Not for the Faint of Heart: How to Clean a Meat-Spoiled Fridge

in Health & Safety on by

It’s one of the worst things you can come home to: meat left in your refrigerator has gone bad. Maybe it’s the result of a power outage while you were on vacation. Maybe something went wrong with your building’s electrical while you were out of town. Either way, you’ve got one of the worst possible clean up jobs possible.

Your first step is to remove everything from the fridge; you can try to salvage anything that hasn’t been contaminated. It’s a personal choice, since the outside of containers may smell just as much as the rest of the fridge. You can leave the refrigerator unplugged for the process. You’ll have the door open for hours, so there’s no point in trying to keep it cold.

Scrub the entire interior of the refrigerator, using liquid detergent mixed with a pail of water. You can scrub it with a sponge, but a scouring pad that won’t scratch plastic or metal will do a better job.

Air dry the interior, leaving the door open for several hours or overnight. Once the refrigerator’s interior is entirely dry, sprinkle large amounts of baking soda on small plates or container lids and set on the shelves of the fridge. You can also pour a layer of charcoal over a tray and set in the bottom of the fridge.

Close the doors and give it as long as you can to improve the smell. For tough cases, it’s best to leave both the baking soda and charcoal in your fridge for up to a week — you can use the appliance during that period.

With some fridges, you may have a lost cause on your hands. No matter what cleaning techniques you use, you just can’t get rid of that awful smell.

That happened to Mary B. in the middle of one hot Texas summer: “The power went out, no one knew, and we were on a road trip for 14 days. I cleaned and cleaned but could not get the smell out. It was an old fridge, so my landlord let us buy a new one as long as we took care of ordering it and meeting the delivery guy — we paid for it upfront and took the money out of our upcoming rental payment.”

If you’ve come to the conclusion that your refrigerator can’t be saved, you can ask your landlord about the possibility of a new appliance. If your current fridge is an older model, your chances of getting a ‘yes’ are better than if it was installed fairly recently.

If it’s new and the problem was not the responsibility of the landlord, you may be asked to pay for at least part of the new fridge. You may have to negotiate a little; offering to handle all the details of ordering it and handling the drop off can help convince a reluctant landlord.

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