Folks who lose power, after a storm or from another outage, are left with a lingering problem: refrigerator odor.

The smell from spoiled foods can remain even after the food has been removed and the electricity restored. A good cleaning and some odor-removal methods may solve the problem.

Start by cleaning the refrigerator compartment thoroughly. Unplug the appliance, remove all food and removable interior parts, and wash the interior with a solution of 1 to 2 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water. Rinse and wipe dry.

Leave the door open and let the refrigerator air out well, with a fan directed toward the inside. If weather permits, open your kitchen windows.

Field recommends washing removable shelves and other parts in a warm detergent solution. Clean the door gasket with a detergent solution, too.

Next, clean the freezer compartment following the instructions that came with the appliance manual.

If odor remains, Field suggests trying one or all of these removal methods:

  1. Spread baking soda on shallow pans and place them on the shelves of the empty refrigerator to absorb odors. Leave the door open and the refrigerator unplugged.
  2. Spread activated carbon, also called activated charcoal, in shallow pans and place the pans on the shelves. Turn the refrigerator on low and run it empty a few days till the odors are absorbed.

Activated carbon is often available with the aquarium supplies at pet stores. It’s also sometimes sold in the housewares section of mass merchandisers and at appliance stores.

  • You can also try the same method with cat litter spread on shallow pans, several ounces of imitation vanilla (not pure vanilla extract) poured into a saucer or fresh ground coffee in cereal bowls. With the coffee method, a slight coffee odor may remain, but it can be removed by cleaning the refrigerator again with baking soda solution, Field says.
  • Pack each shelf of an empty refrigerator with crumpled newspaper. Set a cup of water on the top shelf or sprinkle the newspaper lightly with water. Allow the refrigerator to run for five or six days. This method takes longer, but Field says it can be effective in removing strong odors.
  • Buy a commercial odor remover and follow the instructions exactly.

If none of the methods removes all the odor, it probably has penetrated the insulation. You can contact Absolute Appliance Repair for an estimate on the cost of removing the liner and replacing the insulation.

Call Absolute Appliance Repair NOW if you have any problems with your home appliances!

Phone lines

(415) 831-1259 San Francisco
(415) 388-0690 Marin County
(650) 525-0512 South SF / Daly City / Pacifica