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Removing Spoiled Food Odors from Refrigerator

Category Odors
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

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.

.

By Luana M. from San Diego, CA

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April 11, 20160 found this helpful

coffee works well for smells also( instead of baking soda)

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June 13, 20160 found this helpful

Woman holding nose while standing in front of open refrigerator door

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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.

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August 10, 20111 found this helpful

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:

August 10, 20111 found this helpful

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, 20111 found this helpful

baking soda in fridge

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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:

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March 2, 20040 found this helpful

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.

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August 16, 2011

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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Questions

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.

0 found this helpful
March 6, 2017

I've read extensively on getting rid of fridge odors and we are at a loss of what to do. Our old fridge leaked inside and we're pretty sure that caused a lot of mildew to build up. Because the fridge leaked we wanted to get rid of it. We just got a newish fridge (parents handed it down in great condition, only a few years old). We tossed the old fridge and input the new fridge. All of our food transferred over. 2 weeks into the new fridge and the same exact smell is back. It wasn't there at first when we got the new fridge. It took two weeks to show up. We've tossed everything that could even resemble old food including condiments, beverages, everything. We've gotten rid of labels off food items, tried baking soda, no cardboard, no more plastic containers. The smell still persists! Any solutions outside of the normal suggestions for handling fridge odors? We're really looking for the culprit. It's not the dripping, we've checked and this smell seems to have transferred from our old fridge to our new fridge. No moldy food at all. In fact we just re-stocked most everything! Any ideas or suggestions would help. Thanks.

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March 7, 20170 found this helpful

That's a really good thought. Do you know how we'd check for mold under the fridge or in the walls? The smell seems to be coming from inside the fridge--nothing smells in our apartment except when you open the fridge door and freezer. Also the leaking of the old fridge was internal--no water was leaked outside the fridge.

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March 7, 20170 found this helpful

Thanks, DCA...that's what we're in the process of doing now! Thank you for the helpful links.

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August 1, 20130 found this helpful

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

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
August 5, 20130 found this helpful
Best Answer

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
Best Answer

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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May 6, 20110 found this helpful

The freezer was turned off and we were away for 5 weeks. We came back to a freezer full of rotting pungent food. Please help! What can I do to get rid of the smell? Please!

By Maggie

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May 7, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

Wash completely. (I'm sure you've done that a few times already) then spray with lemon oil, let rest for a day, then wash again. You can also place a bowl of ground coffee in there for a few days to absorb the yucky aromas. If you would like to make a lemon "oil" of your own, you can boil lemon halves previously used for lemonade etc. in a salted water until the liquid has reduced to half. I start with 1/2 litre water to two lemon halves.

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May 7, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

Our daughter's small chest type freezer was off for about 3 weeks and she did not know it. She did not have much meat in it but had a lot of frozen tomatoes. It was full of food and it smelled rotten. We took it out on the deck, scooped out the liquid mess and put it in 5 gallon buckets and poured it out in the woods. The smell about got us.

After getting it cleaned out, we scrubbed it with Clorox water and that did not get rid of the odor. Then we tried white vinegar and still it smelled bad. We also cleaned with lemon juice and soda. It still smelled bad so we let it sit outside in the hot sun with the top open for a couple of days. It still had the odor in it and I thought she would have to junk it but we took it back inside and plugged it up and let it run.

She put a bag of charcoal in it and gradually filled it with jugs of water so it would be full. After a few months, the odor was gone and the freezer was fine. No odor at all.

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0 found this helpful
January 7, 2011

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
Best Answer

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
Best Answer

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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0 found this helpful
November 9, 2010

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
Best Answer

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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0 found this helpful
June 23, 2012

How do I eliminate a smelly odor in my frig?

By Rosie

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June 25, 20120 found this helpful
Best Answer

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
Best Answer

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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0 found this helpful
September 26, 2009

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
Best Answer

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
Best Answer

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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0 found this helpful
May 21, 2013

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.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
May 27, 20131 found this helpful
Best Answer

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, 20120 found this helpful

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
Best Answer

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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August 27, 20110 found this helpful

My 8 yr old son and I have been caught up in the rioting in London. After 2.5 weeks we have been able to come home. The power was out for a long time and then came back on. The food in my freezer had defrosted, gone moldy, then refrozen when the power went back on.

I have gotten rid of the food, cleaned with Fairy liquid, then Dettol. The smell seemed to go. I put the freezer back on, but when I opened the door the smell has come back. Any suggestions for getting rid of this odour? The freezer is built in under the counter so I can't move it and can't afford to replace it.

By Alison

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August 29, 20110 found this helpful

When I had a similar experience I tried most of the things listed in the USDA fact sheet without much luck. My freezer was almost new so I was unwilling to part with it. I bought a 5 pound package of clay kitty litter, poked holes all over it with an icepick and put it in my freezer, closed the door for a week. When I checked it there was no more odor. Hope you can get clay kitty litter in the UK.

Good luck to you.

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August 29, 20110 found this helpful

Try placing a small open saucer of fresh coffee inside the unit, close it and leave the coffee there for a day or two. I have found that fresh (not used) coffee will eliminate odors in refrigerators, freezers and microwave ovens. It does a much better job than baking soda.

You can also try using a small brick of charcoal, like that used for barbeques, to keep foul odors out of the refrigerator.

And too, you can put a banana with the peel pulled down, but not removed, in the unit. Suggested by a friend, I used that when some milk spilled onto the car carpet. It worked, no nasty smell.

A small bowl of white vinegar will keep a room odor free.

And last but not least, crumpled newspaper is great for stuffing shoes or other things to absorb and remove odors.

I hope one or all of my suggestions will be of some help.

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0 found this helpful
May 8, 2011

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"?

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