My fridge smells! How to get rid of the stench

June 24, 2014

Your fridge smells so bad that every time you open it, waves of foul air welcome you. The good news? Depending on the source you can probably easily deal with it yourself. The bad news? To get rid of the stench, you'll have to get intimate with the inside of your fridge. Here are some tricks to make this unpleasant task easier.

My fridge smells! How to get rid of the stench

Find the source of the smell

Your first objective is to find out what's causing that terrible smell.

  • Is there old food lurking beneath the crisper?
  • Stagnant water biding its time in the drip tray?
  • Could the fridge itself be malfunctioning – in which case all the food in your fridge will be affected.

If you suspect your fridge might be broken, it's probably time to book an appointment with a qualified technician to have it serviced or repaired.

A top-to-bottom clean

No matter what the source of the smell in your fridge, once it's there, eliminating it typically requires a top-to-bottom cleaning. That said, the hardest part of dealing with a smelly fridge is coping with the odour, because the cleaning itself is easy.

To clean the fridge

  1. Start by removing everything in the fridge. Store whatever you want to keep in a cooler or fill the kitchen sink with ice to keep it all fresh. Discard anything that's in less-than-perfect shape.
  2. Remove all shelves, trays and bins, and scrub them with a baking soda and water paste. This not only cleans, but also deodorizes. Wipe down with a clean cloth and then let each item dry completely before returning it to the fridge.
  3. Give the fridge interior the same treatment – a good scrubbing with the same baking soda paste plus a wipe-down with a clean cloth.

After your fridge is clean

Once everything is clean, dry and the odour is gone, you can plug the fridge in (if you unplugged it) and put your food back. Allow the fridge a few good hours to cool down again, otherwise you may wind up with the same problem as before.

If any lingering smells remain, try one or more of the following options before replacing the food:

  • Cut an onion or potato in half and leave the cut pieces in the fridge overnight.
  • Spread baking soda or freshly ground coffee on a tray or baking sheet. Then leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

Check the drip tray

If the fridge is clean and you're still having trouble locating the source of the smell, be sure to check the drip tray if your unit has one.

  • If the inside of your fridge is clean, this tray is a likely source of odours.

Also, move the fridge away from the wall to check behind and beneath it.

  • Spoiled food dropped behind may be causing the smell.

To keep your fridge smelling fresh

Once the fridge is clean, you can keep it smelling fresh by storing food in airtight containers and wiping up spills promptly. An open container of baking soda on a bottom shelf or inside the door can also help your fridge stay odour-free.

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