How to stop refrigerated foods getting condensation INSIDE the package?
July 29, 2019 10:03 PM   Subscribe

We rapidly get a ton of condensation inside food packages in our fridge. Unopened or opened tortillas, cheese, hotdog buns*, everything. It seems to be getting worse. I would like to not have tortillas that are dried out yet soaked in water on one side.

I have a theory that perhaps there are temperature swings inside the fridge allowing moisture to escape the foods and then condense on the inside of the package making everything extra gross. Is this possible? How can I find out if that's the case, and is there anything I can do to fix it?

This happens with anything from newly purchased corn tortillas, to cheese, to leftover pizza wrapped in foil. The fridge was here when we moved in five years ago. There is no condensation inside the fridge itself. It does not make a difference if food containers are filled to the top or not, or if we put things in at room temperature (so anywhere from 62-72 degrees depending on the time of year). I don't hear unusual sounds or notice things being warmer than they should be.

This condensation also happens quickly in our freezer, even though I expect that sort of thing because it's frost-free. It still seems unusually sudden.

*yes I know it's not ideal to keep breadstuffs in the fridge but the organic things get moldy in a few days if we don't and our cats chew on the bags anyway.
posted by oneirodynia to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I used a thermometer that records minimum and maximum temperatures to prove to my landlord that the fridge and freezer weren't holding temperature and were fluctuating. My food in the fridge was definitely becoming more condensed and wet as a result of the temperature swings. It took me about a month to figure out that it wasn't holding temperature properly, because I rarely caught it at a moment where the food was actually warm. What finally worked in the end was just replacing the fridge after several attempts by the warranty company to fix it.
posted by sockermom at 10:13 PM on July 29, 2019 [5 favorites]

An experiment for the freezer: see if an ice cube changes shape

For the fridge, maybe: see if some butter or other shortening changes shape: cut a piece or butter/shortening that's got fairly defined shape, put something heavy on top of it, and see if the piece melts enough to be squashed.
posted by amtho at 10:24 PM on July 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

As a quick fix, I put 1-2 paper towels inside my produce bags in the fridge. The paper towel absorbs a lot of the excess moisture. I’ve noticed my greens stay crisp longer and don’t get moldy/wilted.
posted by notheotherone at 10:28 PM on July 29, 2019 [9 favorites]

You might have some ice hiding somewhere blocking air flow. This happened to my relatively new (~3 years) pretty nice fridge, and I got weird temperature swings, and I never would have thought without a friend suggesting it!
The "easy" way to fix this (if it is the problem) is to take everything out and leave it unplugged for a day or so.
I took the interior apart a bunch and applied a hair dryer for a couple hours to the previously hidden ice that that uncovered, but that may or may not work on yours.
posted by flaterik at 12:44 AM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

My fridge just kicked the bucket a little over a week ago. I was getting condensation inside packages of food for a few weeks leading up to its final demise.

Your refrigerator is dying.
posted by phunniemee at 4:37 AM on July 30, 2019

Could you maybe save desiccant packets from packages of food that contain them and medication bottles and other food-safe sources and place them in with the refrigerated foods which accumulate too much condensation?
posted by XMLicious at 4:39 AM on July 30, 2019

Hello Me of Two Weeks Ago!

Had a similar problem. Turns out there is a vent - or maybe more accurately, a fan? - inside the fridge itself, that circulates the cold air. We had too much stuff crammed in there, and it was blocking this vent from circulating air properly. Solution was to leave about a 6 inch gap in front of this vent, and to also get rid of some old crap. Now everything is perfect. No more soggy spinach or tortillas.

So you might try checking for a blocked vent first, before calling in a repairperson.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:42 AM on July 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

Are the items still warm when you put them in the fridge? If not, like the others this sort of thing was a sign that my fridge was dying & vents to circulate the cool air were getting blocked with ice and the fan was freezing solid. Defrosting everything regularly (every couple of months) nursed the freezer for another 8 months or so while we saved up for a new one. There are digital thermometers that will track the temp swings of your freezer for you, if your freezer is part of your fridge, watch your fridge is staying in safe temperature ranges too, we were horrified when we saw how that was effected.

Side note. Keeping bread in the freezer is great, I lived in a country for years that loves it's bakeries didn't have the USA's type of bread that lasts weeks on the counter & that's how we did it, it's keeping bread in the fridge you've got to watch out for.
posted by wwax at 6:33 AM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I had a fridge once that swung back and forth from freezing everything to keeping stuff barely lukewarm. I thought the fridge was dying, but it turned out the floor was not at all level and the tilt of the fridge was messing with the cooling system.
posted by tectressa at 12:43 PM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks, there are some useful suggestions here! I'm going to see if I can locate the vent and clear around it- it's an apartment sized fridge and always stuffed. I will probably get one of the thermometers too.

Hopefully it's not dying just yet, but I would not be totally surprised if that were the case.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:02 PM on July 30, 2019

An experiment for the freezer: see if an ice cube changes shape

One trick I have for monitoring freezers where I'm regularly out of contact (i.e. office freezers, that sorta thing) is to put a penny on top of a frozen dixie cup full of water. Over the course of a few months the water will slowly sublimate, but the penny should always stay on top. If the freezer has an unusual defrosting cycle and is getting too warm or outright losing cooling capability, the penny will sink to the bottom of the cup as the ice melts.

Anyway, back to the question as hand - for my fridge, this was always a sign that the defrost drain froze over again because I was a dummy the first time the defrost thermostat failed and moved the drain warmer off of the (glass! hard to reach! fragile!) defrosting element. I've gotten very good at dismantling my freezer in the subsequent years so I could huck a hair dryer on the blockage until it melted.

It's also possible your automatic defrost timer / thermostat are screwed up, and the fridge is warming up too much because the defroster is running incorrectly. Troubleshooting the thermostat is fairly straightforward and google-able (the circuit usually opens and closes as the thermostat crosses the freezing point, but I don't remember which way and is probably manufacturer specific), but I don't know if I ever found a process for troubleshooting the timer.
posted by Kyol at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

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