Why Does My Freezer Smell Bad? Common Causes and Solutions

Ever open your freezer door and get hit with a foul odor? Making you wonder why does my freezer smell?

Yeah, it’s not pleasant.

A stinky freezer can put a damper on your day. And let’s not get started with figuring out how to get rid of the burnt plastic smell.

 But don’t worry; a few common culprits are behind that unpleasant smell. The good news is that they’re often easy to remedy. You’ll be back to enjoying your frozen treats and meals in no time.

Whether it’s spoiled food, a buildup of ice, or something else, we’ve got you covered.

Why Does My Freezer Smell: Spoiled or Stale Food

Have you noticed a foul smell coming from your freezer lately? Chances are, it’s spoiled or stale food that’s been forgotten about. It happens to all of us at some point!

The most common culprit is meat, poultry, or seafood past its prime.

As food ages, bacteria multiply, causing that disgusting odor. As a result, check for packages that are frostbitten, discolored, or have a ‘use by’ date way in the past. Get rid of anything questionable immediately.

Forgotten leftovers or unlabeled containers are also likely suspects.

Do an inventory of your freezer and throw out anything you can’t identify or don’t remember putting in there. When you have leftovers, label and date them before freezing so you know exactly how long they’ve been stored.

Spills, drips, or crumbs accumulated in your freezer over time can also become rancid.

Give your freezer a good wipe down, paying attention to seals, hinges, and any built-in drawers or baskets. While doing so, use an all-purpose cleaner or a water and white vinegar solution; don’t forget to dry completely to prevent future messes.

An open package of baking soda placed in the freezer can help prevent and absorb odors. Be sure to change it every few months.

And in the future, wrap or seal food before freezing and avoid over-filling your freezer, which prevents air circulation.

You’ll get your freezer smelling fresh again with a good deep clean and a few preventative habits. Then you can stock up without worry for the months ahead!

Dirty Freezer Seals or Gaskets

If your freezer smells funky, the culprit could be dirty or damaged seals or gaskets.

These rubber seals around the door help keep cold and warm air in. Thus, they can get grimy over time with built-up food particles, ice, and moisture.

To clean your freezer seals, unplug the freezer and let it defrost thoroughly.

Then, use a damp cloth, sponge, or scrub brush and a mixture of warm water and dish soap, white vinegar, or a commercial freezer cleaner.

Scrub away any visible dirt or debris stuck to the seals. Rinse well with water and let air dry completely before plugging in your freezer again.

For stubborn smells, you may need to remove the seals to clean and sanitize them thoroughly.

Check your freezer’s manual for instructions on properly removing the seals so you can reinstall them.

Once removed, soak the seals in a sanitizing solution like diluted bleach (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) or a commercial disinfectant. Rinse them off, dry them, and then reinstall them.

Badly damaged or torn seals won’t correctly insulate your freezer, causing temperature fluctuations, increased energy usage, and spoilage.

If cleaning doesn’t help or the seals are visibly damaged, it’s best to replace them. Replacement seals can be purchased online or from an appliance parts store.

Regular cleaning and seal inspections allow you to keep your freezer smelling fresh and operating efficiently for years.

Spills and Splatter Inside the Freezer

Leftovers and spills

Has something spilled or splattered in your freezer recently? Leftovers and messy freezer accidents are common culprits for unpleasant smells.

As food particles freeze and thaw, they can get stuck in cracks and crevices. This causes odors to build up over time.

Regularly inspect your freezer for any signs of spills or splatters and wipe them up promptly. Even a tiny sauce dribble or broth drop can get trapped and lead to smells.

Do a deep clean of your freezer, wiping down walls and drawers and mopping up any sticky spots. Pay extra attention to door seals and tracks where splatters often hide.

For stuck-on messes, use a degreasing dish soap and warm water.

Baking soda also helps absorb and eliminate odors. Make a paste from baking soda and water and scrub any problem areas before rinsing clean with water.

Leave the door open to air out and dry completely to prevent musty smells from developing.

Forgotten food

Have you left leftovers or other perishable food in the freezer for an extended time?

Frozen food that has been overlooked for months, or even years, is a recipe for a foul freezer. Inspect your freezer and discard anything expired or you can no longer identify.

As a rule of thumb, discard any frozen leftovers or meals after 3 to 6 months for the best quality. Meat like chicken, fish, and ground beef is best used within nine months.

A freezer burn smell is a sure sign you have forgotten leftovers that need to be tossed.

Clean your freezer thoroughly after removing any expired items. The odors can linger even after the source has been removed.

Freshen your freezer by wiping it down with white vinegar or leaving an open box of baking soda inside to help eliminate any remaining odors before they worsen.

