Removing Spoiled Food Odors from Refrigerator

There's nothing worse than opening your refrigerator and smelling spoiled food. Even after the food is removed sometimes the smell still remains. This is a guide about removing spoiled food odors from your refrigerator.
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15 found this helpful
August 17, 2011 Flag

Getting rid of bad odors from the fridge is no joke. Luckily I know of the complete way to do it. I have tried cleaners, odor control products, and, like everyone, have opened a box of Arm and Hammer. Some work a little, while some not at all. After many quests at attempting to solve this problem I finally can assuredly say I've "got it down".

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Clear out everything, throw away any left overs, wash any containers that hold odor (mainly plastic), all fruit, opened packages will and have absorbed the odor you want to get rid of. I feel that if it isn't in a glass container, it likely to have absorbed the odor.

After the fridge is cleared you clean, start by wiping anything that may have dripped, spilled or spattered under drawers, in egg slots, crisper. If these things can be pulled out, you should do that, leaving you with as free area as possible to work in. The racks, drawers, and crisper needs to be cleaned also. Doing them separate works much faster, and gets everything cleaned. They can soak if you have room, if not take a spray bottle of apple cider vinegar and wipe these things down. Let them remain wet (this eats through bad odors) and set aside.

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Do the same solution on inside of the unit, and let stand for several minutes. Go back and completely wipe entire appliance down. Same with everything you pulled out; wipe it, rinse and dry.

Next you want to take baking soda if extremely bad (rotten things or has set closed not being used). Use a entire box, if not a 1/2 box, per bucket of water is fine. Wipe as before this neutralizes the smell of the vinegar as well as absorbs any odors left.

By now, you should be noticing a huge difference in the smell of refrigerator. Put it back together, wipe entire unit down once its back in place, shelves, etc. As well as baking soda (depending on what's made the smell), I like putting coal in the back. You will be surprised how effective this is. Make sure you replace both from time to time.

When I discovered this, it was a serious problem. I had been at the hospital, with fish rotting for several days. If yours is that bad, there is one last secret I used; make a box of unflavored gelatin. Make according to instructions, put in middle of refrigerator opened, yes opened. It will NOT be eaten but absorb any lingering odor. You can do this from time to time for regular cleaning. The gelatin picks up any little odor in the closed space as it's setting.

One last freebie; you can take gelatin afterwards (do NOT eat) and put in bucket, using warm water it will melt. Use it to give your outside plants, trees or garden a boost of energy. It's great for plant food. Why waste it the plants won't mind at all it smells.

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This should do it. If it got rid of a week's worth of "fishy" yuck from mine, it will work on anything! Get all of the things together. The rags you first use should be ones you can just throw out. Do it in this order, and it really will be spic an span leaving you feeling great. Being able to keep the fridge will make losing the food a little easier to swallow.

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By Luana M. from San Diego, CA

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June 13, 2016 Flag

This is a guide about cleaning rotten meat odors from a refrigerator. A power outage or a fridge that stops working can result in spoiled food.

Woman holding nose while standing in front of open refrigerator door

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March 2, 2004 Flag

Free your refrigerator from odors by placing a folded section of your newspaper on a shelf for five minutes. The newspaper absorbs all the odors and doesn't cost anything.

By Sherry

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August 10, 2011 Flag

There are many reasons that your refrigerator may smell. It is important to locate the source so that you can get rid of the odor. Here are some tips for investigating the cause of your refrigerator odor:

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August 10, 2011 Flag

So you have cleaned your refrigerator and removed any spoiled food and there is still an odor. Here are some solutions to removing persistent odors:

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August 10, 2011 Flag

One of the best ways to deal with odors in your refrigerator is to prevent them from happening. Here are a few tips to keep your refrigerator smelling fresh:

baking soda in fridge

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August 16, 2011 Flag

I always keep a fresh box of opened baking soda in my refrigerator. I try to remember to change it out every two months. If I get a sudden odor from a bag of cut-up onion or something like that, I put a slice of bread on each shelf in the 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.

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August 1, 2013 Flag

I run a commercial kitchen that caters to people in large quantities. Recently I had stopped visiting the kitchen for around 2-3 weeks, since the kitchen is not operational currently. At that time I had approx. 20kgs of beef in 1 chest freezer (100Ltrs) and another 20Kgs of fish in another chest freezer (100Ltrs).

Someone had accidentally switched the main power off so electricity was cut off to the freezers during these 2 weeks. I returned to my kitchen a few days back to find this horrible stench that literally smelled like death. At one time I almost puked. The meat and fish was so badly decomposed that 90% of it had turned into purple water. It was a huge task just getting rid of the decomposed liquid and remaining meat. Now most of the smell has gone from my kitchen after thoroughly wiping the fridges and floor with bleach one time. I returned after 2 days to check up on the kitchen, but there was still a 10-20% smell. How do I get rid of it?

