When Your Fridge Smells Bad (Even After Cleaning): 11 Solutions

When your refrigerator smells, there's more than one way to get the stink out. These tips for deodorizing your fridge really work.

Updated August 30, 2023
Man Noticing Smell Coming From Foul Food In Refrigerator

Mystery smells are maddening. And when that mystery smell wafts from the place where you keep your food... ugh! Nothing is more annoying than when your fridge smells bad even after cleaning it. Beat nasty fridge odors by discovering where to look for fridge smells that aren't coming from rotten food and learning ways to remove them using simple ingredients you have at home. 

When Your Fridge Smells Bad Even After Cleaning

If your fridge smells like death even after you've used all your cleaning prowess on it, then it's probably an odor that's seeped into the plastic. Therefore, you need something to absorb the smell out of the plastic. There are a couple of ways you can get your fridge smelling fresh again. 

11 Ways to Rid Your Fridge of Lingering Odors

We'll cover each of these stinky fridge hacks at length, but these are the tips you need to know for making your refrigerator smell better.

  • Use baking soda to absorb the odor.
  • Clean with lemon juice.
  • Let coffee grounds absorb the stench.
  • Cover the odor with vanilla.
  • Remove the stink with newspaper.
  • Clean beneath the vegetable bins.
  • Clean the drip tray.
  • Clean under the refrigerator.
  • Change the water filter.
  • Clean the coils.
  • Check for a freon leak. 
Helpful Hack

You'll also find unplugging your fridge (after removing the food to a cooler) and allowing it to air out for 30 minutes to an hour can do wonders for smells.

Get Rid of Fridge Smell With Baking Soda

One of the best-known remedies for lingering smells in your refrigerator is to use the odor-obliterating power of baking soda. Is there anything that stuff can't clean and deodorize? 

  • Crack open a fresh container of baking soda and leave it in your fridge for about three days. You'll be amazed at how well baking soda removes those odors.
  • An alternative is to add a mound of baking soda to a bowl and put it on each shelf of the fridge for a few days.
    Baking soda placed in refrigerator to deodorize bad odor

Get Rid of Fridge Smell With Lemon

When tackling fridge odors, many people reach for lemon because of its refreshing scent. To use this odor hack:

  1. Squeeze half of the juice of a lemon on to a cloth and wipe down the plastic sides of the fridge.
  2. Cut the rest of the lemon into wedges and leave it on a plate in the fridge for a day or two.

Use Coffee to Absorb Fridge Odors

Coffee isn't just your morning pick me up. It can be an odor eliminator for your stinky fridge, too.

  1. Put a cup of coffee grounds on a saucer and leave it in the fridge for a few days.
  2. Replace the grounds for more odor-fighting power.

Get Rid of Fridge Smell With Vanilla

In addition to the coffee and baking soda tricks, try a cotton ball soaked in vanilla essential oil.

Leave the vanilla-soaked swab in the fridge for a day with the door closed.

Remove Refrigerator Odors With Newspaper

Got a couple of newspapers hanging out around your home? Use them to remove odors from your fridge.

  1. Remove all the food from the fridge and keep it cool elsewhere. Leave the fridge running.
  2. Wipe down all the plastic with white vinegar.
  3. Roll the newspapers and put them in the fridge. Spritz the newspapers with water.
  4. Allow them to sit for 3-4 days in the fridge.

If Your Fridge Smells, but There's No Rotten Food

If you had a spill or rotten food in your fridge, that’s one thing. But if your fridge stinks without it, then it’s time to do a deep clean. There are all kinds of places that bacteria and mold can hang out, creating that horrible smell.

Clean Under Veggie Bin Trays

While you might have thrown out old fruit and veggies, they can still leave behind juice and bacteria that can rot.

  1. Empty the bins.
  2. Pull them out of the fridge and scrub them with white vinegar or peroxide.
  3. Use the vinegar or peroxide to scrub underneath the bins, too. 
Woman Cleaning Refrigerator

Clean the Drip Tray

Many of us know there's a drip tray under our fridge, but we forget to clean it — out of sight, out of mind. That little tray can fill with stagnant water and other bacteria. Follow the directions in your user's manual to pull out your drip tray and clean it with soapy water and a cup of hydrogen peroxide. 

Check Under Your Refrigerator

If you've tried everything inside of your fridge and are still getting a smell, then it might not be inside of your fridge that's the problem. Food could've rolled under your fridge and rotted, or your drip pan might have spilled.

  1. Have someone help you pull out the fridge.
  2. Use a cleaner approved for your flooring to clean under the fridge.

Fridge Smells Like Chemicals

When your fridge smells like chemicals — and not the cleaning kind — you could have a big problem on your hands that requires a professional. However, before you panic, there are still a few things you can try.

Change the Water Filter

If your fridge smells like rotten eggs or sulphur and you have a water dispenser, then it could be your water filter. In that case, replace the water filter in your fridge. You can also clean around the area to ensure there isn't anything else going on with the water filtration system. You might also want to discard the ice cubes.

Clean the Refrigerator Coils

Refrigerator coils can get caked with dust and other grime and cause a smell. Therefore, you need to clean the coils carefully. Remember to unplug the refrigerator before you clean them.

Empty open freezer with leftover ice bottom view

Check for Freon Leak

One of the key characteristics of a refrigerator that might be leaking freon is a weird smell. You'll also notice that it's constantly running and isn't keeping as cold as it usually does. Call a professional appliance technician to see if your fridge is fixable.

Yes, You Can Get Rid of Your Refrigerator Smells

Now that you know how to get rid of those fridge smells, it's time to get cleaning. Whether it's a stinky rotten food smell or a strange chemical odor, you know just how to banish the stench for good. Deep cleaning your fridge from time to time is a great way to keep the stink away in the future.

When Your Fridge Smells Bad (Even After Cleaning): 11 Solutions