How to get a bad smell out of a fridge?

Leftovers aren’t making your fridge stink, it’s the fridge itself

It’s not those leftovers making your fridge stinky.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

So you’ve removed all of the moldy takeout containers and that wedge of fancy cheese, but your fridge still smells? Don’t worry. There’s some simple reasons why your fridge probably stinks and they’re very simple to fix.

Likely problem: Your fridge

Problem: What is the inside of your fridge primarily made out of? Plastic, right? Well, plastic absorbs odors, so the whole problem may be the entirety of your fridge.

Solution: Cleaning can only help so much. To absorb the odors, place an open box of baking soda in your fridge (some suggest sprinkling baking soda on a plate to increase the surface area). Baking soda will soak up the bad odors and leave your fridge smelling clean after about three days.

There has been some debate as to whether baking soda actually works to remove odors. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which works to neutralize odors by balancing pH by buffering acidic and alkaline substances in the air. According to Consumer Reports, you can also mix 1 cup baking soda to a gallon of water and use it to wipe down the inside of the fridge.

Need a faster solution? Try coffee. Place 1 cup ground coffee in a bowl or on a plate and leave it in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours. The coffee will mask the odors while it absorbs them.

The USDA suggests placing a cotton swab soaked with vanilla inside the refrigerator for around 24 hours to eliminate smells.

Other common culprits

Your veggie bins are gross

Problem: When you noticed a funky odor in your fridge, you probably threw out your old vegetables, but did you scrub the bin? Clear vegetable juices could be hiding in the crevasses of the bin, giving it that unpleasant odor.

Solution: Just to be sure that your bins are clean, take them out and wash them with warm water and dish soap.

Check underneath the bins

Problem: Even if your veggie bins are spotless, they could be hiding a disgusting secret. Water and bits of food tends to accumulate underneath vegetable bins. These can spoil and mold, leaving a bad odor.

Solution: Fill a bucket with a gallon of warm water and a quarter cup of bleach. Remove the vegetables bins and clean out the area underneath with the bleach solution and a dish cloth. After it is all clean, wipe down the area with a clean damp cloth to remove any bleach smell.

The drip pan is moldy

Problem: Some refrigerators have pans that collect condensation produced by the unit while it cools. These pans need to be emptied from time to time and cleaned, or else they smell awful and may even overflow.

Solution: First, you need to find out if your fridge has a drip pan. Take a look at the maintenance part of your owner’s manual to find out. If you don’t have the manual any more, many are online. Just search the brand and model number for your fridge.

If your fridge does have a drip pan, unplug your fridge, take out all of the food and follow the manual’s instructions for removing the pan. Then, clean it with warm water and dish soap and reinstall it.

It’s not your fridge

Problem: You’ve tried everything and just can’t find the culprit.

Solution: The smell may not be your fridge at all, but what’s under it. It’s possible that some food rolled underneath and rotted. Roll the fridge out and clean under it thoroughly.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Nov 5, 2015, and has been updated.

Editor’s Note: Cleaning expert and author of My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag…and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha Jolie Kerr joins us today to tackle a common kitchen cleaning question: What’s that gross smell coming from my refrigerator, and how do I get rid of it for good? Have more questions for Jolie? Send her an email and stay tuned.

I have a pretty ancient refrigerator that, about six months ago, started emanating a slightly gross, funky odor whenever I’d open the fridge door. As luck would have it, we lost power a couple of months ago, providing me with an excellent opportunity to clean out the fridge and freezer, toss old/questionable foods, and clean all the shelves and drawers. But, a week later, I started noticing the smell again. WHAT COULD IT BE!? Is there some secret compartment I’m missing and forgetting to clean? Is the fridge just old and nasty? Is it haunted? I have tried leaving a bowl of baking soda inside to absorb odors, but no dice. Should I just get a new fridge?

