Deep freezer failed while on vacation. It's bad.
May 29, 2018 7:20 PM   Subscribe

The raw meat is fully hot now, putrid smell, small maggots forming. What's the safest and least repulsive way to deal with this mess? We will throw out the entire appliance duct taped shut if needed/possible. My spouse vomited several times trying to handle it. I can handle the smell but not the maggots. Help.
posted by crunchy potato to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Throw out the entire appliance duct taped shut.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 7:28 PM on May 29, 2018 [20 favorites]

I mean even if you do salvage it, it's always going to be in your mind as 'the rotten maggot freezer'.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 7:30 PM on May 29, 2018 [13 favorites]

If I had to, I'd get a giant trash can double lined with trash bags, position it next to the freezer, a very long pair of tons, and some Vicks (to go under my nose), rubber gloves, and maybe one of those face masks too. Tong, drop, run to the window for fresh air, repeat. If you can set up a fan to blow the aroma away from you as you work, do that. (Had to take care of a horribly aromatic mess once; I held my breath as much as possible and took lots of breaks to run outside and gag).

However, there are folks who clean up crime scenes for a living so I bet there's someone who would take care of this for the right amount of $$. I don't know how you go about finding them, but I'd start by searching for local cleaning services - call and explain the situation. Even if they can't handle it, see if they know someone who can. I'd also post on FB to ask for recommendations.
posted by bunderful at 7:48 PM on May 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I would duct tape it completely shut and call 1800-Got-Junk or similar local junk removal service. They might refuse to take it if it’s a bio-hazard but that’s where I would start. If they won’t take it taped shut maybe they’ll take it if you hire someone else (maybe a handyman or man-with-a-van type) with a strong stomach to empty it first. Pay generously.
posted by bleep at 7:53 PM on May 29, 2018

No one is going to take a taped shut appliance that smells of rotting flesh without opening it on the premises, come on. Call your local sanitation department and ask how to 01) dispose of potential biohazard and 02) how to dispose of a refrigerator/freezer. Idk where you are but here in NYC there are laws about not throwing them away with the door still attached.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:01 PM on May 29, 2018 [52 favorites]

I'm not necessarily suggesting you do this, but when this happened to my parents, my dad rented a Bobcat, dug a huge-ass hole, and buried the thing. Admittedly, they had 2-1/2 acres and he was a retired engineer who tended to over-engineer simple things, BUT: All other efforts to mitigate the issue without also being exposed to the stink failed miserably.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:01 PM on May 29, 2018 [13 favorites]

Not everyone has the same squeamishnesses as you do. If you can toss money at this problem, give someone $50-100 to do an hour's worth of work emptying out the freezer and putting it into a double/triple lined trash bag and then you can just dispose of the freezer of you want (or pay another person to clean it once it's empties). Maggots and rotting meat are super gross but it's not hazmat level gross. Here's an older AskMe thread answer that might be useful.
posted by jessamyn at 8:20 PM on May 29, 2018 [13 favorites]

Uggggggh. Uggggggggh.

Assuming you have nothing in there that would react chemically with bleach, I would pour in a goodly amount and close the lid. That should kill the maggots, thereby reducing their disgustingness by a considerable amount. Also, while it won't eliminate the smell, it will probably compete heavily with it. Then either proceed with trash can and hazmat suit or make call to sanitation department.

I think permethrin also works to kill them. You'd have to buy an industrial-sized jug of anti-flea dog shampoo or similar.
posted by praemunire at 8:27 PM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Freezers are expensive. Suit up as suggested above, use a shovel to grab the meat and dump into a giant trash can, have good ventilation, and think of it as helping the earth by not dumping this in a landfill.

