Making sure your fridge smells nice is one of those obscure responsibilities no one warns you about when you head off to fend for yourself in the world.

It doesn’t seem that important until you realize you can’t open your refrigerator without losing your appetite or holding your breath. If that sounds like you, it’s time to figure out what the problem is and how you can solve it.

1. Letting foods spoil


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Spoiled food is probably the most common and worst cause of a stinky fridge. The stench of rotten food can permeate the entire fridge and hold on long after you throw the actual product away. When this happens, you basically have to throw everything that was near it away and scrub down the entire refrigerator.

Obviously, to keep your fridge smelling fresh, it’s better to just prevent food from spoiling in the first place. First, make sure your refrigerator is at the right temp (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or 3-4 on a mini fridge).

Make sure not to over pack the fridge as cold air needs room to circulate in order to keep everything fresh. Also, keep the most perishable items (such as eggs and milk) on the middle shelves, which tend to be the coolest.


Photo by Smita Jain

Of course, none of these tips matter if you simply forget to throw foods away once they’ve spoiled. The best way to avoid this is to know how long products actually last in the and write each of your food’s expiration dates on a white board on your fridge.

If you can’t keep up with labeling individual foods, at least make sure to put newer groceries in the back of your fridge and keep older ones at the front. This helps ensure that food doesn’t get lost in the dark corners of your fridge until it becomes as rotten and stink as Cruella Deville.

2. Improper storage of fragrant foods


Photo by Katherine Baker

Another common cause for fridge stench is storing fragrant foods. Even if your leftovers smell good at the time and are thrown out within the proper timeframe, they can leave behind an unpleasant smell that plagues your refrigerator for weeks.

To prevent this type of smell, store any leftovers with a strong odor in airtight containers, and for an extra layer of stench protection, wrap the container in plastic wrap. Also be sure to use the leftovers quickly by turning them into fun new dishes. 

It also helps to keep odor neutralizers in your fridge to counteract the natural smell that foods give off. The most common neutralizer is baking soda, but activated carbon, which you can find in pet stores, actually absorbs smells better.

3. Never cleaning it


Photo by Amanda Whitstine

Even if you follow all of these steps, your refrigerator can start to smell over time if you never clean it. But removing everything in your fridge and giving it a total wipe down can seem tedious and unimportant.

Instead, try lining your shelves with plastic wrap. If you spill or something in your fridge leaves a mark or sticky spot, just replace that section of plastic wrap.