How to Get Odors Out of Your Refrigerator and Freezer for Good

Some of you may have followed my saga of the stinky house that we had and how I removed odors there. With that fixer-upper house, we also inherited a refrigerator that hadn’t been kept clean. We did clean it and disinfect it and it was better. Then, a guy who was helping to paint our house before we moved in wrapped a paint roller in a plastic grocery bag and put it in the frig to store it until he returned. Uggh! Then our refrigerator smelled chemically and horrid. Even after removing the paint roller, the frig still smelled for weeks.

It was getting close to move-in time and we couldn’t buy a new refrigerator yet. I had to get that smell out to be able to store my own food and I need to get the smells out fast. I tried multiple methods and these are sure to work for you as well.

How to Get Odors Out of Your Refrigerator and Freezer for Good

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Remove the Odors from Your Refrigerator and Freezer with These Steps

1. How to Clean a Refrigerator and Freezer

First, open up your refrigerator. Remove all of your cold foods and keep them on the kitchen counters, putting frozen items into a cooler. If you have an older freezer that has frost build-up, you will need to let that defrost before cleaning it. You will need to unplug the refrigerator/freezer for that.

Keep in mind that any plastic bags or containers that you’ve kept in the refrigerator or freezer will have already soaked in any food or strong odors that were in your frig. Consider repackaging them or just eat the foods that week so you don’t add more odors back in. If you have plastic ice cube trays, they also will likely have absorbed the bad odors. Now would be a good time to replace them or try soaking them in water with some baking soda.

Next, remove all of the shelves, glass, icemaker, door racks–everything that is removable. Give those a good washing in the sink and set out to dry off some.

Now clean out the refrigerator with a general non-toxic cleaner like Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, wiping out crumbs and cleaning any stuck-on food. Be sure to clean every area even if it looks clean already. Don’t skip the freezer section of your refrigerator. Clean all gaskets around the doors very well and look to make sure they are still tight with no tears. (If the gaskets are loose or torn, you can buy a replacement gasket and usually easily replace them yourself.) Gaskets can easily collect grease from cooking and dust from the air which can add to bad odors in the frig.

A word about Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner: This cleaner was left at a house we purchased, so I thought–why not try it. And it is amazing. I didn’t know that a safe, natural cleaner could work so well at cleaning everything. It even cleans the grease off of my glass-top stove and makes it shiny, and I used to clean tile floors, countertops, wood cabinets, and even laminate floors (diluted). I highly recommend it. It’s concentrated so you dilute it in the sprayer that comes with it. And it lasts forever. Well, at least for a very long time. 😉

How to clean and disinfect your refrigerator or freezer and remove bad odors.

2. Clean the Refrigerator and Freezer with a Disinfectant

Using a disinfecting cleaner is an important step because you want to kill germs that could be causing odors. I suggest putting the disinfectant into a large bowl or small bucket of water and using a rag to wash everything.

Start with the drawers, shelves, etc. that you already have out on the counters. Wash them with the diluted disinfectant and let them air dry to give the disinfectant time to work.

Next wash out the frig or freezer with a rag very wet with the diluted disinfectant, being sure to get into all of the crevices.


Household white vinegar is a mild disinfectant that can kill some germs. But standard vinegar won’t kill every kind of bacteria and virus. The white vinegar we buy in the store for use of cleaning and making pickles has acetic acid from 4-7%. One test showed that vinegar needs to have at least 10% acetic acid to disinfect well and does even better if combined with citric acid. (Source)

Other tests have shown that white household vinegar does kill most household germs–up to 99%, especially when combined with some light scrubbing and soaking. After all, we aren’t looking for our homes to be completely sterile. We’re going for clean and getting the odors out, right? (Source)

Leaving the vinegar damp on the surface you are cleaning is key. 30 minutes is about the time you need for the vinegar to work at killing the germs.

