How to thoroughly remove mold from a fridge?
July 15, 2012 11:02 AM   Subscribe

My fridge smells strongly of mold, even after removing the offending produce, visible mold, and giving it a cursory wipedown. Where is the rest of it hiding?

We just returned from vacation, during which there was a lot of high heat and possibly power outages. There was a lot of condensation in the fridge, moldy food, and mold in the rubber bits around the door. There's still a strong moldy smell, but I can't figure out where it's coming from. I'm guessing there is still mold somewhere in an internal part of the fridge. How do I find and clean the rest of the mold?
posted by kitcat to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Take everything out and spray all surfaces down with a solution of bleach and water. Clean thoroughly.
posted by thelonius at 11:09 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Is this a mini-fridge? Some models of refrigerator have crevices or portions under the plastic where condensation-ice may have formed = water may have deposited during the power outages. It happens in mini-fridges on occasion.

I used to have a fridge with a manual that had diagrams of the whole assembly... so you could tell there was a frame spacing under the body where possibly some condensation could occur, etc... but I kind of doubt that may be available on a modern day fridge... Would it possible to take it outside and set in the sun for several days (unless outside is too humid...)? It really needs to be dried out completely before reusing.
posted by Bodrik at 11:11 AM on July 15, 2012

at the back of a fridge there's often a small drain - in my UK fridge, this is located on a ridge just above the vegetable drawers - and that can often be a lurking point for ~stuff~ - I tend to clean mine with a chopstick wrapped in a j-cloth or similar.

You'll also want to take all the shelves etc. out and give it a through clean - you mentioned you've given it a cursory wipedown but in that sort of situation, the only way to get rid is to do a fullscale clean. I am a bicarb paste and vinegar girl, esp where food storage is involved but up to you, I'd dilute any bleach if you go that way.

A small bowl of bicarb left in the fridge after cleaning should also help with the odour.
posted by halcyonday at 11:11 AM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, check out the rubber door gasket/seal thoroughly: it has convolutions and folds the make it seal well, but are also breeding grounds for all sorts of nastiness.
posted by pjern at 11:14 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If there's a grill or other little panel on the front of the very bottom of the fridge (below the door, on the outside of the fridge, not inside the chilled part), see if you can remove it. There's often a drip tray in there that you can slide out. Moldy water can collect in it.
posted by bcwinters at 11:18 AM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

No bleach! No bleach in your fridge! Bleach is corrosive. And gross.

try doing other things first.

It may just be the odor remaining at this point. Even if there is still mold, Baking soda, borax, vinegar are what I would suggest at this point.

And yes, check the drain and the gaskets.

posted by bilabial at 11:32 AM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Baking soda is the approved product for fridge cleaning. It sanitizes to some extent, removes mold, and does no harm to the finish. When you have replaced all the shelves and not-rotten food, leave the open box of soda in the fridge. Plastics absorb smells; it may be a while before your fridge loses the odor.
posted by Cranberry at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

"I'm guessing there is still mould somewhere in an internal part of the fridge."

There is extensive ducting (assuming frost free fridge/freezer model) that is internal to the body of the fridge that will grow mould in the described conditions. Some of those passageways are constructed from expanded bead foam (the white stuff commonly used in packaging) which supports mould quite well. Best thing you can do is empty it out; bring it outside; and then put a cup or two of ammonia inside and leave it for a few days. Then you'll need to remove the ammonia and leave it sit open for a couple days for the ammonia to dissipate. Ideally you want a high percentage like 20-30%.

If you have access to a truck load your fridge up and bring it to a U-Do car wash. The soap and high pressure afforded by the hand held wand are the best way to get all the little bits of food and mould out of all the nooks and crannies you can see.
posted by Mitheral at 11:54 AM on July 15, 2012

We picked up a secondary fridge used a few years back. It has a slight moldy/musy odor that repeated cleanings did not get rid of. I eventually let it sit open in the yard for about two weeks. The sun's UV rays did the trick.
posted by Tallguy at 1:15 PM on July 15, 2012

The freezer floor was a screwed down shelf in my old fridge. Check under there. Activated charcoal for the smell. If anyone recommends coffee grounds for the smell, don't do that. You will then associate coffee smell with mold smell for years.
posted by artychoke at 1:20 PM on July 15, 2012

Bleach, in my experience, does little for smells. It can get rid of visible mold, but you really need something else to kill the mold permanently such as a specialized cleaning product, and the smell is best dealt with by various methods. A mixing bowl full of charcoal (without fast-start ignition fluid!) changed out every day for several days is one method I've used as a landlord, and borax was the most effective product, hands down, at removing the smell from a basement floor after a sewer backup.

That said, fridges tend to have vents and drains that are notorious for accumulating mold and gunk, so inspect for such things thoroughly.
posted by dhartung at 4:37 PM on July 15, 2012

Well, I cleaned everything I could access with bleach (there was a whole colony growing on the underside of one of the shelves - oops), checked behind, underneath and in some places I was able to unscrew and threw a baking soda box in there. I never found another mold source, and the smell is as strong as ever 8 hours later, so unfortunately, I think it really is inside the stupid thing. Oddly, I can't seem to find a standard drainage tray. Anyhow, this is very bad. I'll update if we sort it out.
posted by kitcat at 7:51 PM on July 15, 2012

I just found this great thread about another fridge mold problem
posted by kitcat at 7:56 PM on July 15, 2012

sorry, here's the link
posted by kitcat at 7:57 PM on July 15, 2012

Use only plain white vinegar, the kind that goes for $1 a gallon in the supermarket. The fancy ones leave their own smell.

Get the supermarket brand. White vinegar is a generic product, defined by the FDA. You're wasting money if you get the brand name.
posted by KRS at 5:35 AM on July 16, 2012

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