Inefficient Freezer Coils or Fans

If your freezer smells bad, one possible culprit could be inefficient or failing freezer coils or fans.

Failing Freezer Coils

The coils in your freezer help remove heat to keep things cold. Over time, these coils can become coated in dust, grime, and ice. You are making them less efficient at cooling.

This can lead to food spoilage, which causes nasty smells.

It’s a good idea to defrost and clean your freezer coils once a year.

Pull your freezer away from the wall, unplug it, and let it thaw completely. Use a vacuum with an extension hose to suction up any dirt or debris from the coils.

You should also check that the seal around the freezer door is clean and tightly sealed when closed to prevent outside air from getting in.

Malfunctioning Freezer Fan

The fan in your freezer helps circulate the cold air to keep temperatures consistent throughout.

If this fan stops working or slows down, it won’t be able to circulate the air properly, leading to temperature fluctuations that spoil food.

You may notice certain areas of your freezer seem warmer than others.

Unfortunately, freezer fan repair or replacement typically requires a technician. It’s best to call a professional to inspect, diagnose and fix or replace the fan to get your freezer cooling and circulating well again.

What to do

Listen for strange noises like squealing, grinding, or rattling sounds that could indicate failing coils or a malfunctioning fan.

Please don’t overload your freezer, which makes it work harder and run less efficiently.

Keep the seal around the freezer door clean to prevent outside air from getting in.

Defrost manual defrost freezers regularly and clean the coils once a year.

Call a technician if you suspect a problem with the coils or fan – it’s not worth risking food spoilage or safety issues.

Find the problem!

Getting to the root cause of any smells in your freezer and performing regular maintenance will help keep your freezer fresher and prevent future issues.

Ensure that stored food hasn’t spoiled, which could contribute to any nasty odors. By keeping your freezer clean and running efficiently, you’ll avoid having to ask why does my freezer smell bad?

FAQ: How to Get Rid of Freezer Smells

Freezer smells can happen for a few common reasons, but don’t worry; they’re often easy to eliminate. Here are some FAQs about funky freezer odors and how to freshen up your icebox.

Spoiled Food

The most likely culprit for foul freezer smells is spoiled food. Raw meat, seafood, or leftovers that were forgotten in the back of your freezer can go bad and cause unpleasant odors.

What to do!

Throw out any expired or unidentifiable frozen items. Check package dates and toss anything older than 6-12 months.

Wipe down the inside of the freezer with a commercial freezer cleaner or a natural solution of baking soda and water to remove stuck-on bits of spoiled food.

Leave the freezer door open to air it out for a few hours if the smell is strong. Place some activated charcoal, coffee grounds, or baking soda inside to help absorb and eliminate odors.

Spills and Splatter

Little drips and splatters from packaging frozen foods can build up over time and become stinky. It’s a good idea to do a deep clean of your freezer periodically.

What to do!

Remove all items from the freezer and wash the inside with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.

Check that all packages are securely sealed before returning items to the freezer: double bag meat, poultry, and seafood for extra protection from leaks and spills.

Place a freezer-safe tray under meat packages to catch any drips. Empty and wash the tray regularly.

Gasket Seal Issues

If your freezer door doesn’t seem to close tightly, the rubber gasket seal may need replacing. A broken or damaged gasket will let warm, moist air into the freezer, leading to frost buildup, temperature fluctuations, and stinky smells.

What to do!

Inspect the gasket seal around the freezer door for any tears, cracks, or signs of wear and damage.

Replace the gasket seal if needed. Check your freezer’s model number and order a replacement gasket online or from an appliance parts store.

Ensure the new gasket is installed correctly around the door to ensure an airtight seal.

Drainage Problems

Some freezers have a drainage hole or channel at the bottom to prevent excess water buildup. If this drainage path gets clogged, stagnant water can collect in the freezer and cause unpleasant smells.

What to do!

Locate the drainage hole or channel in your freezer and check that it’s clear of any debris.

Use a turkey baster or small wet/dry vac to suction out any standing water from the freezer floor.

Pour a mixture of water and white vinegar down the


So there you have it—the most common culprits behind that unpleasant smell coming from your freezer.

Now that you know the possible causes, you can take action to remedy the situation. Start by defrosting your freezer, wiping it down, and cleaning up any spills.

Check that the seal is still intact and replace it if needed. Be diligent about promptly sealing and properly wrapping foods before storing them. If odors remain, try leaving an open box of baking soda in the freezer to help absorb them.

And for the most stubborn smells, you may need to unplug the freezer for a few days, scrub it thoroughly, and leave it open to air completely.

With some detective work and elbow grease, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying odor-free frozen foods again in no time. Sweet smells and happy eating!

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