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Cleaning Rotten Meat Odors from a Refrigerator

Category Appliances
Woman holding nose while standing in front of open refrigerator door
A power outage or a fridge that stops working can result in spoiled food. This is a guide about cleaning rotten meat odors from a refrigerator.
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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
May 9, 2010

We have a dorm size refrigerator in a place we moved into. The landlord said the people left meat in it and it rotted. I've tried bleach, air freshener, coffee grounds, Comet, baking soda, and cat litter. But the smell isn't even dying down, it is still strong. Any more suggestions?

By Michele from Grannis, AR

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May 9, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

Had same problem after Hurricane Frances when we came back to town. Tried everything mentioned on feedback. Finally got another one. However, my brother suggested opening it up and putting it outside in the sunshine for several days, said it worked for him. I'll try this if ever have same problem again.

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May 10, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

I think there must have been some seepage of the juices as the meat rotted and may have seeped into spots you can clean with taking it apart. You may want to go to the hardware store and buy activated hardware pellets and put them in an open container in the fridge for a day or so and see if they work. The charcoal supposedly absorbs odors. It has worked for me in the past in other smelly situations, just not sure if the meat leaked and got on the inside components of the fridge if this will help, but it is cheap to try.

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May 10, 20101 found this helpful

You need to take care if there was rotted meat in it---the juices from the meat could have seeped down into the fridge workings and be hard to get out.

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May 12, 20100 found this helpful

This happened to us after a power outage. It was an upright freezer. My father in law took the freezer apart and discovered that blood from some chicken had actually leaked into the insulation that lines the freezer. We had to pull it all out and replace it, but that did, finally, get rid of the smell. I wouldn't advise a novice doing this type of repair. But if thats what happened to yours, no amount of odor absorbing material will get the smell out. Good luck!

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May 12, 20100 found this helpful

Have you checked the drip pan underneath?

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June 29, 20170 found this helpful

Our refrigerator's drip tray is not removable. What now?

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February 25, 20100 found this helpful

Has anyone ever dealt with flies and fly larvae in every crevasse of a fridge? We rented a place and they dropped the rent with the understanding we would clean the place up.

The last tenants left food in the fridge with a ton of meat and the electricity was turned off. So there was flies and larvae everywhere. We took to whole thing apart and cleaned it with bleach. It still smells. Any other ideas to clean it? And should we be concerned with larvae in any other areas?

By Rachel from Royal Palm Beach, FL

Answers:

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

In this case, I'd inform the landlord of your attempt to thoroughly clean/disinfect the refrigerator with no pleasing results. Perhaps they will allow you to get a new or nearly new refrigerator and take it off the rent or they will get one to replace the smelly one. (10/15/2009)

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By Lorelei

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

Put a 20# bag of charcoal in the bottom of the cleaned fridge. Tear open and leave in there about a week. You cannot use the fridge while doing this. (10/18/2009)

By PeggyLee

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

I had the same problem when one of my renters moved out. You could try putting several boxes of opened baking soda in it. You could also try wiping down the entire refrigerator with vinegar, but I would suggest you leave it unplugged and open for a day or two if you do that. Charcoal should work also, but with that you would need to keep the refrigerator closed. Good luck. (10/18/2009)

By kitkatk100

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

I would still advise you to get a new one. Those maggots lay eggs everywhere and will be inside the insulation, extremely unhealthy. (10/18/2009)

By catastrofy

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October 18, 20160 found this helpful

Do you leave the refrigerator running while using the charcoal method?

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October 14, 20090 found this helpful

We came home from vacation to a freezer full of spoiled chicken and meat. The stench continues throughout the house a week later. We have scrubbed the freezer with bleach and will try the baking soda now. Any more suggestions?

Debbie from Flanders, NJ

Answers:

Rotten Meat Smell From Freezer

We had a freezer with rotted meat also, we washed it good with bleach water. Then I put a bag
of charcoal in it and cut the bag open and shut the
door. Don't remember how long it took, but it got all the smell out.

Joyce (09/26/2006)

By Grandma Bess

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

I put coffee and charcoal in fridge for a week the smell is still there. Is there something else I can do?

Editor's Note: Check the pan underneath the refrigerator. Take all the racks and drawers out. Any place that water can collect, under the vegetable drawers, in the tubes that help with the defrosting, etc. make sure they are clean by washing down good with baking soda. There may be some place that is keeping the smell in there. (04/23/2007)

By Debbie

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

My husband repairs refrigerators and sees this all the time. He uses one of 3 things.

Sometimes, he comes across one that is totally hopeless. If those three things don't work you probably will either live with smell or buy a new one. (08/27/2007)

By DebraJ.

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

Clean the fridge with vanilla extract and water mixed together. That will get rid of the smell. (02/28/2008)

By Emma

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

Apple cider vinegar works well. (03/09/2008)

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October 18, 20160 found this helpful

Again newspaper, cat litter, vinegar, oranges, all this methods are great but do I try them with the fridge on or off, doors open or closed?? Hellllp

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May 9, 20100 found this helpful

I recently leased a house that included the refrigerator. The fridge has a very bad odor of spoiled meat and I have tried all the cleaners, baking soda, etc., I can find, but no luck. It is really vile.

Help?

By Dinah from Antioch, CA

Answers:

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

Get several oranges, cut them open into halves or quarters, and leave them inside the fridge, with the door open, if possible. It may take a few treatments, so just get new oranges when the old ones dry up, until the smell is gone.

We've saved nearly-ruined refrigerators this way. (02/26/2010)

By WildIrish

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

There is a show from UK called How Clean is Your House, which deals with really grungy houses, and tips for handling any problem. I love it.

One house had a refrigerator which had formed a biofilm which is not fixable. I would swab your fridge with a Q-tip and put in plastic bag, take it to a lab, and present proof to landlord your fridge is not remediable, and ask for a new one. Probably cost you $50 dollars or so. (02/26/2010)

By PIKKA

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

I had a similar problem and I put trays of cat litter on all the shelves and left it for a few days and the smell went.
(02/28/2010)

By Janet

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

Try baking soda and lemon juice. Wash it down and let it sit overnight. Then the next day rinse with pure white vinegar.
Good luck and let us know how it all works out for you. (02/28/2010)

By ScrpBkBon

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

We bought a house, only to find the previous owner had left food in the refrigerator and unplugged it. The house sat for almost a year before it was sold. It was unbelievably filthy and had mold growing everywhere. We did not have the means to buy a new one. A good friend told me (after thoroughly cleaning it with diluted bleach) to take a bag of charcoal and spread it on a broiler pan in the middle of the refrigerator and leave it there for several days. It did work and we used that refrigerator for several years before we were able to buy a new one. No smell left in the insulation of the refrigerator that was unreachable. (03/01/2010)

By ashleyda55

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

As a former property manager, I can tell you that often, juice from rotting food can seep into the insulation between the plastic and the outer shell of the fridge.

All the above ideas are great, and I would try them first. However, if you can't get any relief, you may have to unscrew the inner lining and locate the insulation involved. If that happens, you can get some advice from a local appliance store or look on line. The insulation can be replaced, and you should be able to go on from there. Just remember to keep the tiny screws in a safe place. Good luck. (03/01/2010)

By Poor But Proud

Rotten Meat Smell in the Refrigerator

Try coffee grounds. (03/02/2010)

By trudyjones88

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September 25, 20060 found this helpful

How do I get the smell of rotten meat and fish out of the air. The fridge died while I was out of town.

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