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Jun 22, 2011 11:24 AM


We returned home very late last night to find that power was out in some of my rooms and in the refrigerator and the garage freezer. Apparently a wire had blown down and judging by the temp of the food, it could have been most of the two weeks that we were away. Of course everything was ruined, lamb shanks, osso bucco, stews, wonderful soups and a lot of frozen vegetables. I am going to toss everything in the fridge too, mayo, oil, etc..

I immediately dumped the food and wiped out both freezers. Nothing in the refrigerator leaked, just went bad. Lots of dripage in both freezers and they both stink. Fortunately I used FoodSaver bags, so the frozen foods did not leak ... but the popsicles are all over everything and some store packaged boxes.

What is the best thing(s) to clean both the freezers and the refrigerators sections. I have read - coffee grounds, kitty litter, baking soda but people claim they don't work. Help, we are going through a heat wave now.

Bless PG&E, (San Francisco), they came out at 1:00AM and reconnected the outside wire and restored the power.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Hot water and bleach (Clorox) worked for us after a power outage. I also used the Arm & Hammer baking soda for the fridge/freezer for a few days before I put anything else in the fridge or freezer.

    Good luck and be sure to wear latex gloves. We always seem to have an outage after I have the "goodies" stocked up.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sydneyeats

      Vinegar is a pretty good disinfectant too, and not quite as smelly as bleach.

    2. sydney and coll are both right.

      first go around do the bleach and hot water. let it dry for a couple/few hours. its gonna reek of chlorine. then go back with a pretty strong vinegar solution. it will pretty much neutralize the bleach smell and leave things with a clean fresh scent. If you want you can squeeze a little bit of lemon juice into the solution, but not too much.

      1. Many years ago when living in a 3 room house, we shared space with a large chest freezer in the bedroom. We used this freezer as primary storage (longer term) and our kitchen freezer was short term. Sometimes weeks would go by without digging into the large one.

        I began getting faint whiffs of something nasty. I'd ask the wife, but she didn't notice anything. It was somewhat irregular and I never thought about that damned freezer.

        Some days later, I was determined to find the source (dead rat in the wall? something long forgotten at the back of the closet? who knows?). So there I was, crawling on hands and knees sniffing like a bloodhound. OK, it doesn't seem to come from this a bit....not here...and so on.

        There was a small indicator light at bottom of the freezer and my eyes flashed over it about 8 inches away, then it dawned on me: the light ain't glowing...the freezer is not on....the plug is out.


        I jump up and opened the lid....too late...... Arghhhhyucccck.

        After getting everything out (straight out the side window), I dumped about 2 gallons of hot soapy water into the freezer, followed by a gallon of bleach.

        This helped with the stench as I cleaned it out and bailed out the water. Another wipedown with a bleach/soapy mix. After it was dry, I used Fantastic to give it a final cleaning, let it completely dry again, then plugged it back in. This worked for me...

        I checked at that indicator light every day for years after.

        1 Reply
        1. re: porker

          Thanks for the first hand suggestions. My husband had decided that he is the one who will do the actual de-smelling, so I'll let him choose from one of the above methods.

          We were lucky that most of the freezer stuff was in FoodSaver bags or the leaking would have been much worse, and there was nothing in the fridge except things in bottles and jars etc.. - no fresh veggies or fruit.

        2. I'm so sorry for your troubles and the loss of food. Our upright freeze turned off a few years ago and I wept as I threw out lamb, shrimp, laboriously-made tomato sauce, etc. But it was better than this: when I was a child, cryogenics was in the news. I thought that maybe my pet mice and the crawfish I found in a stream would be revivified eventually, so I put them in the freezer (with my mother's permission) until such time as cryogenics would be able to help. We went on vacation, the fridge/freezer's motor died, we came back about a week later, to find a stream of thawed, sour vanilla ice cream mixed with rotten mouse and crawfish running down the front of the fridge. My mother still vividly remembers having to clean this up.

          1. I've had a few freezers go down - here's what I finally did - although nothing completely worked except time and refreezing of the freezer -

            clean it all out with fantastik or or similar - then go back through with tilex or other mold and mildew remover - make sure to use something small like a q tip to clean all throughout the gaskets - mold hides there and if you don't get it all, it re-qrows and will continue to smell! Get all the corners with a q tip a well - you can't be too thorough! Then place a bowl of coffee grounds in the freezer - this works for fridges also, I have found it is much (much) better than baking soda - quickly plug it back in an wait for it to freeze - any residual smell will lessen once it's frozen over.

            Do I sound like an expert? It's happened twice in two years - with a loss of about $3000 of food!!!!

            6 Replies
            1. re: harryharry

              Harry - did you use ground coffee (dry) or wet used coffee grounds?

              1. re: Canthespam

                How many coffee gouunds ..1 lb. etc...

                1. re: Canthespam

                  ground coffee - probably about 2 cups... just fill up a bowl or two and let them sit for a while.

                  1. re: harryharry

                    Thanks harry harry. He has thoroughly cleaned it out, and is ready for the next step.

                    o you put the dry grounds in and then turn the freezer on, or do you leave the grounds in the warm freezer, for how long - and then remove them and turn the freezer on?

              2. re: harryharry

                I'm glad the coffee grounds worked for you, but I had a horrific experience with them. Our extra freezer (in a storage room) melted on me last year because of a gasket that came loose, and I did the whole bleach / water / cleaner/ baking soda bit, and then put a bowl of coffee grounds in for a final de-stinking. It never did get the rotten food smell out, and I could not get rid of the coffee smell either.

                I ended up with a mixed smell of coffee and spoiled food that was just revolting. I ended up taking the freezer apart to clean it, and even replaced all of the gaskets, etc, but the smell would just not go away. I eventually ended up dropping off the freezer off at a scrap recycler, since nothing I could do made it smell good enough to put food into.

                I was surprised how bad the freezer smelled -- there were no meat products in it all -- mostly garden vegetables from the last season and some store bought frozen vegetarian items.

                1. re: neel2004

                  "some store bought frozen vegetarian items."
                  Does it every time!