The 12 Best Ways To Get Rid Of Funky Odors In Your Fridge

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Opening your refrigerator door only to be assaulted by foul odors can be disorienting at best and terrifying at worst. While the most common culprits — overripe food and dirty interiors — aren't too concerning, it's the humid environment you need to look out for. Microbes like bacteria and mold will breed right under your nose and settle in for the long haul if you don't clean up food and drink spills. Moisture generated by the appliance and outside humidity might also encourage bacteria. The good news is throwing away spoiled food and deep cleaning your fridge should get rid of the microbes and the questionable scent.

However, it might not always work if the smell has been there for some time and has penetrated your cooling box's plastic interior. Luckily, there are several simple and cost-effective ways to get rid of funky odors in your fridge. But before we get into them, remember that if your appliance is emitting a chemical- or ammonia-like odor, it's probably a sign of a faulty compressor or Freon leak. Since the latter can be incredibly toxic and have long-term health implications, it's best to contact a professional and let them deal with it.

Charcoal is a game-changer

If a fresh-smelling refrigerator seems like a distant memory, put charcoal in your smelly fridge today and thank us later! While charcoal has traditionally been used to filter water and remove impurities from the air, this carbon residue is capable of absorbing the stinky smell in your fridge. Simply add two cups of this black substance to a container and place it in the back of the refrigerator. For the charcoal to work its magic, ensure it's near an air vent.

While you can use the pellets you reserve for barbeque cookouts, activated charcoal works best due to its composition of char, sawdust, and coal. Moreover, it's more porous than regular pellets, as it undergoes an intensive chemical and heat exercise that activates it. Thus, it imprisons the odor-causing particles and neutralizes the smell they emit, leaving you with a smell-free refrigerator. Don't forget to replace the charcoal once each month to keep the offending smells at bay.

You can easily get activated charcoal from your nearest aquarium or buy a pack of Wave Point's 5-pound activated carbon pellets for under $18 from Amazon. However, if you have kids who could mistakenly consume the pellets, instead try a 1.2-ounce (34 grams) pack of Viva Doria's activated charcoal powder for under $7 from Amazon. Next, add 3 tablespoons of the powder to a container, poke holes in the lid, and place it inside the cooling box. Replace it every month for the best results.

Crumple some old newspapers

Bring out the big guns if your refrigerator smells especially bad and the odor isn't dissipating. To use old newspaper to get rid of stinky fridge odors, deep clean the appliance and put back the shelves. After you're done, get a few newspapers and scrunch up individual pages into a ball. Remember, the balls shouldn't be too big, as it'll be difficult to place them inside. Similarly, if the spheres are too small, you'll have to make a lot of them to fill the various shelves and compartments. Leave the fridge running and the newspapers balled up for a few days (usually between two and six days), depending on the level of stench you're dealing with.

The wadded-up balls are an excellent absorbent, drawing in the foul-smelling particles and offsetting them, essentially removing the smell. However, you might have to replace the newspapers every week for a couple of months if the smell doesn't dissipate. After your fridge stops stinking, remove the newspaper balls and wipe the interior of the fridge with a water and vinegar solution. Though this method is time-consuming, it's budget-friendly and a better alternative to store-bought odor eliminators. To prevent future incidents, you can even dampen a few newspapers with vinegar and crumple them before lining the shelves and drawers.

Bread isn't just meant for sandwiches

If your refrigerator is smelling bad and you're looking for a simple, cost-effective, and time-efficient hack, look no further than the loaf of bread in your kitchen. Simply get one to two slices of bread, place them inside a container, and put the container (sans its lid) on a shelf to help absorb the odors. Alternatively, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar on top of the bread slices to deodorize your smelly fridge and give it 12 to 24 hours to get rid of the odors. You might have to replace the slices a couple of times if the smell isn't entirely gone.

Even if you're out of slices and only have a few crusts left from the PB&J you made this morning, you can use them in a similar fashion, too! For particularly bad smells, spread out a few vinegar-dampened slices inside the cooling box. Place the slices inside some open containers (or plates), add them to all the shelves, and let them absorb the smells for eight to 10 hours. Bread is an excellent odor absorber and naturally soaks up all the smells in its immediate vicinity, especially strong ones. Just don't forget to chuck out the used slices or crust after use, as it isn't safe to consume them.

