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Help! My Refrigerator has a Chemical Smell

Woman with hair in a bun, wearing glasses, and holding her nose in front of a teal colored background

We have all been there, you open the fridge door and instead of being met by a neutral odor, your nose detects a chemical smell. This is not unusual if you use a lot of commercial chemicals or cleaners to sterilize your fridge’s interior.

However, the chemical odor could be indicating that you have a more serious problem. It will only take a few minutes to diagnosis the difference between the two and know what action you need to take.

To do the diagnosis right and choose the right action, just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to know about. Take a couple of minutes to get up to speed and be prepared for when it happens to you.

Removing the Chemical Odors

Variety of cleaning supplies bordering the edge of the photo, pointed towards the center.

Before we get to the issues that are involved with a chemical odor in your fridge, it is best to give you the instructions on how to remove those odors. Once you remove them you will be able to make a better diagnosis and find some serious problems.

The best way to remove the odor works for both over-used commercial cleaners and coolant odors.

Step 1 – Simply mix a cup of baking soda in a gallon of warm water.

Step 2 – Now wipe your fridge’s interior and do a thorough job as you do not always know where the odor comes from. It could be from your drawers so clean them as well.

Step 3 – Rinse the baking soda and water with a soft cloth made damp with a one-part vinegar and one-part warm water mixture. Dry the interior of the fridge.

If the chemical odor came from overused commercial cleaners, the odor should be gone and not come back. Unless you continue to use those commercial cleaners in the future.

When the problem is more serious, the chemical odor will come back telling you there is a big problem you have to deal with.

Figuring Out the Problem

Pink bottle of Freon with gages, hoses, and tools, on a deck

The odor from a serious problem, most likely a coolant leak, is not that hard to identify. There are several smells associated with this leak:

  • It is pungent
  • It can be acrid
  • Smells like nail polish
  • Has an odor similar to ammonia
  • Other chemical odors

When you smell those odors, you know you will have to call a repairman as it indicates a coolant leak. To verify that it is a coolant leak, check the temperature inside your fridge and freezer. If the thermometer registers a warmer than the setting level, then the fridge is leaking coolant.

The only way to fix this problem is to call a qualified professional repairman. You won’t be able to fix it yourself as you are not allowed to buy the Freon gas to install it in your fridge after the leak is repaired.

Alternative Serious Issues

Woman in a striped shirt holding her nose in front of an open fridge.

A coolant leak is not the only serious problem you will face when smelling that chemical odor once you open the fridge door. There are two other serious problems you may have to contend with.

1. Chemicals Have Been Absorbed by the Plastic

This is common in many fridges. When you use a lot of commercial, chemical ladened cleaners to sterilize and clean your fridge’s interior, those cleaners and chemicals can be absorbed by the plastic. That is not good when those chemicals are hazardous to your health if it gets into your food and beverages.

To get rid of the odor, just sprinkle some baking powder inside the fridge and drip pan. That will clean the plastic and the drip pan and free them from the odor, but the insulation is another matter. That may need to be replaced.

2. The Evaporator

This appliance part has the ability to absorb chemical odors as well. If it does, that will be one of the potential sources that you need to check, along with the panels surrounding the evaporator.

To clean these areas, you need to remove the panels and wash them in warm, soapy water. Then fill a spray bottle and spray the chemicals with the solution. After spraying use a rag to wipe them down.

Make sure to rinse those coils to avoid producing a burnt detergent odor.

Chemical odors are not the end of the world. You could consider switching from commercial cleaners to natural ones if that is the source of the problem. For other issues, you may have to call in a repairman to find the source, fix the leak, and restore the coolant. Once you know the source of the problem, you will know what to do.

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