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Reasons Why Your Fridge Smells Bad Even After Cleaning + Solutions

Why Does My Fridge Smell Bad Even After Cleaning? Reasons and Solutions

Are you wondering why your fridge smells bad even after cleaning? Here are the possible reasons and solutions.

Most of us have likely been in this situation at some stage. You open your refrigerator and are met with a smell so pungent even the dog keeps on walking. The first option is to clear out those week-old leftovers and clean the refrigerator well. But what happens when your fridge smells bad even after cleaning?

Refrigerators typically smell bad because of a build-up of bacteria and other microbes. While they slow bacterial growth down, fridges cannot stop it entirely. Find the source of the smell by cleaning the refrigerator. Clean the plastic parts in particular and use an odor-neutralizing agent.

If you are stuck with a smelly refrigerator, even after cleaning, stick with us. We are about to uncover a stack of possible reasons for a persistently smelly fridge. We also share a few industry secrets and solutions for getting rid of the smell and replacing it with something a little more enticing.

Woman holding her nose and a rotten organe in front of an open refrigerator with text that says, "Fridge smells bad even after cleaning: Reasons + Solutions".

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Reasons the Fridge Smells Bad

The first culprit of a smelly fridge is usually food that has gone off. When you notice a bad smell, your first port of call should be to go through the produce inside.

If you have discarded all overripe, rotting, and old produce and the smell persists, a good cleaning should suffice. Still, some find their fridge has a lingering odor even after using dish soap or detergent.

Below is a look at why your refrigerator could still smell bad even after cleaning.

  • Mold or bacterial growth inside the seal of the fridge
  • Mold or bacterial growth between the plastic drip protector and the glass shelf
  • Bacteria, yeast, or fungal growth
  • Temperature and moisture control issues
  • A dirty drip tray

Now let us explore each of these causes to better understand what could be causing your fridge to smell bad.

Mold or Bacterial Growth Inside the Seal of the Fridge

Mold can cause a musty smell in most places, but inside a fridge, the smell is enclosed, therefore, magnified.

When the moisture inside the fridge is not managed correctly, the remaining droplets can cause mold to grow. Although most refrigerators slow down mold and bacteria growth, they do not stop it entirely.

The plastic seal of the fridge is a spot often forgotten during cleaning sessions. Because of this oversight, mold and bacteria have the opportunity to grow and thrive in this spot. In small numbers, they do not create a bad smell. However, when they are allowed to reach large numbers, the odor becomes noticeable.

When you locate the source of the foul smell within the fridge’s seal, you may be shocked to see how much gunk is growing there.

Take care to clean it delicately since the seal is easily broken.

Mold or Bacteria Between the Drip Protector and the Shelf

Most refrigerators have handy plastic drip protectors on the shelves. This feature is terrific at preventing small leaks or drips from spreading to other parts of the fridge.

The joint between the plastic and glass can be the home to some not-so-nice characters, though. When cleaning your fridge, remove the drip protector and clean the inside. Even if you cannot see any mold or sludge, some growth could occur.

Please check your user manual before detaching the drip protectors to avoid breaking your shelf.

Bacterial or Fungal Growth

All fresh produce begins to break down from the time they are harvested. Since different foods have different shelf lives, it can be challenging to know what the cause of your refrigerator’s bad smell could be.

As food decomposes, it naturally grows bacteria and fungi. This is typically not an issue, as refrigerators are designed to slow down the decomposition and growth of these microbes. As more grow, however, they begin to smell, which could cause your fridge to smell.

If you suspect this could be the cause of your fridge smelling bad even after cleaning, consider throwing out any food or fresh produce that could be slightly off or even overripe. It may seem like a waste, but it could also be the answer you are searching for.

Temperature and Moisture Control Issues

The perfect temperature for a refrigerator is between 37-41 degrees Fahrenheit. Any warmer than this, your food will spoil, causing bacteria to multiply.

When your fridge is over-full, it needs to work harder to keep the food cool. An overly packed fridge can lead to food going bad more quickly. You are also more likely to forget what you have in there if you cannot see it. Consider clearing out unnecessary food inside the fridge to help manage bad smells.

The moisture inside your fridge should also be controlled. It is well-known that moist, dark places are the breeding ground for bacteria and mold. Take care to dry the shelves and walls of your refrigerator whenever you see moisture.

A Dirty Drip Tray

There is a well-kept secret about fridges. Most of them have a drip tray underneath! This is likely news to you, meaning you have probably never cleaned yours. Even for those who do know about this elusive tray, the thought of cleaning it is not typically one of our top priorities.

If you are battling a lingering bad smell from your fridge, consider cleaning your drip tray. Please consult your user manual before attempting to remove or clean it to avoid causing any damage.

Solutions for a Bad Smelling Fridge

You have thrown out as much produce as possible, gone through all the food, and cleaned all the shelves and the door, but your refrigerator still smells terrible.

If this sounds familiar, all is not lost. There are a few trusted ways to help a foul-smelling fridge out of the pit of yuk. Let us look at a few.


White vinegar works wonders on fridges. Combine it with water and spray the solution into your empty fridge. Leave it to work its magic for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a soft, damp cloth.

Vinegar is a great cleaning agent and helps rid your fridge of pesky odors. Use it to clean the fridge frame, the outside, the door, and every shelf.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is like a tiny miracle in a jar. Place an open jar of this powder in your fridge after cleaning to help neutralize any lingering stench.

I would suggest you find the cause of the smell before masking or neutralizing it. Only once you are sure there are no harmful bacteria or rotting food left in the refrigerator should you continue deodorizing it.

Other Deodorizing Methods

A few items you may have at home already can help keep your refrigerator smelling fresh and clean.

Here are our favorite ones:

  • Lemon halves left open
  • Coffee grounds
  • Charcoal
  • Dry, rolled oats
  • Cottonwool soaked in vanilla essence
  • A scrunched-up, vinegar-soaked newspaper

All of these easy and accessible methods can help keep fridges smelling great. As with all the deodorizing ideas we have shared, be sure to find the source of the bad smells before deodorizing to avoid contamination of your food by bacteria, mold, or fungus.

Fridge Smells Bad Even After Cleaning – Conclusion

Foul fridge smells are typically caused by bacteria, mold, or fungus, all of which naturally occur in decomposing food. If you have rid your fridge of all food that may be off and the smell persists, consider cleaning in places that are a little harder to reach than the shelves and door.

The fridge seal, drip tray, and filter are a few regular suspects in the search for smell offenders. Consider using vinegar or baking soda to clean and neutralize the smell while cleaning. Consider placing coffee grounds, lemon halves, or other great-smelling items in the fridge to keep it smelling great until the next clean.

Now that you know the possible reasons why a fridge can smell bad even after cleaning, plus the solutions, it’s time to rid your fridge of that foul odor.

Woman in front of open refrigerator holding her nose and a rotten orange with text that says, "Why does my fridge smell bad even after cleaning?"

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