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Removing Odors from a Refrigerator

Category Appliances
Determining the source is the first step in removing odors from your refrigerator. This is a guide about removing odors from a refrigerator.
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August 10, 20111 found this helpful

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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August 23, 20160 found this helpful

Occasionally after retuning home from a This is a guide about cleaning odors from a travel trailer refrigerator. Occasionally after returning home from a camping trip you may forget to clean out the fridge in your travel trailer or to at least air it out.

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August 17, 20160 found this helpful

This is a guide about cleaning fish smell from a refrigerator. The smell of old or rotten fish in your refrigerator is not only unpleasant but also can be a challenge to remove.

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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
April 7, 2009

My Frigidaire is approximately 3 years old and I have the most horrible smell inside the fridge. It actually smells like a dead carcass. I looked underneath in the drip pan and it looks like sludge. I cannot get the pan out. I poured bleach in there but the smell is still there. Any suggestions?

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By jennifer from Ogden, UT

Answers

April 8, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

Well, you've GOT to get the drip pan out somehow. Maybe a neighbor husband or somebody could help. Until you get that empty and clean it's going to continue to smell.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 14, 2010

How do you remove odors from a refrigerator?

By roger

Answers

September 16, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

I had a fish smell in my fridge and used crumpled up newspapers all through it. I changed it a few times until it went away. But I did wash my fridge first. Also try baking soda, I just devote one box for my freezer and one for the fridge.

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I just keep changing the box out for a fresh one when I clean the fridge. Or activated charcoal, which I've never bought but have heard that it's the kind of charcoal used for fish tank filters. I got the newspaper hint from this site.
Good luck!

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

September 14, 20100 found this helpful

How do I get rid of a rotten odor in fridge?

By bennie smith from Livonia, MI

Answers:

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Baking soda works great. I add a box to my fridge and it seems to absorb odors overnight. Also, I would clean the fridge with some vinegar. That helps too. (07/23/2009)

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By Keene

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Try putting some charcoal briquettes in the fridge, they will absorb the odor. (07/23/2009)

By LEONA LABINE

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Wrap some ground coffee in half a stocking foot and secure with an elastic band and pop into the refrigerator. Works a treat! (07/24/2009)

By Ginger Beer

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Baking soda! This works. Arm and Hammer makes a great product, but you could probably use generic in any sort of open container. (07/25/2009)

By Greenie

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

I have had very good luck using vanilla. Just wet a dish towel with water and wring out excess. Then pour vanilla straight from the bottle onto the rag until it is wet (but not dripping). Wipe the inside of the fridge with the rag. When done, reapply vanilla water to rag and leave in the fridge overnight. This was the way Rubbermaid suggested to get odors out of an ice chest. (07/27/2009)

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By Donna

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Make sure the odor is not from the catch basin/overflow under the fridge, or the bottom under the veggie drawers. Fooled me once! (07/29/2009)

By Laura Justice

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July 22, 20090 found this helpful

We came home to an electrical problem. The refrigerator is full of bad food. What can I use to get rid of the foul smell? I have tried straight bleach and it still smells. Thanks.

Mary from Hat Island, WA

Answers:

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

The same thing happened to our freezer a few months ago. I tried bleach, Baking soda, etc. Nothing worked. The smell was awful. The only way we got rid of the smell was to take it apart (unplug appliance first) and clean under the lid and side walls, which is a very hard job to do, but it worked. (10/01/2008)

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By patricia sudduth

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

This happened to me also. Kitty litter works great. I opened a bag and set in inside after cleaning it out. Odor gone. Hope it works the same for you. (10/01/2008)

By Sandy

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Try washing it out with lemon juice. (10/01/2008)

By LIZ

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

When Hurricane Ike came charging through Houston. We lost some chicken that was hidden behind some less smelly things. I washed the fridge and freezer with bleach water. That didn't work so I sprayed it a couple of times, both fridge and freezer, with Febreze. We were without power for a few days after that so before the power came back on the Febreze "flavor" had dissipated. (10/01/2008)

By Marty Dick

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

This old remedy has worked great for years. Get a box of baking soda and expose the powder to the air, preferably near the fan. It won't take long to have all the odors disappear. (10/01/2008)

By Dave Williamson

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Baking soda is way overrated. Get some fresh oranges, slice them into fourths, and put them inside the fridge, while leaving the doors open. Oranges will absorb odors and cover them, far faster than Baking soda ever will.

