I have an old refrigerator (the compressor died) and I would like to keep it as ambient room temperature pantry storage for food items which don't really need refrigeration, like coffee, dried food, powdered milk, herbs, oils, even eggs.

It would be good, as the fridge is pretty sealed and it prevents critters like ants getting in which otherwise seem impossible to keep away.

But the problem is if the fridge is not running and is closed, it develops bad smell inside, and it seems something wrong develops, so usually people have to keep unused fridges with doors open.

Is it possible to do something to keep the fridge not powered, door closed and sealed enough to prevent ants going in, but not develop bad smell inside?

  • I suspect this is impossible. The reason good old-fashioned larders kept food fresh was that they allowed air to circulate. A sealed box obviously won't do this.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 10:45
  • @Chenmunka But if I have a sealed container, like a glass jar, its fresh inside, no need for recirculation? So a fridge is just a bigger container, so why it won't work in a fridge like in a sealed jar?
    – lowtoxin
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 11:05
  • Don't forget that there are a series of airways where it would be difficult to sanitize as you could with a simple washable closed container. Even flooding the box with ozone would not eliminate minute food particles embedded over years of use in every crack and crevice. You would have to take the appliance apart and rebuild it for your intended purpose rather than to simply repurpose the complex assembly.
    – Stan
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 16:45
  • In some locations it is required to remove the door from an old unused refrigerator. The law may depend on the type of closing mechanism. Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 0:27
  • 1
    @blacksmith37: North Korea probably? I imagine they have special fridge police going door to door checking if your old refrigerator door is not on it. A regime never wastes and idea how to force others what to do, and employ more repression officers to enforce their bizarre laws. While checking the fridge they could also see if you have the right haircut, LOL!
    – lowtoxin
    Commented Sep 3, 2020 at 7:51

2 Answers 2


From what you've posted about the frequency of use of your cupboard I don't think you'll encounter much of a problem - opening any cupboard door creates an air movement due to a temporary lower pressure inside the cabinet..

Consider too that manufacturers don't have a problem shipping fridges closed; the last fridge I bought came with it's door mounted and closed between manufacture and installation and they just smell a bit plasticky

Thoroughly scrub clean and disinfect the fridge internals to remove old food and liquid deposits and see how it goes with opening the door several times a day as you naturally do when using it. You don't even need to fill it with food at this point, just open and close the fridge when you go into your normal cupboard for food to mimic real life use of the fridge and see how it goes

If you think it needs more ventilation than it gets, drill a large hole (couple of inches) in the side and the top, fit a fine mesh filter to the side and a silent computer fan to the top - it'll change the air inside several times per hour and you'll just need to vacuum the mesh clean every now and then. If you find ants are braving climbing through the fan, put a line of something they don't like (cinnamon, apparently, or peppermint perhaps) around it, or fit another mesh


First, you need to find a lower class of ant.

In my experience, ants can get inside packaging that seems airtight -- reclosed mason jars, honey bottles, etc. Not just into the threads, but past the seal into the actual food. They don't always get back out (which is how I know they get in)...

I don't see the magnetic gasket in a refrigerator being any better than a closed mason jar lid at keeping ants out, so I'm going to say this won't work. At all.

  • It's intended as an answer, of the general class of "this won't work the way you think it will."
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 16:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.