Have you ever filled up your drink with ice cubes from your freezer only to have the ice cubes smell funny? Or worse they melt into your drink giving it a super funky taste?
I used to have this problem with my ice cubes and it made me super frustrated.
It's one thing to have smelly ice in my own drink but last thing you want to do is serve bad smelling and tasting ice to guests. That's just embarrassing.
I looked into it and found the most common reasons your ice is smelling or tasting bad plus some simple fixes for each of these problems.
I can happily say that now my ice tastes better than it ever has before (I'm not even exaggerating here) and I no longer have to worry about myself or my guests being disgusted my drinks.
Here are the most common reasons your ice likely smells bad plus how to fix it:
1. It’s Absorbed Smells From The Fridge/Freezer
This is the #1 reason you've got smelly ice, but luckily it's also one of the easiest problems to fix!
Did you know that smells and odors in the air can seep into your ice as it sits there in your freezer?
Did you also know that most fridges/freezers only have a single compressor unit?
This means your refrigerator pumps air from your freezer into your fridge and from your fridge into your freezer.
So not only can the food in your freezer impart smells and odors into your ice but last night's garlicky leftovers that are sitting in your fridge with nothing but some loose alfoil on top can waft their smells and flavors into your freezer and into your ice.
Smells and odors from the food in your fridge and/or freezer can be imparted into your ice when it's being frozen, or even after it has completely frozen and is just sitting in your freezer.
While this is likely the #1 reason your ice cubes smell and taste terrible, it's also a pretty easy problem to fix.
There are a few main ways to fix this issues and I suggest you do them all if you can:
1. Get Ice Trays With Lids
The best way to stop bad smells imparting into your ice is to protect your ice by getting an ice cube tray with a lid.
If smells can't reach your ice because there is a plastic lid in the way then they can't make your ice smell bad.
Ice cube trays with lids also have other advantages like being stackable and being less likely to spill. You can see our list of the best stackable ice cube trays with lids and find the option that fits your budget best.
2. Keep Your Leftovers In Airtight Containers
If you can't be bothered investing into new ice cube trays then you can stop the smell at its source by storing the food and leftovers in your fridge better.
Keep leftovers in airtight tupperware containers or plastic bags. Even things like cheese or fruit you can keep in tupperware containers to stop their smells wafting into your ice.
3. Store Your Made Ice Cube Trays In Airtight Containers or Bags
Again if you don't want to invest in new ice cube trays with lids you don't have to.
But once your ice is frozen (which usually only takes about 3-4 hours) you should then take the ice out of your tray and place the ice in an airtight container or ziplock bag for longer term storage. Here are some really good ways to store ice so it doesn't stick together or get smelly over time.
2. Your Ice Cube Tray Has Absorbed Smells
Similar to the issue above where you ice absorbs smells from the air your ice cube trays themselves can absorb smells from the air and then impart them into your ice.
One of the major problems with silicone ice cube trays is that they are porous and have a tendency to absorb smells and flavors – especially garlic.
If this happens and then you use this tray to make ice cubes those smells are going to go right into your ice – even if your tray has a lid to protect it from smells in the fridge/freezer.
The solution to this is to clean your trays really well.
Popular solutions for cleaning silicone ice cube trays is to soak them in vinegar mixed with water and then give them a good wash. If you do this you should definitely rinse the trays well and leave them in a well ventilated area to air dry before filling them up with ice.
Otherwise you ice will just end up tasting like vinegar and no one wants that in their drink!
Another good solution for getting smells of silicone or metal ice cube trays is to bake them empty in the oven. The heat will bake off the bad smells leaving your ice cube trays fresh and smell free.
3. Your Ice Cubes Are Old and Stale
Ever noticed how if you store anything in the freezer for too long it gets a lot of frost on it but also it can start tasting bad?
This is because while the freezer is great for slowing the growth of bacteria and mold it's not effective at completely stopping the growth of these microorganisms.
Whether it's from the slow absorption of smells in the air or from your ice cube tray or the slow growth of microorganisms over time your ice cubes are going to get old and stale and will need to be replaced.
If your ice cubes have been in the freezer for months then chances are extremely high they are going to taste funky.
Simply discard the old ice and start again. It only takes 3-4 hours to make fresh ice and there are some ways you can make ice even faster in your freezer if you need it quickly.
4. There Is Something Wrong With Your Tap Water
Sometimes the problem isn't the freezer or the ice cube trays but rather the tap water.