And it's far safer than using bleach in the fridge, yikes. (10/02/2008)

By Melanie Jackson

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Don't forget about placing charcoal briquettes (activated charcoal might be better, get it at pet/aquarium supply shop) in the fridge. It's innocuous like Baking soda (meaning it doesn't leave vile odors behind). (10/02/2008)

By susan

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

I used to work next to a refrigerator technician. When a fridge or freezer came in to the shop with bad odors from spoiled food or whatever, this is what they did. They first washed out the fridge and then they crumpled up a lot of newspapers and put them inside. Close the door and leave for several days. The newspaper would absorb the odors. It worked for them. (10/02/2008)

By Beverly Ross

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Try some of the ideas above, but I swear by the small container of water, mix in soda to make a paste and then put into larger bucket with 2 cups of vinegar and wash it down. The paste you made can be spread of the walls of the appliance, and washed off later. I set small containers of soda/vinegar in many places. Make sure they are kid/pet safe areas and careful not to make the volcano mess when putting the ingredients together. (10/02/2008)

By Grandma J

Getting Rid of Refrigerator Odors

Wipe it down with pure vanilla extract. (10/07/2008)

By Ronnie Clemons

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April 7, 20090 found this helpful

I have a serious problem with a smell in my fridge that has now moved into my freezer as well. It is a side by side type and I cannot for the life of me see why it is in both of them. I have thrown away everything almost, in both and emptied my ice maker. Even with the new ice that has formed back, I still have the smell and taste of whatever it is causing the odor. I have tried baking soda, even two boxes in both sides and that seems to be of no good! Does anyone have some suggestions? I'm getting desperate!
Thanks. Wanda


Answers:

Smell in Refrigerator

Check the pan that slides out from under the bottom of the refrigerator. It's purpose is to catch water that drains out while defrosting, etc. and any thing else that might drain out. I'm sure this is where your problem is. (06/17/2002)

By edham60

Smell in Refrigerator

Try vanilla, wipe fridge and freezer down with straight vanilla, then wipe with plain water. Then put a couple of cotton balls soaked in vanilla on each shelf of fridge and freezer. This should work. We went "crabbing" and brought the catch home and put in the fridge, The smell was "nasty", cotton balls and vanilla did the trick. Hope this works for you. Check under the veggie drawers too, and the drip pan under the fridge. Rose (06/25/2002)

By hiprosa

Smell in Refrigerator

You can also try charcoal bricketts in an open plate for a few days, changing every day. But the culprit is sure to be under the appliance, smells travel up and into the fridge and stay and stay and stay. (06/25/2002)

By pennie

Smell in Refrigerator

Take everything out and clean even under the drawers with vinegar. Something could be under them like molded water or worse. It works wonders. Joyce (06/25/2002)

By Susan Sanders-Kinzel

Smell in Refrigerator

I agree look under the refrigerator. You might also want to see if the drain is clogged. It is usually to the back of the fridge. (07/02/2002)

By lrjk4

Smell in Refrigerator

We had a bad odor in our refrigerator after it had been in storage and we were told to crumple up newspapers and leave them in there for a few days. Don't ask me how, but it worked. The odor all went into the newspaper! Good luck. (10/02/2005)

By lillseester

Smell in Refrigerator

Anytime a smell can't be removed from the refrigerator, make sure that you are cleaning any drains or tubes. There is usually a tube that comes out of the back of the refrigerator to goes to the drip pan. Look for the source of the tube up in the refrigerator. Usually it is up somewhere higher and takes any extra water out to send it to the drip pan. Make sure to clean that area and send some water and cleaner down through the tube. On some models it may be removable.

If you no longer have a manual for your refrigerator, look online at the manufacturers website. They may have cleaning instructions for your model that will help you find places that are hard to clean that you haven't found.

Best of luck to all of you with hurricane refrigerator problems. Our hearts go out to you.
Susan from ThriftyFun (10/03/2005)

By Susan Sanders-Kinzel

Smell in Refrigerator

For those of you hurricane stricken, I had the same problem. Food sat in my fridge for over a week with no power. The smell was so bad, we could smell it before we even walked in the house. I scrubbed my fridge down really good, with bleach and with an anti-bacterial dish soap to kill the bacteria.

