Can I eat that, refrigerator explosion edition
July 18, 2021 10:41 AM   Subscribe

How to deal with an explosion of spoiled milk in the refrigerator?

I get milk delivered from a local dairy in reusable glass bottles. The milk in one of the bottles spoiled and broke the glass. Pieces of glass and most of the half-gallon of milk filled my refrigerator. It smells terrible and is quite the mess with milk everywhere, including for example trapped between the edges of the doors and the rubber seals.

So far I have:
- taken everything out of the refrigerator.
- wiped down, rinsed, and disinfected everything in the refrigerator that I can reach.
- thrown out all the food that wasn't in a sealed container.
- washed the sealed containers of food (jars, tupperware, unopened sealed bags of food) and put that back in the fridge.
- retched repeatedly from the terrible smell.
- put a box of baking soda in the fridge.

Has anyone here dealt with something like this before?

Does it seem reasonable to keep the food that was in sealed containers and not in direct contact with the milk?

Should I be thinking about replacing the refrigerator? Milk definitely got into parts of it that I can't reach, and I don't know if I can ever get the smell out. Even after all the cleaning it smells awful.
posted by medusa to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Best answer: Enzyme cleaner!
posted by aniola at 10:41 AM on July 18, 2021

Best answer: Yes, it is reasonable to keep the food that was not in contact with the milk. If the containers still smell after rinsing, you might try moving the food to a clean container so that you can better clean (or toss) the smelly container.

For milk that’s in places you can’t reach, like trapped between a seal and the door, maybe try using running water to rinse it out. You could pour water over it from a container, or even use a hose if you have one that reaches to the kitchen. I’d use plain cold water first to rinse off as much as you can, then probably a diluted bleach solution afterwards to kill any remaining smell. And use lots and lots of old towels to soak up the water.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:49 AM on July 18, 2021

Best answer: Basically if you get the enzyme cleaner to go all the places you can't reach, it will work its wonders. I use this one, but you should also be able to get enzyme cleaner from the natural cleaners section of your local grocery store. Does not work on artificial scents. Works wonders on all natural stenches.
posted by aniola at 10:56 AM on July 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: “ Has anyone here dealt with something like this before?”

Literally yesterday. And a couple weeks ago. And maybe two months before that. I guess I’m kind of an expert on this subject.

All the other food is fine. Or at least, it hasn’t caused us any problems any of the times it has happened to us. Each time we’ve caught the spill pretty quick, though, so the milk didn’t have a lot of time to soak into anything. Plastic-sealed stuff is going to be fine no matter what though.

The bigger problem is getting the smell out of the fridge. We used bleach cleaning spray and paper towels, with a toothbrush to reach into corners and drawer tracks and the like. It takes time but it’s doable.

Next time, before you bring the milk inside, inspect each bottle for cracks before bringing it in. Changes in temperature cause big problems with glass, so a bottle with a slight crack that goes from being in the hot air outside to your cold fridge can easily shatter.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:56 PM on July 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: > Should I be thinking about replacing the refrigerator?

That would be serious overkill. A friend of mine acquired an almost-new 'fridge when his neighbors threw it out. They had gone on vacation for two weeks – and when they returned, they discovered that the 'fridge had lost power while they were gone. All the food rotted, of course, and the smell was quite atrocious. My friend cleaned it out thoroughly and used it for years afterwards.
posted by akk2014 at 1:48 PM on July 18, 2021

Best answer: if you put frozen broccoli in the fridge and then forget, you'll get a puddle of really nasty smelling green goo on that shelf in the fridge. I took everything out and somehow origami'd the affected shelves into the dishwasher.

For other spots I bet that linked enzymatic cleaner's a good choice.

For tiny shards of broken glass that you don't want stuck in your fingertips, you can mush a piece of bread down into the spot where the glass is and it'll stick. Squishy white bread is better for this than, like, artisanal yummy crusty baguettes because (1) squishy and (2) cheaper.
posted by adekllny at 2:07 PM on July 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: After you've cleaned as much as possible. Save any lemon and orange peel/ rind. Pull out the membranes, cut into strips, leave in the bottom of the fridge. Or, get coffee beans, stale is fine, put a bunch in the bottom of the fridge. Strong, pleasant scents help drive out nasty smells.
posted by theora55 at 3:07 PM on July 18, 2021

Best answer: Baking soda is your friend for fridge cleaning/deodorizing. It also won't kill you if you happen to consume some.
posted by Cranberry at 12:45 AM on July 19, 2021

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