Have you ever wondered, “Why does my fridge smell?” and immediately thought “How can I remove that odor?”
Your refrigerator and freezer probably smell because you don’t regularly clean them. Old food breaks down over time, creating unpleasant odors that may persist even after you remove the offending items.
Read on to learn what causes a stinky fridge and how you can get bad odors out of both your fridge and freezer. We’ll also cover ways to prevent foul smells before they start.
How to Get Odor Out of Refrigerator and Freezer: Causes of a Stinky Fridge
The main cause of a stinky fridge is bacteria from spoiled food.
Refrigerators and freezers delay food spoilage and bacterial growth, but food still breaks down the longer it stays in your fridge. Eventually, spoiled food becomes a breeding ground for airborne mold and bacteria. Untreated bacteria and mold produce compounds that smell like onion and rotten eggs, stinking up your fridge and freezer.
Tools You’ll Need for the Foul Smell Cleanup Process
Here’s what you need to clean the foul smells out of your refrigerator:
- Anti-bacterial bleach solution or odor-absorbing baking soda: It’s important to use the right kind of cleaner on a smelly fridge. Scented cleaning sprays may affect the smell and taste of food in the fridge, and dish soap usually has a fragrance that will mask rather than remove odors. In contrast, anti-bacterial bleach solution and odor-absorbing baking soda don’t have these issues, making them the best deodorizers in refrigerators.
- Paper towels or a cloth: Use a clean paper towel or cloth to wipe each fridge or freezer compartment.
- Protective gloves: Wear protective gloves while you clean your fridge or freezer. Bleach solution and baking soda can cause skin irritation.
How to Clean Fridges and Freezers
Follow these steps to freshen up a smelly fridge or freezer:
- Empty the freezer or fridge to identify what’s causing the smell: Turn off your fridge or freezer by either flipping the switch at the fuse box or circuit breaker or unplugging it. Then, purge your fridge to see what’s responsible for the foul odor.
Pay particular attention to the contents of your compartments. Start with the usual suspects — cooked food, meat, seafood, leftovers, and fresh produce are especially susceptible to spoilage. Let your eyes and nose guide you. Changes in texture, color, and visible mold are signs of spoilage.
You should also toss out food items that have freezer burn. These items have small ice crystals in the packaging and may have absorbed foul smells from the freezer. Freezer burn happens when food isn’t frozen properly or is stored in a freezer that’s too warm.
- Clean the inside of your fridge or freezer with bleach or baking soda: Once you’ve emptied out your fridge or freezer, put on protective gloves and wipe the interior with a paper towel or damp cloth.
Next, mix half a cup of hot water with two tablespoons of baking soda and clean all fridge walls, seals, drawers, and shelves. Use an old toothbrush to apply the solution to solid residue to help scrub it off.
Then, use fresh water and a clean towel or sponge to wipe down the entire fridge or freezer. After removing all the baking soda, dry everything with clean towels.
If your fridge or freezer still smells bad or you feel it’s not clean enough, mix one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach into a gallon of water. Use this mixture to clean all fridge or freezer surfaces. Then, rinse with fresh water and dry with a clean sponge or towel.
- Air out your fridge or freezer: Let your fridge or freezer air out for 15 minutes to an hour after cleaning it. Don’t put your food back until everything is dry. Transfer your food to a portable fridge or mini fridge while your fridge or freezer airs out.
Ways to Prevent Bad Smells in Your Refrigerator and Freezer
After cleaning your fridge and freezer, you need to do the following to prevent them from stinking up again:
Use an Airtight Container
To stave off future smells, use airtight containers to store cooked food and leftovers. This will preserve them longer and prevent odors from spreading to the rest of the fridge or freezer.
Set Your Fridge Temperature
Ensure your fridge and freezer are at the ideal temperatures of 40 and 0 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.
If your fridge’s temperature is too high, food will spoil faster. On the other hand, if your fridge’s temperature is too low, a build-up of frost could create a damp smell. If your freezer’s temperature is too low, some of your items may develop freezer burn, creating unpleasant odors.
Check on a Weekly Basis for Food Spoilage
Make checking for food spoilage a weekly habit. Don’t let spoiled food accumulate — get rid of spoiled or spoiling items as soon as you spot them.
You should also date all of the items that you put into your refrigerator or freezer. After each grocery run, write down the date of when you purchased what onto the item if possible. This will help you track which items have been in your fridge or freezer for too long.
Most items shouldn’t be in your freezer for more than six months, although certain meats may keep for a year. Most of the items in your refrigerator should stay no more than a week or two.
To keep your fridge and freezer fresh, use baking soda for fridge deodorization. All you have to do is place an open baking soda box on your refrigerator or freezer shelf.
You can also use the following to absorb odors:
- Crumpled newspapers
- Freshly ground coffee
- Activated charcoal
Clean Your Fridge and Freezer Regularly
All in all, it’s vital to keep your fridge and freezer clean to remove odors.
Although throwing out spoiled or spoiling food is a good way to keep your fridge fresh, it sometimes isn’t enough. The ultimate way to prevent bad smells is to regularly clean out your fridge and freezer. If you don’t clean regularly, spoiled food will cause a build-up of bacteria and mold, and those both make for a stinky fridge.