The Best Way to Clean a Smelly Fridge (And Get Rid of Tough Odors)

You open your fridge and get a whiff of a bad odor. Now, you’re wondering what’s the best method for cleaning a smelly fridge.

Those bad smells are caused by bacteria. Eliminating your fridge odors can be as simple as throwing out rotting food. Other times you need to wash the inside with bleach and water to eliminate bacteria growth.

The Best Way to Clean a Smelly Fridge (And Get Rid of Tough Odors)

Here’s the best way to clean a smelly fridge and get rid of stubborn odors.

How to Clean a Smelly Fridge: Step by Step

Cleaning a stinky fridge isn’t difficult but can be time-consuming. 

Step 1: Remove and Inspect All Food

Start by removing all food from the fridge. As you pull food out, inspect each item. Check expiration dates on canned or bottled food and throw out anything past its “good by” date.

Inspect vegetables and fruit, tossing offending items into the garbage or compost bin.

Leave the remaining food on the kitchen counter while you complete the following steps.

Clean a fridge

Step 2: Remove Drawers and Wash with Soap

Take removable drawers and shelves out and wash them with dish soap and water. Knock crumbs out of the fridge and wipe the inside with a microfiber cloth soaked in hot soapy water. Pay special attention to stuck-on food and spilled sauces, scrubbing when needed.

Dry the refrigerator, drawers, and shelves with a towel.

Step 3: Wipe Everything with a Bleach Solution

Because of its bacteria-killing ability, bleach is one of the best solutions for cleaning a stinky fridge. Put on rubber gloves and mix up a solution of one tablespoon of bleach with one gallon of warm water.

Use a soft cloth to wipe the inside of the refrigerator, drawers, and shelves with the bleach mix. If there’s mold on the fridge’s gaskets (rubber seals around the door), clean them too.

Give everything a rinse by wiping with a damp sponge and towel dry.

Step 4: Place Food Back in the Fridge

After the fridge is clean and dry, put the shelves and drawers back and return all food items.

Step 5: Put an Open Boxed of Baking Soda in the Fridge (Optional)

Place an opened box of baking soda in your refrigerator to battle future odors and absorb the remaining smells. Replace the baking soda with a new box every 30 days.

How to Clean a Smelly Fridge with Natural Methods

If you want to use a natural method to clean your smelly fridge, try white distilled vinegar. Like bleach, vinegar can kill mold and mildew.

But never mix vinegar and bleach. Use only one method. Combining vinegar and bleach results in toxic chlorine gas.

Step 1: Clear out the Fridge and Inspect the Items

Start by clearing your refrigerator, inspecting items, and throwing away expired and rotting food.

Step 2: Remove and Hand Wash Drawers

Since drawers are hard to clean if left in the fridge, remove them and wash them with hot soapy water. Use a microfiber cloth to scrub off stuck-on food.

Step 3: Clean the Fridge with Vinegar

Combine one part white distilled or cleaning vinegar with one part water. You can put the solution in a spray bottle, a large bowl, or a sink.

Knock crumbs out of the fridge and spray the inside with your vinegar solution. Next, wipe down the refrigerator and all shelves. Then, dry with a microfiber towel. You don’t need to rinse afterward.

Step 4: Add an Opened Box of Baking Soda

You can add an opened box of baking soda to absorb foul odors. Change it out every month to keep your fridge smelling fresh.

If you don’t have baking soda, place a bowl of fresh coffee grounds on your fridge’s shelf to neutralize odors.

What To Do If Your Fridge Stinks After Cleaning It

While a deep clean and inventory check banishes most bad odors, a fridge sometimes stinks after cleaning it. The problem could be as simple as missing a spot of mold or bacteria. If the food is still on your counters, give the fridge a second cleaning and dry it with a towel.

Another potential cause is your water and air filter. Check both. If either filter is soiled or has mold spots, change it. 

If your filters look and smell fine, but the odor persists, turn to the user’s manual for instructions on cleaning your fridge’s drip pan. The drip pan collects moisture underneath your fridge and can sometimes fill with mold. Checking the drip pan may entail unplugging the unit and removing a panel.

Tips to Keep Your Fridge Smelling Good

After deep cleaning your refrigerator, you’ll want to keep it that way. Here’s how:

  • Keep an eye on produce and leftovers – throw them out when you notice bad smells or signs of rotting.
  • Wipe away spills as they happen. For example, if someone knocks over a bottle of juice or ketchup leaks, grab a hot soapy rag and wipe up the mess.
  • Keep your fridge’s temperature at 40 degrees F or below to prevent food spoilage. 
  • Place produce in the crisper drawer to keep it fresh and prevent rot.

Discover more ways to clean with vinegar: 18 Household Items You Can Clean with Vinegar