What is this horrible smell emanating from my refrigerator?
January 26, 2010 10:30 PM   Subscribe

What is this horrible smell emanating from my refrigerator?

Last winter, for about two weeks, my kitchen smelled awful. It's hard to describe this smell: the closest thing is that "popcorn" foot smell some people have, amplified three orders of magnitude. Then it disappeared for ten months.

But now it's back with a vengeance, permeating the whole main floor. Its potency comes and goes on an hourly basis. Sometimes it's so bad I can't even go into the kitchen, other times it's just mildly unpleasant.

It does not smell like rotting food, nor a dead animal trapped somewhere, nor urine from the cats. Inside the fridge smells fine, this smell is external. The exact source of the smell is difficult to find because it's so pungent, but moving the fridge to the other side of the room seems to have also moved the smell, so I'm really only 80% sure the fridge is responsible. The other possibility is the walls/ceiling, which is a dreadful thing to contemplate. I've thoroughly scoured the kitchen otherwise, and am sure the smell isn't coming from a cabinet or something.

Has anyone experienced anything like this? Any ideas on how to cure it, or why it manifests in colder weather? My best guess is interior mold, but I'm looking for other theories.

Bonus question: Am I going to damage anything inside the fridge by turning it on its side/back to take it apart?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect your drip tray is full of moldy water. Pull the fridge out, get down behind it, and look at the tray that sits under the compressor at the bottom. This tray is supposed to catch any water that drips out of the freezer during the auto-defrost cycle. Sometimes, stuff grows in it and gets funky. Eventually, the heat from the compressor dries up the water.

If that's not it, check the door seals for mold.
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:42 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's quite possible there is a dead rodent behind your fridge & it only smells bad when the compressor cycles on & heats the coils back there.

Why only in winter? Because that's when the Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict come into your house to stay warm.
posted by torquemaniac at 11:07 PM on January 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's quite possible there is a dead rodent behind your fridge & it only smells bad when the compressor cycles on & heats the coils back there.

Yes! I had a similar problem a few years ago and found a mummified mouse behind the fridge.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:19 PM on January 26, 2010

My guess is a moldy drip tray. You probably don't want to put the fridge on its side, but you should pull it out and inspect/clean behind and around it. Vacuuming the coils in the back can improve efficiency to boot!
posted by maniactown at 1:26 AM on January 27, 2010

You can disconnect your fridge and turn it on its side (movers do this, after all), but when you do so you are supposed to stand it upright for like 24 hours before plugging it in again.

Seconding the dead rodent being heated by something (fridge or your winter heat in general). I had one in a heating duct once, and it only smelled bad when the heat turned on and blew the lovely aroma all over the place. Drove the cat insane because she couldn't get in there... but lord did she try.
posted by rokusan at 3:20 AM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Empty all the shit out of your frigde and put it in an ice box (or "esky") and wheel the fridge outside. If your fridge doesn't wheel you need to burn it. But if it does wheel you need to take it outside and bleach the fuck out of it (front and back) and leave it out there for 48 hours. Then wheel it back inside but don't power it up for 24 hours. You want to let the gas settle. I don't know what that means but people are always at me like "you need to let the gas settle". I don't know any gases that take a day to settle but whatever. Do all of these things and you will be happy in your life. If it continues to stink buy a new fridge. Our planets' resources are infinite thanks to the Creator.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:26 AM on January 27, 2010

As a couple of people predicted, the drip tray was busily developing its own vibrant ecosystem.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:24 PM on January 27, 2010

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