A wooden tablespoon of baking soda against a black surface

Does Baking Soda Really Remove Refrigerator Odors?

The Scoop on Baking Soda and Refrigerator Odors

Even with regular cleaning and maintenance, your fridge will occasionally be home to some unpleasant smells. Perhaps you left that milk a day or two longer than you meant to, or the leftover takeout wasn’t well sealed, and the not-so-fresh smell is lingering. So the chances are, like most homeowners, that you are looking for a fridge odor remover.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that baking soda has many uses for odor removal, so you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s often recommended for fridge odor removal. But does baking soda really do the job and if so, how to use baking soda to remove odor from fridges?

The History of Baking Soda in Your Refrigerator

The fight with bad smells in fridges goes back to the invention of the first mechanical refrigerator in 1899. For a long time, most people kept their fridges smelling clean with chemical cleaners, which unfortunately come with poor environmental consequences. In1970, the world’s biggest seller of baking soda, Arm & Hammer, became the sponsor of the first World Earth Day, promoting its use as a green cleaning alternative. By 1972, most Americans were using a box of baking soda in their fridges to keep the bad odors at bay, and it became the standard way to keep bad odors at bay.

How Does Baking Soda Work to Remove Fridge Odors? 

The ability of baking soda to absorb odors is all about chemistry. Anything you smell is because of volatile compounds in the air that the receptors in your nose pick up from a cast range of substances. Most smells found in your fridge will come from fatty acids, such as the butyric acid emitted by butter when it goes rancid. You may remember from your school chemistry lessons that acids are absorbed by bases — and baking soda is a base. The baking soda in your cupboard is made up of uncountable numbers of tiny crystals, and every part of their surface area can pick up and neutralize some of those stinky fatty acids floating around in your fridge.

But baking soda is even more clever than that! Although it is a weak base, it also acts as an amphoteric, meaning that, depending on what it comes into contact with, it can also react like an acid. As some particularly pungent foods, such as garlic, chillies and curries are basic in nature, it can absorb their odors too.

Of course, not every smell in your fridge comes directly from food; some pretty nasty smells can come from a mix of bacteria and mildew growing in your fridge. Fortunately, the volatile compounds emitted from these are also acidic in nature and can be absorbed by baking soda, too. However, a small amount might not be enough. Rather than just opening a corner of your baking soda box, you might have to open it all the way and perhaps spread some out on a plate. If that doesn’t work, you may have to resort to stronger measures.

So, Does Baking Soda Really Remove Refrigerator Odors? 

As the science outlined earlier suggests, baking soda can indeed be a good fridge odor remover. although results are mixed if smells are extremely strong or there’s been a bad spillage that wasn’t cleaned right away. Baking soda also won’t prevent odors from building up in the first place, so you need other measures in place for this. Keeping a regular check on what’s in your fridge and giving it a thorough clean regularly is definitely an excellent idea.

What is the Best Way to Use Baking Soda as a Fridge Odor Remover? 

To effectively use baking soda for fridge odor removal, simply follow these straightforward steps:

  • Place a minimum of one cup of baking powder into an open, shallow container. Alternatively, you can just fully open the box it came in.
  • Put the container into the fridge, ideally as close to the source of the odor as possible.
  • Leave for three months before replacing the baking soda, or sooner if the odor is returning.

Unfortunately, baking soda is no longer useful for baking once it’s been used in this way, as it has absorbed the bad smells from your fridge. However, if your kids need to present a science project, it can be used to make a stinky baking soda volcano!

How Can I Get Rid of Refrigerator Odors Without Baking Soda? 

Not every kitchen cupboard contains a supply of baking soda, and you might not have the time to go and get some. Luckily, there are a few alternatives. For example, coffee grounds and oats are also excellent for absorbing odors. You could also cover up some odors by soaking cotton balls in vanilla essence and placing them in the fridge.

If those don’t do the trick, you may have to give your fridge a full clean; take everything out and throw anything suspect in the bin. Spraying the inside of your fridge with a weak vinegar solution and thoroughly drying afterward will get rid of most of the bad odors. 

Then, before putting everything back in, make sure all items are in well-sealed containers and there are no spillages on the outside of any packaging.

And, if you want to really make sure that you clear any lingering odors and leave your fridge smelling fresh without resorting to harsh chemicals, Fresh Wave has the answer. Simply wipe down the inside of your fridge with our Odor Eliminating Laundry Booster before placing the contents back in. Manufactured only using natural, plant-based ingredients in our US-based factory, this superb product will keep your fridge smelling fresh and clean.