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How to Clean a Refrigerator That Smells? Remove Bad Odors Naturally

Immad Amir
Written by
Immad is a talented home cook and editorial director at Specially Fried. With his culinary expertise, love for gadgets and creative flair, he brings a fresh perspective to the world of food blogging.
Reviewed by

Harper is an appliance and kitchen cleaning expert. With a passion for spotless spaces, she meticulously reviews and ensures that the content on Specially Fried maintains the highest standards of cleanliness.

How to Clean a Refrigerator That Smells
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Did you forget to clean out your fridge? Do you get nauseous every time you open it? Looks like you’ve got the case of a nasty fridge. Bad odors are often a result of an electrical component failure which eventually leads to the wire getting short. If this happened while you were away for the weekend, then chances are the bad odor is from the spoilt leftovers.

I have personally suffered the wrath of a foul-smelling refrigerator and let me warn you it is the worst. The terrible smell combined with the molds that have been thriving on your leftovers is not the most fun I’ve gotten in the past six months. Returning to clean this home to the fungus was the last thing I was excited about.

No matter how bad it smelt I was glad to have been doing it during a pandemic. At least I had a mask with me to clean it out. God knows if I would’ve survived without it.

Enough with my worst nightmare, without further ado, let’s get started on your journey on “how to remove bad fridge odors naturally“.

Scroll down for some brief answers to your queries.

How do I get the rotten smell out of the fridge?

It might take as long as three days for the smell to be completely omitted from your fridge. For quick absorption of bad odors, you can place some baking soda in a flat dish or leave an open box of it inside your fridge. Placing it inside a flat plate increases the surface area and promotes quicker absorption of the false odors.

Why does my clean refrigerator smell bad?

Sometimes the fridge smells bad because of the drip pan placed underneath the fridge. The water filter might be damaged resulting in the emission of bad odors. It might also be a result of the build-up in the fridge’s drainpipe that may be clogged.  

What is the best thing to clean the inside of a fridge with?

Any upholstery cleaner or surface cleaner will do the job. If you don’t have them at your disposal then you can also try things like baking soda and vinegar. Mixing baking soda with vinegar and hot water will help get rid of any false odors. Although it is best to use nonscented mild cleaners, I prefer those that are lemon-scented.

What is the best thing to absorb odors?

Here are some items that can help you absorb odors:

  • An open box of baking soda
  • Bread
  • Lime juice
  • Vanilla essence
  • Vinegar

What is the best fridge deodorizer?

One of the best fridge deodorizers is aqua refrigerator deodorizer. Charcoal is also known to have odor-absorbing characteristics. It also works far better than baking soda due to its porous surface area which promotes greater absorption.

How can I disinfect my refrigerator naturally?

By cleaning out the inside of your fridge you can manage to disinfect it. A home-made all-purpose cleaner that consists of a gallon of hot water combined with clean ammonia half a cup of vinegar and a quarter of a cup of baking soda can do the job. Pour the mixture out into a spray bottle and with a semi-damp cloth wipe the inside of your fridge for a cleaner aura. The spray does not require you to rinse it out and gets rid of any grease that may have accumulated.

It is more than often that we get lazy and forget to clean out the rotten vegetables in the fridge drawer. We often forget about the fruit we bought that is now home to fungus. This very act of procrastination leads to further discomfort when the fridge starts to smell every time you open it. At times like these, you have two options.

You either put on your big girl pants and clean it out or you slam the fridge door shut and let it be someone else’s problem. If you decide to put on your big girl pants and clean the nastiest odors, then read on for some fantastic tips on how to clean a refrigerator that smells.

The nasty smell is a result of the molds and bacteria living in your fridge. The microbes are invisible to the naked eye and thrive in places that are high in moisture hence making the fridge an ideal place to live. Rotten food, spoilt milk, and good humidity levels are all factors that contribute to making your fridge smell foul.

Items required

Here is a list of things you will need to clean a refrigerator that smells.

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Parchment paper
  • Vanilla essence
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge

The following are the five key steps you will need to remember to get a fresh-smelling fridge.

