How can I make my refrigerator stop reeking
October 14, 2005 10:15 AM   Subscribe

My refrigerator reeks like a landfill, with no apparent reason for it. Please help me.

So, I've removed absolutely everything questionable, I've scrubbed it very thoroughly, and I've put in baking soda. These activities improved things a bit for about a week and now it is again emitting a vile deathly stench. If anyone who has won a battle with Mystery Fridge Stink would be kind enough to share their wisdom, I would be most appreciative.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Dead mouse behind the fridge.
posted by nev at 10:18 AM on October 14, 2005

If you have any, ask your children what they've done to it.
posted by wumpus at 10:21 AM on October 14, 2005

A few possible culprits

1. vegetable matter soup hiddenbeneath the drawers in the fridge
2. mold/scuzz growing on the water tray that is underneath the fridge [should dry up when fan blows over it, sometimes doesn't]
3. rotten something in freezer [esp if you have a frost free model, these scents can circulate to the fridge]
4. and yes, dead mouse
posted by jessamyn at 10:23 AM on October 14, 2005

What nev said. For mice behind the fridge is a penthouse on central park west.

Once had a caterer leave a tray of lasagna on top of the fridge, that took about 5 months to find.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:25 AM on October 14, 2005

Check to see if you have a drip (condensation) tray underneath the unit. Food debris can find its way in there and rot. The gases released by the microorganisms that cause the rot are the smell.
posted by Fuka at 10:29 AM on October 14, 2005

Response by poster: Re: mice, the smell is released into the apartment when the refrigerator door is opened, so I don't think it's anything going on outside of the 'airtight' area inside the fridge. Still, I had a similar concern when the smell first came back and checked behind and around the fridge, and there are no mice, dead or otherwise. There is a drip tray but I've already cleaned it, and I found a little bit of vegetable goo but I got rid of it.

Nonetheless, all good advice and thanks!

Something rotting in the freezer is a real possibility; it never occurred to me. That will be the next thing I investigate -- thanks, Jessamyn.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 10:38 AM on October 14, 2005

Thanks for asking this! I'm having the same problem and all there is in there is booze at this point. Whatever stinks is messing up the taste of my water pitcher though. I too will check on the freezer.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:50 AM on October 14, 2005

When this happened to me, the culprit was actually the garbage can next to the refrigerator. The stink (which wasn't that bad coming out of the can itself) was being pulled into the refrigerator and growing to infinite power inside.

I went crazy trying to locate the source of the stink. Then I took out the trash and sniffed inside the empty garbage can. It was evil.

When I threw away the garbage can and got a new one, the smell went away almost immediately.
posted by BackwardsCity at 11:07 AM on October 14, 2005

We had stinky fridge and in addition to cleaning the drip tray (which wasn't it, we vacuumed the coils and fan (which was the issue) and gave them a bleach spritz.
posted by plinth at 1:08 PM on October 14, 2005

Stick a bowl of ExStink in there.
posted by majick at 2:33 PM on October 14, 2005

There's a link between the freezer and the fridge zones -- at least one to circulate air, and possibly another to allow meltwater to drip. Either one of these could have become clogged and moldy.

Yes, you'll have to thoroughly defrost, and maybe get in there with a nylon brush.
posted by dhartung at 10:57 PM on October 14, 2005

Best answer: If you clean it and it still smells, try putting an open container of ground coffee inside. When we moved into our house, the fridge had been left shut, and it stunk horribly. We put coffee in the freezer, and a few days later, all stench was gone.
posted by cass at 1:16 PM on October 17, 2005

Response by poster: Stinky fridge epilogue: I moved it, checked behind/under/above it again, cleaned under it and the area around it, cleaned the water tray again, defrosted and cleaned the freezer, removed all iffy food again, and basically scrubbed anything that could be scrubbed, for the second time.

In the end, no fundamental cause ever manifested itself, and after all of that effort, the smell (which had taken about 12 hours off, post-cleaning) returned almost immediately.

After seeing it recommended as a hint on "How Clean Is Your House?", I put used coffee grounds into a clean nylon stocking and put it in the fridge. 48 hours later the smell was gone. That was two weeks ago, so apparently coffee grounds exorcise ghost smells.

I've marked the previous post as "best" because even though I didn't see it before doing my own coffee experiment, it is nearly the same piece of advice and it was definitely right in this case!
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 2:26 PM on November 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

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