Cleaning Rotten Meat Odors from a Freezer

February 22, 2008

Contents of a freezer compartment from a refrigerator with the freezer on topWe have a huge problem. We have an old chest freezer downstairs in the basement. It was still operating, or so we thought, until my husband opened it recently. The odor was immediate and horrible. I have never smelled anything worse in my entire 50 plus years. It immediately filtered through our entire house (we have a 3 bedroom ranch built in the 50's).


He closed the lid on the freezer immediately, but it took a couple of hours for the odor to fade. Now we have the problem of cleaning out the freezer. I can't bear to open it again. The meat is now floating in water from bags of ice that had melted. Can anyone give some advice on how to clean this mess without making the entire family ill from the fumes?

By jackie from Ohio


February 22, 20081 found this helpful
Best Answer

This may seem a bit extreme, but I had to mention it. Try contacting the FDA (I believe they have a website listing contact information), to see if they have any safety tips for your situation. I know that the public can contact the FDA to learn food safety tips. I say this because not only is there rotten raw meat in the freezer, but also water in which bacteria can multiply. I remember when there was a canned chili food poisoning issue in my area people were told to not open the cans, but to place them in a plastic bag and seal it, then another plastic bag and seal it, then another, just to dispose of it.


If food poisoning in canned food can be seen as that dangerous, all the food poisoning bacteria floating in that freezer has to be volatile. Whatever you decide, please be careful!!!

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February 22, 20082 found this helpful
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You do have a problem! Hubby says there should be a drain on the bottom of the freezer. Hook a hose up to that drain.

Connect the hose to an empty 5 gallon water jug and dump the water in an appropriate place. Repeat until water is drained from the freezer.

Plug the drain. Get a couple of strong people to pick up the (now waterless and lighter) freezer. Take the freezer to an appropriate disposal area.


If you really want to save the freezer, it will take some time to clear out the rancid meat. Scrub with bleach.

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By Vicki (Guest Post)
February 22, 20087 found this helpful
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We had this happen to us several years ago, when it accidentally got unplug & sat for a week before we 'discovered'' it. Whew, but we plugged it in, let it freeze back up, then dumped the food inside to a container we took to the land fill where they disposed of it by buying it in something we didn't have. Then we cleaned it out with baking soda & water. LOTS OF BAKING SODA.

Then we placed newspapers & barbecue briquets inside on the paper & let sit for 3 days...we then replaced the sills, cause it did leave the smell in them, cleaned it with bleach solution and placed another round of newspaper in with briquets & BAKING SODA.


It completely took the smell out, still have it, and have never smelled it. We have even moved 2 times since and being unplugged during the move we put newspaper & soda in, just as a precautionary measure, but no smell or anything.

This freezer is almost 55 yrs. old too! VERY THICK SIDES If it is operable, then it is worth the try....let us know how it goes...Good Luck..Vicki in KY

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By kate (Guest Post)
March 2, 20080 found this helpful
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You can wear a swimmer's nose plug, or (a tip from a coroner) put vics vapor rub under your nose.Try wearing a dusk mask with something in it that doesn't bother your breathing - eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, etc.

Get some rubbermaid tubs and scoop out the water, debris, etc. Dig a hole in your yard, put an old screen on top, and dump the water there. I wouldn't mess with the toilet because you might clog it with something - plus the goal is to get it outside.


Bury the hole back up so wildlife or pets don't try to mess with it.

Triple bag the garbage and get rid of it.

Then go spend the night at a friend's house or something and leave the upstairs windows open with floor fans circulating the air. Yuck. You have a job ahead of you.

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11 More 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.

April 17, 2018

I'm trying to get rid of a smell in my freezer from spoiled meat. I have charcoal and newspaper in it, but my question is, do I run the freezer while doing this? Next I'm going to put some coffee and kitty litter in it, but again, wasn't sure if I should run the freezer with these in it or are you just supposed to leave it for a couple days?


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April 21, 20181 found this helpful
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This has to be one of the worst "smells" and can happen to anyone who is ever away from home for 2 or 3 days.

