You might find yourself asking why your freezer smells when it’s meant to keep food fresh. However, even freezers can succumb to odors that will eventually spoil the rest of your frozen goods.

These smells come from bacteria that thrive in freezing temperatures. In this blog, we explore the different causes of bad freezer smells and what you can do to stop them once and for all. 

What Causes Bad Smells in a Freezer?

Bacteria can still exist in frozen raw food. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, freezing food at 0°F only inactivates microbes, which include bacteria, yeasts, and molds. They will start multiplying again once the food thaws.

Some situations can have bacteria in your freezer multiplying unknowingly, which would explain why your freezer stinks. Here are some examples.

You Experience a Power Outage

Freezers losing power can create ideal conditions for bacterial growth, making your freezer smell bad. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, your freezer’s temperature must remain at 0°F for safe storage.

Power outages that stop freezers from maintaining this ideal temperature can cause food to spoil. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food can stay safe in a freezer during a power outage for 48 hours in a full freezer and 24 hours in a half-full freezer.

You Open Your Freezer for Too Long

Keeping your freezer open for too long will allow excess air inside. Whether you don’t close the door properly, or there’s a faulty seal, the air that enters your freezer will greatly increase the temperature. Fluctuating air temperature in your freezer can cause bacterial growth, which then results in bad smells.

You Don’t Store Frozen Foods Properly

Improper storage of frozen goods can contribute to unpleasant freezer smells. For instance, you might leave raw meat uncovered, exposing it to cold, dry air. That exposure will dehydrate the meat, losing its moisture. Dehydrated frozen food causes freezer burn, which is still safe to eat but will give off a bad smell.

Your Freezer Is Connected to a Refrigerator

Freezers that are connected to refrigerators are likely to smell bad because of all the different food products you keep in the appliance. All these items have odors that can migrate between each section of the appliance. Your freezer can pick up smells from your fridge especially if the unit uses a single evaporator, shares one cooling source, or has a common airflow channel.

How To Eliminate Bad Freezer Smells

If you notice any unpleasant odors from your freezer, consider the following tips to freshen it up:

  • Dispose of spoiled food: Take an inventory of all the food in your freezer. Discard any spoiled items that may be emitting foul odors.
  • Clean the freezer: Remove everything from your freezer and empty any ice or frost. Clean down the interior with a solution of hot water and detergent. Rinse the surfaces with a sanitizing solution made of water with unscented liquid chlorine bleach. Wipe all surfaces dry.
  • Use homemade solutions: If hot water and detergent don’t work as well as you want, the FSIS suggests trying DIY cleaning methods. You can wipe down the unit’s interior with a water and vinegar solution, which helps destroy mildew. Another method is to sprinkle baking soda or coffee grounds in a shallow container to place at the bottom of your freezer.
  • Leave the door open: Leave your freezer door open for several hours to allow fresh air to flow in. Place a fan in front of the freezer to further circulate the air and help deodorize it faster.

How To Prevent Future Bad Freezer Smells

Here are some tips to prevent your freezer from developing bad smells:

  • Keep your freezer clean: Consider scheduling regular cleaning sessions for your freezer. Wipe off any ice and frost buildup, remove any spoiled food, and replace the baking soda or coffee grounds often.
  • Store food properly: Pay attention to how you store food in your freezer. Ensure that no items are uncovered. Use plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • Check the temperature regularly: Monitor your freezer temperature to ensure it stays at 0°F or below.
  • Check for air leaks: Ensure that your freezer door closes properly. Check the gasket for any rips and have a professional replace it if necessary.

Get a Freezer Cleaning Service Professional

Bad freezer smells can be overwhelming and quite unpleasant. They come from bacterial growth, which is due to improper storage of frozen food and air leakage, among others. Regular cleaning can help keep your freezer smelling fresh. Even government agencies suggest homemade methods to keep freezers smelling good.

However, some situations may be too much for DIY approaches, and your freezer stinks because of a more serious problem. Consider getting a professional freezer cleaner to inspect your unit and assess your options.