September 18, 2008

How to Remove Odors Caused by Spoiled Food in a Refrigerator


Contact(s): Jenna Anding (979) 847-9228, j-anding@tamu.edu  
COLLEGE STATION – Among the many unpleasant consequences of Hurricane Ike can be the odors caused by food that has spoiled in a refrigerator or freezer that shut off because of a power failure.

Jenna Anding, a food and nutrition expert with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, offers these suggestions for eliminating refrigerator odors:

•Unplug the appliance and remove all spoiled food. If you are not sure whether or not the food is spoiled, throw it out anyway. •Remove shelves, crispers, bins and ice trays and wash thoroughly with hot water and dish detergent. Afterwards, rinse the unit with a sanitizing solution made by mixing 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water.

•Wash the inside of the refrigerator with hot water and baking soda then rinse with the sanitizing solution. Leave the refrigerator or freezer door open for at least 15 minutes so air can circulate freely. If the odors are strong, you may need to leave the unit open longer.

If odors remain, you can try one or all of the following:

•Wipe the inside out with a solution made of equal parts of water and vinegar. Leave the door open for several days so it can air out.

•Stuff the refrigerator and/or freezer with rolled newspapers. Close the door and leave it alone for several days. Then, remove the paper and clean with a solution of vinegar and water. • Use materials that absorb moisture and odors. These materials include activated charcoal, baking soda, or fresh ground coffee). Place the material in a shallow pan in the bottom of the unit and let the refrigerator run for a few days until the odors disappear.

If the odor gets into the freezer’s insulation, Anding said, contact the manufacturer for suggestions on solving the problem. However, at that point, there may not be anything one can do to eliminate the odor. “That’s when you have to consider more unpleasantness,” she said, “the purchase of a new appliance.”

If the refrigerator or freezer needs to be thrown out, be sure do it in a safe manner. “Childproof” the unit so children cannot get trapped inside. This can be done by taking the doors off, locking them shut with a padlock or removing the latch completely so the door won’t lock if it is closed. -30-