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A smelly walk-in freezer can hint at different problems. You may only be required to clean your commercial refrigerator or you may need to consult an expert for walk-in cooler repair. These are the reasons your walk-in freezer is smelling weird.

Your Walk-In Cooler Requires Cleaning

A commercial refrigerator must be cleaned twice a year. If your walk-in cooler is smelling bad and you haven’t cleaned it for more than 6 months, the reason could be a dirty refrigerator that needs cleaning.

Old Or Spoiled Food

Walk-in coolers are for storing food, but if the stored food passes its expiration date, it will become smelling and can spoil other foods as well. When mold grows on foods, it contains spores that can travel in the air. A walk-in freezer is a closed environment, so the spores can move inside that environment and reach other foods and spoil them.

If your walk-in freezer is smelly, check all the foods and remove old or spoiled food. Moreover, always keep individual foods separate and covered so one spoiled food doesn’t infect others.

Moreover, keep space between foot items. This will improve the airflow and reduce condensation. Once condensation is reduced, it will restrict mold growth.

Spilled Food

Many times, a foul odor in a walk-in freezer is due to an undetected spill. Visually inspect the entire refrigerator and look for spills. Once you find a spill, clean it and preferably clean the whole freezer as well. Even if you don’t find spills, a full walk-in freezer cleanout should be done to remove the smell.

The Walk-in Freezer Is Not Maintaining The Correct Temperature

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the minimum temperature for your walk-in freezer to keep the stored food safe is 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -18 degrees Centigrade.

So, if your walk-in freezer’s temperature is set above the recommended value or it’s set at this temperature but not reaching it due to malfunctions, the food will spoil. Bacteria and mold will grow more easily. When they will spread enough and spoil the food, you will sense a foul smell when you enter the walk-in freezer.

To determine if your walk-in freezer is reaching the set temperature, check the thermostat or the temperature control and make sure it’s set at or below 0 Fahrenheit. Then, place a refrigerator thermostat inside the walk-in freezer to check the temperature. If it’s between 0-5 degrees Fahrenheit, the freezer is working fine, but if the temperature is much above 0 degrees Fahrenheit, there is a problem that should be detected and fixed.

Keep in mind that the above temperature settings are for a walk-in freezer. For walk-in refrigerators, the recommended temperature is 32-50 degrees Fahrenheit or 0-13 degrees Celsius.

These are the common causing of a walk-in freezer not maintaining the temperature:

External Blockage

Walk-in freezers have fans on the exterior front of the unit. Many restaurants and cafes stock food on the sides and in front of their walk-in refrigerators as well. This blocks the airflow for the fans. When the fans are blocked, the unit doesn’t work correctly and the temperature doesn’t hold.

You can place items on the sides of the walk-in freezer, but avoid placing anything near the front of the unit.

Bad Condenser Fan Motor

As mentioned above, the fans that are directed on the exterior of a walk-in freezer remove heat from the unit. If the condenser fan stops working, the refrigeration unit won’t cool down. Moreover, it won’t cool the interior properly.

There are two reasons for a condenser fan motor not working: debris blocking the fan blades and a faulty fan motor.

You should clean the condenser coils and the fans of the walk-in cooler. If the unit doesn’t reach the temperature after cleaning, the fan motor may be faulty. A simple method of checking the fan motor is to turn on the walk-in freezer and stand next to the fans on the exterior. If you don’t sense air blowing out or the sound of a fan, the fan is not running.

Moreover, when a fan motor doesn’t work, the walk-in freezer becomes hot from the exterior and also produces more noise than normal. For checking and replacing the motor, you should consult commercial refrigerator services.

Dirty Coils

Like other refrigeration systems, walk-in freezers and coolers also have condenser coils on the exterior. They collect dust and debris over time. If they are clogged with dust buildup, your walk-in cooler may structure in cooling or freezing the stored items inside the unit.

So, consider cleaning the condenser coils of your unit. This is mostly done by appliance experts. Moreover, ask for an overall inspection of the unit for problems.

Leaking Refrigerant

All the appliances that rely on cooling use a refrigerant called a coolant or Freon. Walk-in coolers and freezers have refrigerant and use refrigerant as well. A leak of this refrigerant can cause a strange odor inside or outside near the unit.

Therefore, if you have cleaned your walk-in cooler completely and you’re still sensing a weird smell, it can be the odor of the leaking refrigerant.

This refrigerant leak can cause other problems as well like the walk-in cooler struggling to maintain the temperature, the walk-in cooler spoiling food due to no cooling, frozen evaporator coils, and water leakage inside the unit.

If you also hear a hissing or bubbling sound when you’re inside or near the walk-in cooler along with a strange smell, then it’s more likely a refrigerant leak.

So, you should contact a professional quickly for the inspection of your restaurant appliance. They will look for leaks, check the refrigerant levels, fix the leaks and other problems like iced-up evaporator coils, and then fill the refrigerant.

Worn Door Seals

The doors of the walk-in cooler have seals that completely restrict air from the inside to escape outside and vice versa.  Over time, these seals wear out. The door shuts but there are still small spaces for air to escape and warm air to enter.

Due to the inflow of warm air, your walk-in cooler will struggle in cooling. Moreover, condensation inside the unit will lead to a puddle of water on the walk-in cooler’s floor or outside near the unit.

This provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold to grow and infect the food. Moreover, your walk-in freezer becomes smelly due to the microbes and spoiled food.

So, if you find spoiled food and puddles of water inside or outside your walk-in cooler, check the door seals of your walk-in cooler. If you’re lucky, the door seal may be okay and your staff wasn’t shutting the door properly. However, mostly it’s worn seals.

Clogged Drainage System

Walk-in coolers have a drainage system that collects moisture from the unit and flows it into a floor drain. If the drainage system becomes clogged due to food items, debris, or any other reason, water won’t drain and allow the growth of bacteria and mold. This will create a musty smell in your walk-in cooler.


Walk-in coolers and freezers can store a huge amount of food. So, they must cool or freeze the food to avoid spoilage of the inventory. If your walk-in freezer is smelly, you should clean it or get in touch with a commercial refrigerator service. topac

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