By Manav

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August 5, 20130 found this helpful
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I had a problem when my cleaner unpluged my freezer and we didn't notice it for serveral days. I used baking soda in a plate in it for a few days and then put used dried coffee grounds in a plate and left it for a few days in the freezer. I had to do that a few times. I am now using my freezer without any smells. It took time and a lot of work but It was worth it, I didn't have to buy a new freezer. Hope this helps.

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August 5, 20130 found this helpful
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Sorry to say there are remedies that people use but there is nothing that will take the odor completely out. It gets into the crevices and rubber fittings and gaskets. Best thing to do is file insurance if you have it and start new.

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January 7, 2011 Flag

There is an awful smell coming from my refrigerator! I've cleaned the food out; scrubbed it out with bleach and even put some coffee grounds inside the frig to absorb the odor. Nothing works! I don't think the model has a drip pan as I don't see it under the frig. Anyone have any ideas as to what else I can do?

By Melissa

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January 8, 20111 found this helpful
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After you find the source of the odor, get some oranges, slice them up, and put them in the fridge. Oranges will eliminate the odor of almost anything. I just used some today, in fact. Always have oranges on hand, because you never know when you'll burn something while cooking, etc., and need a really good air freshener.

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January 8, 20110 found this helpful
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This happened to me too. I absolutely couldn't find the source of the smell. But I noticed the smell began when my boyfriend went to visit his sister for a couple weeks. Apparently, I open the fridge a lot less than he does, and because the fridge door wasn't constantly being opened, whatever slight food odors there were just stayed in the fridge. When he returned home, the odors went away because he was back to the bad habit of standing at the fridge with the door open (and giving the fridge a chance to exchange fresh air).

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November 9, 2010 Flag

I just came home from vacation to find the refrigerator breaker had tripped. Two refrigerators are completely thawed. How do I get rid of the odor in them?

By Marie from Fort Worth, TX

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August 6, 20090 found this helpful
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I've heard that crumpled up newspaper and charcoal briquets put in the refrigerator absorb odors. Arm & Hammer baking soda works too. I had to clean a refrigerator in a rental recently that had a lot of spoiled food left in it (the electricity had been disconnected). I used bleach to wipe down the inside, and then left the doors open for a few days to help remove the odor. I don't know what to do with the linoleum floor, though. Perhaps vinegar will help. Good luck!

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June 15, 20100 found this helpful
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I got this from this site. Crumple up lots of newspaper and stuff your refrigerator completely. Change it every day until the smell goes away. This worked for me when I had fish juice spillover. It didn't take long to work, even though I didn't have black and white newspaper to work with. I used the colored advertising newspaper and it worked for me. I can't remember if I used it in my freezer too, though. Sorry.

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June 23, 2012 Flag

How do I eliminate a smelly odor in my frig?

By Rosie

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June 25, 20120 found this helpful
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A small plate with some charcoal in it will absorb the foul odors. A piece of scrunched up newspaper will work also.

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June 25, 20121 found this helpful
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You can use a box of baking soda in the refrigerator. Just open the top of the box & place it on a shelf or on a door shelf.

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September 26, 2009 Flag

I put a bowl of sauerkraut in my fridge and didn't put a tight lid on it. Now my refrigerator and freezer smell like sauerkraut. What can I do to get rid of this smell? It's a side by side refrigerator/freezer. Thank-you.

By sherrylw from Purvis, MS

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September 27, 20090 found this helpful
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Put in a bowl of vinegar (sounds like it would hurt more, but it helps) and an open container of baking soda. Change the vinegar the next day. After a day or two it should take out the smell. They both absorb odors.

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April 19, 20110 found this helpful
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Yes. I agree. The vinegar and baking soda should work. Try wiping over with Vanilla essence/extract afterwards. Leaves the fridge smelling lovely.

Good luck Shamar

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May 21, 2013 Flag

We just acquired a camper that had been abandoned for the last two years. My husband opened the fridge/freezer and found that there was meat that had been left in there. The smell was horrific. We have tried bleach, Pinesol, and soap and water. Nothing seems to help at all. I don't know where else to turn nor what else to try please can you help?

By Yvette H.

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May 27, 20131 found this helpful
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Try using plain old charcoal. The kind you use to grill with. Do not get the kind that has a starting fluid in it. Place several bricks in a bowl or any container. Charcoal is an odor remover. Also along with the charcoal it wouldnt hurt to use some crumpled up newspaper just for an added boost. This method works wonders. Hope this helps.

