Posted on: November 21, 2008 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 3

Some refrigerators look and smell like props from a bad horror or science fiction movie. While a man-eating mutant creature from a hunk of moldy cheese would not pop out of your refrigerator when you open it, you may be turned off by some of the repulsive odors that come from spoiled food and lingering smells. Whether it’s a months-old wedge of cheese or leftover tuna casserole from last weekend’s dinner, leftover food is the main cause of bad smells from refrigerators. Some refrigerators and freezers are so grimy and smelly that those with a sensitive nose would probably vomit at the extremely repulsive odor.

Old food harbors some dangerous and even deadly microorganisms that can harm you and your family. Many of these microorganisms can stick to fresh food and the walls of your refrigerator, causing diseases far worse than a typical upset stomach. Food odors carry with them bits and molecules of flavor that may make their way to other foods. A stinky, smelly refrigerator is no place to keep your food staying fresh before you use it. Here are some ways to get rid of disgusting smells from your refrigerator.

Schedule a General Cleaning

Like every appliance you own, you need to clean your refrigerator regularly. Cleaning your refrigerator does not mean just wiping off the dust from the exterior surfaces. To remove the foul food odors lingering in your refrigerator, you need to give the appliance a thorough, deep-down cleaning.

Here are the materials you need:

To clean your refrigerator properly, follow these steps:

  1. Remove all stored food from the refrigerator and freezer. Place all perishable items like meat and fish into an ice box or a cooler.
  2. Defrost your refrigerator and freezer compartment.
  3. While you’re waiting for the refrigerator to finish the defrost cycle, sort out the food items. Throw away all spoiled and spoiling food, and keep foods that are fresh or don’t have a foul stench.
  4. Unplug the refrigerator from the power outlet.
  5. Using baking soda dissolved in hot water, scrub out all the mold, food particles, and other stuff stuck on the refrigerator and freezer walls. Don’t use a scouring pad as much as possible, because you may scratch the coated surfaces of the inside walls. If you do need to use a scouring pad, use a worn, softened one. Do not use a new scouring pad or a piece of steel wool.
  6. Wash the inside walls of the refrigerator with warm soapy water. A bit of alcohol mixed in with the soap solution can help disinfect the refrigerator walls and the food racks. Pay attention to the magnetic rubber seals, the meat chiller compartment, and the egg racks.
  7. Rinse the refrigerator walls with lukewarm water, and allow the walls to air-dry before plugging it back and placing all the food back in.

Deodorize With Baking Soda

Baking soda is a very effective deodorant. Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, has a unique chemical property that allows the particles to absorb odors and other foul smells from food.

All food, even when kept inside a refrigerator, will slowly spoil and release unpleasant odors. Baking soda works by attracting the molecules of the foul odors into itself. Foul odors come in the form of moist air, which then clump with the baking soda and stay trapped for a long time. One box of baking soda can last up to a year inside your refrigerator, and keep it smelling fresh and odor-free.

An inexpensive box of baking soda usually does the trick for deodorizing your refrigerator, but it’s best to spend the extra nickels for a small box of good-quality baking soda. Keep the box on a door shelf, or the far corner of the refrigerator. Keep baking soda away from vegetables, because sodium bicarbonate can sometimes cause green leafy vegetables to wilt faster.

Meats in the Freezer, Veggies in the Crisper

Your refrigerator only stinks as bad as the food you put in it. One of the main culprits when it comes to bad odors in the refrigerator is food that’s not stored properly. Different compartments of a refrigerator have different temperatures that preserve the freshness, aroma, and flavor of different kinds of food. Foul odors form when smells from different foods combine, and produce foul-smelling chemicals due to the low temperatures inside the refrigerator.

When storing your food inside the fridge, keep different foods separate. Store cooked foodstuffs and leftovers on the shelves. Raw meat and fish should be wrapped individually, and kept inside the freezer compartment. Air circulating inside the crisper compartments is less cold and less dense, which is ideal for fresh vegetables. Keep strongly-flavored foods like onions, garlic, and eggs on the door shelves of the refrigerator.

As much as possible, avoid storing open plates, saucers, and platters of food on refrigerator shelves. It’s best to transfer your leftovers in separate containers, and keep them covered and tightly sealed.

Defrost Regularly

Ice may just be frozen water, but odors can condense and mix with the water already found inside the refrigerator. From time to time, you need to defrost your refrigerator to dissolve the odor-carrying ice. Defrosting also helps get rid of the thick shards and layers of ice that make the refrigerator inefficient at keeping and preserving food.

Most modern refrigerators self-defrost, or have a “Defrost” setting that allows the refrigerator to automatically defrost. If you own an older-model refrigerator, you need to unplug the refrigerator and allow the ice to drip or break out for about four to six hours. If your freezer compartment has a fairly thick layer of ice, it’s best to allow the ice to melt, drip, and eventually fall off. Do not use a pick, a knife, or a fork to loosen the ice; you may end up destroying the metal base.

Ensure Maximum Circulation

If you store foods that spoil easily, like cooked dishes or prepared food, you need to make sure that there’s enough cold air circulating all over the refrigerator to preserve the food. Here’s a good way to ensure that your refrigerator has adequate airflow:

  • Place all the big containers (juice boxes, bottles, milk boxes) on the bottom shelf, or on the bottle shelf at the base of the refrigerator door.
  • The coldest part of the refrigerator compartment is the one nearest the freezer. Store covered and sealed leftover foods in this part of the fridge.
  • If you have a large refrigerator, place at least one small box of baking soda on each shelf. Small refrigerators and personal refrigerators can do well with one box of baking soda.
  • Big items and containers go at the back of the refrigerator. Place smaller items near the front.
  • Items which you use more often, or items that spoil quickly, should be placed at an accessible area at the sides of the refrigerator shelves, preferably at the door hinge-side.

A smelly refrigerator is not the home of man-eating abominations from B-movies set in outer space, but a stinky fridge is not a good place to store food. With some housekeeping and a bit of effort, you can make your refrigerator smell fresh, clean, and free from noxious and potentially toxic odors.

Click here for more information on how to get rid of refrigerator smells.

3 People reacted on this

  1. Terrific article with good tips, thanks. I do have an improvement to how to eliminate the odors in refrigerator. Baking soda works just ok but there is newer products much better. In particular, activated carbon odor absorber called FRIDGE IT. Even the Food Network had a segment showing how much better the activated carbon is than baking soda. I’ve been a big fan of these odor absorbers and use them in refrigerator. Yes, I do put one on each shelf too. Check out the company blog which has lots of helpful uses. I think available at retailers but I buy easy on line at their web site.

  2. i shut down my freezer by mistake when i went on vacation ,when i came home two weeks later all my food was spoiled. What can i do to remove this odour.I will try anything its a new freezer and i dont want to throw it out.please help.thanks

  3. There is a crack in the plastic moulding at the front of the fridge where the smell of stale milk is coming from it its had bicarb and vinegar poured into it and sealed with silicon but the bad smell is still coming through can any one help with some ideas

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