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Foul odor in fridge

HELP! I have this horrible odor coming from ym refrigerator and freezer. We have taken everythingout of the freezer, cleaned it well, (it's frost-free), and put everything back. The power has not been out, the food in the freezer never defrosted. Nothing that came out of the freezer smelled bad. The refrigerator part is used only for sodas and drinks, no food has ever been stored in there. we have pulled the unit away from the wall to check for the dreaded dead animal (Yuck), and we have flushed the drain with a clorox solution. Having said all that, short of just trashing the refrigerator, can anyone offer any suugestions? The room in which the fridge is in only smells if the fridge is open, so that rules out a dead animal in the wall ( I guess?).
My other questions is that I'm having dinner for 16 at my house on Saturday and am serving lasagna. I was hoping to make the lasagnas Saturday morning, then store them (in this fridge as there will be no room in the main fridge) until I cook them Saturday night. Will they absorb this foul odor assuming it's not yet gone? Could it affect the taste? I'm am also making a pastry dessert that I was hoping to also store o in there until I cook it Saturday night. Any suggestions?????

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  1. I'm concerned no one's answered your post and and that you're going to store the lasagnes in the fridge. I don't have any answers to your problem but if the odor is truly horrible, then don't do it. Why risk it? I'm pretty sensitive to food absorbing fridge odors, and even though lasagne is pretty hardy, I'd be afraid to ruin food you were planning on serving to guests. And please, DON'T store the pastry in there.

    Try calling your friendly neighborhood appliance store and get their input on what's going on with your fridge. Maybe you could store the food in a very good cooler/ice chest or at a neighbor's house.

    1. My first thought was that there is something (dead) in the space at the bottom of the refrigerator. You might have to take off a panel at the front or back. It's where you go to clean the dust out of the mechanism. The other thought I had is that at some time or other the unit got turned off long enough for something to have gone bad in the freezer.

      Too bad you don't have a frozen back porch. That's where I'm storing.

      1 Reply
      1. re: yayadave

        Exactly. That happened to my parents once. We had this horrific stench (smelled like bad vomit) for a while by the fridge. They couldn't find anything in it. The stench eventually dissipated. Months later my mom was doing a thorough cleaning of the fridge and took off the bottom panel to clean it out. She screamed as she came up with a dead mouse shell (the body part rotted away).

        Seriously, take the fridge apart and really do a thorough check.

        And I find that activated carbon works better for absorbing odors than baking soda.

      2. My parents had a problem with a fridge odor, and it ended up being mildew on the coils. They were never able to completely get rid of the smell, and can only keep bottled and canned beverages in there now (they've moved it to the garage now). Call a repair place, and see if they have any suggestions.

        1. Always keep a box of Arm and Hammer baking soda in the fridge, with the lid torn off...if you are trying to get rid of some smells, I would put several shallow bowls of it in there. It works wonders

          3 Replies
          1. re: steakman55

            Baking soda doesn't absorb orders in the refrigerator. I believe the whole idea was perpetuated by Arm and Hammer on the side of the box to sell more baking soda.

            1. re: KTinNYC

              Oh no, really? I fell for it. There's a box in there now.

              1. re: fern

                Here is link explaining the science and don't feel bad about falling for the marketing. I'm pretty sure I have a box in my fridge from when I moved into my apartment 5 years ago...


          2. I had the problem of an electrical failure while out of town for two weeks so the rotten food created an odor in the refrigerator that was truly obnoxious. Unfortunately it was told that it gets into the insulation and cannot be removed. I tried everything including the baking soda and nothing worked. After the fact there was one solution I was told might be successful which was too stuff the refrigerator with crumpled newspaper. The ink apparently absorbs odor. Good luck.

            1. Thanks to all who responded. I have tried taking the fridge apart, no dead animal (luckily). I have tried baking soda, no luck there. I am going to the pet store to buy some activated carbon, then to the grocery to buy coffee gorunds. Surely, between all of that even if the smell doesn't subside I will have filled it with enough good smelling stuff to overcome it.
              And thanks about the advice on the lasagna and pastry. I was very worried about that, so I think I will follow your advice and just not store it there. I can put some of the stuff from the regular fridge into coolers so I will have room for the lasagnaa and dessert.
              I will let you know how the carbon and coffee work. Keep your fingers crossed!

