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22 Apr 2021

Five reasons your fridge smells - and what to do about it

Is your fridge starting to whiff a bit? Deal with these common culprits to get it smelling fresh again
Looking into a smelly fridge

Spoiled food, a dirty drip tray, and strong smelling leftovers are just some of the reasons your fridge might be stinking out the kitchen.

Fridge fresheners and deodorisers are available but it's better to deal with the cause of the smell, rather than to mask it.

Read on for our tips on how to deal with a smelly fridge, and watch our video showing how to clean a fridge.

See how to deep-clean your fridge for in-depth cleaning advice.

Video: How to clean a smelly fridge

  • It's dirty inside Unnoticed spills or food that's gone off could be the source of the smell. A deep-clean should help you tackle the problem. Take out the food and bin anything that's gone off, remove the drawers and shelves and clean them separately. Then clean the inside of the fridge and dry it off before placing everything back inside.
  • The fridge's drip tray or drain smells bad Cleaned the inside, but the smell is still lingering? You might want to take a look at the drip tray behind the fridge, or the condensation drain pipe that runs down the back of your fridge. They could be full of gunk. The video above explains how best to clean these.
  • You're storing your food incorrectly Strong-smelling food could be the issue, so make sure you're storing your food properly in sealed containers. More on this below.
  • Your fridge's water tank needs cleaning If your fridge smells chemically and it has a water dispenser, it could be that the filter needs changing. You should find brand-specific instructions on how to do this in the user guide that came with your appliance.
  • It's not your fridge If after all that, there's still an unpleasant whiff in the kitchen, you'll have to look around for a different culprit. Blocked drains, food wastage bin, a forgotten and rotten banana at the bottom of the fruit bowl could all be suspects.

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Fridge storage: how to store food correctly

Prevention is better than cure, and keeping your food stored properly should be your first line of defence against unpleasant smells inside your fridge. These quick tips will help:

  • Keep food in its packaging This will help contain any strong odours and should help reduce crumbs and spills.
  • Use appropriate fridge storage containers for leftovers The same applies to storing leftovers. Ideally, you'll keep them in sealed containers and not just in a lidless bowl that will allow the smell to spread throughout the fridge.
  • Store condiments correctly Not all condiments need to be kept in the fridge. Soy sauce, tomato ketchup and brown sauce are just some of the ones that will do fine in a cupboard. Doing so lessens the chance of spills or smudges in the door racks.
  • Learn what goes where on the shelves The upper shelves in a fridge are warmer than those at the bottom, so it pays to place foods in the zone that best suits them. Meat and fish should be on the colder bottom shelf, cooked food and cream cakes can go up top, while dairy and eggs will fare best in the middle of the fridge.

Read our guide on how to store food safely in the fridge.

Time to buy a new fridge?

If you find your food is constantly spoiling sooner than expected, and you can't identify a simple fix yourself, it could be time to buy a new fridge.

Make sure you get the right size fridge and don't pay over the odds for space and features you might not actually make use of. Our guide on how to buy the best fridge can help you decide which model is best for you.

You don't have to pay loads for an excellent fridge, either. We've found a number of cheap Best Buy fridges that will keep your food safely chilled and won't break the bank.

Whichever fridge you decide on, make sure you shop around. Fridges are often heavily discounted as manufacturers bring out new models and retailers look to cycle through older stock.

Need a new fridge fast? We've rounded up some genuinely good fridge freezer deals.