What To Do About A Stinky Refrigerator

Updated: May 26, 2024

Eliminate bad refrigerator odors with newspaper and charcoal.

Why Does My Refrigerator Smell?

When your power goes out in a storm, it generally doesn’t come back on before the food in your refrigerator and freezer goes bad. Before you know it, you’ve got a smelly mess on your hands. Cleaning it will help, but it’ll take more to eliminate the smell.

Of course, start by removing the food and wiping down everything with a disinfecting cleaning spray. But that might not be enough to banish the smell. Hidden messes, spills and buildup can cause it to linger. And if you don’t have something to absorb the smell, it will stay for ages.

Fortunately, there’s an easy (and relatively inexpensive!) way to get rid of it. With a little elbow grease and a couple of simple tools, your fridge will be back to smelling normal in no time. Our appliance expert, Costas Stavrou, gave us the full story.

Absorb Stinky Fridge Odor with Newspaper and Charcoal

It turns out that the most common mistake DIYers make is not cleaning all the nooks and crannies inside the freezer. The biggest culprits? The shelf supports. Stavrou says you should remove them and clean behind them with detergent and disinfectant to get rid of any blood or crud. If the supports are permanently attached, soak them with cleaning spray.

Next, Stavrou says, forget about those expensive charcoal odor removers or coffee, which is even more expensive. Just use newspaper and charcoal.

Smash about 12 charcoal briquettes from your grill and spread the chunks on two trays. One goes in the fridge, the other in the freezer. Then crunch up newspaper and fill the shelves with it. Close the doors and walk away.

Finally (and this is the most important part), replace the old newspaper and charcoal with fresh stuff every day for about a week or until the stinky fridge smell is gone.

Don’t think a single treatment is enough. That smell took time to build up, and you don’t want to give it the chance to do that again. Be diligent about changing the charcoal and the newspapers until you really don’t smell anything.