Refrigerator Smells? How to Get Odor Out

Fleet Appliance
September 30, 2021
Refrigerator Repair

If you want to find and remove a strange odor from your refrigerator, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we will give you step-by-step instructions for how to find the cause of the problem and fix it.

Thankfully, most of the time it is something simple to fix, like adjusting the temperature or removing rotten food, but sometimes it can be something more serious causing the smell that requires a more complex fix.

Let’s get started.

Step 1 – Check Your Food

The first step is to check all of the food and beverages in your fridge and freezer. Rotten food is probably the number one cause of bad odors occurring. When checking your food, make sure you pay special attention to the items stored in the door panels, as they are quite often the culprit of bad odors. If you find any rotten or spoiled food, throw it out, and if the culprit is something like smelly cheese, put it into an airtight container. If the cause of the odor isn’t your food, move on to the next step.

Step 2 – Check the Temperature

The next step is to check the temperature. When your refrigerator is set to the wrong temperature, bad odors can occur. Most manufacturers recommend that your fridge should be set at between 35°F and 37°F. If your fridge isn’t set at this temperature range, adjust it and then see if the problem is solved. If not, move on to the next step.

Step 3 – Clean Your Fridge

The next step is to give your refrigerator a deep clean. Most refrigerators have plastic and metal components in them, which can become breeding grounds for bacteria and grime. You probably clean your refrigerator regularly anyway, but it is a good idea to give it a “deep” clean every few months to ensure it stays clean and odor-free.

Here’s how to give your refrigerator a deep clean:

  1. Turn the power off to your refrigerator.
  2. Open the doors to the fridge and the freezer so it can defrost.
  3. Remove all of your food and beverages and place them into coolers.
  4. Remove all of the shelves, give them a good clean, and then put them in the sun if possible so they can dry out.
  5. Use a strong cleaning solution (commercial or a homemade solution) to give your fridge and freezer a thorough clean and then dry it out.
  6. You can then put the shelves back in when they are dry, followed by all your food and beverages.
  7. If the odor is still present, move on to the next step.

Step 4 – Check the Drip Pan

If you still haven’t found the cause of the bad odor, the next step is to check the drip pan. The drip pan collects water after it melts from the evaporator coils. The condenser fan then helps to evaporate the water by blowing warm air onto it. If this process doesn’t happen, the drip pan can fill up with dirty water, which can start to smell over time.

Here’s how to check the drip pan:

  1. Turn the power off to the refrigerator. 
  2. Pull the refrigerator out from the wall so you can access the drip pan at the back of it.
  3. Find the pan – you may need to remove the back panel of the refrigerator.
  4. Inspect the pan to see if there is a build-up of water in it. If so, clean it out.
  5. If the pan is full of a lot of water, you should clean the condenser coils.
  6. Once cleaned out, put the refrigerator back against the wall, turn the power on, and check that the odor has gone. If not, move on to the next step.

Step 5 – Check the Water Filter

The next step is to check the water filter (if your fridge has one). The water filter should be replaced regularly; sometimes when they are not, they can start to smell.

Here’s how to check the water filter:

  1. Find the water filter in your refrigerator.
  2. Remove the filter and check if it smells. If not, put it back in.
  3. If the filter smells or is damaged, you should replace it and then see if this solves the problem. Make sure you change your water filter every few months.

Tips to Keep Your Refrigerator Clean

At this point, hopefully the cause of the odor has been found and dealt with. To help stop bad odors from occurring, here are a few simple tips to keep your fridge clean and odor-free:

  • Place silica mats in your refrigerator to help absorb excess moisture from produce in your fridge. Most major retailers sell them, and they don’t cost too much.
  • Place a dish of baking soda in your refrigerator on a shelf. This helps to absorb bad odors. You can also place activated charcoal and vanilla extract in your fridge for the same purpose.
  • Make sure you put food into airtight containers – especially foods that have strong odors, like cheese.
  • Give your refrigerator a regular clean and replace the water filter every few months.

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