Why does my wine fridge smell musty

Strange smells inside a wine fridge?

Wine lovers often invest in wine fridges to preserve their prized bottles at optimal conditions. These specialised refrigerators offer the perfect environment for storing wine, controlling factors like temperature, humidity, and light exposure. However, just like any other appliance, wine fridges can occasionally develop unpleasant odours, much to the dismay of their owners. Understanding why your wine fridge might emit strange smells is crucial for maintaining the quality of your wine collection. In this blog post, we'll delve into the various reasons behind these odours and explore solutions to keep your wine fridge smelling fresh.

  1. Mold and Mildew Growth: One of the most common culprits behind a smelly wine fridge is mold and mildew growth. Mold thrives in damp, dark environments, making the interior of a wine fridge an ideal breeding ground. If your wine fridge isn't properly ventilated or if moisture accumulates inside, it can lead to mold and mildew formation. These microorganisms not only produce unpleasant odours but can also compromise the quality of your wine. You're more likely to suffer from this if the wine fridge is in a cellar or garage so likely a freestanding wine fridge.

Solution: To combat mold and mildew growth, regularly clean and sanitise the interior of your wine fridge. Use a mixture of water and vinegar or a mild disinfectant to wipe down the shelves, walls, and any other surfaces. Additionally, ensure proper ventilation by allowing air to circulate freely around the fridge.

  1. Spillage and Stains: Accidental spills or leaks from wine bottles can contribute to foul odours inside the fridge. Over time, spilled wine, residue, or other liquids can accumulate and create unpleasant smells. If left unaddressed, these stains can permeate the shelves and interior surfaces of the fridge.

Solution: Promptly clean up any spills or leaks to prevent them from causing lingering odours. Use a gentle cleaner or warm, soapy water to remove stains and residue from the interior surfaces. For stubborn stains, you may need to use a specialised cleaner designed for wine fridges.

  1. Decomposing Organic Matter: Sometimes, organic matter such as cork fragments or remnants of food can find their way into the wine fridge. If left unchecked, these organic materials can decompose and emit foul odours, tainting the aroma of your wine.

Solution: Regularly inspect the interior of your wine fridge and remove any organic matter or debris. Check wine bottles for cork fragments and ensure that food items are stored in sealed containers to prevent contamination. Keeping the fridge clean and free of debris will help eliminate potential sources of odour.

  1. Improper Storage of Wine: The way you store your wine can also impact the smell of your wine fridge. If wine bottles are not properly sealed or if they contain faulty corks, it can lead to wine leakage and spoilage. Additionally, storing pungent foods or strong-smelling items alongside wine bottles can transfer odours to the fridge.

Solution: Avoid storing pungent foods or items with strong odours in the wine fridge, as these can affect the aroma of your wine. Consider using odour-absorbing products such as baking soda or activated charcoal to help neutralise any lingering smells. Don't lay down opened bottles, even those under Coravin.

  1. Mechanical Issues: In some cases, a smelly wine fridge may be indicative of underlying mechanical issues. Malfunctions in the cooling system or drainage problems can result in excess moisture buildup or temperature fluctuations, creating an environment conducive to odour development.

Solution: If you suspect that mechanical issues are causing the odour in your wine fridge, it's essential to consult a professional technician for diagnosis and repair. Regular maintenance and servicing of your wine fridge can help prevent mechanical problems and ensure its proper functioning.

A smelly wine fridge can detract from the enjoyment of your wine collection and may indicate underlying issues that need to be addressed. By understanding the potential causes of odours and implementing proper maintenance and cleaning practices, you can keep your wine fridge smelling fresh and preserve the quality of your cherished bottles. Regular inspection, cleaning, and attention to storage conditions are key to maintaining an odour-free environment for your wine collection. With the right care and maintenance, your wine fridge can continue to be a reliable appliance for preserving and enjoying your favorite wines for years to come.

How to improve the smell inside a wine fridge?

  1. Identify the Source of the Odour: Before you can effectively neutralise bad smells in your wine fridge, it's essential to identify the source of the odour. Common culprits include mold and mildew growth, spills or leaks from wine bottles, decomposing organic matter, improper storage of wine, and mechanical issues. By pinpointing the source of the odour, you can tailor your approach to effectively neutralise it.

  2. Deep Clean the Interior: A thorough cleaning of the interior of your wine fridge is the first step in neutralising bad smells. Remove all wine bottles and shelves from the fridge and clean them with a mixture of warm water and mild detergent. Pay special attention to areas where spills or stains may have occurred, and use a soft brush or sponge to scrub away any residue. Rinse the shelves and interior surfaces thoroughly with clean water and allow them to air dry before placing them back in the fridge.

  3. Use Natural Deodorisers: Natural deodorisers can be highly effective in neutralising odours in your wine fridge without introducing harsh chemicals or artificial fragrances. Baking soda is a versatile and inexpensive option for absorbing odours. Simply place an open box of baking soda on one of the shelves in your wine fridge, and it will help absorb unwanted smells over time. Alternatively, activated charcoal is another excellent natural deodoriser that can help eliminate odours by absorbing impurities in the air.

  4. Employ Odour-Absorbing Products: In addition to natural deodorisers, there are several commercial products specifically designed to neutralise odours in refrigerators. Odour-absorbing sachets or packets containing activated charcoal or zeolite can be placed inside your wine fridge to help absorb and eliminate bad smells. These products are typically reusable and can be rejuvenated by placing them in direct sunlight for a few hours to release trapped odours.

  5. Maintain Proper Ventilation: Proper ventilation is crucial for preventing odours from accumulating in your wine fridge. Ensure that the air vents and fan inside the fridge are unobstructed and functioning correctly. Additionally, avoid overcrowding the fridge with wine bottles or other items, as this can restrict airflow and contribute to odour buildup. Periodically open the door of your wine fridge to allow fresh air to circulate and prevent stale odours from lingering.

  6. Address Mechanical Issues: If bad smells persist despite your best efforts, it's possible that there may be underlying mechanical issues with your wine fridge. Malfunctions in the cooling system or drainage problems can result in excess moisture buildup or temperature fluctuations, creating an environment conducive to odour development. In such cases, it's advisable to consult a professional technician for diagnosis and repair.

What are the benefits of a carbon filter system?

Most wine fridge cabinets for long term storage will have carbon filter system built in. Brands like Swisscave, Liebherr and EuroCave have them as standard with the tall wine cabinets from Climadiff and La Sommeliere similarly housing a carbon filter that will need to be changed every 6-12 months.

  1. Odour Elimination: One of the primary benefits of a carbon filter in a wine fridge is its remarkable ability to eliminate odours. Over time, wine fridges can develop unpleasant smells due to factors like spills, organic matter, or improper storage. These odours not only affect the aroma of your wine but can also compromise its flavour. A carbon filter works by trapping and neutralizing odour-causing molecules, ensuring that your wine fridge remains fresh and free of unwanted smells.

  2. Improved Air Quality: In addition to eliminating odours, a carbon filter contributes to improved air quality inside the wine fridge. As air circulates through the filter, impurities and contaminants are captured, resulting in cleaner and fresher air. This is especially beneficial for long-term wine storage, as maintaining pristine air quality helps preserve the integrity and flavour of your wines. With a carbon filter in place, you can rest assured that your wine collection is stored in an environment free of airborne pollutants.

  3. Protection Against Taints and Off-Flavours: Taints and off-flavours can arise from various sources, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by building materials or household products. These compounds can infiltrate the wine fridge and impart undesirable flavours to your wines. A carbon filter acts as a barrier against VOCs and other airborne contaminants, preventing them from coming into contact with your wine bottles. By providing an additional layer of protection, the carbon filter helps preserve the purity and authenticity of your wines, ensuring that they maintain their intended flavours and characteristics.

  4. Preservation of Wine Quality: Maintaining consistent and optimal storage conditions is paramount to preserving the quality of your wine collection. Fluctuations in temperature, humidity, or air quality can accelerate the aging process and diminish the flavour and aroma of your wines. By incorporating a carbon filter into your wine fridge, you create a controlled environment that promotes the long-term preservation of your wines. With reduced exposure to odours, impurities, and contaminants, your wines can age gracefully and develop complex flavours and bouquets over time.

  5. Eco-Friendly Solution: Carbon filters are renowned for their eco-friendly properties, making them a sustainable choice for wine fridge owners. Unlike chemical-based air fresheners or deodorizers, carbon filters rely on a natural process known as adsorption to capture and neutralize odours and impurities. Additionally, many carbon filters are reusable and can be refreshed by exposing them to sunlight or heat, minimizing waste and environmental impact. By opting for a carbon filter in your wine fridge, you not only enhance the quality of your wine storage but also contribute to a greener and more sustainable lifestyle.

Incorporating a carbon filter into your wine fridge or buying a wine fridge with one already pre-installed is a simple yet impactful way to enhance the preservation of your precious wine collection. From eliminating odours and improving air quality to protecting against taints and off-flavours, the benefits of a carbon filter are undeniable for anyone serious about wine. 

By investing in this essential component, you can create an optimal storage environment that promotes the longevity and quality of your wines, essential for long term storage whether the wine fridge is housed in a garage or kitchen.

If you need help purchasing a new wine fridge or help eliminating odours from your current fridge please speak to us on live chat or visit us in our London store.

Sarah newton

Author - Sarah Newton

Sarah Newton has worked in the wine industry for two decades holding senior positions at some of the UK wine industry's leading brands. The MD of Coolersomm, Sarah is WSET certified and our lead wine buyer too.