Expert Tips: 7 Habits Causing Fridge Odors, According to Cleaning Professionals

The refrigerator, a cornerstone of every household, often receives substantial usage but not always the appropriate care. Despite frequent openings for storing leftovers, stocking groceries, and retrieving beverages, the swift nature of these interactions can lead to overlooking or adapting to unpleasant odors emanating from within. These malodors can range from spoiled food scents to a general staleness that affects the taste of stored items.

While various factors contribute to fridge odors, individuals may unwittingly perpetuate these issues through everyday habits. To shed light on these challenges, we consulted with cleaning experts and professionals who provided insights into common mistakes and effective remedies for eliminating unwanted smells from refrigerators.


Addressing Food Spoilage: A Key Factor in Refrigerator Odors

One of the primary culprits behind unpleasant fridge odors, as highlighted by Brandon Pleshek, a third-generation janitor and creator of Clean That Up!, is expired or spoiled food left neglected. These remnants, along with crumbs, have a propensity to decompose over time, generating persistent malodors within the refrigerator environment.

The solution lies in promptly removing the source of the odor. While it may seem intuitive, some individuals attempt to mask the scent or discard the offending item without conducting a thorough cleaning of the entire fridge. This oversight can lead to lingering crumbs continuing to decompose and exacerbating the issue.

According to Pleshek, a comprehensive deep cleaning is paramount. He advocates for a DIY solution comprising 1 cup of white vinegar, 1 cup of water, and 1 teaspoon of Dawn dish soap to effectively clean and deodorize the refrigerator. This approach not only tackles existing odors but also prevents their recurrence, ensuring a fresh and hygienic fridge environment.


Importance of Regular Refrigerator Maintenance

Regular cleaning of your refrigerator is crucial in maintaining a fresh and hygienic environment for your stored food items. As noted by Brandon Pleshek, a seasoned cleaning professional, neglecting regular cleaning can lead to the accumulation of food particles that eventually decompose and contribute to unpleasant odors.

Pleshek advises performing a quick wipe-down and cleaning session approximately once a week, ideally before grocery shopping to minimize cleaning efforts around newly stocked items. This proactive approach not only ensures cleanliness but also prevents the buildup of stale odors.

According to Natalie D’Apolito, communications and outreach coordinator at the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), refrigerators should be cleaned out and sanitized at least weekly to maintain optimal freshness. This regular maintenance routine helps eliminate potential sources of odor, ensuring a pleasant and odor-free fridge environment.

By adhering to a consistent cleaning schedule, you can effectively mitigate stale odors and preserve the cleanliness of your refrigerator, enhancing both hygiene and food quality.


For a streamlined cleaning process, Brandon Pleshek suggests starting by using a hand vacuum to eliminate crumbs from your fridge, particularly in the produce drawers. This preparatory step facilitates a more effective wet cleaning session.

Lori Williamson, renowned cleaning expert and creator of NowItsClean on TikTok and Instagram, advocates for the use of a handheld steam cleaner. According to Williamson, the steam cleaner effectively loosens grime, making it effortless to wipe away without relying on harsh chemicals. This method not only simplifies cleaning but also helps maintain a fresh and odor-free refrigerator environment.

Addressing Spills: A Crucial Aspect of Refrigerator Hygiene

According to Kathy Cohoon, operations manager at Two Maids, delaying the cleanup of spills in your refrigerator may exacerbate undesirable odors. Cohoon advises promptly addressing spills by wiping them up with a cloth as soon as they occur. Subsequently, she recommends using a multi-surface spray or cleaner of choice to thoroughly eliminate any residue left behind.

By adopting this proactive approach to spill management, you can effectively prevent the buildup of odors and maintain a sanitary environment within your refrigerator. This practice not only promotes cleanliness but also helps preserve the quality and freshness of stored food items.


Maximizing Refrigerator Freshness: Effective Deodorizing Strategies

Maintaining optimal freshness in your refrigerator involves more than just routine cleaning—it also requires strategic use of deodorizing agents. According to Natalie D’Apolito, communications and outreach coordinator at the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), baking soda is renowned for its ability to absorb odors, but it diminishes in effectiveness over time. D’Apolito recommends placing baking soda in a vented container and replacing it at least monthly to ensure continued odor absorption.

Moreover, D’Apolito cautions against using baking soda that has served as an odor absorber in cooking or baking, as it may impart absorbed odors into food items.

For those preferring alternatives to baking soda, Kathy Cohoon, operations manager at Two Maids, suggests several DIY options:

  1. Activated Charcoal: Similar to baking soda, activated charcoal absorbs odors effectively. Place a few pieces in a container and leave them in your fridge.
  2. White Vinegar: Create a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar to wipe down the interior of your fridge, neutralizing odors in the process.
  3. Coffee Grounds: Used coffee grounds can also absorb odors. Simply place them in a bowl and leave them in your fridge for a few days.
  4. Citrus Peels: Add a fresh scent to your fridge by placing orange, lemon, or lime peels inside.
  5. Vanilla Extract: Place a few drops of vanilla extract on a cotton ball and leave it in your fridge for a pleasant aroma.


Optimal Food Storage Solutions: Choosing Between Plastic and Glass Containers

While plastic food containers offer undeniable convenience, their impact on refrigerator odors is worth considering. Lori Williamson emphasizes that despite the aesthetic appeal and organizational benefits promoted on platforms like TikTok, plastic acrylic containers may exacerbate odor retention issues compared to their glass counterparts.

According to Williamson, glass containers are preferable for storing food due to their superior ability to resist odors and maintain freshness.

For optimal refrigerator hygiene, consider reassigning plastic containers to non-food storage areas in your home, such as organizing craft supplies. Alternatively, if plastic containers are worn or damaged, ensure they are recycled responsibly to minimize environmental impact.

By prioritizing the use of glass containers for food storage, you can enhance odor control in your refrigerator while maintaining organizational efficiency.


Importance of Proper Food Container Sealing for Odor Control

Ensuring proper closure of food containers in your refrigerator is crucial for maintaining freshness and minimizing odors, as highlighted by Natalie D’Apolito. This often overlooked practice can significantly impact the longevity and quality of stored food items.

Kathy Cohoon emphasizes that inadequate sealing is particularly problematic when storing pungent foods such as onions, garlic, and certain cheeses. Even popular silicone covers for items like onions and avocados, while effective at preserving freshness, may allow odors to escape.

For optimal odor containment, it is recommended to store food and cut vegetables in glass containers equipped with plastic locking lids featuring a rubber gasket. These features create a secure seal that effectively traps odors, preserving the freshness of stored items and enhancing overall refrigerator hygiene.

By adopting these practices, you can effectively mitigate odor issues in your refrigerator, ensuring a cleaner and more pleasant food storage environment.


Enhancing Refrigerator Hygiene: The Benefits of Washable Mats

Neglecting to line your fridge shelves can exacerbate odor issues, warns cleaning expert Lori Williamson. She advocates for the use of washable mats as a simple yet effective solution to combatting this common household problem.

Williamson recommends utilizing reusable and trimmable mats that not only contain spills but also prevent odors. These mats are designed for easy cleaning, contributing to a hygienic refrigerator environment without significant effort.

By incorporating washable mats into your fridge organization strategy, you can proactively manage spills, reduce odors, and maintain cleanliness more efficiently. This approach not only enhances the lifespan of your refrigerator but also ensures a more pleasant storage experience for your food items.







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