Then I took a white onion, cut in in half, put one part in the fridge, the other part in the freezer and left it for 2 days. It killed the rotten animal smell. I then used my Lysol and wiped the fridge out and got rid of the onion smell. Works great and was cheap to fix. Better than tossing a brand new fridge for FEMA to reimburse me less than half what its worth. (10/12/2005)

By Kimberly

Smell in Refrigerator

Refrigerators are breeding grounds for bacteria. One mishap and it stinks. This bacteria grows in the cold. You must turn off the fridge. All removable parts are best washed with 1 cup bleach/10 cups water mixture.

The real secret is the freezer. Disassemble, inside freezer, rear panel that covers copper cooling coils. This is the primary breeding grounds. Rinse coils with bleach water which will then run down drain hose to bottom drip pan. If you use too much bleach water, at one time, drip pan will overflow. Clean drip pan and repeat process. Clean all surfaces that have that black residue. Let fridge stand open for a day because this bacteria will not live in the warm air.
Good luck, smell ya later. (04/05/2006)

By Roger Rabbit

Smell in Refrigerator

I called a Fridge repair man and he said use Lemon-Ammonia. Put some on a rag just the lemon-ammonia and put it in the freezer and when it is frozen take it out and let it defrost and then put it back in. Keep doing it a few times. (11/06/2006)

By Michelle

Smell in Refrigerator

You may have mold growing on the insulation in the refrigerator walls. If that is the case, the insulation has to be replaced. I had that problem following a fire years ago. The insurance company found it was cheaper to replace the fridge than to change out the insulation. (01/02/2007)

By mom-from-missouri

Smell in Refrigerator

I had a smell that I thought was refrigerant. I called a repairman and he said the Starter Switch had gone bad. He said that what I smelled was a bakelite smell. He replaced the switch and now the smell has left the freezer, (it is a side-by-side), but I still smell a little in the fridge. He said the crumbled up newspaper will take it right out. (01/11/2007)

By Shirley

Smell in Refrigerator

If it smells like rotting food/old bins/fish and sewerage all rolled in one, its more than likely your fridge gases. Take the tray on top of the compressor out first to make sure its not full of stagnant water that's causing a smell. If that's clean, your fridge gases are leaking into your fridge. There's no repair - you need a new one (01/18/2007)

By Sheila

Smell in Refrigerator

I moved into an apartment recently and the people before me had left the refrigerator closed. Apparently the maid service did not want to deal with it, so it smelled horrible and had fruit flies in it. I cleaned it out with bleach three times over the course of two days, but the smell kept coming back. I then cleaned out the drip pan with ammonia, and then left bowls of ammonia in the refrigerator and the freezer overnight. The next morning I cleaned out the whole thing with vinegar, and now it does not smell at all. (PS never mix vinegar and bleach.) (01/31/2007)

By Tim

Smell in Refrigerator

Personally, I don't really think baking soda works very well. I've tried lots of different things for fridge odors and I finally found a product that I've stuck with for years now. It's really great. It is called "Fridge It Odor Absorbers", and it's a little purple cube with activated carbon filter inside. Works fantastic. I keep one in my fridge and also freezer. I also use these things all around including under sink and near my trash. I've even used it around diaper pail. It is fragrance free and just eliminates the odors and works for a long time. I love these things. You can buy it in kitchen sections of stores like Walmart. Also, I believe there is a web site? Really worth trying. So much better than all these other products.

(02/02/2007)

By Jen

Smell in Refrigerator

We had a side by side refrigerator that had an awful smell after we had inadvertently left some deer meat in the freezer and unplugged the refrigerator. I tried cleaning it with bleach water, letting it stand open and using the baking soda routine. Then a person who works on refrigerators told me his trick. Unplug refrigerator and remove everything; let it stand open for a couple of days; spray peroxide inside the refrigerator (and I mean give it a good soaking); close up the refrigerator for a couple of days. Finally, go back and wash out the inside with mild soapy water and plug back in. It worked for me and I had almost given up. (02/15/2007)

By Mary

Smell in Refrigerator

Contacted a friend of mine who works on cars and repairs appliances. This is his feedback on the freon smell in the frig. Freon they use today has very little smell to it. Frost free units have heaters and fans in them to keep them frost free. It could be that a fan quit and the heater overheated something around it. (12/30/2007)

By Debbie

Smell in Refrigerator

Check drain line in back of refrigerator. Pour 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar into drain. Vinegar odor will dissipate in a day or two. More than likely this will resolve the odor. It certainly worked well for me and alleviated the cost of purchasing a new unit. (01/09/2009)

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