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How do I get rid of odors in refrigerators or freezers?

Objectionable odors can develop when food is left too long or is improperly packaged, when the drain pan near the condenser at the base of the refrigerator needs cleaning, or when the refrigerator is turned off with food inside and the door closed. Odors can be difficult to remove. Insulation absorbs some of the odor and sometimes makes removal impossible. Plastic-lined interiors absorb more odors than porcelain enamel on steel interiors. To prevent odors from occurring: Package food in moisture-vapor-proof material and carefully remove all air from packages before sealing. Clean the refrigerator weekly to reduce spoiled food odors by washing the interior walls using a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda per gallon of warm water. Defrost manual-defrost types when frost is about one-quarter inch thick. Keep an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator to absorb odors. Replace every six weeks to two months. Clean the drain pan and condenser coils, concealed behind the grill at the bottom of the refrigerator. Carefully remove the grill by pulling up and out. Remove the drain pan by sliding it slowly toward you. Empty the pan and clean it with a solution of baking soda or mild detergent and warm water. This is a good time to vacuum dust off the condenser coils. To remove odors: 

1. Choose one of the following cleaning materials and wash refrigerator/freezer walls: Vinegar--one cup per gallon of water, Household ammonia--one cup per gallon of water, Chlorine bleach--one-half cup per gallon of water. After cleaning, rinse with clear water and dry. CAUTION: combining two of these may cause toxic fumes to develop which could be fatal if inhaled. 

2. Another way to remove odors is to use one of the following materials to absorb moisture that contains the odor: activated charcoal, silica gel, kitty litter, fresh coffee, chloride of lime (slaked lime). These products may be available from supermarkets, pet supply stores, hobby shops, farm-supply stores or hardware stores. Follow these steps: Disconnect the refrigerator/freezer. Clean the refrigerator using a solution of two tablespoons baking soda per gallon of warm water. Place one of the previously mentioned materials on paper plates in the refrigerator/freezer. You will need heat and forced air circulation which can be supplied by a heater fan or hair dryer placed in the unit. Leave the door open and turn on the heater fan or hair dryer. 

3. Other methods to try include: Take out all removable parts and wash with warm water and mild soap or detergent. Also wash gasket and door liner, top, bottom and sides. Rinse well and dry. An unusual technique that often helps is to pack each shelf with crumpled newspaper. Set a cup of water on the top shelf or sprinkle newspaper lightly with water. Run closed unit for five or six days. This method takes longer, but has been effective in removing very strong odors. Repeat as necessary. Fill a large, shallow pan or bowl with vinegar. Let set several hours or as much as two to three days. Change frequently. Spray disinfectant around hinges, locks and into any openings. 

If the odor still remains after you have tried one or more of these methods, contact the manufacturer. The address should be on the appliance nameplate or in the instruction manual. If you can't locate either, contact your local dealer for the company address. Many manufacturers have toll-free consumer numbers. When writing or calling, have the following information ready: your name and address, make and model number of the appliance, purchase date if possible, brief explanation of the problem. 



References: Purdue, Wisconsin and Oklahoma CES



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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