Why does my refrigerator's water smell bad?

Updated November 21, 2016

A cool glass of water is one of life's simple pleasures, especially after you've finished yard work or have returned from a jog around the block. A bad smell in your water can ruin the experience. If the water from your refrigerator smells terrible, then your fridge is in need of repair.


If your refrigerator's water smells bad and the problem isn't present in other water sources, such as your kitchen sink or shower, then the odour is most likely musty or earthy, like the smell you notice when walking into a damp basement. The water might also taste musty. It will run clear, but you could occasionally see dark green or black flecks in the water. You shouldn't drink the water when it smells or tastes bad.


The cause of the bad smell in your refrigerator's water is most likely mould growth. Mold can grow inside the plastic tubing that connects your fridge's water dispenser to your home's water supply. This usually happens when the tubing has split at some point, leading the way to leaks and giving mould spores the chance to grow. Exposure to mould spores can cause health problems in some people sensitive to them. Symptoms include respiratory problems, headaches and skin irritation.


Cleaning out the tubing isn't a good option; refrigerators aren't designed for anyone to perform extensive maintenance on them. Instead, you need to replace the tubing. New tubing is available for purchase at home improvement and appliance stores. Place the mould-infested tubing in a plastic bag and dispose of it outside your home to reduce the risk of further mould growth.


Because the bad smell in your refrigerator's water was caused by a split in the water supply tubing, it can be a warning of water damage caused by water leaking out of the damaged area. When you replace the tubing, check the floor and walls around your fridge and make sure they are not wet. Remove the dripping pan beneath your refrigerator and clean it with white vinegar, just in case any mould spores dripped down into it.

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