7 reasons a fridge smells bad (even after cleaning it)

While it is an essential appliance in every household, the fridge can also be inconvenient if it is not maintained properly. It provides a safe way to store our food and keep it fresh. However, a fridge that smells bad can be unpleasant and even dangerous in some cases. 

There are several reasons why this might happen, and understanding these is the key to eliminating the odor that bothers you. Keeping it fresh and clean is a priority for you, as the state of your fridge will also affect the quality of the food you eat.

This article will explore the 7 worst reasons a fridge smells bad even after cleaning it. These reasons are quite common and easy to understand, so make sure to pay attention and identify the ones similar to yours. 


The most common reasons a fridge smells bad are bacteria growth in the seal and a dirty drip pan, and these can stay there even after cleaning it. Incorrect food storage can be a major contributor as well to why the fridge smells bad.

As we tested various refrigerator deodorizers, best one came out to be : Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag

In addition, here are things we’ll be going through in the article:

Frigidaire fridge

Reasons a fridge smells bad (even after cleaning it)

You notice a bad smell for several reasons. Identifying the cause is important as you can look for a specific solution and remove the problem as soon as possible. Let’s explore the most common reasons your fridge smells bad even after cleaning it.

Reason #1 – An external factor causes the smell

Consider external factors if you notice a rotten smell coming from the area where your fridge is positioned. The smell might be generated by a piece of old food that has fallen behind the fridge, or something more serious, such as a leak in the water drainage system.

Inspect the area around your refrigerator and look for the source that causes the bad smell. Once you have located the problem, you can clean it up and eliminate it. Solutions involve fixing a leak, cleaning the area, and throwing spoiled food away. 

Reason #2 – The smell is caused by a dirty condenser coil or fan

Dirty condenser coils represent another possible cause of a bad smell coming from a fridge. They are located behind the fridge, and their purpose is to dispense the heat from the refrigerant. When these coils are dirty, they cannot run properly and will cause the fridge to become too warm.

As your fridge warms up, it creates the perfect environment for bacteria and mold to develop. As a result, a bad smell can be noticed from the fridge. You will have to clean these coils to get rid of the problem. They can be cleaned by using a brush or a vacuum to remove the dust from their surface. 

Reason #3 – The temperature is not set correctly

If your refrigerator smells bad, it might be because the temperature is not set correctly. It is quite a common problem that can be easily fixed by adjusting the temperature settings manually. When this temperature is too low, the food inside can spoil and cause a bad odor. 

When the temperature is too high, bacteria and mold can easily grow, which can also cause a bad smell. To fix this problem, simply adjust the temperature settings on your fridge and change it to the recommended level. This level is situated between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit, which is ideal for preventing the food inside from spoiling. 

Reason #4 – The drip pan is dirty

Frigidaire refrigerator

The drip pan is a small tray at the bottom of your fridge. It is responsible for collecting water and condensation. Over time, this water can become dirty and start to smell. Fixing this problem is easy. Everyone can do it, and you won’t need special tools or knowledge.

Remove the drip pan and clean it with warm water and soap. Make sure to let it dry completely before you put it back. In some extreme cases, it might need to be replaced if cleaning is not enough when the drip pan smells. In the future, keep this pan clean, and you will prevent such problems from occurring again. 

Reason #5 – Consider a deep clean procedure

Deep cleaning will solve your problem, especially if you have never done it before. To do this, remove all the food first and throw away the spoiled and expired items. Continue by wiping the inside with a mixture of warm water and dish soap, making sure to clean it thoroughly.

Once you are finished with the inside, move to the shelves and drawers. Remove them from the refrigerator and use the same water and soap mixture to clean them. Lastly, the exterior should be cleaned in the same way while paying attention to the handle and the seals around the door.

When the cleaning procedure is over, and everything is clean and dry, you can put the food back in the fridge and adjust the temperature to the recommended setting. It should help eliminate any bad odors and keep the fridge smelling fresh. 

Reason #6 – Not storing the food correctly


If you do not store the food correctly in your refrigerator, it will develop a bad smell. It happens because bacteria and microorganisms can begin to grow on the food, causing it to spoil. When this happens, the food will release unpleasant smells that can spread throughout the refrigerator.

When you don’t store different types of food properly, they can mix and worsen this problem. A solution is to ensure that the food is stored in airtight containers and that you place them in appropriate sections of the refrigerator. As you follow these simple steps, you will be able to avoid problems with bad odors in the future. 

Reason #7 – Mold or bacterial growth inside the seal

If you notice mold developing inside your refrigerator’s seal, you will most likely do it with your nose. That is because this problem creates bad odors that you will be able to smell as soon as it develops. Moreover, these microorganisms can contaminate other food in the fridge and cause it to spoil quickly.

The best solution is often prevention, so regularly clean the seal and remove any visible mold or bacterial growth. Use a mixture of water and vinegar, as it is highly effective in killing microorganisms and removing unpleasant odors. In the future, keep the fridge clean and organized while also checking for any signs of spoilage or contamination.

