law and spends her free time writing about flowers and gardening.

This guide will provide tips on how to keep foul odors away from your vase full of fresh flowers.

This guide will provide tips on how to keep foul odors away from your vase full of fresh flowers.

As with all odors, the easiest way to get rid of them is to avoid them in the first place. When it comes to fresh flowers, this may be easier said than done.

All living things decay, and flowers and branches are no exception. One day your flowers are beautiful, the next the smell is not so good, and the day after that you have a bunch of dead flowers and some really smelly water.

It's not just the smell that is a problem. Many vases are made of delicate material, and even more are an awkward shape, making them difficult to clean at the best of times. But when filled with foul-smelling water, the task can seem both unpleasant and nearly impossible. As a keen flower arranger, I face this problem regularly. Here are some of the solutions I've heard suggested.

Keep the Flowers Fresh

Save yourself work by helping your flowers to last as long as possible.

  • Strip the stems below the waterline. Make sure there are no leaves (or even flowers) in the water, all they'll do is rot, so strip them off before you put the flowers in the vase.
  • Don't add any yellowed foliage to the vase, it's dying.
  • Make sure the vase is completely clean before you use it.
  • Remove dying flowers, they produce a gas which will speed up the decay of the other flowers.
  • Don't put your flowers next to fruit. Fruit produces ethylene gas which speeds up decay.
It's so sad when flowers are dead, and even worse when they smell bad.

It's so sad when flowers are dead, and even worse when they smell bad.

Cleaning a Vase

Some vases are a very awkward shape, you can't clean them by hand, and the dishwasher can't access all their nooks and crannies. One way to deal with a narrow necked vase is to use denture cleaning tablets. Pop two in and you'll see a big difference.

If the vase is already smelly, empty the grungy water and half fill with clean, then add a tablespoon of mustard and shake it up, wait for an hour and the smell will be gone.

If there is already a build up of grunge in the vase, fill with warm water and add some dishwasher detergent. Leave overnight and you'll be amazed at the result. If you use dishwasher tablets, half a tablet should do the trick.

How to Perk Up Dying Flowers

  • When roses droop, take them out of the vase and wrap tightly in wet newspaper and leave them in a deep bucket of water overnight. This also works for tulips.
  • If you have flowers with woody stems (like roses), plunge the stems in boiling water for 10 seconds and then into deep cold water.
  • To perk up a whole arrangement, some people suggest adding a soluble aspirin to the water, or even some form of soda, such as Coca-Cola or seven-up, however a Mythbusters Christmas special tested both of these out and found them ineffective. The experiment was conducted on a Christmas tree, but should be valid for cut flowers.

What I Do

From experience, I'd say these are the most important points. Keep the flowers healthy by removing vegetation below the water line and adding a teaspoon of bleach to the vase. Renew the water regularly by popping ice cubes into the vase each day, you'll avoid water splashes on your furniture.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How do you get rid of gnats from a flower vase full of fresh flowers?

Answer: It's so annoying when you bring these things home from the store. Here's a technique using apple cider vinegar which can help:


Lesley Charalambides (author) from New Hampshire on November 17, 2012:

i agree. I love Chrysanthemums, but usually stick to the potted variety as a result. Thanks for commenting.

Faythe Payne from USA on November 17, 2012:

good information..I find that Mums and Daisy type flowers are the worse...