Cleaning a Smelly Freezer

August 26, 2011

Freezer full of frozen bags of food.Many years ago, my son unplugged my well stocked freezer to plug in his stereo. Unfortunately, he did not plug the freezer back in when he finished listening to his CD. I didn't realize the freezer was unplugged for close to a month. You have no idea how sickening the smell and sight was when I opened that freezer door that morning. It was absolutely horrible! I had just bought a hind quarter of beef and had frozen tomatoes and other vegetables for the winter. Everything was gone.


It wasn't easy, but somehow I was able to clean out and dispose of everything. Cleaning with bleach, baking soda, ammonia, and vinegar did nothing to rid my freezer of the horrible odor. We finally gave up and decided to just take it to the dump.

The very day our friend was due to come over and help load the freezer into the truck to go to the dump, my dear aunt told me she knew a way to rid freezers of smells, use 'pure' vanilla. She said to take a large bottle of 'pure' vanilla and put it in a bowl and then put the bowl in the freezer and close the door. Leave the freezer closed without opening it for 3-4 days.

I was skeptical, but figured why not. I had nothing more to lose. We canceled the dump run and purchased the largest bottle of pure vanilla we could find. Four days later, I opened up the freezer to find absolutely no smell lingering from the rotted meats or vegetables. Absolutely amazing. It was just as fresh as ever.


We lost a ton of meat and produce that day, but we used the freezer for another 5 years.

Source: My dear aunt

By Bayliner from Perry Hall, MD

Comment Was this helpful? 11
Read More Comments

13 More Solutions

Share on ThriftyFunThis page contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

June 19, 2006

If you have ever had a freezer lose power and have had the stench of rotten meat; here's a tip I learned from my grandmother. Not sure why, but their freezer shut down. They always bought their meat in later year, in halves.

Comment Was this helpful? 2


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.

November 30, 2017

Our freezer was left ajar for several hours, but not enough to completely thaw the food. Several days later it started to have a sour smell in the laundry room where the freezer is.

We've cleaned everything in the room, but can't locate the smell. I don't see any evidence of spilled blood or anything like that. Help!


Bronze Answer Medal for All Time! 242 Answers
November 30, 20170 found this helpful
Best Answer

Under most freezers is a drain for defrosting purposes. Under an upright there is actually a drain pan that can slide out for cleaning. Deep freeze freezers usually have a plug at the drain hole. I would check this drain for the smell source first and clean if necessary. If you are unable to find the source, then use the other measures.


Here are a couple of things that I use for odor in my fridge/freezers: A couple bricks of charcoal placed nearby or in the freezer will absorb smell. Also I have cleaned my appliances with borax or baking soda and water to remove smell.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

August 10, 2015

I just a few minutes ago purchased a used freezer from a girl who had no clue. It was nasty. This freezer truly smells like something was dead in it! I have never smelled anything like this and I work in surgery and smell a lot of things. I have cleaned it with straight bleach, then Clorox Clean Up and just rinsed with vinegar. It is awful! It still stinks like something rotten or pet urine. What can I do to get rid of this smell? Thanks.



Bronze Answer Medal for All Time! 220 Answers
August 10, 20150 found this helpful

My experience buying used freezers and fridges has not be great! Assuming a smelly freezer can be cleaned is the wrong way to buy it! An easy online search will produce many ideas for washing. However, when the smell is really bad and not helped by cleaning, the problem may be that the freezer has a biologic film on the surface from spoiled meats that is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
August 11, 20150 found this helpful

It doesn't hurt to try tossing in a few charcoal briquettes and closing it up. Check it the next day, if the smell has indeed lessened take those briquettes and toss them in a sealed baggie in the outdoor trash and use a few new ones for the next 24 hours.


Some people report having good luck with wadding up several sheets of newspaper and putting them inside as well. With either option the freezer does not need to be turned on.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Gold Post Medal for All Time! 969 Posts
August 11, 20150 found this helpful

I have had good luck with this method. Turn the freezer on it's side and look to make sure nothing crawled under it and died. Then, if you have to, unscrew the outer shell from the insulation which is often Styrofoam. If something melted and got into can replace it but it's hard to win the day with a very big or very old stain.


The best thing to remember also is that a day or two in the direct sun is the only thing that cures a stinky sponge so you may want to just air it out.

Good luck!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
August 15, 20150 found this helpful

Look for a dead mouse in the insulation.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
August 16, 20150 found this helpful

leave baking soda in several small containers sit in the fridge overnight with door closed & next day also wipe all interior surface with diluted baking soda with water, dry.


