Stinky Fridge? Here Are 4 Easy Ways to Neutralize Lingering Odors

Next time you have some funk going on in the fridge or freezer, turn to your pantry to find the simple staples you’ll need to eliminate any stench.

Did you forget about the head of lettuce or bagged spinach that are now rotting in the back of the crisper drawer? Or did last-night's leftovers go directly into the fridge instead of a sealed container, and now everything reeks of what you had for dinner? Whatever it is, the stink needs to be stopped. The first step is finding out where and what the smelly culprit is and cleaning it up before adding a natural neutralizer to keep the fridge and freezer smelling good.

Overpowering smells wafting from the fridge while the door is ajar is never pleasant. They can easily make you lose your appetite instead of helping inspire you to make your next meal. The good news is, there are several ways to combat the lingering scents in your fridge and freezer. These are easy, simple, and economical techniques. Plus, they are natural, so you don't have to worry about placing chemical-based cleaners near your food. The best part is, you probably already have most of these items in your cupboard or pantry; now you just have to put them to use.

Here are 4 ways to use what you (likely) have on hand to neutralize odors in the fridge and freezer.

Baking Soda

We may think of baking soda as a staple when making cookies or muffins but sodium bicarbonate is useful for removing and reducing unwanted scents, as well as acting as a neutralizer, too. You can use this trick to tame any overpowering smell by placing baking soda in your icebox and freezer. Although opening the top of the classic yellow box or just a corner may be convenient, it's best if you pour bicarbonate in a wide bowl so it covers a broader surface, which will make it more effective in absorbing odors.

Consider placing several wide-mouthed jars or bowls with baking soda throughout the fridge and freezer: Perhaps one per shelf or in an area that tends to house more potent foods, such as cheese or fish. In general, the closer the baking soda is to what is causing the stench, the better it works. Baking soda typically will act as a neutralizer for up to three months before you'll want to change out the box or dump and refill the containers.

Refrigerator in a kitchen at night
Photo by Andrey Popov.

Coffee Grounds

If you needed another reason to love your morning or afternoon ritual and rejoice in a cup of Jo, here it is. Coffee grounds are wonderful for absorbing odors. Although java has a strong aroma, the grounds neutralize scents. Before tossing them into the trash, (or better yet, the compost), you can use this cheap and practical method for getting rid of bad smells in the fridge.

There's no need to use your precious, high-prized coffee beans for providing a natural deodorizer. Simply save your used coffee grounds after making a pot of coffee over a few days, or even a week, before drying them out. The easiest way to dry them is to spread out the used grounds on a baking sheet and place them in the oven for about 10 minutes or until dry, at around 200-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Once dry, pour the coffee grounds into a bowl or container and then place them on a shelf in your freezer and ice box.


Have lemons sitting in your fruit bowl? Aside from making scrumptious lemon muffins or lemon vinaigrette, you can also slice up a lemon to neutralize smells. After you clean up what is causing the foul stench, you have two options. You can squeeze lemon juice onto a towel or cloth and wipe down the shelves.

Or, for more absorbing power, put a few citrus slices into a bowl and let them hang out in the fridge. Lemons typically take a few hours before you notice the smells have dissipated. Leave the tangy citrus up to a week before you'll want to switch it out.

Vanilla Extract

If you love to bake, then you likely have this more expensive neutralizing ingredient in your cupboard. That's right, vanilla extract isn't only for flavoring chocolate chip cookies, cakes and muffins, you can also use it to help reduce unpleasant scents.

Dab a little vanilla extract on a cotton ball or two, then place in a small bowl or glass jar. Instead of sniffing the half an onion someone forgot to place in a Tupperware or the fish you had for dinner last night, you'll find the smells emanating from the fridge aren't too potent. Despite vanilla extract being very fragrant, it's not as overpowering as you might think.


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