This Pantry Staple May Be The Key To Keeping Your Fridge Smelling Fresh

Even when you're cleaning your fridge frequently, it can still be a haven for unpleasant smells. Garlic-filled leftovers, produce past its prime, and the occasional jar of pet food can work together to wreak havoc on the squeaky-clean scent you've worked hard to maintain. Baking soda is a common solution to this problem. According to Arm & Hammer, baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, can help absorb and trap odors floating around your fridge. If you want to take it one step further, however, there's another natural and food-safe way to keep your fridge smelling fresh.

Vanilla extract, commonly used for baking, is one of those winning smells many people just can't get enough of. Why not use it as an air freshener? This pantry staple can add a delicious aroma just about anywhere around the house, but it's great for a simple fridge refresh because it's so safe. Cleaning products and other fresheners can have the same effect, but mixing chemicals and food is a recipe for disaster. Instead, just look to the spice cabinet.

How to use vanilla extract in the fridge

Vanilla extract is an incredibly simple ingredient — it's produced by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol. The result is a powerful flavoring agent widely used in a variety of recipes. Because of the high cost of vanilla beans, imitation vanilla has also become popular. Instead of soaking the beans themselves, food scientists found a way to synthesize vanillin — the compound that gives natural vanilla its trademark flavor (via Simply Organic). It has a less complex flavor profile, but imitation vanilla still packs a punch of sweetness.

Both imitation and real vanilla extract work for this fridge-freshening hack, so it's easy to use whatever you have on hand. Simply soak a cotton ball with a few drops of extract, place it on a small plate or dish, and leave it in your fridge. It may seem like a small amount, but even a little bit of vanilla extract in a small, enclosed space can make a difference.

Things to keep in mind

Adding some vanilla can do wonders to mask some of those pesky smells in the fridge, but there's a world of other scents waiting in your baking materials as well. Other extracts are made in the same way as vanilla, so any you have on hand can be used as a substitute (via Foodie Flavours). Lemon or orange extract, for example, can act as a food-safe alternative to scented cleaning supplies, or you can stick to the sweet route with classic almond that's common in wedding cakes. The scent will fade in a month or two, but add a few more drops and you're back to a fresh-smelling fridge.

This simple hack is a quick and easy way to add a burst of freshness to your kitchen, but it's still important to keep your fridge clean to prevent any harmful bacteria. Couple a few drops of your favorite extract with a routine cleaning regimen, and lingering food odors won't stand a chance.