              2 Replies
              1. re: LCSteiner

                Triple wrap the lasagnes (all the way around, bottom too) with heavy duty plastic wrap AND then a full wrapping of aluminum foil.

                You will not have odors on the food if you do that.

                1. re: LCSteiner

                  Make sure you let us know how things turn out?????

                  Have yu tried unplugging the fridge and letting it thaw out? With coffee grounds inside? Or carbon....Whatever....

                2. This happened to me once, and the source was actually a loaf of bread (an artisan loaf with less preservatives) that had gone mouldy while sitting on the counter. My husband unknowingly threw it in the freezer thinking we'd use later for something or other. The mould spores permeated the freezer and the fridge due to the circulation. We had the hardest time figuring out what it was, because the bread was in a brown paper bag, and is not a usual suspect.

                  Everything we put in the fridge picked up the smell. Baking soda didn't really help. What worked was *multiple* wipings of all fridge interior surfaces with a bleach and water mixture. And time. I think it took a few weeks to get back to normal. Ugh.

                  1. You might try putting several charcoal briquettes on a paper plate or disposable pie tin into the fridge--more effective than the baking soda trick.

                    1. Remember to clean the gasket thoroughly, too. Some fridge gaskets have pleats in them that can harbor stinky stuff quite easily.

                      1. Many fridges have trays that collect condensation (and spillage) mounted underneath the fridge. Have a look to see if its contents have gone moldy and gross.

                        1. I've found that putting some charcoal pieces in a brown paper bag left open in the back of my fridge has been the best way to eliminate odors. Even when I stuff my fridge with food (onions too!) as long as I have my charcoal packet in there it doesn't smell at all.
                          Good luck!

                          1. have you checked where the light bulb is?

                              1. Does the odor smell like amonia? Maybe there is something wrong with your refrigerant?

                                1. If the stench only is noticeable when the fridge door is open that gives a big hint as to where to concentrate your efforts.

                                  My guess is that something has spilled down into a hidden area of the fridge.

                                  If you take all the shelves out you will find that the drawers/bins can also be removed. Every fridge that I've seen has some odd spaces under/behind these bins. Often there are panels that hide things like the light bulbs and/or water cooling loops (for Ice & Water through the door). There are ducts and fans that move the cool air from the freezer to the top or bottom of the fridge. If a spill gets blown into such a duct it takes much effort to remove the grates and access the source of the problem. There can be a condensate drain that may be plugged. If even regular old milk/cream gets spilled into there it'll get transformed into something not unlike Limberger cheese. You have to disassemble all that hardware and wash the whole area out with a diluted bleach solution. Be sure to DRY the entire interior or the left over moisture will be a nightmare to deal with.

                                  Once everything is spotlessly clean I'd leave the shelves and bins out but shut the door with the unit set to cool for a few hours -- that will be the trial to verify that nothing was missed in a hidden duct or behind a service panel.'

                                  Good Luck!

                                  1. Have you already solved the mystery smell?

                                    Not sure what kind of fridge you have, but a friend had a similar situation. Turned out that she had some very lovely cheeses (can't remember the types) that had never smelled up the entire fridge and room when door was opened before.

                                    The fridge had individual compartments for produce, cheese, meat, etc. A visiting relative had turned the temp in the cheese drawer so that entirely too much humidity was happening in there, and placed some of the produce in there as well. That combo appeared to have caused the smell. My friend re-adjusted all the temps and separated the produce and cheese and voila! smell gone. And I can attest, everytime the door was open before she tried this, the smell was HORRIBLE.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: souvenir

                                      good cheeses, especially artisanal ones, can knock you over with the smell pouring out of a refrigerator. Occupational hazard of a cheese lover.

                                        1. re: souvenir

                                          it's a good thing (though you might not think so first thing in the morning)

                                          Good cheeses are living things, and that smell is an affirmation of that.

