9 Steps to Eliminate Bad Smells in Your Fridge

Maintaining a fresh and odor-free refrigerator, it’s crucial to address any bad smells promptly.

A refrigerator can develop unpleasant odors due to lingering food, spills, or bacteria growth.

Ultimate Guide: How to Remove Bad Smells From Fridge

To eliminate these smells and keep your fridge smelling fresh, we have compiled a comprehensive guide with practical solutions and tips.

With the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a pleasant environment in your refrigerator and prevent future odor issues.

Removing Spoiled Food and Clean the Interior

How to Remove Bad Smells From Fridge
A woman opens her bottle of milk and it smells so bad!

The first step in getting rid of bad smells in your fridge is to remove any spoiled or expired food items.

Discard anything that has gone bad, as these items are often the primary source of unpleasant odors.

Also, once the spoiled food has been disposed of, it’s time to clean the interior of your refrigerator.

Steps to Clean the Fridge Interior

Step 1: Unplug The Fridge

Disconnect your refrigerator from the power source to ensure safety.

Step 2: Empty the Fridge and Freezer Completely

Start by removing all items from both the refrigerator and freezer compartments. Even if you have already identified the offending item, it is crucial to empty the entire contents.

For perishable items, consider using an alternative refrigerator or cooler to ensure their safety.

In cases of power outages, discard any potentially spoiled food, as the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Services recommends relying on refrigeration for a maximum of four hours without power.

Step 2: Thoroughly Handwash All Bins and Shelves

Next, focus on the removable components of your refrigerator. Take out the shelves, bins, crisper drawers, and ice trays, and wash them in the sink using hot, soapy water.

For stubborn and pervasive odors, create a sanitizing solution by mixing 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Use this solution to wipe down the bins and shelves, ensuring thorough coverage. Rinse them with plain water and allow them to air dry.

Step 3: Prepare a Cleaning Solution

Prepare a mixture of warm water and dish soap in a bucket or basin.

Step 4: Deodorize the Interior

It’s time to tackle the interior of your refrigerator. Our experts recommend a simple yet effective solution of 1 cup of baking soda per gallon of water.

Use a sponge soaked in this solution to wipe down the entire interior surface of the refrigerator. In cases of hardened food residues, dampen a sponge and dip it directly into baking soda, applying gentle scrubbing where needed.

Avoid using abrasive cleaners and pads to prevent scratching the interior surfaces.

Step 5: Wipe Down the Interior

Dip a clean cloth or sponge into the soapy solution and thoroughly wipe the interior surfaces, including the drawers, shelves, and walls of the fridge.

Pay special attention to areas with visible spills or stains.

Step 6: Rinse With Warm Water

Rinse the cloth or sponge with warm water and wipe down the interior surfaces again to remove any soap residue. Clean the drawer and shelf channels again with warm, soapy water, and rinse them thoroughly.

Step 7: Dry Thoroughly

Use a clean towel to dry all surfaces completely before returning the shelves and drawers to the fridge.

Step 8: Deep Clean the Evaporator Coil

If stubborn odors still persist, it’s likely that they have permeated the evaporator coil, responsible for cooling the refrigerator and freezer.

The location of the coil and the fan that circulates the air may vary depending on the refrigerator model.

Refer to your user’s manual for specific instructions on accessing and cleaning the evaporator. However, we will provide a general overview of the process.

For top-freezer refrigerators:
  • Remove the screws anchoring the panel covering the evaporator coil.
  • Disconnect the plug for the electronic controls and icemaker.
  • Remove and wash the panel thoroughly.
  • Use a spray bottle filled with warm soapy water to apply the solution to the coils, capturing the runoff with an old rag.
  • Rinse the coils with fresh water to remove any remaining residue.
  • Allow the coil to air dry completely before replacing the panel.

Note: If you have a newer refrigerator with dual evaporators, you will have separate coils for the freezer and the fresh food compartment.

In case the odor is only present in the fresh food compartment, cleaning that specific coil should be sufficient.

Step 9: Air Out for Freshness

Finally, is time to deodorize the fridge. Patience is key to achieving optimal results. After completing the cleaning process, unplug your refrigerator and leave the door open to allow for proper ventilation.

It is recommended to keep the refrigerator unplugged and ventilated for at least one day. If persistent odors persist, repeat the cleaning process using the baking soda solution and extend the ventilation period for an additional day.

Tip: Want to have a pleasant fragrance infusion? Well, do this – soak a couple of cotton balls with vanilla extract and place them inside the refrigerator and freezer for a few hours before restocking.

Natural Deodorizers to Eliminate Odors

Upon cleaning the interior, it’s time to tackle any remaining odors. Natural deodorizers can effectively neutralize unpleasant smells and maintain a fresh environment within your fridge.


