Many things can cause your freezer to develop odors, making your ice cubes taste unpleasant as well as the frozen food stored inside. If your new fridge smells like plastic, this is only temporary. But bacteria are usually to blame for lingering odors, and these pathogens can take up residence in your fridge and freezer in a number of places and ways. Fortunately, freezer smells are easy to get rid of and can be prevented by simple maintenance.
Freezer odor may be present for numerous reasons, including bacteria buildup in the icemaker, spoiled food and freezer burn.
Freezer Smells From Ice Makers
The ice maker is one place where bacteria can build up easily. Moisture becomes trapped in crevices and along edges and corners of the ice maker and ice storage bin, causing the ice to have a funny taste and making your freezer smell. Cleaning the ice maker and ice bin frequently with an anti-bacterial cleanser will remove existing bacteria and help prevent more from growing.
Using up ice quickly prevents ice from sitting in a moist environment and becoming contaminated. If you aren't using much ice or are going on vacation, shut off the ice maker until you plan to use it again.
Check for Spoiled Food
Rotting or spoiled food is another suspect when it comes to freezer odor. Any food that goes into the freezer needs to be sealed in an airtight bag; some foods, such as broccoli, kale and other greens, require blanching -- quick cooking -- or full cooking before they can be safely frozen. Starchy vegetables, including potatoes or yams, and stuffed items, like stuffed mushrooms or peppers, should be fully cooked.
Spoiled food in your refrigerator can also cause freezer odor, with smells moving from one part of the appliance to another. Check your stored food frequently and throw it away or compost it at the first signs of spoilage.
Freezer Burn Odor
Freezer burn occurs when food is improperly frozen or frozen in too cold of a freezer, and can also cause freezer odors. If you see food in your freezer that has fuzzy-looking ice on it or small crystals of ice in the packaging, it probably has freezer burn. Even pre-packaged food can get freezer burn.
The best way to prevent freezer burn is to use food soon after purchasing or freezing, and to make sure that if you are storing it for long periods, it is sealed in airtight packaging and kept at the correct temperature.
Cleaning and Odor Absorption
Cleaning the freezer and refrigerator frequently is the best way to prevent a stinky fridge. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends regularly cleaning the unit, including all shelves and drawers, with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
If you have stubborn odors, try leaving an open, full box of baking soda or an open bag of coffee grounds in the freezer to help absorb the odors. Change the baking soda or coffee grounds every two to three days until the odors are absorbed. This can take anywhere from two to three days or up to a week.
Kochava R. Greene
Kochava R. Greene has been a freelance editor since the early 1990s. She has served as a developmental writer on topics ranging from political science to economics. Greene has written on gardening, cultural and social topics, pet care, cooking and more for Demand Studios.