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Jun 19, 2010 07:31 AM

Neutralizing odors in a wine fridge

I recently bought an EWave wine fridge at a yard sale. (My ultimate intention is to use it to home-cure meats, but that's beside the point right now.) I gave it a thorough visual going-over before purchasing, but didn't actually stick my nose inside it. Big mistake.

It would appear that the previous owner either a) used a heavy-duty, high-scent cleaner to prepare it for sale; or b) used it to store a lifetime supply of Glade Plug-ins. It's just permeated with this sickly sweet, chemical-floral odor that I suppose we're supposed to associate with "sanitary conditions." At any rate, I wouldn't store a bottle of Night Train in it at the moment, let alone try to cure my own guanciale.

So far, I've given it a thorough airing, cleaned it with a vinegar-hydrogen peroxide solution and have left a vinegar-soaked sponge in it for the past several days, but I'm just not putting a dent in this scent. Any suggestions, or did I stumble upon the reason the previous owner was willing to part with it for pennies on the dollar?

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  1. Decades ago a friend of mine went on holiday for a couple of weeks and her fridge died early on. Everything rotted. She was told that "it" (and I don't if that's the smell itself or what causes the smell) got into the "coils" and that there was nothing to do but replace the fridge. I have no idea if that's true or not. You may want to check with an appliance repair company or the manufacturer.

    1. Try an open dish of charcoal briquettes, or an open dish or two of baking soda, or both. Both are deodorizing. And, wash down the inside thoroughly with a baking soda and water solution, then rinse. Might work.

      5 Replies
      1. re: janniecooks

        I read a few sites which stated that charcoal works but an open box baking soda is more of a myth. It works, but very poorly.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          I read the baking soda myth thing also recently. A quick google didn't turn it up but seems like it was a reputable source.

          1. re: c oliver

            I think this is one, but I believe I read a few before.


            Baking soda is a great cleaning (and food safe) cleaning material. It just may not be great at capturing odor from the air.

          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

            I think it has to be activated charcoal, not regular charcoal.

            Can you isolate where the residual smell is? If the frig looks clean, the smell is coming from the "guts." You're going to have to open up the frig.

            Get the drip pan out, which could easily be harboring tons of bacteria/mold -- the reason for the smell. Is the smell more intense there? Look at the tubes and drain going to the drip pan -- clean those thoroughly, flushing them. Stuff in the tubes or a clogged drain are often the reason for bad smells. Check the manufacturer website for the manual or call customer service so you can see how to get out the drip pan and flush the tubes. Just between you and me, a lot of mold makes me very nervous. If mold is in the insulation, as this site says, the frig is probably toast.

            Take off the back of the frig and have a peek (if for no other reason than to vacuum the coils). Take a close look at the interior with a flashlight. See if you can see any black stuff, dried liquid, sticky stuff on the interior bottom, stuff on the coils, etc. Get rid of all the black residue (dirt, dust or, very possibly, mold) from the interior by cleaning thoroughly. Wear a mask so you don't breathe in the bad stuff. (Don't use bleach if you're going to be storing wine.)

            On that website, several people say ammonia is magic stuff for getting rid of smells. Crumpled newspapers, too. Try those after a thorough cleaning. Next, activated charcoal and more airing. Prop open the frig as much as possible (back off, door open, drip pan out), and put it outdoors for a week. Or put a fan at the open back of the frig for a couple of days and see if that makes a dent. If nothing works, have a nice little funeral,and be thankful you didn't store any wine in it.

            I bet the Glade Plug-in smell came from the previous owner trying to remove the smell of mold or bacteria. So that's just another thick layer of stench. Sorry you got slimed. It may take several steps to remove the smell out, but be patient. Good luck. Let us know.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              Yes, thanks for the correction. Activated charcoal/carbon is an effective way to absorb odor.

        2. I've had this problem with a cooler, although it wasn't a cleaning product that left the smell (unsuccessful fishing trip, a forgotten tray of once-frozen bait, a few hot summer days - you fill in the rest). Sunshine - and lots of it - was the only thing that worked. A couple of weeks of sitting open in the back yard, and the smell abated.

          1 Reply
          1. re: alanbarnes


            Drop it off somewhere along the I-15 as you pass the Mojave National Reserve on your way to Vegas. Leave the fridge door open. Pick it back up on your back from Vegas. Odors gone.

          2. The moving company that packed our good suggested I fill an old sock with coffee beans and put it in the fridge while in transit. It worked like a charm.