If your refrigerator smells like chemicals it can be a confusing and worrying problem to have. The unnatural odors often alert us to potentially hazardous situations. But why is it happening and what can you do about it?
If your refrigerator smells like chemicals it is likely the leftover smell from the manufacturing process, which can hang around for days or weeks. Other causes of chemical smells in your fridge could be leaking coolant, cleaning chemicals or smells due to overheating.
However, there are things you can do to prevent the smells from taking over your home.
In this article, I’ll show you a few simple and effective solutions for banishing those synthetic stenches. But before we start offering fixes, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your refrigerator is smelling in the first place.
Why Does My Refrigerator Smell Like Chemicals?
There are a few common reasons your refrigerator might smell like chemicals. Some of these reasons and more serious than others and action might need to be taken.
1. Coolant/Refrigerant Leakage
One major culprit for chemical smells in refrigerators is the coolant/refrigerant system and occasionally it will have issues and begin leaking refrigerant gas into your fridge causing a chemical like smell.
The most common refrigerator cooler is freon R-134a (read more on wikipedia), however this is now being phased out in most countries.
When these gases are released into your fridge you may notice and acrid chemical smell or even a sweet chloroform scent. This smell only usually occurs at high concentrations.
But there are more signs of leaking coolant than just an acrid, acetone, or ammonia-like smell.
You may also notice your food doesn’t stay cold, puddles of oil begin to appear at the bottom of the machine, the motor runs continuously, and eventually, your energy bills will begin to climb.
If you suspect a refrigerator coolant leakage problem then you should turn your fridge off and contact a repairer to come and have a look at your appliance.
While this gas isn't toxic at low levels, I feel it's always better to be safe than sorry.
1. It’s A New Fridge
It can take new fridges some time to lose the plastic, and chemical smells used in their construction. After a couple of weeks, the smell should have subsided. But, until then, you might find that the ice in your new fridge tastes strange.
However, there are ways you can expedite the chemical flushing process. Try turning the appliance off and leaving the doors open for a couple of days. Or run two or three ice cycles through the system.
3. Harsh Cleaning Chemicals
Another reason behind the stench could be the use of harsh cleaning chemicals. Of course, keeping your refrigerator nice and clean is a crucial part of ownership.
However, because of the porous nature of the plastic in your machine, cleaning your fridge too often, and with strong commercial cleaners, can mean those chemicals start to seep into the plastic.
You should be aiming to conduct a complete clean of your appliance around once a quarter. Any further in-depth cleaning may start to affect the smooth running of the condenser coils and overall coolant systems.
Of course, you’re going to want to clean up any messes as soon as they happen. But other than that it’s fine to leave the fridge’s bathing schedule a little more spread.
4. Spoilt Ice
Following on from that point about the porous nature of your machine’s interior. If you have been using harsh chemicals in the fridge, then some of those products may have leached into your freezer and ice-making system.
You should be able to follow the cleaner smell into the freezer and ice tray. Luckily there are some simple ways to deal with bad-tasting ice, but I’ll come on to those in a minute.
You may start to notice an acrid stench coming from the refrigerator if it’s overheating. Believe it or not, your fridge needs room to breathe to continue working smoothly.
If your appliance is located too close to a wall, has been overloaded with food, or the condenser coils are clogged up with dirt then it can begin to overheat and emit those powerful odors.
Now that you know what could be causing the acrid funk emanating from your fridge, what can you do about it?
5 Ways to Stop the Chemical Smell Coming from your Refrigerator
If you've got a chemical smell coming from your fridge and you know it's not leaking refrigerant gases then there are a few different ways you can tackle these smells and remove them for good.
1. Baking Soda and Other Household Removers
There are plenty of things you can do when your refrigerator smells like chemicals.
This baking soda fix is perfect for removing the acetone or ammonia-like scents left over after cleaning.
However, you can also use vanilla, coffee, and even newspaper to complete the cleanse.
Baking soda remover
- Simply tip some baking soda into a bowl and add it to the shelf in your fridge
- Sprinkle baking soda into the freezer and drip pan too for an all-over clean
- Leave for up to three days and then remove
You can also purchase fridge and freezer deodorizers (at Amazon) which are designed to absorb and remove bad odors from your fridge.
This deodorizer helps to keep your fridge or freezer fresh from bad smells. It doesn't have a strong fragrance itself but absorbs bad odors from the fridge. Food safe and non-toxic this is effective for 6 months (6 times longer than baking soda).
As I said earlier, cleaning your fridge is still an important element of ownership. However, that shouldn’t mean going at it with harsh cleaning chemicals.
Standard household cleaners are fine. There are plenty of areas inside your fridge that can harbor a stink if you don't clean it carefully.
I recently found mold growing it the magnetic strip on my fridge door.
When cleaning, ensure you get into every area. The drip pan and vegetable drawer are often overlooked, but they can become clogged up with debris.
3. Evaporator Issues
The evaporator is a crucial part of your refrigerator. It’s the element that disseminates cool air throughout the interior and is ultimately responsible for cooling your food.
Because this is an air-processing element, it can also be the culprit of chemical smells spreading around the appliance.
If you suspect the evaporator then you can remove the panels around the part and give the whole thing a good clean with warm soapy water.
4. Clean The Condenser Coils
I mentioned the condenser coils previously. When these become clogged with dust and lint they can’t expel the warm air from the fridge and can start to emit an acrid chemical smell.
When you conduct that quarterly clean I spoke about earlier, it’s definitely worth giving these a wash down too.
5. When to Call The Professionals
You probably don’t want to hear it. But when it comes to chemical smells seeping out of your fridge, it may be time to get the repair team in.
This is especially true if you’ve come across a coolant leakage. I wouldn’t recommend trying to DIY fix a coolant leak as the liquid is toxic.
There are many reasons why your fridge may be giving off a chemical stench. Here’s my overview:
- Coolant leakage
- Harsh cleaning chemicals
- Spoilt ice
- It’s a new appliance
However, there is a range of fixes available to help correct those acrid odors.
- Baking soda
- General cleaning
- Evaporator issues
- Clean condenser coils
- Call the professionals