There is moldcheese in my drip pan and I don't know what to do.
December 30, 2011 11:08 AM   Subscribe

The drip pan of my friend's fridge is infested with mold, and it's nonremovable, too. How should he clean this in the quickest manner possible?

[Posting for a friend]

A few nights before Christmas some friends and I made some Eggnog and put it in my freezer to chill. The container tipped a bit against the door and some spilled out. None of us knew about the drip pan at all, so we cleaned up the spill and thought nothing of it. The next morning, the apartment smelled like someone had thrown up somewhere. We searched for the source but couldn't find it, and my roommate and I left for Christmas without finding it.

Now that we're back, we've figured out that the Eggnog got into the drip-pan. The heat from the compressor curdled it, and now there's an awful growth of mold. In addition, the drip pan is non-removable. We have access to a tiny little bit of the top, but we can't really pour anything into it (except via the drain in the freezer), we can only spoon stuff in. Is there any way we can clean this? My landlord is out of town until the tenth, and has no idea how to clean it anyway.

Right now we have a dehumidifier at full blast pointed at the back of the fridge in attempts to dry the mold out, but I have no idea if that will actually work.

The fridge is a Frigidaire FRT15B3AW5. We were going to have a New Years Eve party tomorrow night and that might not be practical now, but any help you could give us is appreciated.
posted by zhi to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You say you can pour stuff into this drip pan via the freezer? Dump a bottle or two of bleach or vinegar down the hole in the freezer.
posted by dfriedman at 11:11 AM on December 30, 2011

you don't want the fumes from bleach being heated up by the compressor. Do Vinegar.
posted by zombieApoc at 11:18 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah I guess vinegar makes more sense than bleach.

What I'd do: dump a bottle of vinegar down the hole in the freezer. Then dump hot water. Then dump another bottle of vinegar. Rinse with more water. Hopefully that will flush it out.
posted by dfriedman at 11:26 AM on December 30, 2011

You could try contacting Electrolux to see if they have advice.
posted by bcwinters at 11:28 AM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: What I'd do: dump a bottle of vinegar down the hole in the freezer. Then dump hot water. Then dump another bottle of vinegar. Rinse with more water. Hopefully that will flush it out.

From my friend:

"I hadn't even thought of vinegar, that's a great idea, but the water level in the drip-pan might be too high to safely pour that much fluid down there."
posted by zhi at 11:42 AM on December 30, 2011

is the drip pan the one under the freezer or at the bottom of the fridge?
posted by zombieApoc at 11:44 AM on December 30, 2011

That evaporation tray probably has about a 1 pint volume so I wouldn't go crazy with vinegar. Also, I've had to evacuate a building because someone dropped a bottle of glacial acetic acid - sure, that's like a 4 gallons of vinegar worth of acetic acid, but it was like getting hit in the face with a board.

Before you go all chemical warfare on it, have you tried to pull your refrigerator out from the wall to see if you can get at the drip pan from behind? Unplug it while you do this so the blower doesn't kick on while your hands are in there.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: is the drip pan the one under the freezer or at the bottom of the fridge?

"The drip-pan is at the bottom of the fridge, it can only be accessed from the back of the fridge, where, as I said, it's extraordinarily difficult to get anything into the pan. As far as I can tell there's no way for the actual fridge itself to drain to the drip pan, only the freezer."
posted by zhi at 11:48 AM on December 30, 2011

I would use a spray bottle and a solution of 50/50 denatured ethanol (from the hardware store and absolutely non-drinkable) and water on it (because that's what we used to kill things in the lab). I'd also unplug the thing while I was spraying and for a little while afterward since a 50% ethanol solution is somewhat flammable.

The problem with most anything you add to kill off whatever is growing in there (Sodium hypochlorite, acetic acid, ethanol, etc.) is that after it evaporates and goes it's merry way, you're still going to have a carbon source for whatever spores waft their way in next, and the defrost cycle on the freezer is going to keep things moist.

I expect that you can remove the drip pan *somehow*- it's unlikely they start with the drip pan and build a refrigerator around it - but that it will involve removing more parts from the back of your refrigerator than you are comfortable with. (And I can't say I blame you.) I tried looking for a service manual on line, but everyone I found seems to want to charge for that.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:11 PM on December 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't see a drip pan specifically labelled in the manual but presuming that it is accessible from the back, why don't you just pull out the refrigerator and clean it by hand?

Pouring any sort of cleaner down a hole is unlikely to clean much, though it may mask the smell long enough for the party to take place.
And hey, while you're back there, you can clean off the coils as well.
A clean refrigerator is a happy refrigerator!
posted by madajb at 12:42 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

These guys have the service manual available for $10. Maybe this is worth the $10 attempt.

