Why You Might Want To Hold Off On Putting Baking Soda In Your Fridge

Refrigerator odors have long been banished by a simple orange box. Ask your mom, grandpa, cousin, best friend, or neighbor — there's a good chance they will all advise you to keep baking soda in your fridge to keep the appliance smelling fresh. While that is true to an extent, it's not the cure-all.

Yes, baking soda is a wonderful product to keep in the home. There's a need for it in actual baking, of course, but it can be combined with other liquids, such as water and dish soap, to become a gentle yet powerful cleaning agent, too. It's also great to use in the laundry room. When it comes to the refrigerator, though, it's not as magical as lore has led us to believe. Put simply; there are some odors that baking soda won't absorb. You could replace the powder every 30 days as directed by Arm and Hammer itself, or even every day for that matter, and it still would do no good. The reason for that can be explained with a quick science refresher.

Why baking soda is incapable of absorbing all smells

The bad smells lingering in your refrigerator are made up of tiny molecular compounds generated by spoiled foods and growing mildew. Most of those compounds are considered either an acid, such as spoiled milk-based products, or a base, such as rancid meat. Baking soda, known professionally as sodium bicarbonate, is a naturally occurring base that neutralizes odors by leveling out the pH level of the smell. It's particularly good at absorbing and neutralizing acids, but there are many bases it simply cannot absorb. Those smells will continue to linger, and you'll be struck with bad whiffs every time you open the fridge door.

It should also be noted that baking soda needs a large surface area to perform its work. Punching a small hole in the box and sticking it in the back is essentially a waste of money as the bad odors have but a small window to enter their neutralized destination. Instead, you'd need to spread the powder evenly across a paper plate, wide plastic container, or baking pan, taking up valuable real estate on the refrigerator shelves.

Eliminate odors without baking soda

Bad odor solutions abound across the internet, but there's really only one that can truly outperform the already powerful baking soda: activated charcoal. The compounds baking soda fails to absorb, and the ones it can, for that matter, are easily trapped in charcoal. It'll even perform such a task quicker. If you're trying to eliminate a particularly foul odor quickly, you'll want to spread the charcoal evenly across a wide surface and leave it for two to three days. Vented pouches or jars should be suitable for everyday use.

The best offense, of course, is a good defense. When you see a spill or stuck-on food lingering on the shelf, wipe it up with warm water and soap or even vinegar. A deep clean of the refrigerator should be performed every three to four months, and you should check around for old and expired foods every week. If you think something is on the verge of spoilage, toss it. It'll save your nose and stomach in the long run.