Some refrigerator odors take more than an open box of baking soda to get rid of the stench. When your refrigerator smells bad, there are some things you can do to banish the smell completely and prevent future odors from invading.

What to Do When Your Refrigerator Smells Bad

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you may have a smelly refrigerator and what you can do about it.

What Causes the Smell

There is an undeniable phenomenon in every household where some kind of food item gets pushed way into the back of the fridge. When these lost and forgotten foods decay, they emit a rank odor that permeates through the refrigerator.

Have you ever thawed meat in your refrigerator? Thought so. While meat is defrosting, the juices that were frozen solid liquify and can seep out onto the refrigerator shelf. If left unnoticed, you will eventually have a smelly refrigerator.

One other thing that can be affecting the freshness of your refrigerator is how well it is operating. If your refrigerator smells bad, it could be due to the refrigerator not maintaining a cold enough temperature. Performing basic maintenance can help the unit operate more efficiently.

refrigerator smells bad

Image from Spoon University

How to Deep Clean Your Refrigerator

When your refrigerator smells bad, the best course of action is to give it a good, deep cleaning. Even smelly refrigerators can smell fresh and new with proper cleaning and maintenance. Here’s what to do:

  1. Unplug the unit and pull away from the wall. (Don’t worry- your food won’t spoil in the short time it takes to clean your fridge.)
  2. Take everything out of the refrigerator and sort; keep fresh food on the counter and throw away anything spoiled or expired.
  3. Handwash all removable pieces with a solution of hot water, dish soap, and Borax; you can also soak items in the sink or tub first- then dry thoroughly and set aside. Pay close attention to cleaning gaskets and any nook and crannies where food and drink spillage can settle.
  4. Clean and deodorize the interior- mix one gallon hot water with one cup baking soda or Borax- wipe, scrub, and rinse.
  5. Replace air filter– if your refrigerator is equipped with a filter, reference owners manual for replacement information.
  6. Air out for 24 hours– this step is optional, and certainly only prudent if you have an additional refrigerator to use for temporary storage of perishables.

While the refrigerator is still pulled away from the wall, clean the condenser coils to ensure the refrigerator can maintain a proper internal temperature. Follow these steps:

  1. Locate the condenser coils either underneath the refrigerator or on the back.
  2. Vacuum all dust and debris covering the appliance and the coils.
  3. Use a long-handled brush (dryer or appliance brush) to scrape stubborn dirt off coils.
  4. Vacuum remaining dust and debris.
  5. Plug in the refrigerator and return to its original position against the wall.

After deep cleaning the refrigerator, it should operate more efficiently and smell much better. Now, the trick is to ward off future odors by maintaining the refrigerators freshness.

smelly refrigerator

Image from Viewpoints

Tips for Maintaining Freshness

Deep cleaning when your refrigerator smells bad is a project we don’t want to do often. Try these tips and tricks to maintain your refrigerators newfound freshness:

  • Always thaw meats inside a tray or dish to collect any potential drips.
  • Wipe up messes and spills right way.
  • Make note of expiration dates and remove spoiled food immediately.
  • Keep baking soda in a shaker bottle to absorb odors.
  • Use your choice of commercial fridge odor absorbers to deodorizer.

If your DIY efforts are in vain, don’t hesitate to call Appliance Repair Specialists to the rescue! A friendly face to take care of the problem may be just what you need to get back to what you love best.