Coolant leaks and the use of chemical based cleaners are common causes of a chemical smell in the refrigerator. Immediate action is necessary if the cause of the odor is a coolant leak.
Refrigerator coolants may smell like ammonia, nail polish remover or another chemical. It is necessary to open windows and doors in the home if the cause of the odor is a suspected coolant leak. Open windows and doors in the room for at least 15 minutes to ensure adequate ventilation, then check the temperature inside the refrigerator. Typically, coolant loss causes warmer-than-normal temperatures inside the refrigerator. Calling a professional appliance repair service is helpful in determining whether there is a coolant leak causing the odor. The appliance repair service can identify and possibly repair the problem.
If the chemical odor occurs after cleaning the refrigerator and a coolant leak is not present, the problem may be caused by the plastic in the refrigerator. Harsh chemical cleaners are absorbed into plastic and may cause an odor that is very difficult to remove. Some odors can be removed by cleaning the refrigerator with baking soda and water or by sprinkling a liberal amount of baking soda in the refrigerator and allowing it to remain overnight. Check the insulation under the refrigerator to determine whether it has absorbed any of the cleaner, and clean the drip tray under the refrigerator to assist in removing the odor.