Once all meat is out, time for bleach. How you clean depends on whether it's a stand-up or horizontal freezer. I can't look easily on my phone but I bet there are YouTube videos that could help.
posted by emjaybee at 8:55 PM on May 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

As someone who has at least three Terrible Trash Incidents every summer, you're not going to die of maggots. Use a vacuum on them and dump the bag/can outside when you're done. Don't overfill trash bags so they don't get too heavy to carry properly to the outdoor disposal unit.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:14 PM on May 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Freezers are expensive

Seriously. Give it away free to anyone who will deal with it, if your alternative is to throw it away. Put it on Craigslist's free section or something.
posted by salvia at 9:16 PM on May 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

How about a combination of ideas.

1. Drag freezer into yard.
2. Dig a deep hole somewhere in the yard where you don’t go very often and put the freezer next to it.
3. Make a run to Home Depot and get a couple long-handled rakes and thick rubber gloves that go to the elbow. Maybe some painter’s pants and booties to go over your shoes while you’re at it.
4. Put a clothespin on your nose (metaphorically speaking), fling open the freezer door, and rake all the gross into the hole while standing back as far as you can. Get the hose and rinse out the freezer as well as possible. Then fill the hole back in.
5. Bleach the hell out of the freezer (with Oxiclean, which is safe to wash down a sewer drain) and then call whoever you need to call to dispose of it.
6. Throw away all the painters pants and gloves and booties and bleach the rakes.

You might throw up a time or three, it will probably be the grossest thing you have ever done, you can pretend there’s a litter of dire wolf puppies to be distributed afterward...whatever you need to do.

Whenever I think of something disgusting that I have to do, I think of Stan Uris in “It” where they have to crawl through the solid waste pipe and he ultimately says, “Shit washes off.” You might need an hour-long shower after this, but it’s not going to hurt you and nobody ever died of being grossed out. I’ve never had to do anything quite this level, but I’ve had to deal with some pretty gross stuff on several occasions, and basically you just have to turn off your imagination and just go through it one step at a time while thinking as little as possible. You can do this.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:26 PM on May 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

A gross maggot thing happened when I was a kid - a bird died in our stove vent and maggots dropped down onto the stove in little bunches for a few days until we could get someone to come clean the bird out of where it had crawled into and also repair our chimney. Mom bravely vacuumed the maggots up and also we didn't use the stove for a few days but after that really it was fine. So! I have personal experience with maggots and then being okay with the thing that they were on providing food later after being cleaned. But importantly the stove didn't have rotten meat and wouldn't be used to hold raw foods for safety later. I think I'd personally want to replace the freezer in your situation.

If this happened to me I would arrange for appliance pickup from my garbage folks who will give me a set date and time, and use that as a motivator and endpoint to get me to be able to clean it out for them, because being cruel to garbage people is the worst and I refuse to be that person. Then I'd go to home depot or similar and rent a really good filter mask that would let me work through the smell, good safety goggles that fit over my glasses, and buy a bunch of disposable gloves and some of those space suit thingies you can just throw away afterward.

I have a shop vac so I'd first use the bleach trick as mentioned above to make the maggots dead and then vacuum them up. Then I'd use some tool other than my hands to scoop everything into a garbage bag - maybe a garden trowel? I'd remove the garbage bags and hose out the shop vac to remove the majority of the smell and then take a break, come back and start cleaning the inside from top to bottom, using some of that spray on foamy stuff you use to clean tubs and showers.

But anyway, I'm pretty sure that if you have the money you can definitely pay people to deal with all of this. I have had very nice experiences with 1-800-got-junk in the past, but this is not a new problem and many people will be able to deal with it for a reasonable price.
posted by Mizu at 9:27 PM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Has the freezer failed or did it just lose power? Obviously if the freezer is defective you won't be able to give it away. However, if it was just a power failure then just turn the freezer back on. The contents will eventually refreeze, maggots and all, and then it can be fairly simply emptied without the vomiting.
posted by Mitheral at 9:34 PM on May 29, 2018 [53 favorites]

I doubt you're allowed to throw away a freezer with the door still attached.

And burying rotten meat in your yard is a really bad idea.