                                    2. I'VE FOUND A CURE! (skip to the bottom if you want to bypass my trials and errors)
                                      Ok, so I had a very similar situation. Went out of town for a month, forgot to pay electric bill, they shut my electric down and my fridge was without power for over a week. There was a nasty can of crabmeat in there and some chicken/fruit in the freezer. It smelt awful and it stunk up the whole apartment like something dead. There was mold all over and some brown water in the fridge basin.
                                      First, I threw everything in there out. No way I was going to eat any of that stuff. Then I took out all the drawers, and removable shelves, etc. and rinsed them off with soapy water. That seemed to get rid of the smell on all of that, but not the inside of the fridge. I washed it down with soapy water and then I called my mom. She said use baking soda and water. I used a whole bunch and spread the baking soda and water all over and I put box in the fridge and the freezer and went to bed, hoping it would all be better in the morning. Woke up and it still smelt awful.. a tiny bit better but still not usable. Atleast it looked clean, but baking soda did nothing! BAKING SODA = Not working.
                                      Then I started to go online and check out post like this one. I read that it's probably in the insulation and I got scared I'd have to get a new fridge (even though this one is only $420 at Sears). I tried some antibacterial soap, and still nothing. I wasn't going to fill it with newspaper because it makes no logical sense that that would work: My fridge smelt like a trash can.. trash can with newspaper in them still smell like garbage/rotten death.
                                      I repeatedly washed and scrubbed and still nothing. I UNPLUGGED my fridge and I started taking apart the fridge to see if it was in the ventilation or something. (IMPORTANT PART:) I popped off a vent at the bottom and THERE WAS a pan with nasty mold water in it. I cleaned it out, but I knew that it wasn't the root of the stink. My fridge stunk much much more OPEN than Closed, and the pan is on the outside. It's still probably a great idea to clean out that drip pan, even tho it's not the cure. I couldn't dislodge mine easily so I just stuck my hand in there with a rag and went back and forth ringing it out over the sink.
                                      I was timid about using bleach, but at this point it was either that or a new fridge. So I went to the store and got some Lysol Kills 99.9% of viruses & bacteria "complete clean" spray WITH BLEACH. Not the aerosol one but the pump spray one. There was a purple one called "Mold & Mildew Remover". How perfect, the mold is what's stinkin' my fridge up! I love this stuff, I use the all purpose one of my sinks and they get some nice and white. Anyway, I got the mold & mildew one even though I think it's the same exact thing as the all purpose with a different label. 2% Bleach, and some other stuff. I sprayed the heck out of my fridge and freezer, while it was still unplugged. I used a jumbo sponge I had and spread it meticulously, getting every nook and cranny. I shut the doors and hoped it would seep in and kill the stink. Lo and Behold it was working! I plugged the fridge in, with bleach still inside, to see if the stink would reawaken (it was coming back before when it was plugged in). Still no stink. Now, I'm not sure if the stink in 100% gone, or if my sense of smell is a little messed up because using bleach can sometimes do that, but I don't smell rotten death in the fridge anymore! I tested my nose by sniffing some herbs I'm growing and I can smell them well. But let me tell you, my fridge was BAAAADD.. stunk up my whole 2 bedroom apartment and I think my neighbors could even smell it. It really smelt like a dead raccoon or something. And now, thanks to bleach, the smell is gone. I'm letting it run a bit longer with the bleach and then I'm going to rinse it out really really well with water and try to get all the bleach out.

                                      1. I am having a very similar problem with my refrigerator for over 3 months. I havve been fighting with GE about this foul odor and have found what is known as "dirty sock syndrome" in HVAC coils and it is quite possible that is on the coils or evaporator of the refrigerator too. I was wondering what was the outcome of your refrigerator.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: comer6

                                          Did you ever figure out your problem? I have a stinky GE also,

                                        2. I would wipe it down really good with lysol or other cleaning products.

                                          You can read the wikihow which may help.

                                          It basically says use things like baking soda, coffee ground, oats, vinegar or charcoal to clean out the smell.

                                          1. Couldn't be worse than the smell I got after tossing a fresh skunk hide into the freezer, so I could tan it later. Had that thing triple wrapped to where you could not smell anything before putting into the fridge. Woke up the next morning with burning eyes, and the horrid stench of skunk. Took me months to air that out, and all the food had to be tossed due to the smell/tasts. The ventilation fan had pumped the odor throughout the entire refrigerator, freezer, and the ducting. Found out too late about a taxidermy product that instantly kills the odor.