Step 1: Eliminate items from the refrigerator

Eliminate everything from the fridge while throwing out anything that has crossed its expiry date or looks suspicious. Wash away the removable drawers and the shelves and let them dry. Clean out any bottle of condiments that may be sticky. Also, clean the surfaces that have food substances stuck to them as residue. Use hot water along with some dish soap for a nice clean effect. The warm water makes it easier to scrub off the difficult stains.

Step 2: Cleanse the smelly refrigerator

You will find multiple varieties of multipurpose cleaning sprays. All of them work extremely well but are slightly expensive. Therefore we recommend using all-natural products for a fresh clean vibe. A solution like baking soda and vinegar not only get rid of the sticky food surfaces but also absorbs the false odor that is a result of it. 

Start with a clean microfiber cloth when beginning the cleanup process. Sponges work great too however make sure to use one that does not easily break apart. Toothbrushes are also great to work with since they can get into nooks and crannies easily.

While using rags make sure they are clean and freshly washed. Sometimes using old, dirty rags can leave a fat worse smell than the one caused by spoilt food. Use a small amount of vinegar and baking soda mixture and directly apply it to your rag or sponge. For scrubbing.

Step 3: Scrub the fridge’s sides and floor

Once the fridge is empty, start by cleaning at the top and slowly work your way downwards. Make sure to wipe away any dirty and sticky surfaces that may be hiding in the fridge. Carefully wipe the edges and corners around the fridge door. Scrub the ceiling and sidewalls of the fridge too. For an added clean effect wipe the outside of the fridge as well.

Step 4: Time to wash the fridge

Wash the cloth, sponge, rag whatever you used to wipe the fridge down. Make sure you are satisfied with the way your fridge looks and smells. Use some warm water and some detergent to clean the rag thoroughly. You could also use the vinegar-baking soda mixture. Clean the rag thoroughly and get rid of any residues of the mounds you just scrubbed out of your fridge.

Step 5: Restore

Once you are happy with your cleaning shut the fridge door and let the temperature fall to a max of 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). You can use a fridge thermometer to check the temperature. You can now start putting everything back into the fridge. This time try to set it in a rather organized fashion. If your fridge has a fast cooling option, then you don’t need to wait for the temperature to reach an optimum level.


Step 6: Keeping the freshness intact

Once you are done cleaning your fridge thoroughly you would want to maintain that freshness to avoid such a nightmare in the near future. One way you can do this is by using a baking tray covered with some parchment paper. Spread some baking soda over it generously and evenly. Leave this tray in the fridge overnight.

If you don’t have baking soda on your hands then coffee grounds or oats can be your alternate choices. The three work great as natural odor absorbers.

Pro tip: soak cotton balls in vanilla essence and leave them in your fridge overnight. Trust me your fridge will smell like an oven after baking fresh cookies.

For stains, mix small amounts of baking soda with warm water to form a paste and leave it for a while before using a sponge to clean it up.

How to make your fridge smell fresh

Here are some tips to help you keep your fridge smelling fresh!

  • Set the fridge at temperatures between 37-41 °F to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Make a habit of using airtight containers when putting away leftovers.
  • Use post-it notes to label your leftovers with dates.
  • Organize your fridge items in a way that promotes circulation and removes items as you consume them.
  • Clean out your fridge weekly to avoid having to clean molds.

For future assistance…

Out of all the appliances in your kitchen, your fridge works the hardest. A clean fridge not only makes you feel better every time you open the door but also saves you time. Despite all the cleaning and hard work, it is also important that you maintain it, or it is likely you will end up in a sticky situation like this. For further assistance regarding how to clean a refrigerator that smells.

Continue to read our article on whether you can place a mini fridge on a carpet or not!

Immad Amir
Written by
Immad is a talented home cook and editorial director at Specially Fried. With his culinary expertise, love for gadgets and creative flair, he brings a fresh perspective to the world of food blogging.
Reviewed by

Harper is an appliance and kitchen cleaning expert. With a passion for spotless spaces, she meticulously reviews and ensures that the content on Specially Fried maintains the highest standards of cleanliness.

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