Why Does My Fridge Smell Like a Dead Animal?

The refrigerator is an essential kitchen appliance for all your household’s food storage needs. A clean fridge is a perfect place to store groceries, leftovers and to keep food fresher for longer.

However, there’s nothing worse than opening the fridge to grab a cold drink only to smell a foul odor like that of a dead animal.

Not only is such an odor extremely unpleasant and nauseating, but it can stink up other parts of the home too.

What causes the fridge to smell bad? In this article, we reveal the most common reasons for a smelly fridge. We also share how to avoid the smell of rotten meat and how to clean the fridge properly.

Why Does My Fridge Smell Like Rotten Meat?

The main reason the fridge smells like rotten meat is a result of germs and mold lurking inside.

The major offenders for stinky appliances are germs and molds. If moisture or spilled liquids linger inside the fridge, the microbes flourish, and the germ and fungus colonies grow. This causes a foul rotten smell that is hard to remove.

Moisture can result from the condensation from your fridge or perhaps from spilled food. Humidity from outside can additionally cause it.

Once the germs build-up, thanks to the desirable moist atmosphere, they get to a critical mass, and that’s when the fridge smells a lot like a dead animal.

Another potential reason the fridge smells like rotten meat is actual spoilt food. There are several causes for meat spoiling in the refrigerator:

Reason #1: Food is past its expiration date because of negligence, and you don’t know how long time the meat has been sitting in the fridge.

Reason #2: A prolonged power outage.

Reason #3: A damaged fridge that no longer cools or maintains a steady cooling temperature. If your fridge is working properly, but a rotten-meat smell lingers, you can comply with tried and tested tips to get rid of the odor..

How Do You Get a Dead Animal Smell Out of a Refrigerator?

There are at least 10 steps to get rid of the dead animal smell inside your fridge. The only definite way to get rid of the rotten animal smell in the fridge is to deep clean it regularly.

Here are the best tips from cleaning professionals. Be sure to unplug the refrigerator before you start cleaning.

  1. Throw rotten meat, cheese, and produce in the garbage or dumpster outside the home. Rotten food usually has visible signs of mold and changes its color. Be sure to open a window to improve airflow in the kitchen. This helps get rid of some of the odor.
  2. Remove all the racks, shelves, bins, and ice trays from the fridge and the freezer. Place them in the sink and store any glass parts securely while cleaning.
  3. If your sink is not spacious enough, you can use a large bowl to clean the shelves, racks, bins, and trays. Use a clean cotton towel to give the components an initial clean. Put the cleaning agent solution down the drainpipe when finished.
  4. Next, wash everything with a special fridge cleaning solution or use a diluted bleach solution to disinfect and remove mold and bacteria.
  5. Rinse with hot water and rub the plastic and glass components well to ensure any trace of bleach or cleaning solution is removed.
  6. Clean the interior compartment, wall surfaces of the fridge and freezer with the cleaning solution of your choice or a cooking soda paste. Clean the gaskets around the doors.
  7. Rinse away any chemical cleaners. The inside of your fridge should no longer smell at this point.
  8. Clean the exterior, including the door. Disinfect the handles and buttons.
  9. Leave the doors of the refrigerator and fridge freezer compartments fully open for 15 minutes to allow moisture to evaporate and improve air flow.
  10. Rebuild and put back the components that were cleaned.

How Often Should You Clean the Inside of Your Refrigerator?

You should clean the inside of your fridge every 3 to 4 months to prevent unpleasant smells and the build-up of dangerous mold and bacteria.

The refrigerator is among the most important appliances in the home and needs to be deep cleaned every few months. Consistent cleaning and upkeep ensure it functions properly.

Cleaning requires switching off the appliance, removing all food, and putting it into cool containers. Next, all the shelves, drawers, and baskets must be removed and washed with hot water, dish detergent, and a scrubbing sponge or cloth. Diluted bleach is another suitable option.

