How To Clean Silicone Ice Cube Trays (Get Rid of Smells)

Silicone ice cube trays can be a great way to avoid plastic and they are easy to use. However, sometime silicone ice cube trays seem to absorb smells and flavors and you need to clean them so your ice doesn’t taste bad.

Silicone ice cube trays are much more notorious for this than other kitchen utensils, as you can taste as well as smell them. So, how do you clean them and get rid of the smell?

This article will explain five potential options for getting rid of the smell and why they might work. I’ll also explain why your ice cube trays start to smell in the first place and the potential pitfalls of these fixes. Keep reading.

What Causes Silicone Ice Cube Trays To Smell?

It’s common knowledge that silicone trays, and therefore the ice cubes made in them, pick up and hold on to smells from your freezer. This can make the ice taste bad even if the water is fine, and that’s something we obviously want to avoid.

But food-grade silicone is eco-friendly, non-porous, with nowhere to trap the scents, so why and how does this happen?

Food molecules cause silicone ice cube trays to smell. These molecules smell and they’re attracted to freezing water. They enter the trays and eventually build up on the silicone’s surface. These food molecules act the way oils do, coating the surface and becoming hard to remove.

The solutions in this article should work because soap, acids like vinegar, bubbles from baking soda, and high temperatures break down or evaporate these molecules. On the other hand, cat litter soaks them up and takes it into itself—just as it does with cat excrement.

If you have a white residue on your silicone trays you may be worried, however this is normal for people in areas with hard water. When water has a lot of dissolved salts in it these salts can build up on your silicone ice cube tray. While the tips below will help a really good scrubbing is often needed for hard water residue.

1. Run Your Ice Cube Trays Through Your Dishwasher

Out of the five options to address your silicone trays’ smell on this list, which one is the least time and resource-intensive? 

That would be running your ice cube trays through your dishwasher. As I’ve said before, soap can break down the molecules causing the smells and therefore get rid of them. 

Soap is a fat-derived salt that is partially attracted to water and partially attracted to fatty molecules like these. This allows the soap to attract and break them up, so the water can wash them away.

Dishwashers also shoot high pressure water at your trays for extended periods of time which can help in the removal of the buildup of food solids and oils.

Beware, though; this option is gentle compared to a good scrubbing yourself and may not get rid of all the smells. It may even cause the detergent itself to cling to the silicone, causing ice cubes made in your trays to taste like soap.

2. Soak Your Ice Cube Trays in Water and Vinegar

Another option for cleaning the smell out of your silicone ice cube trays is soaking them in water and vinegar for 15-30 minutes or even up to a few hours.

Acids such as vinegar, like soap, can dissolve or break down the chemical bonds of the molecules causing the scent, allowing water to wash them away. But acid is still acid, so make sure you dilute in a 50-50 mixture with water.

Some people testify that cider vinegar works better than white vinegar, but there’s no scientific basis for this claim. Either will probably do the job.

This option is not foolproof. Like using your dishwasher, it’s gentle and may not get rid of all the scents clinging to your trays. It can also cause your ice cube trays and anything made in them to smell or taste like vinegar.

So give them a good scrub after their soaking to both remove any smells but then also a good rinse followed by air drying them to remove any vinegar smell or taste.

3. Use Baking Soda and Water To Scrub Your Ice Cube Trays

Sprinkling or scrubbing an object with baking soda is a common way of getting rid of pesky smells. It has broad uses both for pet smells, and food smells.

Baking soda uses a chemical reaction to create bubbles, which get in between the molecules of the smells and break them up, so the water can whisk away them down the drain.

Like the previous fixes, baking soda is relatively gentle and might not be able to get rid of all the smells. However, it shouldn’t leave a smell or taste behind unless you’re using baking soda that’s been soiled in some way.

You can also make a coarse baking soda scrubbing mixture by mixing your baking soda with a little bit of water. Then place the scrubbing mixture on your sponge and clean away.

Combining baking soda with citric acid can be extremely effective at removing smells as well as stains. Check the video below where they did this to remove tea stains, ‘ve used it effectively to remove stains from my Ember coffee mug. However, it can also be used on your silicone ice cube trays.

4. Bury Your Ice Cube Trays in Cat Litter

This option seems somewhat disgusting—after all, who wants cat litter in their mouth?—but some have attested that it works better than the last three potential options.

Cat litter is made to absorb and trap scents to keep your cat’s litter box from stinking up your house. It takes the smell into itself, and then it’s thrown away along with the litter.