External factorsLook for the sources to clean up
Dirty condenser coil or fanClean the coils
Wrong temperature settingsLower the temperature
Drip panClean it with soap and water
Deep cleaning neededFind a good guide on it and do a deep clean.
Incorrect storagePut food in sealed containers
Mold growthDeep clean, get rid of old food, and better food storage going forward

How to get rid of the smell

The first step in getting rid of a bad smell in the fridge is to identify the source, even if it’s a Samsung or a Whirlpool. It may be spoiled food, mold, or even bacterial growth. Once this source has been identified, you should remove it as soon as possible. It might involve throwing out spoiled food or cleaning the mold.

After removing the bad smell’s source, the fridge should be thoroughly cleaned. It involves washing the interior with a mixture of water and vinegar. At the same time, you also make sure to wipe down all the surfaces. It is important to keep the fridge clean and organized to prevent the smell from returning.

Consider storing food in airtight containers and regularly checking for signs of spoilage. Do not disregard the seal, as many people overlook it. By following these steps, you can keep the fridge clean and fresh. 

Best refrigerator odor eliminators & deodorizers

While cleaning is the best solution that also acts as a prevention, there are some products you can purchase to increase the efficiency of this process. By purchasing a refrigerator odor eliminator, you will get rid of the bad smell quickly and effortlessly. 

Innofresh Deodorizer, Odor Absorber, and Air Freshener

This product contains naturally activated charcoal that absorbs and neutralizes the bad smells from your fridge. Made in the USA, you can be sure of the exceptional quality of this product. Once you place, this deodorizer will last up to 6 months. If you want to deodorize and get rid of that kimchi smell that has been bothering you, this is the best solution.

Purchase two of them and ensure an odor-free refrigerator for the entire year. While it is highly effective in removing smells, it does not offer a fragrance. No chemicals or scents are added, and you will not have to worry about your food being contaminated by harmful substances. 

It is safe to use by everyone, and you can install it quickly and easily by placing it in the interior of your fridge. It is safe around food, people and pets too. Because of its reduced size, this compact product can be used anywhere.

Product Dimensions2 x 2 x 3 inches
Item Weight0.32 ounces
Active materialActivated charcoal

We tried the product, and this is what we found.


  • We love that it’s a natural product.
  • It’s very effective at reducing odors.
  • Great value
  • It takes a bit to absorb the odors, but it works.


  • It’s no substitute for proper food storage.
  • You may need to be patient.
  • The container is pretty ugly.
Here's to good scent!

Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag

Few products can deliver what they promise. However, the deodorizer and this purifying bag presented are always efficient in getting rid of your problem. This extremely effective air purifier will naturally absorb odors and moisture without polluting your food with harmful chemicals.

It contains only one powerful ingredient – the Moso bamboo charcoal. It has been proven to be the best solution against bad smells, and you can also place it inside your fridge. By eliminating odors without masking them, you can rest assured that the solution is not just temporary.

This company is serious about its products and always manufactures high-quality ones. This purifying bag is no exception; every item undergoes rigorous testing before being released on the market. More than 1,500 customers have expressed their satisfaction through positive reviews. 

Item Weight2.65 ounces
Material Care InstructionsRejuvenate in Sunlight
Product Dimensions4.5 x 1 x 5.25 inches


  • It looks better than the previously mentioned product.
  • Apparently, burnt bamboo removes odors.


  • We thought the other product was more effective at removing odors.
  • The suction cup is of limited quality.

It smells like a dead animal.

Your fridge might have a rotten meat smell if a mouse or a bird has died inside the appliance. While this scenario seems quite extreme, it is possible if you place the refrigerator outside or if there is easy external access. The animal can easily enter and get trapped if there is a small opening.

Another potential cause of a dead animal smell is the presence of spoiled meat or fish. If these foods are not stored properly or left for too long, they can rot and cause bad smells. After removing the spoiled food, it is recommended to clean the inside to remove any odors.

Mold or bacteria growth might also produce smells that resemble dead animals. It can happen when the refrigerator is not cleaned regularly or if there is a leak inside. Locating the source and using a disinfectant or other cleaning products is recommended.

In some cases, the refrigerator is old enough to be considered the source of the bad smell. It also happens if you haven’t properly maintained it over the years. Cleaning the fridge and paying attention to where the food debris has accumulated is an effective solution.

look inside a refrigerator

Using baking soda

When you notice a bad smell coming from your fridge, a simple and effective solution is to put baking soda inside to absorb and eliminate the odor. Sodium bicarbonate is a natural deodorizer that has been used for many years to remove unwanted smells from several surfaces and environments.

To use baking soda in your fridge, you will have to empty it first and remove all the spoiled and outdated food. Placing a box of baking soda and opening it up or pouring some of it into a dish is enough to make this method effective. Continue by placing the dish on a shelf in the fridge and closing the door.

All the bad smells should be eliminated overnight, as the baking soda will slowly begin to absorb them from the fridge. The next day you can remove the dish of baking soda and dispose of it in the trash. Because the refrigerator is still empty, it is also recommended to clean it.


Place the food back and make sure to store it in airtight containers if you want to avoid any problems in the future. These containers will keep the fridge smelling fresh and clean, and you won’t have to store baking soda inside permanently. 

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