How to Clean a Smelly Freezer

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Unpleasant freezer odors can be removed with white vinegar or baking soda. Once the freezer has been cleaned, vanilla essence can then be applied to give a pleasant vanilla smell. 

Baking soda, coffee grounds, activated charcoal, or cat litter can also be left in the freezer to remove odors, and keep odors from coming back. Liquid chlorine bleach, diluted with water, can also remove bacteria and mold; however, it may damage freezer surfaces, and caution should be taken.

What causes a smelly freezer?

A smelly freezer is usually caused by spills and expired food, which leads to smelly bacteria and mold. It is essential to clean up food spills and throw out expired food, as the longer you ignore the problem, the more likely it is that odors will seep into the insulation and gaskets. Once odors get into the insulation, they can become virtually impossible to remove. Ensuring that food in the freezer is sealed can also prevent expired food odors from stinking out the entire freezer.

How to clean a smelly freezer

Cleaning with either baking soda or vinegar is usually enough to clean and remove freezer odors. However, if the smell remains, cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, and bleach may be required. Using vanilla, baking soda, coffee grounds, activated charcoal, or cat litter is optional.

If the odor is particularly unpleasant or difficult to remove, the evaporator coils, usually at the back of the freezer, should be cleaned.

Empty the freezer

The first step is to remove all the food from the freezer so that you can clean it properly. Check for food that has expired or packaging that is leaking. Next, remove the shelves or drawers as it will be easier to clean them when they’re out of the freezer.

Clean with baking soda

  • In a pan, mix two tablespoons of baking soda per quart of water. Rinse a sponge with the cleaning solution.
  • Wipe down the freezer surfaces, shelves, and drawers.
  • Dry the surfaces, shelves, and drawers with a clean cloth or towel, or leave them to air dry for twenty minutes.

Clean with white vinegar

  • Combine equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle
  • Generously spray the cleaning solution over freezer surfaces, shelves, and drawers
  • Allow the vinegar solution to soak for a few minutes
  • Wipe the surfaces, shelves, and drawers with a microfiber cloth
  • Dry the surfaces, shelves, and drawers with a clean cloth or towel, or leave them to air dry for twenty minutes.

Clean with liquid chlorine bleach

As previously mentioned, it is best to avoid using bleach to clean the freezer as it can damage freezer surfaces, and irritate or burn your skin. However, if the odor is particularly strong and hard to remove, bleach, diluted with water, can be used in some cases. Just make sure to wear protective gloves and rinse the shelves and drawers with water after cleaning with the bleach solution.

  • Combine and stir one tablespoon of bleach with one gallon of water in a large container.
  • Rinse a sponge with the bleach cleaning solution.
  • Wipe down freezer surfaces, shelves, and drawers with the cleaning solution.
  • Remove the bleach from the sponge by rinsing it in warm water.
  • Wipe down the freezer surfaces, shelves, and drawers.
  • Dry the surfaces, shelves, and drawers with a clean cloth or towel, or leave them to air dry for twenty minutes.

Freshen with vanilla essence

After cleaning with baking soda or vinegar, vanilla essence can be used to either further clean the freezer or left in the freezer to remove odors.

Further clean with vanilla

  • Add vanilla to a microfiber cloth.
  • Wipe down freezer surfaces, shelves, and drawers.
  • Allow the vanilla to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Dry the surfaces, shelves, and drawers with a clean cloth or towel, or leave to air dry for twenty minutes.

Apply vanilla to a cotton ball

  • Soak a few cotton balls in vanilla essence.
  • Place the cotton balls in the center of the freezer.
  • Disconnect the power to the freezer and close the door.
  • Allow the vanilla 1-3 days to absorb the odors.

Remove odors with baking soda, coffee grounds, activated charcoal, or cat litter

  • Either baking soda, coffee grounds, activated charcoal, or cat litter can be poured into a bowl and left in the freezer for 1-3 days to remove odors.
  • Disconnect the power to the freezer and close the door.
  • After 1-3 days, remove the bowl, reconnect the power, and refill the freezer.

Clean the evaporator coils

If cleaning the freezer surfaces, shelves, and drawers fails to remove the odor, dirty evaporator coils may be causing the unpleasant smell.

Make sure the power is disconnected before accessing the coils.

The evaporator coils are typically located at the back of the freezer. Depending on the type of freezer, the panel covering the coils may need to be unscrewed, or wedged off with a flat-edge screwdriver.

Depending on the type of freezer, you may need to allow for ice around the coils to defrost.

  • Once you have access to the evaporator coils, combine detergent with water in a spray bottle
  • Place a paper towel or cloth underneath the coils to collect dripping water
  • Spray the evaporator coils
  • Gently wipe down the coils with a microfiber cloth
  • Leave the coils to air dry for 20 minutes or dry carefully with a towel
  • Replace the evaporator coil cover
  • Reconnect the power to the freezer.
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