Can You Use Bleach to Clean a Refrigerator?

No, you cannot use undiluted bleach to clean the refrigerator because this substance is a harsh chemical cleaner.

However, you can dilute the bleach with water and use it to remove bad odors from your fridge.

Bleach is one of the most effective chemical cleaners and kills bacteria and mold on all surfaces, not just in the fridge. Since food is stored in the refrigerator it should not come into direct contact with bleach residue because it causes severe illness.

Therefore, it’s best to avoid using undiluted bleach cleaner inside the fridge and even on the door and handles.

Another concerning factor is that bleach can damage the fridge components, especially plastic parts. To use bleach safely, add 1 tablespoon of bleach into 1 gallon of water and clean the removable components of the refrigerator like the shelves and baskets.

Can You Use Clorox Wipes to Clean a Refrigerator?

Yes, it’s possible to use Clorox wipes to clean the refrigerator because disposable wipes are a quick way to remove dirt, mold, and bacteria.

You can also use Clorox wipes to clean up small spills and messes.

Using Clorox wipes inside the fridge is simple but be sure to rinse the areas because wipes can leave residue behind. A fridge with a sizeable mold infestation cannot be cleaned and sanitized with Clorox wipes.

Bad Smell Coming From the New Fridge: What to Do?

A new refrigerator often comes with a strong and unpleasant plastic odor. It happens because many fridge components are made of plastic which has a lingering smell.

This plastic odor goes away on its own after a couple of days.

The simple solution for this problem is to place baking soda in the fridge. Place the baking soda in a container or leave the box open and it will get rid of the new fridge smell in about 3 or 4 days.

If the odor persists, wipe down the shelves and bins with a diluted bleach and water solution, then rinse with clean water. Allow the fridge to dry before stocking it with food.

Bleach and ammonia should not be used. The internal liner may break or be damaged as a result of this. Cleaning agents with lemon aroma aren’t suggested since the smell of lemon might be irreversibly retained in the plastic elements of the fridge, causing food contamination.

The Stinking Smell Coming Out From the Back of the Fridge: What to Do?

There are many tips that help remove the foul odors from the back of the fridge.

Tip #1: Lower the temperature: Lowering the temperature can diminish the smell because it removes the humidity.

Tip #2: Remove food from the back: Rotten food is the likely culprit of the bad odor. Remove all the items at the back of the fridge and check the best before date to ensure they haven’t expired.

Tip #3: Clean the fridge: Remove all the items and clean the inside of the fridge. You might notice mold lurking on the plastic parts where glass and plastic come together. Check the spill-proof rack if your fridge has one. These prevent any spills and prevent bad smells.

Tip #4: Check the fridge door gasket: The source of the smell can be the food leftovers hiding in the grooves and crevices of the gasket.

Tip #5: Empty and clean the drip pan: There is a drip pan located underneath the fridge. The rotten meat stench can come from this area. The drip pan’s role is to catch any liquid spillage or food bits. This drip pan is located near the motor which is always warm. When the collected liquids are heated, they can stink like rotten meat. Therefore, clean the pan with a diluted bleach solution.

Tip #6: Check the water filter: It’s best to let a professional handle it but you can check the water filter. If there is some type of accumulation inside the drain system, it can make the fridge smell.

Tip #7: Clean the fridge condenser coils: After disconnecting the fridge, clean coils with a brush.

Tip #8: Stop odors: Odors can be removed if food is wrapped or stored in an airtight container.

Cotton balls soaked in vanilla can also help freshen up the fridge and remove smells. Baking soda is still the best odor absorbing solution and it keeps the appliance smelling fresh.


Mold and bacteria are the main culprits behind a fridge that smells like a dead animal. Expired foods are the main source of smelly bacteria.

The most effective way to remove bad odors is to clean the fridge regularly with cleaning solutions such as bleach diluted in water. Checking all the fridge components for mold is a sure way to prevent bacteria and fungus build-up.

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