This letter has more questions than a Dr. Seuss book, and I love it. I’m also so tickled by the fact that you went right from “secret compartment” to “haunted.” You were clearly raised right.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a look at the how and why of this particular problem. The kinds of odors that are plaguing your fridge are caused by molecules of what we’ll call “stuff,” which are emitted from your food and float in the air, circulating in that small, enclosed space. When you open the door, those molecules enter your nose and trigger receptors that make you say “ew.” If it helps, you can imagine those offending odor molecules as ships, aimlessly wandering the ocean of your fridge, looking for a port. By default, the smooth walls of a fridge can’t hold many ships, but your nose, packed with receptors, makes a very good port. Your goal here? Provide a place for those boats to dock before they make it to your nose.

On the bright side, you’ve already done the first thing I would have suggested—you’ve thoroughly inventoried and cleaned the inside of your fridge. And, happily, you’ve also stumbled into asking exactly the right question: There IS a secret compartment in most refrigerators. It’s called the drip pan, and it’s just what it sounds like—a pan to catch drips. But, as you might imagine, it can also catch more than drips, leading to a pool of foul-smelling water over time. The drip pan is very likely the source of your smell situation.

The pan will be located under your fridge, and, depending on the model, you’ll either access it from the front (behind a kick plate), or you’ll have to pull out the fridge to access it from the back. (Check your manual, or find it online by searching for the brand and model number.) Once you’ve removed it, clean it with a sponge or rag and a good dish soap, all-purpose cleaner, or bleach solution.

After you’ve removed, cleaned, and replaced the drip pan, the odor should noticeably improve. That said, there may still be a lingering smell, and, of course, you’ll want to keep new odors from developing. Which means you’ve also given me a perfect excuse to talk about the best way to keep low-level fridge smells at bay—something almost everyone has to contend with at some point in his or her adult life.

Generally speaking, there are two basic tactics we can deploy to solve a persistent odor problem. We can try to drown it out by introducing other molecules of a less offensive nature—we’ll call those the deodorants of the cleaning world. Or, we can try to take them out of circulation entirely, by providing alternative places for them to dock—our antiperspirants.

The former method can be cheap, easy, and relatively effective, but it comes with a few caveats. That’s because, like deodorant, these products (namely, coffee grounds, white vinegar, and gel odor eliminators) emit smells of their own. Smell is a very subjective thing, so I can’t say whether you’d enjoy getting a whiff of, say, coffee every time you reach into the fridge for a carton of orange juice. But, even if that does sound rather appealing, you’ll want to keep in mind that these products don’t just have their own odors—they can also impart those smells to other foodstuffs in the refrigerator. If you want to give them a shot, simply set a small bowl in the fridge, filled with either coffee grounds or vinegar (or buy a canister of odor-eliminating gel to keep on a shelf). Just keep in mind that you may find a new smell invading your fridge and its contents, rather than what we really want—no smell at all.

For better results, we need to look at option number two: reducing the number of odor molecules floating around your fridge. Since you’ve already tried baking soda without a whole lot of luck, let’s talk about why it does and does not work particularly well as an odor neutralizer.

If you have the impression that baking soda works by attracting bad smells and then systematically destroying them, you’re not alone. But you’re also wrong. Baking soda isn’t a magic beacon for stinky molecules. Its reputation as an odor eliminator exists because it can capture and hold scents—a process scientists call adsorption.

Adsorption works by providing a surface on which smelly gaseous molecules can land and adhere. Compared to, say, the walls of your fridge, baking soda makes for a pretty decent, porous surface, but if you’re keeping it in its box, its effects will be limited. For starters, it will need to be in close proximity to the source of your problem. And even then, the relatively small surface area doesn’t have the kind of capacity you probably need to neutralize the smell.

One solution to this quandary is to decant small amounts of baking soda—say, an eighth to a quarter cup at a time—from the box to a plate or bowl in order to increase the surface area, and then replace it regularly. But that’s a bit cumbersome, right?

So, if baking soda won’t do a great job at keeping fridge smells at bay, what will? Don’t give up on adsorption yet!

Enter activated charcoal, which also goes by the names active charcoal, active carbon, and activated carbon. Activated charcoal has a huge ratio of surface area to volume. To return to our ship metaphor, it’s sort of like a marina, with slips for many, many boats packed efficiently in a very small space. In other words, it’s great at trapping the offending odor molecules. It’s available in brick form, as well as in sachets, though you can also DIY it by pouring loose activated charcoal into small cloth bags, or even a clean sock.

