Busy homeowners and families forget about certain foods left in the refrigerator and one day when foraging for a quick snack, you may come across what looks to be a science project that reeks. No matter how good your memory may be, some of those stored foods don’t ring familiar. Odors in a refrigerator can range from an old musty smell to the smell of spoiled food. Refrigerator odors leach onto foods, milk and other refrigerator items making them taste exactly like the odor smells. Many times a refrigerator than has not been used in a long time will pick up an old and musty smell. Most times a musty smell is from mold or mildew growth which can be growing on the interior surfaces or may have stuck around from foods that had gone bad. Fortunately there are a few methods of eliminating refrigerator odor.

White Vinegar for Odor Removal

Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar or pour it into a small bowl.

Dip a sponge into the vinegar or spray a rag white vinegar.

Wipe down all of the surfaces inside your refrigerator. The white vinegar smell will dissipate leaving your refrigerator smelling fresh. White vinegar is also tough on messy stains and will kill mold and mildew. Don't forget to wipe down the refrigerator gaskets.

Cleaning and Odor Removal with Baking Soda

For tough odor causing stains, pour a few tablespoons of baking soda into a small shallow bowl, slowly add water while stirring continuously to form a paste that has the consistency of toothpaste.

Dip a rag or sponge into the paste and scoop a little up.

Apply the paste to the tough, stuck on drips and spills.

Allow the paste to sit on the odor causing stains for an hour or so.

Dampen a clean rag with white vinegar and rub the stains away.

Deodorizing with Essential Oils

Choose one of the following essential oils lemon essential oil, peppermint essential oil or orange essential oil.

Dip a cotton ball into the oil of you choice.

Leave the essential oil soaked cotton ball on a small clean plastic lid or plate.

Strategically place the scented cotton balls throughout your refrigerator.

Other Deodorizing Options

Add vanilla extract to a cotton ball, place the cotton ball in a clean jar lid or small bowl. Leave it in the back corner of your refrigerator to eliminate odors.

Rinse off a piece or two of charcoal and place it in a shallow bowl or in a small jar to absorb odors.

Save your used coffee grinds and place them in a jar or plastic container, place them in the back of the refrigerator to getting rid of bad smells.

Make a refrigerator odor eliminating spray. Fill a small spray bottle with warm water, add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, shake to mix and lightly mist the inside of your refrigerator.


Refrigerator odors can also travel to the freezer causing a bad smelling freezer, awful tasting ice and ice cream. If this has happened and you need to also deodorize your freezer after ridding your refrigerator of odor, place a loaf of sliced white bread in a cardboard box in the freezer and it will absorb the odors. It will take 2 to 3 days.

If you are not planning on using your refrigerator or freezer for a few days to a few months, sprinkle lemon essential oil on newspaper and ball up the newspaper and stuff it in the refrigerator to keep odors from forming.