Why Does My Freezer Smell Like Burning Rubber?

May 30, 2022
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Diagnosing that Awful Smell from the Freezer

As something meant to cool and freeze your food, your fridge or freezer should never have a burning smell or a chemical smell. If you’re wondering, ‘why does my freezer smell like burning rubber?’, there is likely a serious problem you need to address.

Like many household appliances, freezers and refrigerators use electricity to operate. A burnt plastic smell can be a sign of a potential fire hazard.

Photo of a woman sensing a bad freezer smell

A burning freezer smell could represent a serious problem and you should consider calling an appliance repair pro

Between 2006 and 2010, refrigerators or freezers led to more than 1,700 home fires. These fires resulted in two deaths, 19 non-fatal injuries, and over 23 million dollars in property damage.

While it may be easier to ignore the freezer or refrigerator smell, it’s always best to investigate so you can find the root of the problem before a tragedy occurs. If a burnt plastic or rubber odor is emanating from your refrigerator, you can use this guide to investigate and potentially solve the problem on your own!

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to properly clear and clean the freezer
  • What freezer components may cause this smell

Clean the Freezer

While fridges sometimes smell because of spoiled food, a burning odor like plastic or rubber is usually a cause for concern. But to be sure, follow the steps below to clean and deodorize your freezer.

Unplug the Unit

The first step is to unplug the freezer and/or refrigerator for your safety. If the compressor or another part is overheating, it could catch fire, so it’s best to shut it off until you determine the cause of the odor.


Take all food out of the freezer and store it in another freezer or cooler filled with ice. It’s a shame if some food spoils, but it’s worth finding out what’s wrong with your freezer.


Thoroughly clean and sanitize the inside of the freezer. You can use an all-purpose cleaner, water and baking soda, or water and bleach.


Spread baking soda or active charcoal in your freezer and let it sit with the door closed for about an hour. Then remove the substance and clean the freezer again.

If you do all of this and the burning rubber smell continues, there is likely something wrong with the electrical components of your freezer.

Identifying the Problem

Once you’ve emptied and cleaned the fridge and can confidently say the funky smell was not coming from spoiled food or gunk inside the freezer, it’s time to figure out what is causing the smell.

Your best course of action would be to call an appliance repair person or electrician to correctly diagnose the problem.

A few different components of a freezer could create a burning rubber smell. The smell typically means the part is overheating and may need replacing to prevent a fire.

Investigate the different parts of your freezer listed below to see if you can identify the source of the bad smell.


Pull the freezer away from the wall and survey all the wiring and electrical components on the back. Check that the outlet is in good condition and that the outlet plug is not fraying or damaged.

Any blackened, frayed, or sparking wires pose a hazard and need replacing. If you’re not an electrician, you should call one to replace these wires as it can be a dangerous job.


The compressor unit consists of a motor and pump, acting as the freezer's engine. The compressor motor can overheat after years of use and become inoperable. When this happens, the source of the smell will be on the back of the unit, not inside the freezer.

If the compressor is the problem, it’s often cheaper to buy an entirely new fridge or freezer rather than replace this expensive part.


Although freezers freeze things, they also have a defrosting feature to prevent freezer burn. The defrosting units have a thermostat, a timer, and a heater with coils.

The defrosting unit will turn on the heater every six hours or so to moderate the temperature. But over time, the heater can become worn and may begin to overheat, resulting in a burning plastic smell.

If the burning smell is the strongest inside the freezer, it could be the defrosting unit. But you’ll need an electrician or HVAC specialist to be sure.

Circulation Fan

A circulation fan in a fridge and freezer moves the air around and keeps everything equally cool or frozen. If the circulator fan is the culprit, it’s because the fan’s motor overheated. Luckily, this is relatively inexpensive to replace or have fixed.

Condenser Fan

The condenser fan keeps the condenser coils cold. If the fan stops working, the coils can overheat and smell like burnt plastic. Or, the fan’s motor can overheat if the unit is old or rundown.

A condenser fan is typically below the appliance, near the floor. So if you smell the odor more as you kneel or crouch down, you can probably blame the condenser fan, which is costly to replace.

Frank Salvatore

Hey there - I'm Frank Salvatore. I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!

About Me
Frank Salvatore
I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!
Learn More About Me
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