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December 16, 2012 Flag

I found a very moldy grapefruit in the drawer of the fridge. I noticed an odd odor and it was affecting the taste of food (butter, bread, tea, etc.). I also smell it in the freezer (side by side). Do I need to throw out all the food and clean to remove the odor/taste?

By Stacey from Douglasville, GA

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December 26, 20120 found this helpful
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I wouldn't throw away the food, but be sure to put a box of baking soda in your refrigerator to absorb the foul odor. You might need a box on each side if the smell is really bad. Try to cut the box of soda so there is a large surface area. Sometimes its a good idea to just put it in an old oleo container.

You are right to be concerned because the odor indicates there is mold growing elsewhere. You might need to clean the refrigerator. But I'd probably not throw away the food.

Good luck,

Carol in PA

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May 8, 2011 Flag

I have a persistent odour in my fridge. I have cleaned it top to bottom and it still seems to be there. Can I put any cleaning products down the drain inside the fridge, as it looks "gunky"?

By Pauline from Dunfermline, Fife

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Anonymous Flag
May 10, 20110 found this helpful

Use a bottle brush (like the ones available for baby bottles) to clean the drain area and pull the drain pan out from underneath the fridge and wash it. To remove the pan from underneath the fridge just pull the grate on the bottom of the front of the refrigerator off and slide the pan out.

Personally I wouldn't use any kind of chemicals to clean any refrigerator parts; only vinegar. Also, it wouldn't hurt to keep an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator in the future to help absorb odors. I keep mine in a back corner on the shelf above the vegetable crisper.

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January 7, 2011 Flag

My smelly fridge, has been wiped with soda powder, but still smells. I need help coming up with something more to do.

By Anne

Answers:

Refrigerator Odors

Baking soda doesn't work very well for odors, despite the hype. My answer for everything: oranges! I've salvaged a fridge that was nearly ruined, by cutting up oranges and leaving them inside it until the odors were gone. Oranges will get rid of just about anything, from burnt food smells in a kitchen, to chemical odors. (10/22/2010)

By WildIrish

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October 22, 2010 Flag

I'm looking for some magical remedy to get rid of a horrendous smell that permeated our "new" refrigerator while it was in the garage, courtesy of the previous homeowners. It sort of smells like gasoline, but sort of not; I don't know how to label this smell.

I've tried vinegar, baking soda, the blue stuff in the container (odor sponge or some such), even a crystal that is supposed to remove "your worst smells". Well, nothing's doing it, and every time the fridge or freezer is opened, well, there it is again.

Any suggestions? Thanks!

Kat

Answers:

Refrigerator Odors

Be sure the drip pan is clean, then stuff the fridge with crumpled newspapers. The paper should absorb most of the offending odor. My bil is an appliance guy and this is his fav remedy for fridge odors. Depending on how persistent the odor is, you may have to replace the paper several times over a few days. (05/30/2005)

By beanygurl

Refrigerator Odors

Try a apple cut in half. My granddaughter gave me this tip and it worked for me.

(05/30/2005)

By Judy

Refrigerator Odors

Try a bag of charcoal briquettes. They absorb most odors. Just put the briquettes in loose. Hope this helps. (05/30/2005)

By Tom

Refrigerator Odors

Try cat litter. We once had a freezer full of meat that went bad when the power went out during a hurricane. I tried vinegar, Lysol, and Clorox, but nothing worked except the cat litter. I bought the cheapest kind and put several saucers full on the different shelves. After a few days of keeping the freezer closed the only odor that was left was the cat litter. We wiped down the whole interior, then left the door open for another day or so. It took several days, but the odor of rotten meat (Uck!) was gone. We used the freezer for about ten more years. Good luck! (05/30/2005)

By Margaret

Refrigerator Odors

I use fresh coffee grounds for absorbing odors from many things from clothing stored which had gotten damp and mildewed, to a box trailer that was damp and the stuff in it had mildewed, it was a very strong odor. I made cloth bags and put fresh coffee grounds and hung them, but you could put them in an open container, maybe 1/2 cup to start. (05/30/2005)

By Anna from ME

Refrigerator Odors

Have you tried just opening the doors and letting it run for awhile. This will bring fresh air into it to be circulated. I had a terrible smell in my fridge from broccoli left in it for too long. I finally took everything out and wiped everything down, but I let the fridge run while I was cleaning it. I think the fresh air circulating in it was the key. I didn't even have to clean out the freezer. (05/31/2005)

By Shirley M (IA)

Refrigerator Odors

Use a solution of warm water and borax, it will freshen it up and make it super sparkly! (05/31/2005)

By Kimber1962

Peeled Raw Potato Removes Smell

If you have an odor in your fridge, put a raw, peeled potato inside to absorb the bad smell. Once it does, just toss out the potato.