Turn your tea bags into a weapon

Tea bags are natural odor absorbers and can solve your smelly fridge problem in no time. You just need to gather a few used ones and dry them to turn your tea bags into a secret weapon against the stench. After the bags are dry, place two to three bags in an open container (a small bowl or plate works, too) and place it near the source of the smell. If the entire appliance smells nasty, gather more bags and spread them around strategically — shelves, compartments, drawers, and side pockets are all fair game.

If you don't have any used tea bags handy, substitute them with loose tea leaves and watch the magic unfold. Due to their absorbent and anti-bacterial properties, the bags (or leaves) balance out the reek and suck up the smell fast. The best part, though? You won't have to unnecessarily spend your hard-earned money or spend a lot of time and effort trying to remove the offending smell. Although, you might have to replace the bags every two to four days for a couple of weeks to get rid of all the stench.

Make some room for toilet paper

Keeping a roll of toilet paper in the fridge might sound ludicrous, but there's a reason why this hack has been trending on social media. Performing the hack is quite straightforward. All you've to do is place a roll of toilet paper toward the back of your smelly appliance. Ensure you use a new and unscented roll because even though it'll be essentially sitting in the rear, you wouldn't want any fecal matter from your bathroom to transfer to the food inside. Similarly, an unscented paper roll ensures no unwanted odors transfer from the tissue to the refrigerator.

This hack works since smelly things release small molecules that traverse through the air to hit our noses. Given the fridge's moist environment, the smelly particles can react with water molecules and stay put until you open the doors. So, a toilet tissue's porous surface absorbs the moisture and putrid-smelling particles, plucking them out of the air and preventing them from hitting your nose. If the smell persists, you might have to replace the roll after a few days. Remember, this hack is only a temporary fix, and you'll have to give up precious real estate inside the cooling box in case you go ahead with it (never mind the strange looks and questions you'll be fielding from your guests).

Oatmeal is more than a nutritional snack

Oatmeal might be your snack of choice, but this nutritional cereal can also be put to other uses around the house. If you want to use this breakfast food to banish unwanted fridge odors, pour some uncooked oatmeal in a bowl (bonus points if you've got an aluminum one) and place it near a spot where the smell is the strongest. While you might notice a significant upgrade, and the smell may be a distant memory after just one night, it might also take the cereal a few days to neutralize strong odors.

Oatmeal is a natural odor absorber that will neutralize all smells inside the refrigerator. However, don't consume the cereal after it has removed all funky odors. Discard or use it around your home for things like cleaning pans or controlling slugs in your garden. To speed up the odor-removal process, locate and remove the source of the stench and throw away spoiled or expired food and drinks.

Upcycle used coffee grounds

To upcycle coffee grounds and use them for a better-smelling fridge, just gather some dregs after preparing your drink in the morning. Or, if you drink coffee occasionally (or aren't a big coffee lover), get some used grounds from your neighbor or nearest cafe. Next, spread the grounds out evenly over a baking sheet and let them dry completely. Once dry, scoop up a small quantity (or a significant amount if the smell is nose-numbing and eye-watering) and place it inside an uncovered container before putting it inside the refrigerator.

If you're worried about accidental spills, you can also place coffee grounds inside a jar with holes poked into the lid. The nitrogen in the coffee grounds will help absorb the odors and return your refrigerator to its pleasant-smelling self. Remember to change the grounds every few weeks (or whenever you notice an unpleasant smell) to keep unwanted smells out. But beware that coffee isn't a neutral ingredient and will replace the stench with the aroma of java. While this might sound like a treat, you might not appreciate every other smell in your fridge — like that of natural produce — being replaced by the scent of coffee. If that's the case, use this hack for a temporary fix and maintain your appliance's cleaning schedule to keep it smelling fresh.

Vanilla extract will make your fridge smell sweet

You might be familiar with vanilla extract as a common baking ingredient, but this pantry staple is the key to keeping your fridge smelling fresh. All you have to do is grab this ingredient from your spice rack and get one to two cotton balls, depending on the scale of your refrigerator and the strength of the odor. Once you've both items, pour a few drops of the extract onto the balls, place them in a shallow container, and put them on a shelf.