For many, the biggest drawback to activated charcoal is that it doesn’t come cheap. At least, not the kind that’s labeled for use in your fridge. But here’s the thing: It’s also commonly used for aquarium filters, and pet suppliers will sell it for a whole lot less. The activated charcoal marketed as an odor eliminator costs around 81¢ per ounce, while the same stuff marketed for aquarium filters will run you only 35¢ per ounce.

API ACTIVATED FILTER CARBON Aquarium Filtration Media 22-Ounce Box

$11.77from Amazon

The tl;dr version of this is, essentially, that folk remedies like using baking soda (or white vinegar, or coffee grounds) to eliminate odors in the refrigerator may be nontoxic and exceedingly inexpensive, but they just don’t work all that well. Fortunately, activated charcoal does work and, if you don’t mind a small DIY effort, can be quite cost-effective if purchased loose and transferred into sachets. As a bonus, you can also use those sachets to clear the air, so to speak, in other areas of the home, like a stuffy closet or a musty basement, or—if we’re being really honest with each other—the bathroom.

All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.

If food has been allowed to spoil in a refrigerator or freezer, the strong odors associated with food spoilage may be extremely difficult to remove.

The first step is to clean the appliance with a gentle household cleaning solution and water. Use a bleach solution (one tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water) to rinse inside surfaces. While the unit is unplugged, leave the door open for a day or two to air it out. Spray disinfectant around hinges and locks and into any openings. If the odor remains, try one of the following methods:

  • Place trays of activated charcoal, clean kitty litter or baking soda on the shelves of the refrigerator or freezer. Run the appliance empty for 2 or 3 days. Activated charcoal can be purchased from stores that sell aquarium and terrarium supplies.
  • Place freshly ground coffee on cookie sheets in the refrigerator or freezer and close the door. Again, run the appliance empty for 2 or 3 days. A slight coffee odor may remain, but will disappear after washing and rinsing.
  • Pack each refrigerator or freezer shelf with crumpled newspaper. Set a cup of water on the top shelf or sprinkle the newspaper with water. Allow the refrigerator or freezer to run for approximately 5 or 6 days. This method is time consuming, but effectively removes strong odors.
  • Several commercial products are available for removal of refrigerator and freezer odors. These products may be purchased at hardware, grocery, discount and variety stores.

If the unit has been off several days, it is possible the odor has gone into the insulation. If the odor has penetrated the insulation, much work is needed to get it out. An air compressor might be needed to blow air into this section of the unit. if the above methods do not satisfactorily take care of odor problems, it may be that drippings from meat or fish leaked into the insulation. This problem would require service by a refrigerator technician, who may have to remove the liner and replace the insulation.

Photo: amazon.com

Deodorize with Baking Soda in a Fridge

Q: I need a quick fix for my refrigerator’s funky smell. Will a box of baking soda in the fridge really get rid of the odors, or is this a myth?

A: Baking soda (a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate) has occupied a place in our fridges since the early 1970s, when homeowners began using it instead of charcoal to zap odors. And baking soda in the fridge does work, to an extent, as long as you follow a few rules. Read on to learn what makes baking soda an effective deodorizer and how to best use it to refresh your fridge.

© Provided by BobVila.com, LLC Deodorize with Baking Soda in a Fridge Photo: istockphoto.com

Baking soda in the fridge neutralizes malodorous food molecules.

Bad smells in the fridge can be blamed on mold, yeast, or, in most cases, decomposing foods. As bacteria feed on foods in the fridge, the food often releases stinky acidic or alkaline (basic) molecules into the surrounding air. Open the door and you may be greeted by butyric acid, a bile-scented fatty acid that arises from old butter, or amines, sour-smelling basic compounds released by meat past its prime. As an “amphoteric” compound, and a weak base itself, baking soda reacts with both acidic and strong alkaline molecules, turning them, respectively, into neutral-smelling sodium salts or considerably reducing their stench.

It’s most effective on mild to moderate odors.

If your refrigerator reeks, your first course of action should be to identify spoiled foods and throw them out. At that point, baking soda in the fridge can help reduce, even eliminate, mild to moderate malingering odors, such as those arising from expired milk or cheese. Baking soda may not be able to combat overpowering odors, like that of rotten fish. To banish such a stink, scrub down the shelves, sidewalls, and crisper bins with a white vinegar-soaked sponge.

