Why does my office chair smell like fish?

  • By: Sam Shaw
  • Date: August 22, 2021
  • Time to read: 7 min.

Why does my office chair smell like fish?

I work in an open office plan. The space is a box, with no walls or dividers to speak of except for the ones that separate us from the cubicle maze and filing cabinets at the back of our room.

Every single morning when I arrive, there are people already seated at their desks working away on getting shit done. But why does it seem like there’s always someone that sits down first thing and takes a big ol’ whiff? If it’s not you, then why does your seat stink like dead fish?

Do you ever wonder why does my office chair smell like fish?  The question could arise in your mind only if you notice that your chair has developed a strong and rather unpleasant odor. A stench coming from the seat of the chair isn’t something unusual and certainly shouldn’t cause panic about health conditions or fear about the presence of some sort of disease-causing organisms.

Why does my office chair smell like fish?

If you have also asked this question and want to know why sometimes office chairs smell like fish then this blog post is going to be helpful for you as I sum my observation and research on this subject.

There could be many reasons why your office chair smells like fish. Here are a few:

Rottening food particles

Your office chair may be smelling like fish because of food materials or sweets left on the armrest of the office chair. This can cause it to stink. Furthermore, little bugs and cockroaches can get into it causing it to smell even worse.

Moisture in the leather

The leather used for making the material of your chair can cause a bad smell when moisture got into it. Moisture that comes from our back where perspiration will soak through our shirts onto our pants may then get onto the leather causing a foul odor.

There are cases where people have ripped off their clothes because there is a sudden bad odor coming from the chair.

Skin oil in the seat leather

The leather material can also smell bad because of skin oils and other elements that cause odor. The cleaning of the office chair will require us to clean it thoroughly inside so that we will not have any problem confronting anyone when they sit on chairs in our office.


Bacteria, mold, or mildew found in carpets can get into the leather on your chair causing a foul smell when there is air circulation around you. If you do not have pets at home, then why do office chairs smell like fish?

Stained or unhygienic clothes

Your clothing may also cause a bad odor from your chair as clothes that are stained with sweat or oil can transfer onto the upholstery of the seat leaving a foul odor afterward.

Body sweat

Moisture from your body can also cause a foul odor on your office chair. The sweaty back of our seats may soak through our shirt onto the leather causing a bad smell.

When there is too much moisture around us, why must we wear deodorants as well to avoid this type of situation? We can’t afford that during our important meetings in the workplace, can we?

There is a hypothesis put forth by researchers that this “fish smell” comes from our sweat. The bacteria that live on our skin break down sweat into molecules (ammonia) that have a power pheromone effect – making other people think we reek of rotting fish. It’s an evolutionary trait we all have to some degree, but it could be made worse by a diet high in protein – including soy, eggs, and meat.

While there are still a lot of questions to be answered, it is already clear that the unpleasant odor caused by sweat on our clothing or skin is the main cause of such an unpleasant smell from office chairs.

How to clean a chair that smells like fish?

Though there are many reasons why your office chair smells like fish, it can be cleaned and completely get rid of the foul odor.

Here are simple steps on how to clean your chair:

  1. Vacuum the seat. Clean with soapy water Rinse thoroughly. Dry it with clothes Dryer.
  2. Air out in the sun. Change the upholstery. Make every effort of keeping it away from moisture as much as possible.

Why does my office chair smell like poop or fart?

Many people experience a poop-like smell from their office chairs. I have often heard my colleagues complaining, ‘why does my office chair smell like poop?’ or ‘why does my office chair smell like fart’.

Well, although the reasons are not always obvious, the answer is quite easy.

In most cases, the reason your chair smells like poop or fart is that some kind of food particles were left over the chair, and the decomposition of these food particles by microorganisms is causing a poop-like smell to come from your chair.

In rare cases, it could be because the person sitting on the chair farts frequently. Of course, some people have metabolic disorders that cause them to fart too much which is hard to avoid but the key thing here is to know who they are so you can sit elsewhere when it becomes unbearable!

People with lactose intolerance may find it difficult to detect whether their stool has a foul smell because of an overload of dairy products in their diet. That’s why some people cannot tell whether feces left at work by other employees have a bad smell until there’s more than one person complaining about the issue and trying to find out where exactly does poop smell comes from.

There’s another aspect that could result in this kind of awful smell – feces that have been deposited somewhere near but not actually on your chair, e.g., dog feces that are kept for a long time under the seat and then get onto your clothes when sitting down or dirty products left after lunch break or breakfast at work. Some people even forget about their chewing gum that stays under the chair when they stand up

Why does my office chair smell like cheese?

There are also cases where people complain that their office chair smells like cheese.

The problem could be your lunch box or the lunch of other co-workers coming into contact with the upholstery on your chair and giving off a pungent smell for some time before it dissipates.

However, the most likely reasons are microbes decomposing some kind of food particles stuck in your chair seat. Decomposition of food by microbes can release a number of gasses and some of them may smell like cheese.

How to get rid of bad odors in your office chairs?

So, the question is, how do you make sure that your office chairs do not smell like cheese, fart, or poop?

Here is a list of some general tips to keep your chairs clean and far from bad smells.

  1. Don’t eat food while sitting on your office chair.
  2. Clean the seat regularly.
  3. Change the upholstery if you have a leather chair and find it difficult to clean it yourself, take help from professionals.
  4. Make sure that no one crumbs or chews gum in your office to prevent bad smells after the lunch break.
  5. Wash your hands before you sit down on your office chairs to avoid foul odor due to sweat coming from your hands or body odors from your feet.
  6. To make an ultimate solution for an awful smell, get new seats installed at home or at the workplace.
  7. For this purpose ask interior designers for their advice too, they know how best a place can be decorated according to its style and functionality as well as which furniture is better than others to complete a placement in the most efficient way with respect to style and quality.
  8. If your office chairs are not upholstered but made of vinyl or any other material, make sure you wipe them down on a regular basis as it is easier to clean those compared to cloth upholstered ones. Our hands and body oils can create a build-up over time that may end up with an odor problem. Also if you have pets at home, make sure they do not use the chair as their personal bathroom.
  9. In addition to everything else, try keeping the windows open when possible where there’s adequate ventilation of course! This will allow fresh air in and stop odors from coming through your building … If all this fails and your chairs are foul-smelling, why do office chairs smell like fish? You may have to change them.


To sum up, if your chair smells like poop or fat or cheese or fish, do not panic. We just have to be careful about not having too much perspiration in any part of our body especially when we’re wearing tight clothes as they can absorb moisture easily. It’s also important for us to change shirts and pants after work and take a proper shower before going back home at the end of the day.

Knowing the reasons why does your office chair smells like fish can help us have hygiene inside your workplace. It will be a good idea to clean our clothes regularly so that we can prevent sweat from getting onto our chairs.

If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to write to us.

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