By Terri (06/17/2005)

By ThriftyFun

Refrigerator Odors

Try Fridge Odor Absorber - from IBAUSALLC.com
Or call 805 565 2233 (10/19/2006)

By Andrew

Refrigerator Odors

There is a product called FRIDGE IT odor absorber made just for this. It is a little purple cube with an activated carbon filter inside. I've tried lots of other products including baking soda and other products, but nothing works as well as this little purple cube. You can find it in kitchen gadget sections of stores like Walmart. Definitely worth trying. (02/07/2007)

By Jen

Refrigerator Odors

I saw some others recommend a product called Fridge it. I too love this product. Works fantasticly because of the activated carbon filter. I've been using it for years in fridge and other places like under sinks and trash. Even have friends that use it on their diaper pail and other things. I usually just buy my supply of these on line at www.innofresh.com. The company is called innofresh products. (10/21/2008)

By kengie

RE: Refrigerator Odors

Refrigerator Odors

We had a smell in our refrigerator so awful, that when the door opened, people all the way in the bedroom would be nauseated by the smell. I tried many of the different suggestions, including taking every shelf/part out and disinfecting the entire refrigerator. (Also tried the onions, potatoes, newspapers, cat litter w/ carbon, charcoal briskets). All those helped. So for small odor problems, I think anyone of those would be fine.

But the solution that helped me and was so much cheaper and easier to use, was "Fresh Air Activated Carbon Refills (8 pack)". It appears to be a replacement for some sort of portable air filter. (99 cents at a thrift store).

I only put two of the little pads in my refrigerator and within hours, the smell had dissipated to tolerable. By the next day, we thought maybe we had imagined the awful experience. It felt like a miracle!

The activated carbon in the filters is what does the trick, so I think any replacement filter that has the stuff will work.

Side note: While you're working on the smell, or shopping for something that has activated carbon in it, these two suggestions helped the most:

  • Crumpled newspaper - use it freely in your refrigerator, but change often. Take a wiff of the used paper after just a couple of hours and you'll understand why. =)

  • Fabric softener and water - heat in a small crock pot or on the stove in a small sauce pan, water and a little fabric softener. Just keep adding water when it runs down. 1/4 cup of softener worked for days. (04/30/2010)

By Lady Dozen

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September 13, 2010 Flag

I did a stupid thing and turned the fridge off and the fish thawed. Yikes, the smell is awful. What do I do now? Do I need to buy a new fridge? The stench is putrid.

By Deanna from Costa Rica

Answers:

Removing Spoiled Food Odors from Refrigerator

Spray it out with Lysol wait 15 minute and wipe it out. That's what I do. Good luck. (06/14/2010)

By teensout01

Removing Spoiled Food Odors from Refrigerator

Try leaving an open container of baking soda in there. Baking soda is a great odor absorber. (06/14/2010)

By mollyring

Removing Spoiled Food Odors from Refrigerator

When Hurricane Ike knocked our power off for several days I had some food go bad. I tried all the normal methods of cleaning my fridge to no avail. In desperation I sprayed it with Febreze, both fridge and freezer. It worked on the foul odor and the fragrance of Febreze dissipated in a few days. (06/15/2010)

By MartyD

Removing Spoiled Food Odors from Refrigerator

I got this from this site.

Crumple up lots of newspaper and stuff your refrigerator completely. Change it every day till the smell goes away.

This worked for me when I had fish juice spillover.

It didn't take long to work even though I didn't have black and white newspaper to work with. I used the colored advertising newspaper and it worked for me.

I can't remember if I used it in my freezer too, though. sorry.

Lots of luck. You'll find the answer on this site for sure! (06/15/2010)

By metroplex

Removing Spoiled Food Odors from Refrigerator

Try putting some coffee grounds in it. When my husband was in the Marine Corps and we moved every 2-3 years, we were told to put fresh coffee grounds in it until we got to wherever we were going. We did that and there was no odor at all, except for coffee, of course. Another thing to try is newspaper. Only the pages with the black ink. Newspaper absorbs odors, too. (06/16/2010)

By lindylou28546

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June 14, 2010 Flag

How do you remove odor from a refrigerator? The power went off while we were away and the contents of the refrigerator spoiled.

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January 18, 2010 Flag

I was on a 2 week vacation when my side by side refrigerator/freezer went out. When I returned I cleaned it out, but it still smells and the linoleum floor and subfloor smell of rotten blood. Help.

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August 4, 2009 Flag

Recently my husband and I returned home after a few weeks away. The thermostat in our refrigerator had blown some time while we were away.

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