Clean my fridge - I need beer
December 11, 2006 9:02 PM   Subscribe

Dirty, gross refrigerator in garage. A bit of mold inside and lots of black stuff filling every crevice. Mechanically sound, but is it possible to get it clean enough to use again?

We recently bought a house that came with an old refrigerator in the garage. I've always wanted a "beer fridge" but was sadly disappointed when I opened the door and got hit with a nasty smell and saw a few things growing inside. How do you clean something like this? Is it worth it or should I just get rid of it?
posted by cleve9 to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
Unplug and a good scrubbing/hosing down with bleach + water combo might work. I have absolutely no experience with this this, but it's just beer, it's self contained. The fridge just has to be clean enough not to stink when you open it, and not to slime up the bottles. Go for an airing out and scrubbing, and see how it turns out.
posted by cschneid at 9:11 PM on December 11, 2006

Do the above
Let dry
Then mix baking soda and water and scrub
Let dry
rinse, repeat
Let dry
Plug in

I had a Korean roommate, it took a while but I got every bit of kimchee smell out of my fridge!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:19 PM on December 11, 2006

(not there is anything wrong with Koreans or kimchee, just that the stuff is potent!)
posted by Pollomacho at 9:19 PM on December 11, 2006

In theory, the interior is both airtight and waterproof, meaning no liquids you spray into it will get into the compressor assembly and whatnot. In other words, go hog wild with the water + bleach and scrub, scrub, scrub.
posted by frogan at 9:39 PM on December 11, 2006

I agree with the above, but I don't know if bleach is really necessary.

I would use a strong detergent (e.g. MrClean) to get rid of everything visable and disolve any greasy residue, then treat it with baking soda.

It may take a day or two (with airing out and smell checking) but it is quite doable.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:39 PM on December 11, 2006

Put it out in the sun for a few days too if you can.
posted by fshgrl at 9:45 PM on December 11, 2006

I agree with the above. Then check the seals and make sure it's closing properly. And get a thermometer or something and check it's getting cold enough inside (check in several different places inside, no warm spots). If it's too warm inside it won't stay hygenic. Keep an eye on your power useage too, a crapped out old fridge can chew through the electricity if it's working all the time to stay cold.

We used to have a beer fridge in the basement. It also got gross and I cleaned it sucessfully pretty much as described above. We got rid of it when the seals stopped working. The fridge was going through a lot of power and the beer was semi-warm.
posted by shelleycat at 9:45 PM on December 11, 2006

Google "katrina refrigerators" to see some (many) less successful attempts at cleaning fridges.
posted by acorncup at 9:55 PM on December 11, 2006

Best answer: I second putting it out in the sun; UV does wonders on mold and all sorts of gross quasi-living things.

In terms of cleaners, I'd look towards your bathroom. Maybe something like Tilex would work best? Or if not that strong, Soft Scrub or SS with Bleach might also work. Basically something designed for removing mold and mildew from bathrooms, preferably one of the 'spray on and wait 20 minutes, then scrub' types. You'd naturally want to test it on a corner of the 'fridge to make sure it won't melt the plastic, but if it's not going to eat through it, go to town. (Do you care if it gets slightly discolored from bleach? I wouldn't.)

Once you get the big chunks out of there, dilute bleach and hot water would probably be my next weapon, both to clean and to basically kill anything left inside. I'd much rather smell Clorox than mold any day.

Also, have you considered a pressure washer? Not one of those really strong take-the-bark-off-a-tree gas-powered ones, but something that would mix in soap with the water and let you hose out the inside a few times without doing it by hand. That would be a good way to start out and see how much scrubbing you're going to be doing.

If harsh cleansers aren't your thing (disclaimer: I'm a 'better living through chemistry' man myself), there's always Simple Green, or vinegar+water combos.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:04 PM on December 11, 2006

They sell spray-bottles of cleaners intended for getting rid of must and mold in showers. I used one in my shower one time and it worked beautifully. I don't see why such a thing shouldn't work just as well in a refrigerator.

Do it outside, and spray it out afterwards with a hose, because the stuff smells pretty vile.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:28 PM on December 11, 2006

This previous thread has lots of good advice for cleaning out a fridge.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:34 PM on December 11, 2006

I had a fridge in the garage, that was scheduled to become our kitchen fridge when the old one crapped out, but my g/f ixnayed the thing being anywhere but the basement for much the same reason you state. Simple green and a hose does wonders, and some sun. (Said fridge is now *my* beer fridge, in the basement, and really, it doesn't have to be immaculate for beer bottles)
posted by notsnot at 3:07 AM on December 12, 2006

Bleach and sunlight are your friends here. Be careful with the Tilex/related cleaners - they might be too harsh for the plastic and rubber.
posted by Opposite George at 3:31 AM on December 12, 2006

Best answer: Scoot that sucker down the driveway and go nuts with the hose. Wear eye and respiratory protection because some spores will go airborne.

If bleach isn't your style, try peroxide. Mix it with some vinegar, as dropping the pH makes it much more effective against microbes.

A $0.99 fingernail brush from the auto-parts store should have thin, but stiff, and sufficiently long, bristles to get into the grooves on the magnetic gasket. Scrub and rinse, then mix a fresh batch of solution, scrub in, and let sit.

Good luck!
posted by Myself at 6:12 AM on December 12, 2006

Bleach. Or oven cleaner. Preferably not in combination.
posted by rokusan at 6:13 AM on December 12, 2006

Keep in mind that bleach and other cleansers can leave odours behind. This can taint food and open liquids (like a bag of milk) if you choose to store these things in it (and since it's the holidays and there is ample food I'm thinking that might happen). I've used diluted vinegar washes or baking soda scrubs to clean a fridge that was growin many "science projects".

FWIW, the doors of a fridge should be kept open when the motor is off, this will prevent future science projects from forming.
posted by LunaticFringe at 6:17 AM on December 12, 2006

Forget trying to sanitize moldy rubber gaskets. they're porous and you'll never be entirely free of whatever has grown on and in them or the residue of whatever chemical you use to try to clean it all up. If the refrigerator actually works, just replace them, it takes less than an hour and a few regular household tools, and they're not that costly.

As for the cleaning, if baking soda and vinegar don't do the trick, before a bathroom cleaner I'd suggest your second step up the chemical ladder be a kitchen cleaner with a dilute bleach solution, such as a Lysol or Clorox spray meant for sanitizing countertops and fridge spills, etc. These formulations are designed to be used in areas where food will soon be (with copious rinsing, of course) and yet are potent enough to kill salmonella, etc. If those don't work, then you can move up to the next rung on the ladder for products meant to kill persist mold.
posted by Dreama at 7:52 AM on December 12, 2006

Harsh chemicals aren't required in most cases, just pressure and hot soapy water.

Best way to clean a gross fridge is is haul it down to a u-do car wash and spend $5 hosing it down. Just keep the high pressure spray away from the controls and the wiring going to the compressor and you'll be fine. If the fridge has fiberglass insulation you'll want to let it dry for a few days before turning it on.

If this is a two compartment frost free fridge you'll have mould growing inside the fridge. Best way to kill it off is ammonia or ozone. I outlined the methods in the previous thread

Do not use oven cleaner on any aluminum bits (many shelves and door retaining bars), it'll eat right thru.
posted by Mitheral at 11:06 AM on December 12, 2006

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