Vanilla extract is a non-toxic ingredient that'll conceal unwanted scents and replace them with its sweet smell. Don't forget to replace the cotton balls when you aren't greeted by the vanilla-like smell upon opening the fridge doors. If you aren't a fan of sweet scents, don't worry: the aroma will be subtle and won't overpower your senses. However, if you're still on the fence, replace vanilla extract and put orange or lemon extract in charge of deodorizing your cooling box.

Get a bag of kitty litter

While this method might sound strange, there's a smart reason to put kitty litter in your refrigerator as it's an organic odor absorbent. Moreover, it's a cost-effective hack since you can use an unscented and cheap variant to achieve the desired result. In fact, you can purchase a 15-pound pack of unscented cat litter by Cat's Pride for under $12 from Amazon. Once you've got the product, simply add some litter in an uncovered container (a baking sheet or tray are good options, too), place it in the center of the fridge, and give it three to four days to absorb the foul-smelling odors.

If you're worried about placing kitty litter with your food or the space commandeered by the tray, put the product inside a container with a lid littered with holes. Since cat litter contains silica, clay, and other ingredients like carbon and baking soda, it's great at absorbing odors and refreshing your fridge. For optimal results, replace the kitty litter every week and use the old litter to remove urine stench from your cat's box.

Don't discount lemon's citrusy power

It's not a cleanup party if no one invites lemon over and capitalizes on its citrusy power. To use lemon to get rid of the odors plaguing it, grab a knife, tablespoon, table salt, baking soda, and a shallow container. Once you've gathered the required items, cut 1-inch thick (2 to 3 centimeters) slices of the lemon. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of table salt and 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda on the cut slices. Now, put the garnished slices inside the open container and place the dish inside the refrigerator.

While you'll notice a difference in the smell after just a few hours, it'll take four to six days for the odor to dissipate completely. This is because the citric acid in the lemon will balance out alkaline scents and replace the awful smell with its tangy fragrance. Further, the table salt paired with baking soda will speed up the odor absorption process and increase the lemon's power significantly. To keep bad odors at bay, diligently change the lemon slices every week. In case you don't have a lemon on hand, substitute it with an orange.

Let's not forget vinegar

Although white vinegar is an ideal cleaning agent, it's also an excellent odor absorber that can neutralize all bad smells in your fridge. All you have to do is grab the bottle from your kitchen, fill a bowl (or glass) with the liquid, and place it near the source of the smell. If you're worried about accidental spills and would rather be safe than sorry, dampen a paper towel with vinegar and place it inside a small bowl before sticking it in the fridge. It's an effective technique that's safe for your perishables and won't burn a hole in your pocket.

While this acid's smell is quite potent when used straight out of the bottle, the sour smell will evaporate quickly and leave you with a fresh fridge. So, check back in 24 hours to see if the foul odors have dissipated. This hack works since white vinegar's acetic acid allows it to eliminate microbes and remove the rancid odor from your refrigerator. Replace the vinegar in the bowl (or glass) every few days to keep the offending smells out. In case you went the dampened paper towel route, replace it whenever it dries out or every few days.

Fresh potatoes will deodorize your refrigerator

Potatoes are a versatile vegetable. As such, you'd probably have a few in your kitchen, especially if you like to cook fresh meals. In case you don't, borrow one from your neighbor or get it from the nearest grocery store. Once you've got the potato, peel and cut it into small cubes or thin slices. After you're done, place the slices inside an uncovered container (or dish) and put it in the fridge. The potato will absorb and neutralize the odors inside the cooling box in a short while. To improve the method's efficacy and increase the potato's absorbency, consider inserting a few cloves as well.

Since potatoes are known to absorb scents from their immediate vicinity in a short span, this hack is an incredibly cheap and time-effective way to deodorize your fridge. However, given their short lifespan, don't forget to replace the old slices with fresh ones every two to three days to keep your refrigerator smelling fresh and avoid dealing with the rancid smell of spoiled potatoes. This is why you should try and get a fresh potato for this hack, so you can allocate this root vegetable some time to work its magic without being concerned about its lifespan.