We select and review products independently. When you purchase through our links we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Get Rid of Fridge Smells with These 10 Fixes

A fridge thermometer, coffee grounds, and a tub of vinegar
RIY/Maxwell House/Lucy’s

Bad smells coming from the fridge are never fun. They can make your entire kitchen reek and they’re usually a sign that something needs to be cleaned up.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get rid of smells in the fridge and restore your appliance to its former glory. Some methods are more common than others, but all of them should help get the job done. Say goodbye to unpleasant scents with these tips and tricks.

Use a Paper Bag or Newspaper

A white paper bag
Perfect Stix

One of the simplest ways to get rid of smells in the fridge is to place a paper bag or newspaper inside. The paper will absorb any bad odors, leaving your fridge smelling fresh and clean. This method works best if you leave it in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Paper bags and newspapers are more fibrous than other types of paper, making them ideal for absorbing moisture and odors. When the paper absorbs the bad smells, it traps them inside its pores so they can’t escape and continue to stink up your fridge.

Perfect Stix 4lb Kraft White Paper Bags

Crumple these up and stick them around the inside of your refrigerator.

Buy Some Baking Soda

A box of baking soda in a refrigerator
Arm & Hammer

Baking soda is a common household item that can be used for all sorts of things, including getting rid of smells in the fridge. All you have to do is place an open box of baking soda inside your fridge and let it do its job.

Baking soda is great at absorbing odors, so it will quickly neutralize any bad smells that are lingering inside your fridge. Specifically, baking soda works by neutralizing acids that can cause stinky smells in your fridge. This method will work best for odors caused by acids, like old dairy products.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Fridge-n-Freezer Odor Absorber

Helps food in fridge or freezer taste like it should by absorbing and deodorizing food odors.

Use Freshly Ground Coffee

Ground coffee and coffee beans
Maxwell House

If you have some coffee grounds hanging around, you can use them to get rid of smells in the fridge. Just place a bowl of freshly ground coffee inside your fridge and let it do its job. The coffee grounds will absorb any bad odors, leaving your fridge smelling fresh and clean. This method works best if you leave the coffee grounds in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Coffee contains caffeine, which releases nitrogen. Nitrogen is a gas that absorbs sulfur in the air that can be caused by old or expired foods. Coffee beans also work well if you can’t access freshly ground coffee.

Maxwell House Wake Up Roast Medium Roast Ground Coffee

Put some in a bowl and keep it in your fridge to absorb odor.

Check Your Fridge Temperature

A thermometer in the fridge

If your fridge smells bad, it could be because the temperature is set too high. When the temperature is too high, food can spoil more quickly and produce unpleasant odors. To prevent this from happening, make sure to check the temperature of your fridge and adjust it accordingly.

The FDA recommends keeping your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Anything warmer than this allows bacteria to multiply quickly and increase your risk of developing foodborne illnesses. If your fridge doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, you can purchase one yourself.

Refrigerator Thermometer

Make sure the temp of your fridge is always accurate.

Clean, Clean, Clean

Someone cleans a fridge and table
Mr. Clean

Sometimes, the best way to get rid of smells in the fridge is to simply clean it out. Remove all of the food from your fridge and throw away anything that’s expired or spoiled.

Next, give your fridge a good cleaning with soap and water. Wipe down all of the shelves, drawers, and surfaces to remove any dirt or grime. This will help to freshen up your fridge and get rid of any bad smells that may be present.

Mr. Clean All Purpose Cleaner

Use this in your refrigerator and around the rest of your home.

Use the Right Storage Containers

Fresh fruit in glass containers in a fridge

If you’re having trouble with bad smells in the fridge, it could be because you’re not using the right storage containers. Be sure to use airtight containers that don’t have any holes or cracks that can let food smells get out and seep into your fridge.

Airtight containers will help to keep your food fresh and prevent bad smells from forming. Ditch those cheap plastic containers and opt for sturdy glass ones instead.

Glass Food Storage Containers

No need to worry about food, odor, or irritants seeping in.

Absorb Smells with Charcoal or Carbon

Charcoal carbon filters
Ellis Harper

If you want to get rid of bad smells in the fridge, you can try using charcoal or carbon. Charcoal and carbon are both extremely porous materials, which makes them great at absorbing and neutralizing odors.

Charcoal’s absorption ability even makes it a potential treatment for some kinds of poisoning, which further proves how great it is at sucking up the bad stuff. You can purchase fridge deodorizers that contain these materials to place anywhere inside.

Natural Bamboo Activated Charcoal Fridge Deodorizer

Removes food gas and controls humidity to keep produce fresh.

Try Oats or Potatoes

A cup and a bowl of oats

If you’re out of baking soda, charcoal, carbon, or any of the other materials above, you can try using oats or potatoes to absorb bad smells. Just place a bowl of oats or fresh potatoes inside your fridge and let them do their job. These materials are also great at absorbing odors, so they will quickly neutralize any bad smells that are present.

Be sure to use fresh oats and potatoes when trying this method out. An old bowl of oatmeal or a handful of rotten potatoes will cause much more harm than good in your refrigerator.

Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

Pour these in a bowl and keep it in your fridge to remove smells.

Turn to Vinegar

A large tub of vinegar

Vinegar is a powerful cleaning agent that can be used to get rid of all sorts of dirt and grime. It’s also great at getting rid of bad smells, making it a perfect solution for removing fridge odors.

You can use vinegar as a refrigerator deodorizer in one of two ways. The first is as a cleaning agent. Simply mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle, then use the mixture to wipe down all of the surfaces inside your fridge.

You can also place a bowl of vinegar in your fridge if you don’t want to or can’t remove everything from the appliance. While your refrigerator may smell pretty intense for a day or two, the vinegar will help neutralize any lingering odors and your fridge should smell fresh and clean soon after you remove the vinegar.

Lucy's Family Owned Natural Distilled White Vinegar

A favorite ingredient for DIY cleaning solutions.

Unplug and Air Everything Out

A woman wipes down a fridge

If your fridge still smells bad after trying all of these methods, it may be time to unplug it and air everything out. Turn off the power to your fridge and unplug it from the wall. Then, open all of the doors and let the air circulate inside. This will help to freshen up your fridge and get rid of any lingering bad smells.

With all food removed from your fridge, take the time to look for any spills or stains that might be causing the bad smells. A quick wipe-down of all surfaces can make a big difference when it comes to refrigerator odors.

Is your fridge smelling a little funky? This happens to the best of us, but fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get rid of bad smells in the fridge. From cleaning techniques to foods that can help, here are 10 ways you can get rid of smells in your refrigerator.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
LifeSavvy is focused on a single goal: helping you make the most informed purchases possible. Want to know more?