Things like dirty water lines or pipes can cause your ice to taste terrible.
Or maybe chemicals used in the treating of water (eg. chlorine) can make you water taste bad and thus your ice taste bad.
The solution to this is to filter your water before using it to make ice.
Boiling the water first will help to release dissolved gasses in the water, which can make your water taste better. This will also give you slightly clearer ice.
If your ice cubes taste bad but your water is fine then chances are it's one of the other reasons on this list that's causing your ice cubes to smell.
5. Your Water Filter is Old
Many new fridges with built in ice machines also come with built in water filters to filter the water before it goes into your ice machine.
These are usually only designed to last 3-6 months and they are often tucked away somewhere in the fridge.
Out of sight and out of mind could mean that your water filter doesn't get replaced as often as it needs to.
An old water filter can sometimes be worse than no water filter at all. Replace your water filter and you may find your ice smells and tastes a lot better.
6. Food Spilled Inside Your Fridge/Freezer or Mildew Growth
We've all done it.
You were sure you were going to eat those leftover or that piece of fruit only to find it 3 months later at the back of your fridge and now it's hairier that your grandfather's back.
This spoiled food with mold growth will release spores into the air which can get circulated around your fridge and/or freezer and end up on or in your ice cubes making them taste terrible.
Over time mold and mildew can also grow on your fridge walls or in crevices around your fridge. I personal had a lot of black mold underneath the magnetic strip on my freezer door.
It was pretty disgusting and I can't believe I didn't see it earily.
Throw out the spoiled food and give your fridge and really good clean every now and then to make sure mold and mildew isn't making your ice taste bad.
7. You’ve Got Hard Water
In some areas water is very “hard”.
This means the water contains dissolved salts and minerals like calcium sulfate.
These salts can add a bit of a bitter taste to you water and ice. Over time they can also cause a white residue to build up on your ice cube trays or even end up in your ice (and drink) as white floating particles.
While hard water isn't dangerous for you and these salts and minerals are fine to consume they can lead to your ice tasting not so great.
The solution to this is to soften your water before making your ice cubes. Regular carbon filtration won't work here.
Many households in areas with hard water have water softening systems installed. This is a type of filtration that removes the sales from the water. If you don't have one and you have hard water it might be worth getting a water softener installed.
Not only will your ice taste better but it'll stop limescale buildup on all your pipes, shower heads etc and overall your water will likely taste better.
8. Your Ice Cube Tray is New and Has a Chemical/Plastic Smell
If you've purchased a brand new ice cube tray it may have a lingering plastic or chemical smell on it.
These trays are made in big factories with a lot of chemicals floating around in the air. The manufacturing process itself may also use harsh chemicals that linger on your ice cube tray after it's made.
Also, sometimes silicone or plastic ice cubes trays taste bad because they are made with poor quality materials.
These aren't products that are heavily regulated so yes, there are some bad actors who put lower quality materials in their products.
To get rid of this plastic/chemically smell first soak your ice cube tray well in vinegar and water and then give it a good rinse and leave to try.
It can also be a good idea to make and discard a few batches of ice cubes before making ones you'll actually eat.
This will allow the water to absorb the bad flavors and smells and get rid of them so future ice cubes can taste better.
If those solutions don't fix the problem you likely have bad ice cube trays and you need to get new ones. Check out my list of the best eco-friendly ice cube trays for some good replacement options
9. Your Fridge/Freezer Is Brand New
Like above with our new ice cube trays it could be that your fridge/freezer is brand new and has smells left over from manufacturing that are getting into your ice cubes.
For this you might want to leave your fridge open for a few days in a well ventilated area to air it out.
I know this isn't ideal as you likely want to use your new fridge straight away but sometimes it needs to be done.
Alternatively, make a few batches of ice in your new fridge and discard them. Hopefully after a while your ice cubes will start tasting normal again.
How To Stop Ice Cubes From Smelling: A Summary
There are some very common reasons ice cubes tend to taste bad and most of these issues are easily fixed with some simple solutions.
If you ice cubes taste bad chances are you have one of the following problems:
- Your ice absorbed smells/flavors from the fridge or freezer
- Your ice cube trays themselves absorbed smells and are putting it back into your ice
- Your ice cubes are old and stale
- There's something wrong with your tap water
- Your water filter is old and needs replacing
- Food has spoiled in your fridge or there is mold/mildew growth
- You've got hard water with dissolved salts and minerals
- Your ice cube tray is new or poor quality
- Your fridge is new and needs to be aired out