  • Several things come to mind when you say you have charcoal (activated charcoal?) and newspapers already in the freezer so I will address them one at a time.
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  • Did you clean the freezer completely before starting with odor removers?
  • Most cleaning professionals recommend cleaning with a mild solution of bleach and water and rinse well. After thorough rinsing clean with undiluted white vinegar and leave open for a day or so.
  • Does your freezer have a drip pan (most do)?
  • This has to be removed and cleaned with bleach also.
  • The floor under the freezer may need to be cleaned in case anything spilled over from the drip pan while defrosting.
  • You will also have to remove the gasket and clean in bleach water, rinse well and then clean with vinegar. You may also need to recondition the gasket before replacing it.
  • Several types of odor catchers have been recommended:
  • Newspapers, activated charcoal, chlorophyll cat litter, baking soda, vinegar, fresh coffee grounds (unused is best).
  • Leave the freezer off and door closed when using most of these products.
  • There is a very good product that may be worth checking out as it is highly recommended for this type of problem. It is called Odo-Ban and can be found at Sam's Club, Home Depot, etc and on-line (Sam's Club is the least expensive).

Here is a link that might supply some answers.

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July 22, 2012

The chicken thighs were left in the freezer of our camper. When we came home we thought we had cleaned everything out, and shut off the power. They were left in there two weeks. When we went into the camper and there was a horrible smell. I have washed it with soap and Clorox, put out onions and lemons and it still smells. Help! We are planning to use it in three days.

By Rgr


Silver Post Medal for All Time! 418 Posts
July 23, 20120 found this helpful
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After the Clorox and Dawn, clean it again with white vinegar. When it is dry, set a bag of charcoal in the freezer if there an still an odor.

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July 25, 20120 found this helpful
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You might also try pouring vanilla extract on a damp rag, then wipe down everything in the frig/freezer. Do not wipe or rinse off. Then as an added step, put some fresh coffee grounds in a small shallow dish, place in frig/freezer, or both, & leave it in there like you would baking soda.


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December 27, 2010

How do I get the smell of rotten meat out of the freezer of our RV?

By KAYBIRD from College Station, TX


Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 124 Posts
December 28, 20100 found this helpful
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Use charcoal briquettes, the ones for barbeques. Leave them inside the compartment. Line it first with foil. Replace the charcoal every 24 hours until the smell has gone completely. When it's no longer offensive, clean the area with some white vinegar.
Good luck!
Monique :)

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June 17, 20130 found this helpful
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My freezer was accidentally switched off for about 10 days, full of meat and smelled terrible! I cleaned it out with a strong vinegar solution, then bicarb soda, but the smell was still really strong and I was starting to panic that I'd have to replace the whole thing. When I pulled the whole freezer out, I saw that blood (from the meat) had dripped down into the recess - a lot of it. Luckily once that was cleaned out, the smell started to dissipate!

Then I cleaned every surface in the room with vinegar and put newspaper sheets down all over the floor with coffee granules, to deodorize. And opened every door/window in the house. 24 hours later, there is only a faint smell! So relieved! (the stench was terrible before). I think I'll have to keep the coffee granules out for a while. After about 3-4 days of airing the freezer, I'll try switching it back on but the coffee inside, to soak up any remnants of the smell. Hopefully I'll be able to use it in about 1-2 weeks.

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July 30, 2011

Our freezer died while we were on our 14 day vacation. All the meat rotted and melted water as well as blood is everywhere. How would we know if the blood got into the insulation of the freezer? How do we get the horrible smell out of the house? Please help ASAP.

By John


July 30, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

I've had this happen when the power died also. Though I'd never get the house to smell nice again, let alone use the fridge. I did use multiple tips to get it back to good. First throw out all of the old meat etc. get it out of the house into the trash bins outside. Clean, clean clean. Use a bit of dish soap combined with cleanser (Pinesol, etc). Use hot soapy water. You will probably want to wash twice. Once to get the major mess, then repeat.

