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Why Does My Refrigerator Smell Bad? 5 Possible Causes and Solutions

You’re not alone if you’ve noticed an unpleasant smell coming from your refrigerator. A smelly fridge can be a real headache, not to mention a source of embarrassment if you have guests over. But fear not, there are several possible causes for a smelly fridge, and often, you can easily resolve them. In this article, I’ll explore some of the most common reasons for a smelly refrigerator and provide tips and solutions for getting rid of that pesky odor. So, if you’re wondering why your refrigerator smells bad and what you can do about it, read on!

why does my refrigerator smell

Reason 1: Spoiled Food

Spoiled food is a common cause of a smelly fridge. So it’s crucial to address the issue promptly to avoid the spread of the smell. Here are some simple daily habits you can follow to fix the problem:

Check for and remove any spoiled or moldy items

Take a look through your fridge and remove any items that are visibly spoiled or have an unpleasant smell. This includes things like moldy leftovers, rotten meat, and spoiled produce. Be sure to properly dispose of these items, as they can contribute to the overall smell of your fridge.

Use up or discard perishable items before they go bad

To prevent spoiled food from accumulating in your fridge, try to use them before they expire. This includes things like fresh produce, dairy products, and meat. Keep an eye on expiration dates and use the “first in, first out” rule to ensure you’re using up the oldest items first.

Properly store and label leftovers

Leftovers can easily spoil if they’re not stored properly. Hence, it’s crucial to ensure you’re using airtight containers and labeling your leftovers with the date they were made. This will help you track how long they’ve been in the fridge and ensure that you use them before they go bad.

Reason 2: Built-up Grime and Dirt

Built-up grime and dirt can significantly cause bad odors in the fridge. Over time, food spills, condensation, and other forms of grime can accumulate in your fridge, leading to unpleasant smells. Here’s how to fix the problem.

Empty and unplug your fridge

Before you start cleaning, it’s important to empty your fridge completely and unplug it to ensure that you have a safe and thorough cleaning experience. This will also allow you to spot any areas that need extra attention easily.

Wipe down the interior and exterior surfaces

Using a mild detergent and a microfiber cloth, wipe down the interior and exterior surfaces of your fridge, paying particular attention to areas that are prone to grime, such as the door seals and gasket. Be sure to clean the shelves, drawers, door bins, and compartments.

Use a fridge deodorizer

Once you’ve finished cleaning, you can use a fridge deodorizer to help eliminate any lingering odors. Several options are available, such as activated charcoal deodorizers or baking soda. Simply place the deodorizer in your fridge and let it work its magic.

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Reason 3: Malfunctioning Components

If your refrigerator smells bad when running, it could signify a malfunctioning component. It is most likely to be a burning smell. This is a serious issue that you should address as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your fridge. Here’s what you can do.

Identify the source of the smell

If you notice a burning smell coming from your fridge, it’s important to identify the source of the smell as soon as possible. This could be a malfunctioning compressor, evaporator fan, or another component.

Unplug the fridge

Unplug your fridge and turn off the power supply to prevent further damage. This will also help to reduce the risk of an electrical fire.

Call a professional

If you suspect a malfunctioning component is causing the smell, it’s important to have a professional diagnose and fix the issue. A fridge repair technician will be able to identify the problem and make any necessary repairs.

Consider replacing the fridge

In some cases, it may be more cost-effective to replace your fridge rather than repair it. If your fridge is old or has a history of problems, it may be worth considering a replacement.

By addressing any malfunctioning components as soon as possible, you can prevent further damage to your fridge and keep it running smoothly. It’s always best to consult a professional for any repairs, as attempting to fix the issue yourself could result in further damage or even injury.

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Reason 4: Improper Storage

Improper storage of food and drinks in the fridge also can contribute to refrigerator smell bad. To fix this issue, it’s important to follow proper storage practices and take steps to prevent strong-smelling items from permeating the rest of your fridge. Here’s what you can do.

Store strong-smelling items in airtight containers

Foods like onions, garlic, and spices can release odors that can permeate the rest of your fridge. To prevent this, be sure to store these items in airtight containers or wrap them in plastic wrap before placing them in the refrigerator.

Keep the fridge organized

An organized fridge will be easier to clean and will help prevent bad odors from developing. Use bins and containers to store items together and keep the shelves and drawers clean and tidy.

Regularly clean the fridge

A clean fridge is less likely to develop bad odors. Remember to clean the inside and outside of your fridge often and throw away any old or spoiled items. This will help keep your fridge smelling fresh.

Keep the door seals clean

The door seals on your fridge can accumulate dirt and grime over time, contributing to bad odors. Be sure to regularly clean the door seals to prevent this from happening.

Reason 5: Leaks or Moisture Buildup

Leaks or moisture buildup is another major cause of refrigerator smell. Water and moisture can accumulate in hidden areas of your fridge, leading to the growth of mold and bacteria, which can emit unpleasant odors. Here’s how to fix the problem.

Check for visible signs of leaks

If you suspect your fridge leaks, look for any signs of water or moisture. This could include standing water or wet spots on the floor and visible water or moisture on the fridge itself.

Dry up any standing water or moisture

If you find any standing water or moisture, be sure to dry it up as soon as possible. This will help you prevent mold and bacteria, which can contribute to bad odors.

Clean and dry any affected areas

Once you’ve dried up any standing water or moisture, be sure to thoroughly clean and dry any affected areas. This will help prevent bad odors from developing.

Check for and repair any leaks

If you suspect your fridge leaks, it’s important to have it repaired as soon as possible. A fridge repair technician can identify the leak’s source and make any necessary repairs.


If you’re wondering why your refrigerator smells bad, it could be caused by several issues. The best possible reasons are spoiled food, built-up grime and dirt, malfunctioning components, improper storage of food and drinks, and leaks or moisture buildup. It’s important to identify the cause and take appropriate steps to address it. This can include regular cleaning and organizing the fridge, removing old or expired items, and properly storing strong-smelling items in airtight containers. If the issue continues, you should consult a professional fridge repair technician to diagnose and fix the problem.

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