Spoiled food? Here’s how to remove odor from the refrigerator.

Soapy water with bleach can help freshen the fridge

Dec. 16, 2022

By Maddy Rohr, K-State Research and Extension news service

MANHATTAN, Kan – Spoiled food may leave many different types of odors in the refrigerator that can be hard to remove. Kansas State University food scientist Karen Blakeslee says proper cleaning and inspection is the homeowner’s best chance at getting rid of the foul smell.

“As winter approaches, so does the possibility of power outages,” Blakeslee said. “Refrigerators and freezers can hold cold temperatures for a short amount of time, but if power outages linger, food can become unsafe, spoil and leave residual odors.”

The first step to removing odors is disposing of spoiled or questionable food. Next, Blakeslee suggests removing the shelving, drawers and ice trays to wash in hot, soapy water before rinsing with bleach sanitizer. Blakeslee recommends once tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water.

To wash the interior walls, use a mix of hot water and baking soda, then sanitize with bleach solution. Blakeslee said these steps may need to be repeated several times to be effective.

“If meat juice or spoiled food has lingered in an appliance, it may have seeped into the insulation,” Blakeslee said. “At this point, the appliance may need to be discarded.”

Additional tips to remove odors are available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Blakeslee, who also is coordinator of K-State’s Rapid Response Center for Food Science, publishes a monthly newsletter called You Asked It! that provides numerous tips on being safe and healthy. More information is also available from local extension offices in Kansas.

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