Seconding the crime scene clean-up folks.
posted by Marky at 9:54 PM on May 29, 2018

I’d try ServPro for this. Seems right up their alley. Tip generously.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 10:35 PM on May 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

Coming in to say ServPro or similar. A neighbor of mine died at home and was there for at least a week (local rumor mill says 3). If ServPro can deal with that they can definitely deal with a stinky fridge.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:29 AM on May 30, 2018

Mitheral's idea is the best one - otherwise it's mask, gloves, garbage bags, and bleach.

Please god do not bury rotting meat in your yard unless you live on an acreage and can get it six feet down.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:51 AM on May 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

In my municipality this is actually covered on the waste portion of their site. They recommend sealing with locking ratchet straps and calling them and they'll do a curbside pickup for $35, so I'd check and see what your waste service recommends.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:18 AM on May 30, 2018 [6 favorites]

Here in Houston, people ABSOLUTELY put taped-shut freezers and fridges out after the flood, so it certainly isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that this is viable.
posted by uberchet at 7:23 AM on May 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Marky: "I doubt you're allowed to throw away a freezer with the door still attached."

It used to be a good idea to remove doors from fridges and freezers because they had physical latches that could trap kids inside. Manufacturers went to magnets in the 60s which reduced the risk and a freezer secured shut won't be playable in.
posted by Mitheral at 10:56 AM on May 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can put stuff up your nose to block the smell. Also smear stuff on your upper lip.

But here is the big one - do not allow liquid to leak from the freezer because that smell will ruin everything it gets on that can't be bleached.

If you can take it outside before cleaning. Is it in your garage or your basement?

Get the thickest possible garbage bags. Triple bag. You don't want holes!

Also this may be covered under your home insurance policy. If not you can still ask them for suggestions about cleaners. They will know people who do this.

[I had a freezer failure when I was away for two weeks. The apartment manager took the fridge away and parked it at the far end of the parking lot. In the process he poured liquid all down the hallway. The apartment and hallway never smelled good again after that. Fortunately I moved a month later.]
posted by srboisvert at 11:36 AM on May 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

You don't say where you are, but if I were you (I was in this situation in the summer of 2015), I would contact the company that handles your trash collection. They might be able to haul it away for a fee. For me, it would have cost $300.

I tried to clean out the mess. I beseech you not to do this. Secure the lid with straps and get the freezer out of your house. The city might cite you for leaving a dead freezer outside, but the longer it stays in the house, the more the smell of decaying organic matter will linger.

Make it a priority to not let any liquid leak out of the freezer onto on the floor, or any surface, in your house. Put down heavy duty plastic all along the path before you roll the dead freezer out the door. The fluid will irreparably ruin anything it touches. I mean, maybe not glass? But anything porous. If the liquid does leak, Nature's Miracle will not remove the smell from rugs, wood floors, floor tiles, or the like. Or at least it didn't in my case. Odoban didn't help much either.

A more expensive option would be to have crime scene and natural disaster experts dispose of the freezer. I was quoted a price of $800 by the company in my town. The benefit of using them - in hindsight - was their expertise in sealing the freezer with straps and shrink wrap and removing the thing from my basement without spilling foul-smelling goo on anything. If I sound like I am recommending this course of action, I kind of am? I lost a freezer, but also a really good wool rug that I would happily pay $800 to have back. Again, hindsight.
posted by S'Tella Fabula at 12:39 PM on May 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I mean even if you do salvage it, it's always going to be in your mind as 'the rotten maggot freezer'.

Don't bother cleaning it. This same thing happened to me once (fridge/freezer was off for two weeks in August in Madrid) and no matter how many times I cleaned it or how many gallons of bleach I used, I could never get the stink all the way out, and for a few months afterwards, every once in a while I'd find a dead maggot in the fridge drain hole. Second best solution, throw money at this problem until you can get a professional to take it off your hands. (First best solution is nuke it from orbit.)
posted by lollymccatburglar at 7:21 AM on May 31, 2018

Get a gas vapor respirator. No matter what method you decide to dispose of this mess with, a gas vapor respirator will make it so you don’t smell the horror.
posted by donguanella at 5:05 AM on June 23, 2018

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