Obviously you don’t want to do this with USED kitty litter, you want it fresh out of the packet. You also want to make sure you use the silica gel kitty litter not another type.

Silica gel is a desiccant that are designed to absorb moisture and other things. It is made from the same substance as sand so silica gel is safe to touch and use one your ice cube trays.

However, if you don’t own a cat, buying a big box for cat litter may be bothersome just for your ice cube trays. The good news is though silica gel doesn’t expire so if you buy a packet you can use it for years to come.

In addition, some cat litters have additives such as perfumes that may not be great for humans to imbibe. It also might not get rid of the smells entirely, or if it’s perfumed, leave a smell of its own behind.

Make sure to rinse your silicone ice cube trays after using this technique to make sure they are completely clean before you try to make ice again.

5. Bake the Smells off Your Ice Cube Trays Using Your Oven

This option is by far the most effort and time-intensive, but every person who’s shared their experience with their fix testifies it gets rid of the smells. That’s amazing!

As you probably learned in chemistry, heat excites atoms, which causes them to move rapidly—if it continues for long enough, the atoms will break apart into the air. This is how heat can get rid of the smells in your ice cube trays—evaporation.

Using the oven to clean the smells and flavors off your silicone ice cube trays is one of the best ice cube tray hacks out there. You can see the details in the video below:

Silicone, as you probably know, is a durable material and as long as there isn’t any plastic in the molds they should be fine to go in the over.

You can also use this fix on other silicone items, such as spatulas and parts of your pressure cooker. However, if you try it, make sure that your utensil or kitchen tool doesn’t have actual plastic parts that may melt or otherwise be damaged by the heat.

How Do I Remove Garlic Taste From Silicone Ice Cube Trays?

Garlic flavor or smell is one of the most common complaints about silicone ice cube trays. They seem to absorb garlic better than anything else. But how do you remove the garlic taste from your silicone ice cube trays?

You can remove garlic taste from silicone ice cube trays by washing them in a dishwasher or soaking in vinegar/water. You can also remove garlic smell by baking the tray empty in the oven for 30-60 minutes.

Like other smells or tastes, it’s just food molecules that have built up on the silicone’s surface, and you can dissolve or evaporate them to get rid of the garlic aftertaste.

How To Stop Silicone Ice Cube Trays Smelling and Tasting Bad

While the methods mentioned above are great for cleaning silicone ice cube trays once they get dirty or smelly it’s a good idea to stop the issue at it’s source.

It’s actually possible to stop your silicone ice cube trays getting smelly from the beginning. Here’s how:

Use A Lid With Your Ice Cube Tray

The best way to stop smells and flavors getting on your silicone ice cube tray is to get a tray with a lid.

The lid keeps out the smells and odors from your freezer and fridge making your ice taste better, but also keeping your silicone ice cube tray from smelling.

I’ve got a list of the best silicone ice cube trays with lids if you want to upgrade your set or check out these stackable ice cube trays with lids.

Soften Your Water Before Making Ice

If you live in an area with hard water it’s a good idea to filter/soften your water before putting it in your ice cube trays.

This will stop the buildup of residue on your ice cube tray which can lead to your ice tasting bad and even having white floating bits in it.

Remove Strong Smelling Food From Fridge/Freezer

Silicone ice cube trays absorb smells from your freezer and fridge. Most fridges use a single coolant and fan system to pump cold air through through both the freezer and fridge.

This means smells and odors from your fridge can circulate into your freezer and get on your ice cube tray. Avoid having strong smelling items in your fridge or use tupperware containers to contain the smells.

Take Ice Cube Trays Out When Not In Use

Often we’ll put ice cube trays in the freezer and leave them for months before using them. This gives them months to absorb smells and flavors from the air.

A better way to store ice in your freezer is to take the ice out of the ice cube tray once frozen and place in a ziplock bag or tupperware then take the ice cube tray out of the freezer until you need it next.

Key Takeaways

Silicone ice cube trays are notorious for attracting scent molecules that build upon their surface, causing them to stink or their ice cubes to taste disgusting. You can clean silicone ice cube trays, even silicone baking pans, using a dishwasher, water, vinegar, baking soda, cat litter, or oven.

Here’s how you can clean silicone ice cube trays and get rid of the smell:

  1. Run your ice cube trays through your dishwasher.
  2. Soak your ice cube trays in water and vinegar.
  3. Use baking soda and water to scrub your ice cube trays.
  4. Bury your ice cube trays in cat litter.
  5. Bake the smells off your ice cube trays using your oven.