How Long Does It Take for Fertilizer Smell To Go Away?

If you have ever fertilized any plants in your yard, chances are you have noticed fertilizer’s strange odor. Granted, all fertilizer smells vary, but generally, they seem to stink. So precisely how long will you have to deal with the unpleasant smell?

It takes about 1-2 days for the smell of fertilizer to disappear. However, depending on the type of fertilizer used, the smell may last 1-2 weeks. Fertilizers containing manure tend to have a lingering smell. To minimize the scent, you can always dilute fertilizer before applying it. 

In the rest of this article, I will discuss different fertilizers’ smell durations, how to neutralize those smells, if the scent of fertilizer is harmful, and what happens if you breathe it in. So if you want to learn more about getting rid of pungent fertilizer smells, keep reading. 

How Long Different Fertilizer Smells Last

First, I would like to review a few of the most common types of fertilizer and how long you can expect to smell them. All fertilizers have an odor but some smell more pungent and for much longer. 

Popular fertilizers and their scent durations:

Fertilizer Name Ingredients Smell Duration Smell Potency 
Liquid Fertilizer Nitrogen
Colloidal clay
1-2 days 3/5
Granular Fertilizer Feather meal
1-2 days 3/5
Fish Emulsion Fish
Molasse water
2-7 days 5/5
Banana Peel Fertilizer Banana peels
1-2 days2/5
Manure Fertilizer Animal feces 1-2 days/weeks4/5

So as you can see, most fertilizers only smell for a few days, with the exception of manure. Though, using a fertilizer like fish emulsion will have a much more powerful initial smell. However, quantity heavily comes into play when applying these fertilizers. So you are much more likely to notice a foul odor if you use a large amount of fertilizer.

How To Neutralize the Smell of Fertilizer

Fertilizer can certainly be smelly, depending on the type you are using. Luckily there are methods for combating the bad smells, and I will be going over what they are. So let’s dive right in and learn different ways to neutralize the foul smell of fertilizer. 

Water the Fertilizer Down

One of the most effective ways to neutralize fertilizer is to add water. This method can also be applied if you’ve used too much fertilizer in your soil. In addition, it can help to prevent your plants from burning. This method is known as leaching

Simply use a hose to thoroughly water the soil that the fertilizer has been applied to. If you don’t want to completely get rid of your fertilizer, it’s essential not to overwater as this will weaken the mixture. Instead, opt for maintaining the soil. 

Dampening the soil should significantly reduce the amount of smell from your fertilizer. However, if the smell persists, you can repeat the watering process once the soil has had time to dry. Just be sure not to overwater as the smell will likely dissipate in a few days anyway. 

Bury the Fertilizer

Another option is to bury the fertilizer in the soil. Covering up the foul smell of fertilizer with rich earth is an excellent solution since the nutrients in the fertilizer need to end up in the soil anyway. You don’t have to thoroughly mix the fertilizer into the soil, but adding a layer of dirt over it can significantly reduce the smell. 

The best way to go about this method is to apply 1-2 inches of dirt over the location you placed fertilizer. This method is especially effective when using granulated fertilizer rather than liquids. However, if you know where you poured your liquid fertilizer, you can still use this method. 

Add Mulch Over the Fertilizer

You might try applying mulch over the fertilized sections of soil. Mulches’ job is to act as a barrier from the elements for your soil. It locks in moisture, so it stands to reason that it can also lock in smells. Applying a thin layer of mulch over your soil will reduce the fertilizer’s scent. Plus, mulch helps keep your plants healthy in general. 

There are a few types of mulch that will work best:

  • Chopped leaves
  • Straw
  • Lawn clippings
  • Wood chips 
  • Compost
  • Sawdust
  • Bark
  • Pine needles

You can easily acquire mulch around your yard if you happen to have trees. However, it can also easily be purchased at garden stores or online and shipped right to your door. 

Dilute Fertilizer Before Applying It

Lastly, you can always dilute the fertilizer before applying it to your garden. Keep in mind that diluting too much can affect the results of your fertilizer. However, it might be worth it if the scent truly bothers you. This is especially true when handling smelly fertilizers like fish emulsion. 

You can dilute fertilizers by adding water to liquid once and applying fewer granules for solid fertilizer. If you are using manure, applying it in small quantities can limit the smell and the time it takes to wear off. 

Is the Smell of Fertilizer Harmful?

Now that you know a little more about how long it takes for different fertilizer smells to wear off, I want to discuss whether those smells harm the human body. So is the smell of fertilizer bad for you? 

The smell of fertilizer is harmful, and you should not breathe it in. This is especially true when handling synthetic fertilizer. However, when applied to your outdoor garden, the effects are far less likely to harm you than they would be inside a garage or greenhouse. 

If you suspect you may have developed fertilizer poisoning, it’s important to contact poison control right away. As this can be life-threatening, you may need to visit a doctor immediately. 

When dealing with organic fertilizer made from plants and other organic matter, the smell of fertilizer is less concerning. This is because organic fertilizer doesn’t contain harmful chemicals. However, it’s still not a great idea to inhale any fertilizer as dirt and animal dung doesn’t belong in your lungs. 

What Happens if You Breathe In Fertilizer?

Lastly, I want to discuss the effects of breathing in fertilizer. It can wreak havoc on your lungs and the rest of your body. Of course, it makes sense that we shouldn’t breathe in the harmful fumes from fertilizers, especially synthetic ones, but what happens if you accidentally do?

If you breathe in fertilizer, you can develop side effects such as headaches, nausea, burning eyes, scorched lungs, eye damage, and nose and throat irritation. These side effects are due to the high levels of ammonia found in fertilizer. Therefore, when handling fertilizer, it’s good to wear a mask. 

These side effects are most likely to occur from prolonged exposure in a poorly ventilated space. However, it’s always a good idea to be cautious when handling these sorts of chemicals. For example, if you find your lungs irritated when handling fertilizer, it’s a good idea to go outside for fresh air and properly gear up before returning. 

How To Stay Safe From Fertilizer Fumes

If you frequently work with potent fertilizers, it’s best to protect yourself from irreversible side effects.

You can keep your lungs and body safe by:

  • Wearing eye protection
  • Wearing a mask
  • Wearing a protective suit
  • Washing your hands after handling fertilizer
  • Making sure your gardening area is well ventilated

So as you can see, it’s pretty simple to keep yourself safe from fertilizer fumes. Also, if you are gardening outside, there is a much lower chance of breathing in harmful amounts of fertilizer. However, when applying dry fertilizer, it’s still a good idea to mask up. 


Ultimately, how long it takes a fertilizer’s smell to dissipate greatly depends on the type you are using. However, most fertilizer smells should begin to fade after 1-2 days, though some may last as long as a week. Luckily there are methods to combat fertilizer smells sooner, like watering it down, burying it, and applying a thick layer of mulch.

You can read my other article on how to fertilize indoor and outdoor plants here: How to Fertilize Indoor & Outdoor Plants (Ultimate Guide)

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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