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Chemical smell in fridge

Posted by Kathy 
Chemical smell in fridge
April 16, 2009 06:27AM
Please can somebody help. We have a chemical acidy smell coming from both the fridge and freezer of our upright whirlpool. Has been getting worse over the past week and now starting to taint the food. Have pulled everything out of both and rinsed both with baking soda and then vanilla to no avail. I have just had the service man here and he said there is no gas leek. Have any of you out there heard or had this problem? The service man thought I was a bit crazy I think. My husband could not smell it at first either but this morning said I had better get someone in after tasting his lunch I had in the fridge overnight. We live in Singapore by the way, but am a kiwi.
I wait with baited breath.
Re: Chemical smell in fridge
April 16, 2009 03:59PM
Firstly, I'm assuming the drip tray at the back has already been checked for nasty things, although I'm sure this isn't the problem anyway.

Here, from the internet, are some similar scenarios that will hopefully offer you clues as to what may be wrong with your fridge:
"I had a smell that I thought was refrigerant. I called a repairman and he said the Starter Switch had gone bad. He said that what I smelled was a bakelite smell. He replaced the switch and now the smell has left the freezer, (it is a side-by-side), but I still smell a little in the fridge. He said the crumbled up newspaper will take it right out. (01/11/2007)"

"Contacted a friend of mine who works on cars and repairs appliances. This is his feedback on the smell in the frig. Freon gas they use today has very little smell to it. Frost-free units have heaters and fans in them to keep them frost-free. It could be that a fan quit and the heater overheated something around it. (12/30/2007)"

"Q: ...we have the chemical smell on both sides of our GE side-by-side. We also noticed that the smell is getting into some foods. What is it and how do we get rid of it?
A: There's aren't many places odours in refrigerators can come from - rotting spillage, etc, open food stuffs, and possibly a burning electrical connection or component. How to get rid of it will depend on the cause. Until that is isolated, it will be difficult to say how to correct it."

"It might be a freon leak. I really don't know how to check that though. I think there is a spray that highlights it, like mechanics do on cars. On the other hand, I don't know if freon even has an odor. Could be fried wires??? Ask at a auto part store."

"if smell is just sometimes, auto defrost coil in frost free refrigerator just below freezer"

No.1 poster - "I have a Jenn-Air JCB2389 and I have the same problem too. The chemical smell is odd and all food takes on this taste. Everything in the refrigerator needs to be trashed. It is cooling properly. There is no spoiled food producing this smell. I was told that it is oil from a compressor and that it means that the sealed system has failed. Then, another repairman negated that and said if it's cooling properly that can't be. I spent alot of money on this refrigerator and it's only 6 years old. Any suggestions?"
No.2 poster - "Mine isn't a side by side model. I had this problem like 5 months after I bought it. We cleaned it 4 or 5 times throughly had 3 repair men out.. nothing helpped. The food and ice all took on this flavor of chemicals. It was like maybe acitone? like Nail polish remover. After a long fight, angry letters, calls to anyone and everyone at Frigidaire they replaced the fridge. Now.. past warranty and it is happening again. I'm pulling it out from the wall and turning it off and cleaning everything I can and if it does not fix it I will have to get a new one.. and it will not be a Frigidaire! My whole kitchen is filled with their products and I grew up with them. It's sad really."
No.3 poster - "Just after thanksgiving our refridgerator began to emit a terrible chemical odor -- like melted plastic; very unappetizing. After a day or so, the ice began to taste like this also. I've cleaned the fridge and freezer multiple times, dumped all the ice and cleaned the ice bin, still no resolution. It is not a rotten food smell; and we don't have and never have spoiled food in our fridge. Its a CHEMICAL smell. Help!! p.s. it really smells like something inside the guts of the fridge is leaking."
Answer to above 3 posters - "This could be a faulty heater or the heater could be melting the plastic where it is positioned. Un plug the refrigerator and remove the back panel inside the cabinet. Look for any signs of burning. If there are no signs of burning then it could be the insulation within the panel work rotting. Try sealing all the edges with sealant. Also, check that the drainage hole inside the cabinet is clean and clear. If you pull the refrigerator out and look at the back, usually at the bottom is the compressor (black motor). On top of the compressor is a plastic tray which collects the water from inside the cabinet, make sure that is clean. Be carefull as the compressor will more than likley be HOT. DO NOT pour lots of water down the drainage hole as the plastic tray can only hold so much. If you over fill this tray the water can spill over the electrics for the compressor. I am a breakdown engineer and have never come across this problem, but if i was to have this problem then these are the steps i would take. ALWAYS UNPLUG THE REFRIGERATOR BEFORE DOING ANY WORK!"

Re: Chemical smell in fridge
April 17, 2009 04:39AM
Wow! Thanks so much for that info J1. Had our landlord around this morning and he didn't think it too bad but ordered us a brand new fridge just in case it is poisonous. He bought his wife around later and she could smell it strongly like me so guess it goes to show us ladies are better at smelling.
I've never had a freezer that didn't have a chemical smell that it imparted to the food over a period of time. My freezer and refrigerator that I have right now have it. I believe if you have a good enough nose you will always smell it. My theory is that it's some sort of low temperature bacteria that gives off the smell. It seems to be worse in freezers than the frige. It's apparently not toxic--I've been eating it all my life. The longer food is in the freezer the stronger the chemical odor and taste and at some point it is inedible. I'm sure that the appliance makers know what this problem is--they're not going to publish it though. A dish of baking soda in the refrigerator seems to help
If my theory about low temperature bacteria growing in food causing the chemical odor in freezers and refrigerators, then the solution to elininating the odor is to throw out all of the old food.
Re: Chemical smell in fridge
July 01, 2009 04:18PM
I've never smelt anything like you describe, willie, and I have a 'good' nose as you put it. If I smelt anything like that I would be investigating, too, not just putting a dish of baking soda in there to mask it.
Re: Chemical smell in fridge
December 31, 2009 02:58PM
I have a GE side by side and it emits a strange chemical odor. It has done this since it was new. It is now about 4 years old. The thing is, it took me a long time to determine that it was the refrigerator that stunk. I thought it was a propane leak or something. I have been told that the new refrigerants that they use in these units do not have an odor. So I am very puzzled as to what could produce such a persistent smell. It makes my entire house smell and I am at wits end as to what to do about it. I paid a lot of money for this thing and I know the company is not going to do a thing about it.
Having felt the "chemical" odor in my fridge, I emptied it, cleaned it up with baking soda, and checked for signs of melted plastic, to determine that everything seems to be in order.

However, the smell pertained until I cleaned it with a detergent I use for windows. Having done all of these, I found that one of the plastic bags in which I kept somewhat moist rucolla salad, that started to rot (although bought only the day before, but wet since it was sprinkled with water in the store) -- was the culprit for the "chemical" smell. It contaminated the other plastic bags in which I kept other vegetables, but the vegetables regained the original smell after being aired for couple of minutes, while the other plastic bags had to be thrown away.

Hope this can help someone.
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