Cleaning a refrigerator

Photo from Home Depot

Hurricane Zeta made her presence felt all across our county and the Black Belt region last week. Many of us lived for days without power. Having no power may have caused you to lose food to spoilage and now you have a bad odor in your refrigerator. So now you are no longer worry about food spoilage, but how do you get rid of that odor in your refrigerator.         

Strong food odors may develop as a result of food spoilage during a power failure. Because the refrigerator or freezer must be empty and unplugged when cleaning, the best time to combat these odors is before restocking foods. Below are some ideas for removing unwanted odors:

         1.  Use one of the following solutions to wash the interior walls of the refrigerator or freezer. Rinse with water and dry. DO NOT combine any two of these household chemicals’ which will result in toxic fumes, which may be fatal, may result. 

  • Vinegar: 1 cup per gallon of water
  • Household ammonia: 1 cup per gallon of water
  • Chlorine bleach: ½ cup per gallon of water
  • Lemon juice: Lemon juice can be used in much the same way that bleach can, so simply follow the same procedures. Be especially sure to remove all traces of lemon juice from the refrigerator when you are finished to ensure that you don’t leave any behind to go bad over time.
  • Baking soda: Baking soda can be a great way to remove odors (this works well with seafood) from your refrigerator, and best of all you really don’t need to do a whole lot of work with it either. Simply open the top of the package of baking soda, and place it into the refrigerator. Allow it to sit there for several days, and you should notice that the odor disappears over time.
  • Boiling lemon juice: Boiling lemon juice can be used in much the same way as baking soda and coal(see below). However, instead of letting it sit for a few days, remove the lemon juice once it has cooled down completely. Replace the cooled down lemon juice with some fresh boiling lemon juice, and allow it to cool down completely. Repeat the process as necessary until the odor has been removed. 
  • Vanilla essence: If you don’t like the smell of lemon, you can always use vanilla instead. Use some vanilla essence (which can be purchased at most department stores) in the same manner that you would the lemon juice. You can either wash down the interior of your fridge, or place some boiling water and vanilla essence into the refrigerator. Both methods will work quite well at removing odors.

         2.  Take out all removable parts and wash with mild soap and water. 

         3.  Fill a large shallow container with vinegar. Set in refrigerator or freezer several hours. If odor persists, let set 2 to 3 days, changing vinegar every 8 hours.

         4.  Try activated charcoal, available at a drugstore or pet supply store, to absorb lingering odors. Place the charcoal in large shallow pans or paper in the bottom of the refrigerator or freezer. Leave for several days, changing the charcoal every few days. After the odor disappears, rinse and dry the interior before replacing food.

         Here’s where the patience piece comes in. For best results, you need to unplug the refrigerator, leave the door open, and air it out for at least one day. If the refrigerator smells persist, wipe the interior down again with the baking soda solution and air it out for another day.

         Tip: To introduce a pleasant smell, you can place a couple of cotton balls soaked in vanilla inside the refrigerator and freezer and close them in there for a few hours before restocking.

Source: Food and Water Safety When the Power Goes Out: HE-0670

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