How to get rid of a smell in the fridge — don't live with the whiff

Noticed a terrible stink? Our experts know just how to get rid of a smell in the fridge

Orange Smeg fridge in a white kitchen with lots of plants
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're dealing with a terrible stink and wondering how to get rid of a smell in the fridge, don’t panic, we’ve all been there. One minute your refrigerator smells fresh as a daisy, the next it’s wafting out a nauseating odor. 

It’s easy to assume all it will take is a quick wipe and the bad smell will disappear, but you will need to do more of a thorough clean to save your nostrils and our cleaning expert is here to whip your fridge into shape.

This three-step plan is one of the best ways to clean your fridge to remove that nasty smell for good.

How to get rid of a smell in the fridge 

To know how to clean a fridge and keep nasty odors at bay, our experts say you'll need a simple three-pronged attack to guarantee success. And let's face it, nobody needs a whiffy fridge accosting their senses every time they open it up.

1. Clear the fridge out

A silver fridge in a kitchen

(Image credit: Canva)

As a first step, Sabrina Tretyakova, ISSA-certified cleaning expert, says, “Remove the stale and rotten food from the fridge."

To make this process easier (and less messy), grab a pair of gloves (these rubber gloves from Amazon should do the trick) and a thick black garbage sack (we like these sturdy trash bags from Amazon). That way you can grab the rotten food out of the fridge without getting the serious ick from touching it with your bare hands, and quickly chuck it away. 

Sabrina stresses the importance of clearing everything out from the fridge and freezer chamber to accurately nail where the stink is coming from. Don't forget to wipe down items you'll be keeping, too.

Sabrina Tretyakova
Sabrina Tretyakova

Sabrina Tretyakova is an ISSA-certified cleaning technician helping more than 1,200 clients including private homeowners and large corporate offices. 

2. Wipe the fridge out

Take time to carefully wipe your fridge out, cleaning every part of the interior. 

Sabrina says, “Wipe the fridge interiors with warm soapy water (this Dawn dish soap from Amazon works well for this). Alternatively, you can use a mixture of white vinegar (like this Heinz distilled white vinegar from Amazon) and warm water.”

If you would prefer a pre-made cleaning option, using multi-purpose antibacterial cleaning wipes (such as these Lysol antibacterial cleaning wipes) work well too. Alternatively, use an antibacterial all-in-one cleaning spray (like this multi-purpose cleaning spray from Amazon) and a sponge to scrub anything stuck on, before patting dry with paper towels.

3. Sustain the fresh smell

An image of an open fridge stacked high with colorful fruit and vegetables and bottles of milk, water, and juices

(Image credit: Canva)

Now you've conquered how to get rid of odor in the refrigerator, and are satisfied no stinks remain, get to work on keeping it sparkling clean and staying fresh. Odorizing a fridge doesn't have to break the bank either, as there are plenty of items already in your kitchen or pantry you can make use of.

Sabrina explains, “Keeping a natural deodorizer like lemon slices, coffee grounds, or baking soda in the fridge can neutralize foul odors.” Don't forget to replace it weekly.

Tip: For longer-term fridge deodorization, this seriously cute mushroom fridge deodorizer from Amazon is a great buy. 


What is the best product to clean a smelly fridge?

Baking soda is one of nature's greatest gifts to those of us who love to clean without harsh chemicals. You can use a baking soda and water paste to scrub the inside of the fridge (including the shelves), as well as placing a cup of baking soda inside the fridge door to absorb smells as they occur. 

Does lemon work to deodorize a fridge?

For keeping your fridge smelling fresh and odor-free, putting a sliced lemon in the door can work extremely well. Just make sure to swap out the lemon slices once a week. 

Knowing how to get rid of the smell in your fridge can be a more thorough task than you might first think, so don't forget to wipe down any refrigerated items you're going to keep hold of, in case any smelly fridge juices have found its way on. 

The good news is with the easy three-step approach our expert has shared, your methodical deep-clean will remove any lingering odors and keep them at bay going forward. 

If you’re short on time, you can also speed clean your smelly fridge

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.