© Provided by BobVila.com, LLC Deodorize with Baking Soda in a Fridge Photo: istockphoto.com

Leave out at least a cup of baking soda in the fridge and replace it often.

It’s not enough to open the flap on a box of baking soda, stick it in a random spot in the fridge, and forget about it. The ideal conditions for baking soda as a deodorizer are:

  • Pour at least one cup of baking soda into a shallow, open container, or leave the baking soda in its box with the entire top removed. Because the individual sodium bicarbonate crystals that make up baking soda must come into contact with smelly food-borne molecules to neutralize them, the more surface area the soda occupies, the more exposure it gets to the surrounding air and the more stink it can squash. A box with only a small flap open doesn’t permit many food molecules inside, so you’ll be left with a musty fridge.
  • Put the bowl or box of baking soda as close to the source of the smell as possible. This will increase the odds that the fetid food molecules will land on the baking soda and spur the reaction needed to neutralize them.
  • Replace the baking soda every three months. Leave it any longer and it will start to take on the smell of the molecules it reacted with, becoming a source of odor itself.

Consider these equally natural alternatives.

Other natural products can also deodorize a smelly fridge. Try any of these substitutes:

  • Activated charcoal. Sold online or at pet shops in pellet or powder form, this pure carbon compound used in fish tanks to purify water can trap, hold, and neutralize smelly molecules. For best results, add one cup of activated charcoal to an open container, then place in the fridge in the general area of the odor. Replace the charcoal monthly.
  • Coffee grounds. While coffee grounds won’t banish odor as well as baking soda or activated charcoal, they will reduce fridge funk while conferring a mild coffee scent. Collect the grounds, pat them dry with a paper towel, then store a cup in an open container near the source of the smell. Replace coffee grounds weekly.
  • Vinegar. Thanks to its acetic acid, white vinegar can kill bacteria and neutralize bad smells throughout the house. Place a glass filled halfway with white vinegar in the fridge near the source of the smell. The initially pungent scent of the vinegar itself will dissipate within a few hours, leaving you with an odor-free fridge. Replace the vinegar every few days.

Related Video: 7 Things You Should Never Clean with Vinegar (Provided by: Real Simple)

  • Baking soda: Spread a layer of baking soda on a cookie sheet and place it in the refrigerator overnight or until the refrigerator odors are gone.
  • Fresh coffee grounds: Spread a layer of fresh coffee grounds over the bottom of a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator overnight. A coffee smell will linger but will disappear quickly.
  • Activated charcoal: Activated charcoal is available at most pet stores. Spread a layer of activated charcoal over the bottom of a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for a few days, until the odors are gone.
  • Unscented cat litter: Place a layer of unscented cat litter on the bottom layer of a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator for a few days until the odors are removed.
  • Essential oil: Douse a few cotton balls with vanilla essential oil or extract and put them in the refrigerator. Close the door for 24 hours.
  • Newspaper: Stuff wads of newspaper in the fridge’s drawers and shelves and keep the door closed for a few days. Then remove the paper and wash the fridge down with a mixture of 1 cup white vinegar per 1 gallon of water.
  • Contact the manufacturer: If your fridge is fairly new and has a manufacturer’s warranty, you might be able to get assistance from the company. Contact them and have the fridge’s model number handy. If the odor is due to a product defect, free repair or replacement might be in order. For instance, if the fridge’s dual-evaporator system isn’t working, which keeps odors from transferring between compartments, you might have bad smells in various places.

Can baking soda really absorb odors in the fridge?

Smells of course are caused by volatile compounds which stimulate receptors in our nose. There is a large variety of such compounds with a great diversity of molecular structures. But many of the smells encountered in the fridge are due to volatile fatty acids. For example, when butter goes rancid, it releases butyric acid, a particularly foul smell. As everyone knows, acids can be neutralized by bases. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a base. It reacts with butyric acid to form sodium butyrate which has no smell because it is not volatile.

