My Fridge Smells Like Death, PLEASE HELP!

Open fridge refrigerator full of food in the empty kitchen interior. 3d Illustration

So your refrigerator smells like something died in there? When the situation in your refrigerator is that bad you usually will have to go with the nuclear option. Toss everything, or most everything in it and scrub down the inside thoroughly.

Sometimes the problem isn’t obvious. We’ll also touch on some other potential culprits that could be causing the foul odors coming from your fridge besides the usual spoiled food within it.

Continue reading to see a run down of the steps you’ll need to take to best get rid of the smell as quickly and efficiently as possible.

How to clean a refrigerator with rotten food

  • Pull your refrigerator away from the wall and unplug it to allow the freezer to defrost
  • Remove all food from the refrigerator
  • Pull out all bins, shelves, and trays that are removable
  • Using a mild mixture of water and bleach, thoroughly scrub the inside of the refrigerator with a good mildly abrasive sponge
  • Repeat the process on the freezer side being sure to remove all of the frost and ice buildup
  • Be sure to thoroughly clean crevices and other places where there may have been a build up of food or liquid
  • Thoroughly scrub the bins and trays you previously removed from the fridge with the mild bleach mixture
  • Put the bins, shelves, and trays back into the fridge
  • Plug back into the wall and roll back into position
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What to do if your refrigerator still smells after cleaning it out

You can try putting some baking soda into a bowl and placing it into the fridge to allow it to absorb and neutralize any lingering odors.

If this doesn’t work you may need to try the same method with some coffee beans but you will need to leave them in there for at least a couple of days. Alternatively you can crumple up news paper spritzed with water and leave the newspaper for a week.

Other places to check and clean

Refrigerator Door Gaskets

One place that often gets overlooked is the seal around the doors of your refrigerator. The grooves and crevices of this seal can easily collect food that can spoil and cause foul odors that are difficult to isolate. Be sure to thoroughly clean the seals both on the contact surface and the side grooves with a disinfectant. Pay special attention to the seal at the bottom of the doors. Nasty liquids can easily run down the sides of the fridge and to the bottom of the door and collect in the gasket.

Refrigerator Drip Tray

Many refrigerators have a drip tray underneath the body of the refrigerator to protect your floors and prevent liquids from running all over. You may not even be aware that it is there. This tray may have captured run off from milk, meats, or other foods and ended up pooled near the hot motor. This is obviously a recipe for an odorous disaster. Check underneath your refrigerator for a drip tray or refer to your owners manual. Remove the tray and clean it thoroughly with a disinfectant or a mild bleach solution.

Refrigerator Condensor Coils

There have been some reports of mold growth on condenser coils leading to foul smells coming from a refrigerator. This is unlikely but possible. To clean you’ll need to unplug your refrigerator, remove the grill on the lower front, and wipe down the coils underneath with a rag or long handled brush.

How often should you clean the inside of your refrigerator?

The frequency you need to clean your refrigerator thoroughly will vary from household to household. A fridge the is subjected to frequent spills will need to be cleaned far more often than one that sees light duty. A good deep clean for most reasonably used refrigerators would be once per year. Obviously heavily used refrigerators would need to be cleaned up to as often as every several months or immediately after a particularly nasty spill.

Can you use bleach to clean a refrigerator?

You definitely don’t want to use undiluted bleach on the inside of your fridge as it would be too harsh. A mild solution of water and bleach is the ideal disinfectant to use.

Can I use Clorox wipes to clean the inside of my fridge?

Absolutely! Clorox wipes are a very handy product for cleaning your fridge both inside and out. If you’re doing a deep clean of your refrigerator however they may not be as strong as a mild mixture of bleach and water.

How do I clean behind my refrigerator?

Most refrigerators are on wheels. To clean behind them you can simply roll them forward until you can access the area behind the fridge.

Why should you clean your refrigerator coils?

Your refrigerator coils are designed to release heat and if they are covered in dust and debris they are not able to transfer heat away as efficiently which can put strain on your refrigerator.

Ozone Refrigerator Deodorizer

Ozone is an excellent odor eliminator. There are several battery powered ozone generators on the market that are designed to be placed inside your refrigerator to help eliminate foul odors. They also have the benefit of helping keep some foods fresher as they can neutralize ethylene gas that is put off by foods that are breaking down and accelerates other foods spoiling.

Other Resources:

Helpful Links

Wrapping Up:

Eliminating Putrid Smells From a Fridge

Hopefully your fridge no longer smells like death after a thorough deep cleaning. Ensuring that not only the inside of your refrigerator is clean but also underneath and the door gaskets is important to eliminate foul odors and keep your fridge working in tip top condition. It’s important that you stay on top of the foods stored inside your fridge. Some foods that spoil can really permeate the plastics of your fridge and be very hard to eliminate. This is especially annoying if the smell fouls your ice maker’s ice cubes. Good luck and may your refrigerator smell like butterflies and rainbows.

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