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How to clean bait smell out of your fridge

There’s few things worse than the stench of bait that has been allowed to defrost and sit for a few days, and up until this point in my life I’ve always been pretty careful with bait. That time has come to an end, not too long after we got back from our 6 week trip up north

We’d only recently upgraded to the Bushman Upright Fridge, and one of the things we loved was the fact that it has a small 6L freezer at the top, which is perfect for storing bait and having it with you all the time (as a pose to it being in the camper trailer fridge, and you often forgetting to grab some when you took off in the car).

Our 6 week trip ended in a bit of a rush, with the weather coming in quite badly as we got closer to Perth. Instead of camping one last night in the storm around 300km from Perth, we continued driving. After about 12 hours in the Isuzu Dmax with our two little boys we were all pretty exhausted, and glad to be home to rest. 

We decided very little needed to be unpacked immediately, with exception of the fridge. I rushed around and got it all out, leaving the door shut and walking away with the power turned off. I recall opening the fridge a few days later and thinking it still seemed awfully cold inside, but didn’t think any more of it.

Upright fridge and drawers

We unpacked our Fridge and hit the sack

Over 9 days later I was walking through the house when I had a terrible thought. ‘The bait!’ I knew instantly I’d left the bait in the freezer, and suddenly the reason for the fridge being cold made perfect sense. It was essentially being kept cold by the frozen bait.

I tentatively opened the fridge door, and nearly threw up. There was brown bait juice spread throughout the fridge, and it reeked. I could have kicked myself; a brand new fridge and on the first use we’ve gone and possibly wrecked it!

The cleaning process

Thus began a cleaning process over a couple of weeks, where we tried a number of different things to get the smell to go away.

Removing the bait

The first thing was to remove the bait, which was a fun job. The only saving grace was that every piece of bait was inside a zip lock bag (except two bags) and despite being well and truly defrosted, only a tiny portion had leaked out compared to what actually could have.

Thank you Sarah, for suggesting we keep it in these bags!

Warm water and detergent

The first port of call was to remove as much of the stinky fluid, which was done with a bucket of warm water and detergent. The water was brown and disgusting by the end of it, but a huge amount was removed and at least I could stomach being next to the fridge again.

Upright fridge freezer

Wiping the fridge and freezer out

Bicarb soda sitting

We’d read online that bicarb soda is supposed to absorb smells (I don’t think it actually does now, but there you go). We put a heap in a container and left it inside the dry fridge, with the door closed for a couple of days. The smell didn’t seem to get much better, so we moved on.

Bicarb soda, detergent and warm water

The next step was to mix some bicarb, detergent and warm water, and wipe the fridge down, intentionally leaving some of the soda around the fridge. We let it dry out with the door shut, hoping that it would remove more of the smell. 

Warm water and detergent and then vanilla essence

After the two bicarb goes, I moved back to Google, and decided to try vanilla essence. We cleaned the fridge again with warm water and detergent, allowed it to dry and then wiped the entire fridge down with vanilla essence, leaving some in a wet sponge at the bottom of the fridge, with the door closed for a few days.

Washing it again

When I opened the fridge again it was noticeably better, but had a weird sweet and foul smell. We cleaned the fridge freezer again with warm water and detergent, and let it dry.

Lemon and vinegar

Our next step from the online guidance of getting rid of bait smells in a fridge or freezer was to mix some lemon (freshly squeezed) with white vinegar, and spray it all over the fridge.

I liked the idea of this, as its natural and you can get to places with a spray bottle that you cannot with a sponge or wipe. I used about 300ml of fluid, and sprayed it everywhere I could get on the fridge, before closing the door and leaving it for a few more days.

I then left the door open for a few more days to let it dry out, and by this point it was smelling pretty good.

One last wash

After about 3 weeks of messing around in 15 minute chunks, the smell was gone and a wipe down with warm water and detergent ensued. I left the fridge to dry out, and there is no smell at all now, which we are absolutely stoked about.

A learning experience

So, we take the experience as an opportunity to learn and move on. No harm, no foul (except the smell!). I’ll be far more diligent in opening the hatch inside the fridge next time to check it is actually empty. 

We’ll continue using small, sealed bags for bait as its super convenient and easy, and I get to share a post with you, to prove it is possible to remove foul smells from your fridge with a bit of patience and time.

One thing I am extremely glad for is that the bait juice didn’t leak out of the fridge, which is possible with an upright and one of their disadvantages. Want to know more about the pro’s and con’s of an upright fridge? You can find more here; 12V Upright vs Chest Fridge.

If it had of leaked over the lip it would have run down past the seal and onto our plywood, which would have been a nightmare. It’s a lot of work to pull it all out, and I have no doubt that it would need replacing.

So, make sure you remove your bait before you put your fridge or freezer into hibernation, and you’ll save yourself a heap of time and frustration!

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