Not all smells in a refrigerator originate from food. Nasty volatile compounds can be produced by a complex mix of bacteria and household mildew which can set up shop in the fridge. These produce a variety of acids with disturbing smells. Pseudomonas bacteria can produce a foul smell and are the likely culprits in a freezer, or on smelly dishcloths and old towels. In the fridge they coexist with microbes that inhibit the bacteria or break down the smell, but these microbes cannot live in the freezer. So in the freezer they have less competition and can multiply and produce a smell. Baking soda can help but there must be a large available surface area. Opening just one little corner of the box does no good. Spreading the baking soda in a plate is the best way to go. If this doesn’t solve the smell problem, washing with diluted bleach followed by hydrogen peroxide to get rid of the chlorine smell is the next step. Then follow with a bicarbonate solution rinse to change the residual smelly volatile fatty acids to sodium salts. Activated carbon deodorizers are also available for fridges. You just plop these in and they adsorb all kinds of volatile compounds.

What can you do with the used baking soda? I wouldn’t suggest using it in baking because any acid present will liberate the smells. Give it to the kids to build a volcano by reacting it with vinegar. After all, you expect volcanoes to be smelly.

@JoeSchwarcz

6 Ways to Make Your Fridge Smell Good Again

Best Baking Soda Substitute

Besides baking soda, a number of other kitchen items are capable of removing odors. Our favorite? Vanilla extract! Pour a little vanilla extract into a shallow bowl or bottle cap and set in the refrigerator to absorb odors and make your fresh smell great each time you open it.

Deodorize Your Fridge or Freezer

Add a shallow bowl of freshly ground coffee, uncovered, to your freezer. Leave for a few days and any funky odors will disappear. You can even use used coffee grounds!

Vanquish Smells with Vinegar

Use vinegar to make your fridge smell great. Just add some to a small washcloth or paper towel, then place in a shallow bowl in the back of your fridge. Replenish each time it dries out, and the vinegar will keep neutralize food odors throughout your fridge.

Eliminate Odors with Oatmeal

Out of baking soda and need to freshen up the fridge? Try oatmeal! An open container of dry oats in the fridge will neutralize odors just even better than baking soda does.

Citrus for Smells

One of the best ways to eliminate odors from your refrigerator is to hollow out a grapefruit or orange and fill it with salt, and place in the back of the fridge. Leave it there until the salt gets completely damp, and then throw the whole thing out and replace. The salt draws out the wonderful citrus smell.

Time to Clean Out Your Refrigerator?

Sometimes, the problem is bigger than just a few food odors flying around. If you need to give your refrigerator a deep clean, don’t use chemicals that can linger on shelves and create toxic odors. After emptying the fridge, simply dissolve a cup of salt in a gallon of hot water and wipe away. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon for a nice scent. This solution will both clean and deodorize your fridge, the safe way!

For more cleaning tips for around the house, check out our Cleaning Tips board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

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5 Natural Remedies for Deodorizing a Refrigerator

Eco Friendly Home Maintenance

Published on January 9th, 2012 | by Sonya Kanelstrand

6

After the holidays come the leftovers. But even without big celebrations we sometimes get a bit over the limit with food and the way we store it. Did you know that apart from the artificial deodorizing agents you could employ some healthy and very inexpensive green remedies to get rid of fridge odor? First, try a natural air freshener for your kitchen, then get on with working on your fridge.

You will be surprised to learn that all five options in my list are cheaper than you thought and you already have them in your kitchen, so why not try them next time you smell bad smells coming out of your fridge!

Before taking the first step though, I would like to remind you to place your food correctly in the fridge and to avoid storing food in open containers, so that the smells don’t blend. Once the smells from different foods combine foul-smelling chemicals are produced due to the low temperatures inside the fridge. Regularly check the expiration dates of your stored food and compost it.

5 natural ways to get rid of fridge odor

1. Make sure your fridge is clean. If not, turn it off, take everything out while it is defrosting, store the food on the balcony if it is cold enough outside, or in a cooler. Clean all the shelves and drawers with a thick paste of baking soda and water (here’s an article that will open in a new tab on how to make good natural cleaning recipes). Not only will you remove food stains, but odor as well, and the first step in getting rid of those smells starts with removing the cause, which is often spoiled or spilled food.