It'll still have odor after clean. Don't worry. You can use bowls of white vinegar around the house and within the fridge and freezer. Put new open boxes of baking soda in freezer and refrigerator to continue absorbing odors. You could also use bowls of kitty litter or charcoal for a few days (or at least hours) to absorb the odors. Good luck.

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October 24, 2016

We came home to the freezer off after being gone for 12 days. The meat was rotten and everything else ruined. I have cleaned the freezer and removed the bottom tray. Everything has been washed with vinegar, bleach, and baking soda.

I also left charcoal briquettes in the freezer and coffee grounds. The smell is better, but still there. What else can I do?


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 969 Posts
October 25, 20161 found this helpful

Sadly, the smell might have permeated the insulation in the freezers lining. Older ones are porous or even like Styrofoam...and they can keep the smell. The only thing I can think of is set it out in the air/sun for a few days. If it helps, move it back in.

If not, use it for shop storage. I had to.

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October 25, 20161 found this helpful


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Bronze Answer Medal for All Time! 220 Answers
October 25, 20160 found this helpful

An unfortunately common problem in fridges and freezers is biofilm-microorganisms attach to the wall, smell horrible and are almost impossible to remove. A type of biofilm is plaque on our teeth, fortunately easy to remove. When the biofilm forms on the fridge walls, there is little to do except buy a new fridge.

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August 9, 2017

I have a chest freezer that had a rotten turkey in it due to the power going out. When the power returned it tripped the breaker. The freezer works still, but the smell is horrible because the power was off to it for 3 months before I noticed the smell coming from the shed.

When I opened it the meat on the turkey was decomposed and juicy. It took a lot to get to the turkey and reach in and get it. I took the freezer out into the yard and removed the drain plugs. I washed it out with water and bleach and maybe a whole shelf of cleaning supplies as well. Then I left it in the yard for a month to air out.

The smell was kinda gone, but since I have plugged it back in and let it freeze, I put a bag of ice in it. The ice had this taste of rotten meat and the smell is kinda back. The freezer has an aluminum shell with foam insulation. Any ideas on what I can use to clean it besides napalm? That is my choice to try next. It's a 2 year old freezer and I paid high dollars for it.

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June 28, 2016

Can I salvage my fridge that has been stored for 6 months with a few rotting meats that were left in the freezer? I just pulled my relatively new fridge out from storage and I realized I made a huge stinky mistake. For the past 6 months a few old pieces of unidentified meats just rotted in the freezer portion of my my unplugged fridge while in storage.

Day one, I aired out the fridge and used vinegar and warm water to clean the entire fridge. Then I put multiple boxes of baking soda inside. Day two, I have continued to air out the fridge and used bleach and water to clean the entire fridge. I also added more baking soda, kitty liter, and coffee grinds. Day 3 the smell is still present but not as bad. What can I do now to get rid of the smell? Should I plug it in, will the cool air help? Should I go over with bleach again? I do not want to throw out the fridge unless it is dangerous to my family's health to use, I don't even know, is it? I've read some articles that suggested to use slices of oranges, newspaper, vanilla extract, etc. I don't mind all the work or products to salvage the fridge, but is it possible? Please help.

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October 19, 2013

Meat was left in the freezer with no hydro for 3 weeks. There are maggots everywhere and it smells. How do I get rid of the horrid smell?

Thank you.


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August 30, 2013

The power was accidently turned off to the RV refrigerator. There was just canned pop in the frig, but there were frozen hamburgers in the freezer. Horrible, horrible!

The freezer surfaces have been cleaned, but the odor is coming from wherever the bloody mess drained. I'm thinking about pouring something onto the bottom of the freezer so it follows the same path as the mess did. Unfortunately, I don't know where it will go. I wouldn't want this mess to run out anywhere on the carpet.

I would appreciate any help. Thanks in advance.

By Susan

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

December 27, 2010

How do I get the smell of rotten meat out of the freezer?

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July 30, 2009

The meat in my freezer spoiled. I cleaned the freezer out with soap and bleach. But the rotten meat smell is still there and in my room as well. What product can I use that will rectify this problem?

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