Post-power-outage fridge cleanup

We finally got our power back, a full week after it was knocked out by the freak thunderstorms that hit the area. I was able to save a lot of our frozen food by bringing it to my in-laws’ place, where they have a chest freezer, but I wasn’t able to save everything.

On day three, I emptied the fridge and freezer of everything that I knew would stink, and everything I thought would leak, and then moved in with my in-laws so I wouldn’t melt and die. Well, turns out that some things I thought wouldn’t leak, did leak, and so now I’ve unplugged the fridge to start the freezer cleanup. I’ve got a freezer full of frozen strawberry juice mixed with melted butter and the garlic-wine sauce that oozed from a package of frozen veggies - fun!

I’ve tossed all that, and much, much more.

But what, if anything, can I salvage? I had several closed containers in the fridge, and I’ll throw it all out if there’s a risk of it making me sick, but if I can save anything, I’d like to.

Jarred pesto
Deli mustard
Oil-based salad dressings (balsamic, Italian, sundried-tomato)
Cranberry/raspberry juice
Butter (which melted enough to leave the outer box translucent)
Maple syrup
Bottles of teriyaki and soy-ginger marinades
Bovril chicken concentrate

Most of these things are so salty that I suspect they’re safe, but if anyone else has an opinion, I’d be very happy to hear it.

And should I toss out the filter currently in my Brita pitcher? I’m going to wash out the pitcher itself, but would stuff grow in the filter?

Oh, and any tips for successfully removing a stawberry-butter-garlic slurry from the bottom of my freezer without making more of a mess? The freezer floor has ridges, which will make it more interesting.

So sorry you are going through all this! I’m glad you were able to save most of your frozen food, though. I live in MD also, but was fortunate enough to keep my electric.

The items you listed are inexpensive enough where I would suggest tossing them and buy new as you need them. Even if they’re not “bad”, they may not taste real great if you used them. It would be disappointing to make yourself a nice salad one day, pour on some of that questionable salad dressing, and then not be able to eat it.

I think a bath towel might be best way to go for the “slurry” in the bottom of your refrig. Have a bucket handy. Just keep absorbing the mess, then squeezing the towel out into the bucket. Once all the gunk is gone, I would suggest cleaning the inside of the fridge with a clean towel baking soda and warm water. (2 tablespoons of baking soda in one quart of warm water). The baking soda will help eliminate any lingering odors. Then rinse, wipe dry, and you’ve got a sparkling clean fridge!!

Good luck to you.

I had a thread regarding my own fridge contents just a few days ago.

I think most of that stuff you listed should be okay (the ketchup, mustard, and relish don’t really even need to be refrigerated), provided it passes an initial “sniff test,” though I might be dubious of the pesto and any of the dressings that contain solid “stuff.” I assume the marinades were opened, those I would toss. My fridge contained similar items and I’ve used some of them and haven’t died yet.

I’d change out the Brita filter.

Thanks for the advice, guys. I guess I’ll just take the hit and toss it all, to be safe. No point in being cheap if it makes me sick. I’ve got the goo out of the freezer and I’ve scrubbed every surface I can get to. Now I’m going to buy a dozen boxes of baking soda and fill the fridge and freezer with them to get the funk out.

Also, for next time - I think I’ll buy some plastic bins for the freezer. That way, if this happens again, things will leak into bins, which are a hell of a lot easier to clean!

And we’re buying a generator!

As said above, you can keep the condiments, but anything to do with chicken I would throw out.
Glad you’re getting a generator, be sure to buy extra gas and oil for it, and store it outside away from the house.

Maple syrup would be fine too.

I learned a fun spoiled food lesson once: Do not even open a refrigerator that has been sitting full and without power in tropical heat for two months. Seal the fridge with duct tape and transport it, as is, to the dump. Nothing will ever make it ok again.

Glad your lesson wasn’t that bad!

We had a similar experience after the April 27th tornado last year. Power was out for a week. We managed to save some frozen stuff by taking it to my in-laws the next morning after enough of the trees had been cut up to allow us to get out. I went back about a week later to clean out the refrigerator and it was pretty nasty. I don’t think I tried to salvage anything, just threw it all away. I used a lot of oxy-clean type stuff and then put boxes of baking soda inside. We also had no garbage pick up because most of the city garbage trucks had been destroyed and wouldn’t have been able to pick up anyway because of the debris everywhere, so think about those lovely odors. :wink: On a positive note, our refrigerator was cleaner than it had been in quite some time. :wink:

These are all methods of preserving foods in pre-refrigerator time; thwy should be fine.

These are not refrigerated when you buy them in the store, nor in the warehouses they sat in before that. Even opened, they should be fine – they aren’t very hospitable environment for bacteria.

Again, probably too sweet for most bacteria.

Again, butter is an old way of preserving dairy products, so it should be safe. But the taste may have suffered. Probably just tosw it. Or use it in baking, where slight off-tastes will be overwhelmed in cake, pies, etc.

also probably too sweet for bacteria to grow. Why was this refrigerated at all? We don’t do that.

Again, these are preserved foods. Should be fine.

This I’d toss.

Like LadyMadonna said, most of this is really inexpensive. So toss anything with off-taste or smell, just for your peace of mind – it won’t cost you much. Probably less than the weeks-worth of electricity you didn’t use.

A side question about that – obviously, you don’t pay for electricity you didn’t use because the power was out. But my utility bill has a sizable ‘base charge’ which you pay even if you use no electricity at all. It’s a base fee for providing the electrical service to your house. So if they didn’t do that for a week (25% of the month), could you deduct 25% of that ‘base charge’ from your bill? If your phone or cable is out for several days, you can. Seems only fair.