Plant-based Disinfectant Spray

To kill germs in your refrigerator and around your home, consider using a safe, plant-based disinfectant like CleanWell Botanical Disinfectant All-Purpose Cleaner. It’s a leave-on spray that kills 99% of pathogens and it smells good, too.


For me, bleach is a last resort for a disinfectant. For one, it seems very harsh for the many home surface–not to mention the fumes. If you do use bleach to disinfect your refrigerator, be sure to buy a Bleach Spray or dilute your own bleach. You only need 1 Tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water to disinfect most kitchen surfaces including your refrigerator or freezer. (Source)

3. Use a Enzyme Cleaner

Have you discovered enzyme cleaners yet? They are amazing at getting bad smells from pets, urine, cooking, etc. One that works really well in the Kitchen is BioKleen Bac-Out Stain + Odor Remover. After cleaning and disinfecting your refrigerator and freezer, spray on the enzyme cleaner making sure to get into all of the cracks and crevices. Wait a little while and spray again, or follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

How an Enzyme Cleaner Works to Eliminate Bad Odors:

Enzyme cleaners have live bacteria in them that essentially eat the organic matter. It’s especially great for places that are hard to get to or difficult to clean and rinse like fabrics, upholstery, refrigerators, sink drains, carpets, rugs, etc. They will clean up pet odors, urine, vomit, red wine, food, grease, blood, etc.

It can take a little time for enzyme cleaners to work as they are eating the organic matter. They will keep working as long as the organic matter is there, but you may need to reapply a couple of times if the smell lingers.

4. Air Out the Refrigerator or Freezer

If it’s possible, at this point let your refrigerator or freezer air out for several hours to several days. You can turn it off now as you won’t need the light on in there for cleaning. If you don’t have long to air it out, consider blowing a fan into it.

Coffee grounds are perfect odor absorber for your freezer, refrigerator or kitchen. Leaven an open bag in your freezer to keep it smelling fresh.

5. Use a Deodorizer in Your Refrigerator and Freezer

Lastly, you’ll want to use a natural deodorizer. When I’m battling a lingering smell I use these three natural deodorizers in my refrigerator and in my freezer, too. I like to keep them in there all of the time to help absorb food smells from leftovers, too.

After using all of the methods above 1-4, your refrigerator and freezer should be smelling pretty clean. If you weren’t able to disinfect or use an enzyme cleaner, you may have lingering odors. Deodorizers can help in this situation.

Put your food back into the refrigerator or freezer if you need to. Then add one or all of these natural odor removers:

Baking Soda

You can open a box of baking soda or pour some in a bowl and set it in the refrigerator. Baking soda is a common odor absorber used in refrigerators. They even sell boxes of Spill-proof Baking Soda for the refrigerator which you can get here on Amazon.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee gives also absorbs odors–and gives off a mild coffee scent, as well. I especially like to keep an open bag of coffee in the door of my freezer. I buy the cheap coffee from the dollar store and replace it every couple of months.

If you’re wondering, ground coffee grounds will be more absorbent and will remove odors much better than whole coffee beans as they have more surface area and don’t have an outer shell.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is sort of this miracle odor and moisture absorber that I have started using in the last few years all around my home where it’s needed. It works great in your refrigerator or freezer, too. You can get them in containers made to put in the frig like these Natural Bamboo Activated Charcoal Refrigerator Deodorizers, or for almost the same price, you can get this 8-pack of multi-use of Natural Bamboo Activated Charcoal Deodorizer Bags that you can use in the frig, freezer or around your home.

I hope this article helped you find the solution to getting rid of bad odors in your freezer or refrigerator. Let me know in the comments if it did or if you found a better solution.

If you would like to learn more about removing odors from your home, check out these articles:

How to Remove Odors and Clean the Air in Your House Naturally and Permanently

How to Remove Drain Odors from the Kitchen and Bathroom Sink

How to Clean and Get Rid of Mold and Mildew In Your Home for Good

How to Remove Smoke Smell Caused by Your Fireplace, Woodstove or Cigarettes

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