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How to Get the Smell Out of Your RV Refrigerator

How to Get the Smell Out of Your RV Refrigerator

It’s fairly common knowledge among RVers that RV fridges can smell. But there are a number of reasons why. Depending on the odor, the issue could be anything from food, to mold/mildew, to the interior of the fridge surface, to a mechanical/technical problem with the refrigerator itself. And as you might imagine, different sources call for different remedies. So in today’s post, we’ll show you how to get the smell out of an RV refrigerator.

What Is an RV Refrigerator?

An RV refrigerator is any type of refrigeration unit that is used to keep food and beverages cold in an RV environment.

Various types of refrigerators work in an RV setting. Depending on your needs and the way you travel, you can determine the best RV refrigerator for you.

Some RVers, particularly full-timers like us, choose to upgrade to an RV residential refrigerator, but fridge replacement can be complicated. Not only do you have to get a new fridge into your rig but you also have to remove the old refrigerator. (Try to avoid cutting it in half if possible.)

Why Does My RV Refrigerator Smell?

This is a crucial question because different odors indicate different problems. Depending on the smell, you could have an issue with spoiled food or spills, or the rubber components of the fridge may have taken on some mold or mildew.

Odors from food and beverage spills, and even just from the presence of certain foods (especially spoiled foods), can seep into the plastic and rubber components, causing lingering odors.

However, if you open your RV fridge door and smell ammonia, you’ve got an ammonia leak to contend with, and that needs to be resolved ASAP.

How to Get the Smell Out of an RV Refrigerator


The first thing you’ll want to do if an odor is coming from your RV refrigerator is to thoroughly clean the fridge, inside and out. Remove bins, clean the fins, and check under the fridge and around (to the sides) if possible. Be sure to also clean the drip tray.

Thoroughly, but gently, clean the rubber seals around the fridge door and door opening.

Use Vinegar

Cleaning your entire RV refrigerator with white vinegar, or a mixture of white vinegar and water can solve the problem of fridge odors. Again, don’t forget the rubber seals around the door itself as well as the door opening. And don’t forget that drip tray! You’d be surprised how often that turns out to be the source of a bad fridge odor. Moisture build-up in the drip tray can lead to mold/mildew building up… which can cause a musty smell.

Check Your Water Filter

If your fridge has a water and/or ice dispenser, replace your fridge’s inline water filter (on an RV, that could be installed beneath or behind the refrigerator itself). Sometimes mold can establish itself in a fridge filter that hasn’t been regularly changed. Changing your filter is usually worth the effort, and it may well solve your fridge odor problem.

Baking Soda

Many people regularly keep baking soda in the back of the fridge to absorb food odors. This is probably one of the most popular remedies for fridge odors, in fact.

There are a few ways to use baking soda in your RV fridge to combat odors.

You can use it to clean, especially areas that need scrubbing where food has spilled and hardened. The mildly abrasive nature of baking soda can help with the scrubbing of your fridge and can de-odorize fins and drip trays very nicely.

Another way to harness the benefits of baking soda in your RV fridge is to simply open a fresh box and leave it open in your RV fridge for several days or longer. Or, if you want to get cute/fancy, you can purchase a baking soda holder designed to be placed in your refrigerator, like this one:

Joie Moo Moo Fresh Freezer & Fridge Deodorizer, Baking Soda Holder Odor Eliminator, 1 Count
  • KEEP YOUR FRIDGE FRESH: Fill the reusable Joie Moo Moo Fresh Fridge with baking soda and place in your refrigerator or freezer to absorb odors for up...
  • WHIMSICAL DESIGN: Eliminating odors helps your food taste fresher longer, but regular baking soda boxes are boring. Bring fun and whimsy to your...

Finally, some people choose to pour baking soda into a small bowl and place the bowl of baking soda in the fridge and leave it there. You can also place a small bowl on each shelf if you’ve got a larger RV fridge or a residential fridge in your RV.

Fresh Coffee Grounds

Fresh coffee grounds are a fantastic odor eliminator for RV fridges, but you’d better also enjoy the smell of coffee because that’s what you’ll smell every time you open the fridge.

Put some fresh coffee grounds in a small bowl or plastic container and leave it open in the fridge. More than likely you’ll be able to remove the bowl of coffee grounds after a few days.


Vanilla has a strong and pleasant smell and can also be used to remedy (mask) bad odors in an RV fridge once the fridge has been cleaned thoroughly.

A couple of cotton balls soaked in vanilla or vanilla essential oil and left in the fridge for several days (with the door closed) may be all you need to clear unpleasant odors from your RV refrigerator.

Baking Soda & Vanilla Together

Stir a small amount of vanilla into a small dish or cup of baking soda, and leave it in the fridge to absorb odors.

Peppermint Oil

Essential oil of peppermint – just a small amount in a dish or cup or on a cotton ball – can eliminate fridge odors.

Just be aware that your fridge may have a minty-fresh peppermint smell for a long time to come.

Cliganic USDA Organic Peppermint Essential Oil, 100% Pure Natural Undiluted, for Aromatherapy | Non-GMO Verified
  • Certified Organic Peppermint Oil - Cliganic organic essential oils are proudly USDA organic certified to ensure ultimate quality and integrity.
  • 100% Pure, Single Ingredient Oil - Cliganic organic essential oils are a single-ingredient product. No synthetic additives, ever.


Charcoal is absorbent, and therefore some people use a few charcoal briquettes in the fridge to absorb stubborn odors.

Prior to using any of the odor absorbing methods above, however, be sure to thoroughly clean all aspects of your RV refrigerator using vinegar, baking soda, or both.

What Methods Have You Used to Get the Smell Out of Your RV Refrigerator?

Have you dealt with fridge odors in your RV? How did you remedy the problem? Drop us a comment and let us know!

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Scott Floyd

Wednesday 4th of January 2023

Great tips and reminders. I learn a lot from you and it makes my RV life better.


Wednesday 4th of January 2023

Thanks, Scott! Glad you find our tips helpful! Always nice to hear!

Tom Sherry

Monday 12th of September 2022

I used a 2 pass method. 1st I aired it out for several days. Hard fan blowing directly in. Then I turned it back on after soap and water, still stunk! Then I warmed it back to room temp and hit it with 25% White Vinegar 75% Water in a stray bottle. I soaked ever square inch with it. wiped down with water, Then I did plates (2 in fridge 1 in Freezer) of Baking Soda with Vanilla Extract in it and back to cool. I use plates for surface area.


Monday 12th of September 2022

Thanks for sharing your technique!

Bruce & Monica

Friday 26th of August 2022

I'll give the vinegar and baking soda cleaning and let ya know. Thanks for the heads up.


Wednesday 25th of May 2022

After thoroughly cleaning the freezer I used bamboo charcoal bags with good results. They available on Amazon and at Walmart. It takes a little time, but totally worked at removing the spoiled food smell.


Thursday 26th of May 2022

Good to know, Rick. We'll have to check 'em out!

Nathan Gilpin

Tuesday 24th of May 2022

I have used crumpled newspaper in the frig for many years to help control mold and mildew and some odors too.


Tuesday 24th of May 2022

Interesting, Nathan. Never heard that one for newspapers before... using them to clean windows? Sure. Control odors? Nope... that's a new one! Good to know!

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PLEASE NOTE: We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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