There’s a cabal of rotting condiments and yogurts he left behind, their expiration dates stretching as far back as 2014. His mess is now mine to reckon with.
Dealing with another person's mess—especially when it gives rise to potent odors—is never any fun. But it's especially horrifying when dealing with a space like a fridge, which is supposed to keep your foods fresh and appealingly edible. Growing up, baking soda was my family’s preferred fridge-deodorizer, and we applied it with equal enthusiasm to shoes. Baking soda remains our tried-and-true cure-all. In the Sen household, the best way to de-stench a pair of smelly kicks is to coat their soles with a light dust of Arm & Hammer.
Does your refrigerator stink? Try keeping tea bags in it as they are believed to help in getting rid of odour. pic.twitter.com/IUWnj7hlUq
But I’ve recently, thanks to the Tea Board of India, discovered a more cost-effective method than baking soda to deodorize my revoltingly grody fridge: used tea bags. It’s almost deceptively simple. After your tea’s done steeping, stick your tea bags in an open container—I used tupperware, but a mug also works—and stick it in the locus of the odor. There, it’ll absorb those unwanted perfumes.
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I approached this exercise with a heavy dose of suspicion, as I'm generally skeptical of these so-called home hacks that tend to ricochet across social media. But quelle surprise: Give it two days, and it works. My fridge now smells as fresh as a batch of pine cones. I’m a fiendish tea drinker these days, and I’ve been used to discarding my pockets of raspberry rooibos in my garbage bags, where they soak. In other words, I haven’t really known what to do with them.
I'm told used tea bags serve a motley of other purposes, too: as dish degreasers, as pasta-fortifiers. (They're also good for shoes.) But I'll experiment with those later; for now, as long as my fridge has this aggressively uninviting aroma, I'll put my tea bags in a fridge. For a fridge whose odor may make you keel over, a used tea bag is a vaccine.
How do you use your tea bags? Let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.