6 Useful Methods to Eliminate Bad Smells in Your Fridge

1. Remove spoiled or expired food

Start by discarding any items in the fridge that may be spoiled or past their expiration date. This will help eliminate the source of the odor.

2. Use baking soda

Baking soda is a natural odor absorber and can effectively neutralize unpleasant smells.

  1. Open a fresh box of baking soda.
  2. Place it on one of the back shelves of your fridge.
  3. Baking soda acts as an absorbent and neutralizes odors over time.
  4. Replace the box of baking soda every 2-3 months for optimal results.

3. Try apple cider vinegar

In a saucepan, you will need a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water and bring to a boil.

Using a 1:1 equal part of apple cider vinegar and water (it also makes a formidable cleaner for the entire kitchen).

  1. Once boiled, place the mixture in a heat-resistant bowl and put it in the freezer.
  2. Leave it for 4–6 hours to absorb foul smells.
  3. Afterward, discard the vinegar mixture.

4. Utilize coffee grounds

Leave them for 3–4 days, and the smells should dissipate. Remember to keep your food in a separate refrigerator or cooler during this time.

Basically, coffee grounds are another excellent natural odor eliminator. Here’s how you can use them to combat refrigerator smells:

  1. Spread coffee grounds: Spread dry, fresh coffee grounds on a baking sheet.
  2. Place on different shelves: Position the baking sheet on a different level of your refrigerator.
  3. Allow time for absorption: Leave the coffee grounds inside the fridge for 3 to 4 days, and the smells should dissipate.
  4. Dispose of the coffee grounds: After the designated time, discard the used coffee grounds and wash the baking sheet.

* Remember to keep your food in a separate refrigerator or cooler during this time.
* Coffee grounds work gradually to absorb unpleasant odors, providing a fresh and pleasant environment inside your fridge.

5. Consider unscented cat litter

If you prefer not to have a coffee aroma in your fridge, unscented cat litter can be used as an alternative.

  1. Spread a layer of clean cat litter on shallow baking sheets and place them on different shelves in the fridge.
  2. Leave them for 2–3 days to absorb lingering smells.

6. Use activated charcoal

Fill small cloth bags with loose activated charcoal and place them on different shelves in the fridge.

  1. Purchase loose activated charcoal from pet stores or drugstores.
  2. Fill small cloth bags with approximately 1 cup (130 g) of loose activated charcoal.
  3. Place the charcoal-filled bags on different shelves within your fridge.
  4. Close the fridge door and let the activated charcoal absorb the bad odors over the next few days.
  5. Remember to keep the refrigerator temperature low and minimize door openings to maximize the effectiveness of activated charcoal.

By following these methods, you can effectively eliminate bad smells in your fridge and maintain a fresh environment for your food.

Additional Tips for Removing Bad Smells

Prevention is key when it comes to maintaining a fresh-smelling refrigerator.

With these simple practices, you can significantly reduce the chances of encountering unpleasant odors.

Tips to How to Keep a Fridge Clean and Maintaining Fresh

1. Clean your fridge regularly to remove any spills, stains, and odors.9. Empty and discard expired or spoiled food items.
2. Use airtight containers or wraps to store food and prevent cross-contamination.10. Keep raw meat and seafood on lower shelves to avoid dripping onto other foods.
3. Place an open box of baking soda to absorb odors.11. Avoid overcrowding the fridge to allow air circulation.
4. Wipe down shelves and drawers with a mixture of water and vinegar.12. Check temperature settings to ensure optimal cooling.
5. Avoid storing hot food directly in the fridge; let it cool down first.13. Keep fruits and vegetables separate to prevent premature spoilage.
6. Regularly defrost and clean the freezer to maintain efficiency.14. Rotate food items and use the oldest ones first to avoid waste.
7. Avoid leaving the fridge door open for extended periods.15 Store highly aromatic foods in sealed containers to prevent odor transfer.
8. Consider using refrigerator deodorizers or fresheners, if desired.

More… Here are additional 5 DIY Ways to Clean Your Refrigerator

Summary Page & Key Takeaways

💡 Removing spoiled or expired food is the first step in eliminating bad smells in your fridge.

💡 Cleaning the interior of your refrigerator helps remove lingering bacteria and food particles, reducing unpleasant smells.

💡 Natural deodorizers like baking soda, apple cider vinegar, coffee grounds, unscented cat litter, and activated charcoal can effectively neutralize odors in your fridge.

💡 Regularly cleaning your fridge, using airtight containers, avoiding overcrowding, and checking temperature settings can help prevent bad smells.

💡 Additional tips include defrosting and cleaning the freezer, storing highly aromatic foods in sealed containers, and rotating food items to avoid waste.