There is a refrigerator that has been left with food in it and without electricity for some time, opening the door is 'unpleasant'. It either needs to be cleaned and restored to service or it needs to have the door come off to get it out of the house. In either case the stink needs to be managed before anything happens.

Optimally something I can toss in there and close the door would be the best solution. But I need some way to kill the stink before doing anything.


5 Answers 5


Most of the time when I am going to a long long vacation I just unplugged my refrigerator (making sure that it is empty first) while leaving only maybe 5-10 pieces of charcoal inside the refrigerator by putting them in a newspaper (make sure that the newspaper are open).

It is said that the charcoal eliminates odor effectively.

By searching it I realized that there many ways to eliminate the odor effectively.

Baking Soda:

Spread a layer of baking soda on a cookie sheet and place it in the refrigerator overnight or until the refrigerator odors are gone.

Fresh Coffee Grounds:

Spread a layer of fresh coffee grounds over the bottom of a cookie sheet and place in the refrigeratore overnight. A coffee smell will linger, but will disappear quickly.

Activated Charcoal:

Activated charcoal is available at most pet stores. Spread a layer of activated charcoal over the bottom of a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for a few days, until the odors are gone.

Unscented Cat Litter:

Place a layer of unscented cat litter on the bottom layer of a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator for a few days, until the odors are removed.

Source - Housekeeping.about.com

wikiHow states that

Dissolve 1/2 cup of baking soda into a sink filled with warm water.

And use that to

Wash and rinse all of the parts before thoroughly drying them. Don't forget to wipe as much of the walls and floor of the fridge as you can, even under the crisper drawers.



If your refrigerator is going to be unplugged, then leave the door open! It doesn't have to be open all the way. Wedge it open with something (hang the power cable over the front). Put a notice on it if other people are likely to close it.

  • This scenario generally develops when a refrigerator has been abandoned, like everyone moves out of the house. No one moving out cares, old food is left in the refrigerator and it spoils. Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 15:19

An open bowl of white vinegar works wonders to deodorize.

One of my roommates left the oven on for ten hours and roasted an entire family of mice. Our house smelled like rotting flesh but with three well placed bowls of white vinegar the smell was gone within a day or two :)

  • Does lemon work too?
    – Win.T
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 9:51

One more thing I want to add to the answer that was given by Bondoc.

Refrigerators have trays usually hidden underneath them. These trays hold all the melting water that may also include some residuals from spoiled food inside freezer. In order to get rid off bad odors, first remove the tray and wash it thoroughly and then place the products mentioned above into the refrigerator. If you have an old refrigerator and never heard of the tray, you will be surprised when you see how dirty the hidden tray can get.

Good Luck


As someone that's a landlord and dealt with this a few time this is what works for me.

  1. Remove all the offensive matter.

  2. Wheel it outside in the yard and hit it with a power washer or at the very least a water hose, spraying it down well, and draining it out, do it many times. Having someone to help tilt it while you do this helps considerably.

  3. Then Take a wad of newspaper and soak it in bleach and then shut the door with the newspaper in there. Do one for each compartment, one for the fridge, one for the freezer.

In a few days, all the bacteria is dead, therefore so is the smell. Remove the newspaper and wipe it down with a mild cleaner like greased lightning or 409 and plug it in.

If you want to prop both doors open to air it out for a day or two and leave it off, that will work too.

It should be as good as new.

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