Parts stores seem to always list this thing in conjunction with a tube of glue, however. The part itself doesn't seem to have any screw flanges on it, so maybe it's actually glued in place? That seems really silly, but there you go. If that's true, getting the service manual won't help that much.

Perhaps repeated flushing with some sort of agent is the best short-term solution.

STOP THE PRESSES! Maybe this helps:
Is there a specific way to apply the thermal mastic for the AP3777950 drain pan kit? It did not come with installation instructions.
Asked by Mamabayer for Model FRT18KG3DW0 drain pan

Hello Mamabayer. No, just apply the mastic on the drian pan AP3777950 where it makes contact with the top of the compressor. Hope this helps.

There is a terrrible smell coming from the drip pan. I need to remove it and empty it. How can I get it out of there? Help, it's horrible.
Asked by Kim for Model FRT17B3AW9

Hello Kim. The drip pan AP3777950 is mounted to the top of the compressor. You will need to clean the drip pan from the back of the refrigerator. If you remove the drip pan from the top of the compressor, you will need to remove the screws securing it to the compressor and slide it off the top of the compressor. Hope this helps.
Answered by
Different model fridges, but the same drip pan part. It seems that it is screwed to the compressor, and the mastic provides a good thermal bond to the top of the compressor.
posted by chazlarson at 12:57 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: "Here's the best picture my roommate could get.

The black box in front is part of the drip-pan, but not all of it. It continues further into the back. The diagonal box on the right side back is also part of the drip-pan. The compresser is below it, mostly cut off. There are remnants of an orange goo on the compressor - this is the glue holding the tray to the compressor.

You can see into the drip-pan here, but you'll note the wire grating above it. This grating makes it impossible to pour anything directly into this portion of the drip pan. The diagonal box in back can be reached by a spoon, but that's pretty much it.

I just put some gloves on and tried to manually pull it out. The only part still supported is the direct center of the drip tray. I could twist it, pull it, etc., but I could not remove it. I don't know if there are screws (there are non visible), but it's firmly attached to the middle of the compressor. My roommate also says it's attached to a pipe coming from above, which may or may not be growing mold too (I couldn't get at an angle where I could see this myself). There's a lot of weird wires and metal bits surrounding the compressor, and the bolts holding it in place look too built in to mess with myself.

I'm going to have to call a professional, aren't I?"
posted by zhi at 1:38 PM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: "Also I should mention that I spooned some baking soda into the tray to remove the odor over the last few days, so I'm not totally sure pouring vinegar into the drain would actually work, and I don't think I could get at it with a spray bottle to use the ethanol/water mixture."
posted by zhi at 1:45 PM on December 30, 2011

Here's a brute force suggestion. Using a dremel, or even a sharp shop knife, cut most of that back panel out. Leave a finger-worth of lip around the three sides.

This will allow you to get your [gloved] hands in there to clean that pan out with a sponge and will let you clear all the mold out besides.

To close it up, go to the hardware store and get a small piece of plexiglass [they'll probably cut it to the right size for you], some silicone adhesive caulk, and some duct tape.

Slather the lip you left on the drip pan with the silicone caulk, then press the plex on there. Make sure that the caulk is sealed all the way around; that should be easy to see since the plex is transparent. If it wants to sag while it's curing, tape it on with the duct tape.

That should hold you for some time; surely through your party.
posted by chazlarson at 1:52 PM on December 30, 2011

Do the diagrams here of the fridge help any? Sears parts direct
posted by purple_bird at 1:58 PM on December 30, 2011

You could also try using a screwdriver as a pry bar, assuming the glue on top of the compressor is what's holding it in place. Slip a big flat-blade in between them and twist gently while manipulating the tray. If it's glue holding it down, it should be apparent, and you should be able to twist the screwdriver and hear some squicking sounds as the mastic releases. If twisting is really hard, then that's not the case, and you don't want to break the pan.
posted by chazlarson at 2:08 PM on December 30, 2011

Looking at what Chazlarson found, I think that funky little tab on top of the compressor (part 28) fits up into the groove on the bottom of your drip pan, so after you break loose the mastic (and that they use that word suggests to me that it's more of a tenacious putty than a glue) it will slide out in one particular direction, but no other. If you lay on the floor and look up at the bottom of this with a flashlight you might be able to figure out a solution. Covering the floor with newspaper first is advised.

I'll bet the people who have to work on these things for a living would like to just slug the engineer who came up with this solution.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:27 PM on December 30, 2011

Ok, there is a locking tab that holds the thing on.

Search this document for the part number #240598501 and you get a helpful photo with instructions. It's in the "FYI" blurb on the page 11.
posted by madajb at 3:20 PM on December 30, 2011

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