How to Eliminate Funky RV Fridge Odors

Did you forget to empty out the fridge after your last tailgate trip?

Or maybe you took the RV in for maintenance and didn’t leave the doors propped open.

Maybe it was that shrimp that was in there when the power went out at the campground during the summer.

Does your RV refrigerator have some funky smells that you just can’t get rid of? Follow these steps to get rid of RV fridge odors.

Tips to stop and prevent RV fridge odors! Don't let your RV refrigerator be a smelly mess!

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Deep Clean Your RV Fridge

The first step to getting all the odors out of your RV fridge will be to complete a deep clean.

Take out all the food and drink products. Yes, even that year old ketchup bottle and the jelly with the crust of sugar. You should also take out any removable shelves and door bins.

Now, we start washing.

Start with the removable shelves and bins. If the odors are particularly bad, you may need to do this twice. The first wash, use hot soapy water and then rinse with clean water. If the shelves and bins are still smelly, mix up a new batch of fresh water and add 1 tablespoon of bleach for each gallon of water. Make sure you rinse the shelves well and then let dry.

Next up is the interior of the fridge. Make sure you use either paper towels or soft sponges so that you don’t scratch up the fridge. Since the interior is harder to rinse, try using a baking soda-water solution of 1 cup baking soda to 1 gallon of water. After the water dries, and leaves the baking soda behind, it will continue to absorb smells for several days after. You will need to rinse the inside of the refrigerator with clean water to get the now smelly baking soda out of the fridge.

Don’t Forget About Hidden Smell Portals

Kind of like a portal to smelly hell, there are several hidden portals in your RV refrigerator that can be the source of many of RV fridge odors.

Does your fridge have a drip pan? These are the every creative fridge pans that are designed to catch drips. Yep, humans were creative on that day. In any case, these are going to be at the bottom of the fridge to catch drips. Left unattended, the drip pans can breed all sorts of science experiments and smells. You’ll want to find your drip pan and include it in the deep clean.

The second hidden portal will be your evaporator coil and the fan. This is what creates the cold air in your fridge. If you got liquids in this area or the odors traveled into this area, you’ll need to give the coil a good cleaning.

The third hidden portal will be the rubber seals around the fridge. Make sure you lift these up, cleaning under and behind the seals. If necessary, you may want to find a flathead screwdriver covered with a cloth to really get down in the nooks and crannies.

Time Fixes A Lot of Smells

Once you complete a deep clean of the RV fridge, you should be able to get most ordinary smells out. But there will be those persistent smells that require a little more work.

If you aren’t planning on using the RV fridge for awhile, leave it turned off and open. Add a small fan to keep air moving and many smells will go away.

Sometimes though, you need a little help. The most common smell remedies, after cleaning, are baking soda, charcoal, zeolite, vinegar, newspaper, coffee grounds, and oats. A less common method to eliminate odors in your RV fridge would be to employ the use of chloride dioxide gas.


Activated charcoal is a great odor neutralizer. You’ll find charcoal filters in a variety of applications since it works so well. Aquariums use charcoal to filter water. Many air filters also use charcoal filters to purify the air.

You can use something fancy like Charcoal Deodorizer Bags in pretty little bags. But I find that these are better for “maintenance” odor eliminators than a big RV fridge de-funkifying project.

Plus at 9.4 cents per GRAM, these things are quite expensive.

You can buy activated charcoal in bulk, without the nice bags to save some money. With some pesky RV fridge odors, it is helpful to spread out the activated charcoal on a plate so that there is more surface area. More surface area means that there is more room for the odors to go away. This will bring your cost down to 3 cents per gram.

Or you can head over to the aquarium section and buy activated charcoal over there. The Marineland activated charcoal comes in at less than a penny a gram.

That’s my winner at least when it comes to activated charcoal!

PS if you have some grilling charcoal leftover from the tailgate, you can use it too. Just make sure that it is plain charcoal, without lighter fluid or anything else on it. Then smash it up, it increase the surface area for odor absorption. For most RV fridge odor elimination applications, you probably only need to smash up 2-3 briquettes.

Beyond Charcoal: Zeolite

Want something that works even better than activated charcoal? Get yourself some zeolite!

Zeolite is rocks – special rocks that absorb odors. Zeolite is a little more expensive than the aquarium activated charcoal, coming in at 3.7 cents per gram, on par with the regular (non-aquarium marketed) activated charcoal.

But once again, you can head over to the fish section and get a less expensive version (isn’t marketing great!) The aquarium version of zeolite comes in at less than a penny a gram.

However, zeolite rocks, aquarium or regular, are rechargeable. This means that when you are done getting rid of the nasty odors from the fridge, you can recharge the rocks and then leave them with your smelly shoes. Or near the cat litter box. Or just in the fridge to prevent or reduce new odors. To recharge zeolite, you let it sit outside in the sun for a few days to heat up, then release the odors that it has captured.

In addition to the odor absorbing qualities, zeolite also helps maintain optimum humidity, reducing electricity costs. Some claim that zeolite can reduce electricity costs by 12% and helps keep food fresher, so less food waste.

In other words, aquarium marketed zeolite is a winner.


Household white vinegar is also quite effective at minimizing odors. Mix up a 50/50 vinegar-water mixture and spray inside your fridge. Then wipe it down well.

Vinegar is an effective way to neutralize dog odors and even fleas.

Vinegar is also quite useful if the odors were caused by rotten fruit and you now have fruit flies that you cannot get rid of. In a cereal bowl, add half a cup of apple cider vinegar with half a cup of water. Add a tablespoon of Dawn dishwater detergent and leave where the fruit flies are present. Come morning, you’ll find that the fruit flies have met a watery death.


Crumbled up newspaper can also be effective at eliminating RV fridge odors. Take each sheet and ball it up. Then throw it into the fridge. You may want to spritz it with just the tiniest bit of water.

When you are done, use the now smelly newspaper plus vinegar to clean your windows. You’ll get a streak free shine!

Coffee Grounds or Oats

Another popular method of getting rid of odors includes coffee grounds or oats. Spread either out on a plate or baking sheet inside the fridge. They will absorb odors in a few hours to days, depending on how bad they are.

Some recommend that if you are using coffee grounds that you burn them in an old cast iron skillet first. Then place them on a baking sheet and inside the closed up fridge. Repeat daily until the smell is gone.

Personally, I’m not a big coffee drinker, so the smell of coffee grounds is not appealing to me. Your mileage may vary.

See Also: Organize Your K-Cup Pods

Use Chlorine Dioxide Odor Eliminators

If you are still having odor problems after you’ve tried everything else, try chlorine dioxide gas.

To use Biocide Systems Chlorine Dioxide Gas RV Shocker Deodorizer you add water and walk away. You’ll leave it inside your RV, near or in the fridge with it open, for at least 4 hours. It may take closer to 24 hours before the odors are gone. You may also notice a smell similar to a pool (think chlorine) which will dissipate within a week or so.

Chlorine dioxide gas is best used by a part-time RVer or a full-timer that is going to be away for a week or so. You will definitely need to be out of the RV for a full 24 hours and probably closer to a minimum of 72 hours.

See Also: Tips for Dealing with RV Odors

What are your best RV fridge odor eliminators?

Find out how to stop RV fridge odors from RV Tailgate Life!Have you had horrible RV fridge odors that you couldn’t stand? What was your best RV fridge odor remedy? Comment below to let everyone know what worked best for you!

Products Mentioned Above to Help Eliminate RV Fridge Odors:

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