Those ice cube trays hanging out for months in your freezer may be holding more than just ice. They may be harboring odors strong enough to foul up the taste of the ice cubes, unnoticed until you offer a guest a glass of iced tea. The best way to prevent this from happening again is to de-stink those trays with a thorough washing, then a soak in water and vinegar. The next time you make ice, keep the trays in the freezer only long enough to make the ice, then store the ice in airtight containers.
What's That Ice-Cube-Tray Smell?
The ice cube tray was clean and odor-free when you put it in the freezer, but that's not the case months later when you finally use the ice. Ice and ice cube trays absorb odors from the freezer; the longer the trays are in the freezer, the greater the chance they'll pick up neighboring fragrances. In other words, you may not want to keep ice cube trays in the same freezer housing halibut. If the ice from your metal, rubber or silcone ice cube trays tastes bad, it may be time for a deep cleaning.
Freezers, if not cleaned and aired out once in a while, can develop odors, primarily from foods or spilled substances. A freezer with a serious frost issue has even more potential to harbor odors, as all of that ice absorbs smells, too.
Turn the freezer off, discard old foods and store the items you wish to keep in a cooler with ice packs. Sprinkle baking soda inside the thawed freezer, let it sit for 30 minutes with the door closed, then wipe the baking soda off with a damp sponge. A teaspoon or two of white vinegar per cup of water can also be used to wipe down the inside of the freezer.
Cleaning Ice Cube Trays
Wash the room-temperature ice cube trays in warm water with a squirt or two of dish soap or in the dishwasher if they're dishwasher safe. If they still stink, place them in the sink with enough warm water to cover them. Add 1/4 cup or so of white vinegar. Let the trays soak in the sink for at least 30 minutes, then rinse them off and allow them to air dry. Air drying allows any lingering odors to dissipate. If possible, wait a day or two before using the trays to make more ice, as this offers even more time for odors to disappear.
Preventing Future Stink
Silicone and rubber ice trays smell worse than other types of trays at times because the materials absorb odors easier than, say, a stainless steel ice cube tray. For this reason, you should only leave them in the freezer until the water has frozen completely, or at most, a few days. Remove the ice and put it in an airtight container to help keep odors at bay.
Some ice cube trays come with lids, which could also help prevent the ice from absorbing odors. Lids or airtight packaging are also important for any foods stored in the freezer, as this helps prevent both spills and odors that transfer into the freezer itself.
An open box of baking soda stored in the freezer can also help prevent odors. Replace the baking soda with a fresh box every few months.