2. You can then continue deodorizing your fridge with baking soda. Place an open container with baking soda inside and let it absorb the smells and unstink your refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

3. If baking soda doesn’t help to deodorize the refrigerator, you can also distribute freshly ground coffee evenly on a plate and put it in the fridge for 24 hours. Coffee is known to absorb smells effectively. Instead of throwing the coffee away after the 24-hour stay in the fridge, you can mix it with soil and use it as a fertilizer for your home flowers, and in this way feed your good scents with the results of your fridge deodorizing.


4. –too high and you’ll get faster spoilage and more stinkage. Set your refrigerator temperature too low, and you’ll waste money on your utility bill and also contribute to climate change.

5. To freshen the smell of your fridge you can also soak a piece of cotton wool in vanilla and leave inside for 12 hours which will produce a lovely fresh and clean aroma.

With these tips, you can easily keep your kitchen and fridge clean and fresh for a minimum price. Just remember that a fridge smells only as bad as its contents. One of the biggest green living tips you can take on is to go vegetarian: the carbon footprint is much lower and the possibility of really stinky stuff in your fridge is greatly reduced. Not that veggies can’t stink, but nothing rots quite like meat and dairy products. Take care to choose your food wisely and to store it appropriately and you will rarely need to deodorize.


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Tags: bad smell, deodorize, fridge, green tip, kitchen, Odor, odour, refridgerator, Refrigerator

About the Author

Sonya Kanelstrand Sonya is a photographer and a creative artist sharing her Scandinavian experiences. Her blog Kanelstrand Organic Living has become the meeting point of a vibrant green community of eco-conscious artists and crafters from around the world. Sonya believes that people and nature can co-exist together in a healthy and inspiring union without harming each other. She implements the knowledge gained from studying Philology and Pedagogy in her approach to sustainable and eco-friendly living.

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A stinky fridge, at best, imparts unwelcome flavors to the food stored within and, at worst, can increase your risk of food-borne illnesses. Here’s how to keep it clean and fresh.

Whether you just invested in a new smart fridge or your fridge is a practically-vintage model still kicking along from last century, keeping it clean will ensure foods taste the way they should and harmful bacteria don’t end up in them.

The best thing is that you don’t need a bunch of fancy cleaners or harsh cleaners to clean even the toughest food stains out of your refrigerator. You can use some items you already stock in your pantry.

How to Clean Your Fridge

When it comes to cleaning your fridge, it’s best to stick with simple cleaning methods that don’t introduce unnecessary chemicals into the same place you store your food. Skip the bleach and cleaners with strong scents and fumes. Just about cleaning every situation you encounter in your fridge can be tackled with warm water, vinegar, baking soda, and a few drops of plain old dish soap.

We recommend vinegar a lot in our cleaning guides and with good reason: the mild acid found in white vinegar is strong enough to cut through practically any messes in the kitchen, but it’s completely harmless. Pair it with baking soda, and you have everything you need to tackle messes in your fridge. They both have stain removing properties, help kill germs, and will help whiten the white parts of your refrigerator.

Here’s how to clean your fridge using vinegar and baking soda:

  • Mix half vinegar and half water in a spray bottle.
  • You always need to remove all food items from the refrigerator before you get clean. If you think you might be scrubbing for a while, put some ice in a few coolers and put your food in there for safety. If you’re only going to be twenty minutes or so, your food will be fine on the counter.
  • Pull all of the shelves and drawers (the removable ones) and set them to the side. Spray down the inside of the fridge with the vinegar and water mix and let it sit.
  • Spray the shelves and drawers. While they’re sitting, wipe down the inside of the refrigerator with a wet soapy rag (dish soap or Castille soap will work). Then wipe down the other parts before you put them back in.
  • If there are any hard to clean spots, mix just enough water with baking soda to create a paste and then scrub the spot with it. You can let it sit for ten minutes to help lift stubborn stains, then wipe down with a wet soapy rag.
  • Before you put food items back in, wipe jars and containers down with a wet rag, too. Warm water with a splash of vinegar is a great way to get sticky messes off jam jars, condiment bottles, and more.

