If the ice coming out of your freezer has a funky flavour, it can really dampen the mood.
It might surprise you to learn that stinky ice cubes have little to do with your freezer — and everything to do with the type of refrigerator you have. Some modern fridges use a dual-evaporator cooling system, which means that the freezer and fridge each have their own independently-controlled air coolers. But if your fridge is older and/or inexpensive, there’s a good chance it uses a single-evaporator cooling system.
In these models, the cooled air inside both the fridge and freezer comes from the same place, flowing between the two compartments as needed to adjust the temperature. Where there’s airflow, there’s the potential for odor contamination: whether they came from ice cube trays or an automatic ice-maker, your garlic-scented ice cubes probably picked up that smell from something in your fridge.
While a single-evaporator fridge makes it tough to contain food smells, the good news is that a permanent stank is pretty rare. If you can remove the source of the off odours — and keep new ones from floating around — you’ll be back to enjoying delicious iced beverages in no time. Here’s how to do it.
Thoroughly clean your fridge and freezer
Nobody loves cleaning the fridge, but if you want your ice to taste like nothing again, it simply has to be done. Starting with the fridge compartment, take out all the food and scrub the crap out of every surface with a powerful deodoriser: I like a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water, but diluted bleach or a paste made of water and baking soda also work.
Next, toss your smelly old ice cubes in the sink and scrub every surface of your freezer, especially the ice bucket or ice cube trays. If those are really stinky, consider soaking them in vinegar overnight — this works great on odor-absorbing silicone molds — or replacing them.
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Do your best to contain smells
Once you have a sparkling clean fridge, you need to keep it that way, and that means preventing fridge smells from travelling up to your freezer. The easiest way to do this is to change the way you store extra-smelly foods, particularly those in the fridge. If air can escape, so can odours: thick-walled plastic and glass containers with heavy lids are your best bet for keeping that leftover half an onion from stinking up your fridge and freezer.
A single sheet of plastic wrap? Not so much. If your storage containers are mainly thin plastic, try wrapping them in heavy-duty aluminium foil — as long as there are no holes or gaps, it’ll help contain unwanted odours.
Some people also swear by odour absorbers like baking soda and activated charcoal to keep their fridges smelling fresh. While there’s some debate over whether or not this actually works — especially baking soda — it probably can’t hurt. If you like, set aside some space in your fridge and freezer for a box of baking soda or a small dish of charcoal.
Clean the ice maker itself
For fridges without automatic ice-makers, a good scrub down and maybe some new ice cube trays will probably solve the problem. If your fridge does have an ice-maker, though, it’s not unheard of for the inside of the mechanism to absorb off smells over time. In this case, you might want to take it apart and clean it from the inside out. The Kitchn has a helpful guide to doing just that.
Consider an upgrade
Obviously, this isn’t an option for everyone, and even if it is, it shouldn’t be your first move. But if you’ve scrubbed and deodorised your fridge, freezer, and ice maker, and your ice still smells like old garlic, it could be time to replace the whole thing — and if fresh-tasting ice is super important to you, a dual-evaporator fridge might be a worthy investment.