November 17, 2019

How to Remove Refrigerator Odor

We’ve all experienced power outages and the mess of melted and spoiled food that must be cleaned once the power is restored.┬áIf the power is out for an extended period of time, the smell of rotten food can be hard to remove.

Here are step-by-step instructions from for getting the smell out:

Start by cleaning the refrigerator compartment thoroughly. Anne Field, an emeritus extension specialist with Michigan State University Extension, suggests this method: Unplug the appliance, remove all food and removable interior parts, and wash the interior with a solution of 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Rinse and wipe dry.

Leave the door open and let the refrigerator air out, with a fan directed toward the inside. If weather permits, open the kitchen windows.

Field recommends washing removable shelves and other parts in a warm detergent solution. Don’t put glass or plastic parts in hot water, she cautions. They might crack, especially if they’re cold.

Clean the door gasket with a detergent solution, too.

Next, clean the freezer compartment following the instructions that came with the appliance manual. If you don’t have a manual, contact the manufacturer. Some can be found online.

Ways to absorb odors: If odor remains, Field suggests trying one or all of these removal methods:

  • Spread baking soda on shallow pans and place them on the shelves of the empty refrigerator to absorb odors. Leave the door open and the refrigerator unplugged.
  • Spread activated carbon, also called activated charcoal, in shallow pans and place the pans on the shelves. Turn the refrigerator on low and run it empty a few days till the odors are absorbed.
  • You can also try the same method with cat litter spread on shallow pans, several ounces of imitation vanilla (not pure vanilla extract) poured into a saucer or fresh ground coffee in cereal bowls. With the coffee method, a slight coffee odor might remain, but it can be removed by cleaning the refrigerator again with baking soda solution, Field says.
  • Pack each shelf of an empty refrigerator with crumpled newspaper. Set a cup of water on the top shelf or sprinkle the newspaper lightly with water. Allow the refrigerator to run for five or six days. This method takes longer, but Field says it can be effective in removing strong odors.
  • Buy a commercial odor remover. One brand Field suggests is Odors Away by Wrap-on Co., available at some hardware and hospital supply stores.
  • If none of the methods removes all the odor, Field says it probably has penetrated the insulation. You can contact an appliance service company for an estimate on the cost of removing the liner and replacing the insulation, but replacing the refrigerator may be a better choice, she says.

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