This kind of deep cleaning doesn’t need to happen regularly unless you run into a situation where a food container leaks or a cut of meat drips all over. If you’re frequently dumping old food (when in doubt, throw it out) and cleaning up spills when they happen, a deep cleaning only needs to happen every three or four months.

Keeping Your Fridge Smelling Fresh Between Cleanings

In between deep cleaning, there are a couple of things you can do to absorb the smell of all of those foods. The first is to use baking soda. Many of the scents in your fridge (like oily things gone bad) are acidic and, since baking soda is a base, it can help neutralize those odors.

The trick to using baking soda, though, is that you need a large surface area exposed. You can’t just tear open the corner of a regular box and stick it in your fridge. Instead, you can sprinkle some into a bowl or, better yet, buy a box specifically made for your fridge. These have large tear-away sides that expose the baking soda to the air, but keep it from spilling out.

When it’s time to replace the baking soda box, the best part is you can use the baking soda as part of your cleaning routines—just because the box has been soaking up the scents of your leftovers and chopped onions doesn’t mean you can’t use it to, say, clean your garbage disposal.

If you want to boost the power of the baking soda on especially stinky days, put a plate of freshly ground coffee in the fridge for one whole day. When you remove it, add it to the composter or mix it in the soil for your garden.

Another way to deodorize your fridge is with activated charcoal, which is excellent at absorbing all kinds of odors. Again, we recommend buying boxes made especially for use in the fridge so that you don’t have to deal with the mess of having an open container.

If, after all this, your fridge still has a persistent smell, you’ll want to attack it with another round of deep cleaning, paying particular attention to crevices and shelving undersides to ensure you’ve scrubbed every last inch of the fridge.

When you open the fridge to grab a slice of cheesecake, the last thing you want is to be hit by a weird smell. Even worse, that stench can affect the flavor of your food—it’s a phenomenon known as taste transfer, and baking soda is one way to stop it. Here, we tell you more about how to deodorize a refrigerator in a few simple tips. Follow them, and you’ll preserve the enticing flavor of your cheesecake treats and other edibles for much longer.

Start with a Cleanup

Remove everything from your refrigerator. Check expiration dates on prepackaged foods and throw out anything that’s out-of-date. If you have funky smelling leftovers, toss those, too, along with any soft or spoiled produce.

Give the refrigerator a thorough cleaning. Getting into all those nooks and crannies to remove any lingering odor-causing spills.

Prefer to avoid chemical cleaners? Lemons, as well as more baking soda, can be used to clean and deodorize many appliances. When combined, these two agents not only help eliminate odors but add a fresh lemony scent.

If the odor problem is still present, you may need to give your refrigerator time to air out. This can take a few hours to several days, depending on the severity of the problem. Remove all food, providing proper cold storage, to prevent spoilage. Unplug the refrigerator, and after a thorough cleaning leave the door standing open to the fresh air. You may want to place baking soda, lemons, charcoal or cat litter inside to absorb any stubborn lingering odors.

Prevent Odors from Returning

Check leftovers every few days—they don’t last forever. Throw out anything with a pungent odor, mold or signs of spoilage. Wipe down the shelves. Do this before grocery shopping and you will also be removing shelving clutter, leaving more room and clean shelves for the newly purchased food.

Refrigerators are manufactured with proper food temperatures in mind. By organizing foods properly, you maintain their freshness as long as possible, which helps to keep odors at a minimum. Use the door for condiments, juice, butter, eggs, oils and soda. The meat bin is made for deli meats, bacon and cheese. Crisper drawers are for produce and usually allow you to set the humidity level according to the fruits and vegetables on hand. The lower shelf is great for fish, raw meat and poultry. The upper shelf is perfect for leftovers; place them in front within easy reach. Use or discard leftovers before they begin to spoil.

Spills inside a refrigerator are unavoidable. Taking the time to clean up any mishaps as soon as they happen is an important step in preventing odors which could require a deeper cleaning later on.

Avoid Odor Transfer

Some of our favorite foods, such as salmon, garlic mashed potatoes and French onion soup can also become sources of bad smells if we are not careful. By storing leftovers in tightly sealed containers, you can protect other foods from odor and taste transfer while ensuring that slice of chocolate swirled cheesecake you’ve been saving will taste as delicious as you imagined it would.