Kitty litter may help as it its known to absorb odors.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

October 10, 2018

I use my freezer for 2 months and then shut it down for 10 months. When I open it after 10 months it has a very bad smell. How can I keep away this bad smell?

Read More Answers

August 1, 2016

My freezer was turned off the other day for long enough for the meat to thaw but not go bad. The blood from the meat ran down the freezer sides. I thought I got it all because the freezer itself did not smell. Two days later and there is a terrible smell coming from near the freezer. I moved the big sucker and there is some blood that had found its way to the floor. There also appears to be some in a tiny metal tray supporting the internal components of freezer.

Now I cleaned all of the blood, dismantled the freezer inside and Lysoled and CLRed and scrubbed with all propose. The freezer doesn't stink, but behind the freezer and even down near the metal tray it smells like animal urine and rot. The copper lines that feed the inside coils enter the freezer is right where smell is coming from. I'm a loss at how to proceed. I just bought this thing. Thanks.


Bronze Answer Medal for All Time! 220 Answers
August 3, 20160 found this helpful

You may need a refrigerator service person to find and clean the problem area. It may be difficult or impossible for you to locate and fix yourself.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
April 7, 20170 found this helpful

Try vinegar and baking soda washed down the freezer/If not try pine sol and it really works.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

August 14, 2015

With the different ideas for ridding the freezer of rotten food odors none of them answer the question, should you have the freezer running or not. Both the pure vanilla idea as well as the charcoal sound like really good ideas. So should the freezer be running when trying theses ideas?


August 15, 20150 found this helpful

An open box of baking soda.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 337 Feedbacks
August 18, 20150 found this helpful

I don't think it will matter.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

May 28, 2015

I am currently a freshman in college and my roommate put ice cream in our freezer about five months ago. While we were on break, the ice cream somehow melted in our freezer. The melted ice cream has now frozen to the freezer and no one can open the freezer without it smelling terribly! I wanted to know if anyone has suggestions on the best and most painless way to get rid of the smell and clean the freezer.

Thanks so much in advance!!


May 29, 20150 found this helpful

You're pretty much just going to have to knuckle down and do this.
Remove all the food you want to keep to coolers, if there is any other food. Unplug the freezer.

Put on a mask if you have to. Wait until it gets slushy on the inside. Use warm water and a plastic (NOT metal) putty knife to remove everything from the freezer.

Clean the freezer with warm water and a little dish soap. Be sure to wash the door gasket. Then deodorize by leaving a tray of fresh coffee grounds in the freezer for a few days.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
June 1, 20150 found this helpful

I have used warm water mixed with baking soda , then rinse & dry. 1 quart of water/1 tablespoon baking soda. I also clean the entire inside with this mixture, great for cleaning & removing odors.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

April 6, 2016

While on vacation, a small standup freezer in the garage became unplugged while full of food. Needless to say the smell was so bad. I got all the food out and hosed it out what to do next?

Read More Answers

August 2, 2013

I cleaned the freezer with soda solution and rinsed it good. I then put crumpled newspaper and two cake pans of fresh, dry coffee grounds in the freezer. I need to know if I leave lid (chest type freezer) open or close it for two days? Thanks for any advice!

By Helen


February 26, 20150 found this helpful

Closed and plugged in

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

April 6, 2014

Our freezer was shut down in October, and the lid closed for 6 months. There are no words to describe the stench. Is there any way to get rid of the smell? I read other tips. Do you put the charcoal or vanilla in with the freezer on or off?

By Nancy T.

Answer this Question

October 30, 2013

A jar with turps fell off a shelf and seems to have seeped into the freezer. We are struggling despite several cleanngs to eradicate the smell and it seems to be seeping into new food. Any suggestions please?

By Sarah B

Answer this Question
Home and Garden Cleaning AppliancesSeptember 8, 2011
Thanksgiving Ideas!
Halloween Ideas!
Ask a Question
Share a Post
Better LivingBudget & FinanceBusiness and LegalComputersConsumer AdviceCoronavirusCraftsEducationEntertainmentFood and RecipesHealth & BeautyHolidays and PartiesHome and GardenMake Your OwnOrganizingParentingPetsPhotosTravel and RecreationWeddings
Published by ThriftyFun.
Desktop Page | View Mobile
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Contact Us
Generated 2022-10-19 09:06:44 in 6 secs. ⛅️️
© 1997-2022 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved.