Why Does My Fridge Smell Bad? [& Tips to Get Rid of it]

Have you ever experienced an unpleasant odour when you open your refrigerator door? It feels very annoying and instantly turns off your mood.

Cheer up, as this article helps you pinpoint underlying reasons that may cause your fridge to smell bad. We will discuss detailed and effective troubleshooting ways for getting rid of bad smell from your fridge within no time.

Why Does My Fridge Smell Bad?

The presence of bacteria and mould is the most likely cause of the foul odours coming from the fridge. However, it is not the sole reason, and you should also look out for other causes like spilt food or food debris inside the fridge, too high or too low fridge’s temperature, defective compressor, fridge not defrosted, dirty drain pan, or defective fan system.

Once you have zeroed down the likely cause of smell coming from your fridge, the next question that pop-ups in your mind is how to get rid of that smell? We have compiled a detailed step-by-step guide for cleaning the fridge to eliminate the odour.

We have also elaborated the various causes and types of smell for broadening your perspective about likely reasons for smell and easy ways to overcome it.

Causes of Smell

Fridge is Not Clean

You can take care of a smelly fridge largely by cleaning your fridge regularly in a timely manner.

Most often, the food debris and spilt food items cause mould growth resulting in a bad odour.

Mould Build-Up 

Mould can thrive and multiply rapidly, especially in a damp environment. These are responsible for rotting and contamination of food particles. Being microscopic, we can’t see the mould by naked eyes but detect their presence due to their foul odour.

If you have expired food products lying in your fridge, it may contribute to mould growth.

Fridge’s Temperature Is either Too High or Too Low

If the temperature of your fridge is either too high or too low, it may contribute to a bad smell.

If your fridge is not maintaining sufficient cold temperatures, then it will not preserve the food items optimally and may result in their contamination. The food items can get mouldy due to contamination with bacteria like salmonella.

On the other hand, if your fridge’s temperature is too low, it may build up frost resulting in a damp smell.

 Fridge is Not Defrosted 

If the fridge is not defrosted, it accumulates frost that can hamper its cooling efficiency. It does not maintain an even and consistent temperature inside the refrigerator. This interferes with the functioning of the cold chain and causes the contamination of food items.

Defrost Drain Pan is Not Clean

When the defrost drain pan of your fridge is not cleaned, it may spread a musty odour throughout the house. This drain pan collects the water dripping into it due to condensation.

If the food items in the fridge produce bacteria, they may reach the drain pan and produce a strong pungent odour like meat.

Defective Compressor

If you experience a burnt or hot smell coming from your fridge, it may be due to the defective compressor. This signals that the compressor is getting overheated.

Also, if you have not cleaned the dust off around the compressor and condenser, it may also result in a faulty compressor.

Faulty Fan

If the fan system responsible for cooling the motor is faulty, then it can cause the condenser to overheat. This interferes with the sufficient cooling required for preserving the food items, resulting in the generation of bad odour in the fridge.

Types of Smell

The scent receptors present in the human nose are designed for assisting us to identify healthy food from unhealthy ones. The complex science of smell categorizes all types of smell into ten categories.

All types of smells ranging from popcorn to nail polish to decayed animals; can be classified into these ten categories. Let’s discuss these categories that a human nose can identify.


A human nose can sense all types of fruit smell. We are gifted to feel, smell, and identify the natural aromas of fruits. This category includes all types of fruity scent except citrus fruits like lime, orange, and lemon.


The sharp and fresh smell of citrus fruits is classified into the lemon smell category. Citrus fruits like lemon, orange, or lime are used for cleaning products.


Fragrant scents are natural and light smell used in perfumes. It comprises smells like floral, rosy, and cologne smells.

Minty and Peppermint

The mint and peppermint smell comprises a fresh and cool smell. It is used in various oral hygiene products and spices. It comprises smells of camphor and eucalyptus.


This category includes light, rich, creamy, and warm aroma. It is usually found in ice cream and chocolate flavours like caramel, chocolate, malty, and vanilla scents.

Toasted and Nutty

This category comprises distinct smells of nuts like peanut, almonds, butter, popcorn, etc.

Woody and Resinous

The woody and resinous smell comprise natural smells of pine woods and fresh-cut grass. It includes smoky, musty, burnt, mouldy, and heavy smells.


This category comprises synthetic smells that are easily sensed and identified by the human nose. It includes the smell of alcohols, disinfectants, paint, ammonia, gasoline, and bleach. These smells help us in identifying dangerous smell in our brains.


This category comprises sharp and bad smell such as smells of onion, sweat, garlic, faecal matter, manure, blue cheese, and cigar smoke.

Sickening or Decaying

This category includes advanced sharp and pungent smells that feel unpleasant to the human nose. This includes smells of sewage, sulphuric acid, rotting meat, household gas, burnt rubber, etc.

Step by Step Guide to Clean Fridge to Get Rid of the Smell

Cleaning your fridge is a time-taking and labour-intensive task. Our step-by-step guide helps you to do a thorough cleaning and get rid of all types of smell.

Step 1: Clean the Fridge Door First

The spilt food on the door is subjected to quick spoiling and gives rise to foul odour. Therefore you must check and clean the door first.

Take a sponge soaked in white vinegar or a mild detergent meant for cleaning refrigerators. Use it for cleaning the door thoroughly.

Clean the door surface, door seals, handle, and every little and visible nook and corner that can house bits of food items. Also, ensure to remove all the food items that are near expiry from your fridge.

Step 2: Use Odour-Absorbent Materials for Getting Rid Of the Smell

You can place an odour-absorbent material within your fridge drawer for absorbing foul smell. Let’s discuss few commonly used and popular odour-absorbent materials.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a widely used remedy for foul smells permeating out of your fridge due to its powerful odour-obliterating power. You can place an opened fresh container of baking soda in your fridge for a couple of days.

Another way is to add a small quantity of baking soda in various bowls and place the bowl on every shelf of the fridge for 2-3 days. You will be surprised at how quickly and effectively it removes those nasty odours.

Coffee Grounds

Using coffee grounds for absorbing fridge odours is another effective way for treating stinky fridge. Take a bowl and add a cup of coffee grounds to it. Keep this bowl in the refrigerator for three days.

Ensure to replace the coffee grounds daily for more effective odour removal.


Take few old newspapers and use them for removing odours from your fridge. Clean all the plastic components in your fridge by wiping them with a white vinegar solution.

Roll all the newspapers you have collected and keep them in the fridge for 3-4 days. Don’t use your fridge during this period. It can remove foul odour from every corner of your fridge.


Lemon is widely used as a potent cleaning agent in the kitchen and various other household cleaning tasks. The refreshing scent of lemon makes it an ideal choice for removing fridge odours.

Take a lemon and cut it in half. Squeeze the juice of the lemon onto a piece of a clean and dry cloth.

Use this cloth for wiping the plastic edges of the fridge. Place the squeezed lemon on a plate and keep this plate in the refrigerator for two days.

Vanilla Essential Oil

Soak a piece of cotton ball in vanilla essential oil. Keep this piece of cotton in the fridge for a day while keeping the fridge door closed.

Step 3: Deep Cleaning

If you don’t get expected results with routine cleaning and using odour-absorbent materials, you should go for deep cleaning of your fridge.

Clean Veggie Bin Trays

Remove all the old fruit and veggies from the vegetable bins of your fridge. After emptying the veggie bin trays, pull them out. Scrub underneath these bins by using plain white vinegar

or peroxide solution.

Clean Drip Tray

The drip tray of your fridge may get filled with stagnant water and other bacteria. Refer to your user’s manual for pulling out your drip tray.

Use soapy water for cleaning the drip tray. Add a cup of hydrogen peroxide to the soapy water for cleaning nasty spots or stains.

Check and Clean Under Your Fridge

Even after regular and thorough cleaning of your fridge, you still experience a nasty smell, then check and clean the area under your fridge. Shift the refrigerator from its location and use an approved cleaner or mild detergent for cleaning the flooring underneath the fridge.

It may have happened that the food item might get rolled underneath the fridge and rotted. Or there could be spillage of the drip pan that may result in the accumulation of dirty water and dampness underneath the refrigerator.

Step 4: When Your Fridge Smells Like Chemical

If your fridge smells like chemicals, the issue might not be related to the refrigerator’s cleaning, and you may need to call for professional help. However, you may follow the below-mentioned steps to treat the smell before seeking professional help.

Clean the Fridge Coils

Unplug the fridge to cut off the power supply. Now check the coils to see if there is an accumulation of dust and grime causing a foul smell of chemicals. Clean the coils carefully with a piece of dry and clean cloth.

Change the Water Filter

If you experience the sulfury smell in and around your fridge, then it could be due to the water filter. Replace the water filter in your fridge and clean it around the area. Also, check if the water filtration system is working correctly. Also, discard the ice cubes.

Check Freon Leak

If your fridge smells of weird chemical smell and doesn’t do optimal cooling, it could be due to leakage of freon gas. In such cases, call for professional assistance.

Step 5: Seek Professional Help

If the smell persists even after following the above-mentioned steps, then it’s time you should call for professional help and get your fridge checked and serviced.

Megha Kothari

Megha leads the content strategy and oversees an amazing team of writers, editors, and designers, all having one goal in mind – to create brilliant content that helps people make the right purchase investment. When she is not working, you can find her enjoying making delicious food and planning her next travel.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: