I tried the 'magic' refrigerator cleaning method that uses vanilla to banish odors

Cleaning with a sticky baking substance doesn't sound like it could possibly work

An elegant kitchen with marble splashback and fridge
(Image credit: Best Buy)

I have a small refrigerator in my very tiny kitchen, often filled to the brim with food – I love to cook. Therefore, cleaning my refrigerator is a must when it comes to food hygiene and smells. 

When cleaning a refrigerator, deodorizing and removing sticky marks is my top priority. But after watching an online trick that used vanilla essence to clean the fridge, I was left wondering how the stickiest substance in my baking cabinet could possibly remove equally sticky rings caused by the bottom of sealed condiment bottles or jars.

I had to give the method a go myself – here's how it went.

Vanilla vinegar cleaner  

I first saw the hack on Australian home influencer Chantel Mila's Instagram. The natural homemade kitchen cleaner uses vinegar to help break down sticky marks and vanilla to help scent the fridge and leave it smelling fresh without using unsafe products for food storage. 

You will need:

Making the solution

brown spray bottle on window sill near potted plants

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Making the solution was simple, and only required measuring the ingredients into the empty, clean spray bottle before putting the lid back on and shaking to combine. 

Interestingly, the original recipe uses clear vanilla extract, something I had not seen as often in stores as the standard dark brown flavoring. To keep the hack cost-efficient, I decided to try the method with the brown extract and see if it made any difference to the results of this cleaning tip.

The result was a muddy-looking mixture that didn't look too appealing to clean my home with, but I gave it a go anyway.

Cleaning my appliance

Modern kitchen with grey fridge freezer

(Image credit: LG)

Before cleaning and organizing the fridge, I took everything out, putting any food, jars, and bottles that I wanted to keep out of the way on my counters. As with cleaning a kitchen generally, all there was to do was spray the solution on the shelves and buff it with a clean microfiber cloth. 

I found that the high water content of the solution and cold refrigerator meant that there was a tendency for it to bead or streak. You do not need to use much spray to cover and clean a small area. The good news was that it easily broke down some sticky marks (I had been ignoring them all week) that had somehow leaked from closed bottles. 

I could also hardly smell the strong vinegar scent that you often get when cleaning things with vinegar solutions. The water and vanilla worked wonderfully to neutralize the strong smell that often puts me off using white vinegar.

After wiping down the shelves, I used a clean, dry dish towel to dry them off, preventing streaking and collecting any excess water. 

washing machine with cabinets and sink

(Image credit: Future PLC)

I had a lot of leftover solution, so I also used it to wipe down the front of my washing machine. 

With the machine living in my kitchen, it is prone to collecting marks, grease, and dust so, after my success with the fridge, I thought the cleaner would be perfect for this too. To my surprise, not only did it break down the grease marks, but also collected dust easily and added a nice shine to the window of the front-loading door after I buffed it dry with the clean towel. 

My verdict

The solution definitely helped to deodorize and clean my refrigerator and clean the washing machine front, but I think the vanilla scent could have been much stronger. Although it did work to add a slightly sweet smell to a vinegar cleaner, the scent didn't stick around after drying the shelves and door.

As a result, if I was to make the spray again, I would add another teaspoon or two of vanilla extract to the mix, or even consider some Vanilla Bean Scented Oil such as this from Amazon to get a really strong scent.  

All in all, the cleaner really does work to get your fridge clean, and smells great as you are cleaning your appliances – just don't expect the smell to linger in your refrigerator for long.


Is it good to clean a fridge with vinegar?

Vinegar is one of the best things to clean a fridge with. Not only does its acidic qualities help to break down grease or sticky marks, but kills mold and bacteria spores and deodorizes lingering smells. What's more, it is food safe, so is perfect for food storage areas like refrigerators, or even pantries.  

What should you not clean a fridge with?

When cleaning the inside of a fridge, it is best to avoid using abrasive or harsh cleaners such as bleach to prevent damaging the thermal shock tempered glass shelves or degrading any plastic elements. Instead, a natural cleaner such as vinegar or baking soda can help to remove any sticky marks or mold before drying with a clean towel to prevent condensation or streaks. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.