Suggestions for cleaning a chest freezer full of spoiled meat?

So our backup chest freezer in the garage seems to have died a couple of days ago. Of course, since we don’t take stuff out very often, we didn’t notice until the smell became awful. :eek:

Of course we unplugged it, emptied it out immediately, and I opened the drainage outlet and washed it out a couple of times with a solution of baking soda in water as the manufacturer recommends under “Care and Cleaning”. Unfortunately, while the stench is no longer quite so appalling, it’s definitely still there.

Any advice to get the smell out and also disinfect it? I’m inclined to use diluted Clorox or something, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing to use on the inside of a freezer. Of course, if the repair cost is too high, we may just trash it anyway.


First try a paste of baking soda and plain water allowed to sit for several hours or overnight. Finish w/ a white vinegar rinse and work your way toward ammonia, then bleach as a last resort. Rinse well between those last two. I don’t envy you the fetid task ahead of you.

When the hubby and I were on vacation one year, the power shut off for a time, but was back on when we returned. It was long enough to make all the food in the fridge and freezer rot, though. We cleaned it thoroughly, but the stink would NOT go away. The only thing that finally got rid of the odor–we tried different cleaners and baking soda to no avail–was charcoal briquettes. We just placed one in each compartment and the smell went away pretty fast.

Buy a new freezer: the backup freezer is probably several years old and will use substantially more electricity than a modern one–so electricity savings will pay for the new one in a few years.

Diluted Clorox may not get rid of the odor, but I’d do it to disinfect the freezer. The charcoal sounds like it’s worth a shot.

This happened to us during a vacation. Power went out during a storm and a breaker was tripped. My garage freezer sat for a week in the July heat and 80 pounds of venison thawed and began to spoil.

I eventually had to disassemble the freezer and remove the inner lining (the plastic interior, if you will). Behind that is a layer of styrofoam insulation and this was covered in a layer of blood. Thankfully it was closed cell styro, so it was a simple matter of cloroxing everything. I also found a control panel (circuit card and switch) had a lot of blood as well. I cleaned these thoroughly and and left all the parts on the back porch about a week to dry. There was also blood on the frame members underneath (near the “feet” of the freezer).

After a week I re-assembled all the parts and plugged it in. To my surprise it started up again and still works 2 years later.

I don’t envy you. If anything liquid got past the plastic interior, you have a large job ahead of you.

My neighbors bought a side of butchered beef that they stored in their freezer. Wouldn’t you know, the day after the meat was delivered, a hurricane hit and the electricity in our neighborhood went out for eight days. My neighbors didn’t bother trying to clean out the rotting meat. The husband hired a digger, dug a freezer-sized hole in his yard, and buried the stink-filled appliance without opening it.

Sometimes you just have to take the loss.

As pullin mentioned, many times the blood will seep into the insulation and inner workings of the freezer. If you’re not mechanically inclined, I would vote to replace the freezer before attempting disassembly.

Try an enzyme-based odor remover, which can be found at pet supply stores. They work very well on protein based odors and stains.

Nature’s Miracle Stain & Odor Remover

Thanks for all the helpful suggestions!

At this point I’m most inclined to simply have the freezer hauled away (we bought it on special from Sears for ~$150 some years ago, so it’s not a gigantic loss). However, I’m definitely saving this thread for all the cleaning tips folks have posted. :slight_smile:

Throw away the freezer.

I’m single and live in an apartment, but after all the horror stories I’ve heard about large storage freezers, I can understand why my parents have never had one.

I concur with the others who recommend tossing the old one. I’ve been told that in cases like this, the smell is deep in the insulation and you’ll never get rid of the smell.


We had this happen with an old refrigerator - some poorly-wrapped meat got pushed to the back of a shelf and the blood dripped down the back. We never could get the smell out of the thing. It turned out that the plastic in the bottom had some tiny cracks in it and the meat juice seeped into them. We ended up tossing the refrigerator and getting a new, nicer one. That one only worked for nine years, though - apparently they don’t make them like they used to.


Somehow our old chest freezer we kept in the basement got unplugged. Because we stored suprlus in it and didn’t open it often, we didn’t notice until everything inside had rotted. I tried all of the above except the enzymes (wish I had thought of that) and dismantling - no luck. We ended up hauling it to the dump.

I hated to do it. My MIL had given it to us when she moved out of state and I had spent many hours sanding it down to bare metal and refinishing.

two things that might help prevent food from going bad in certain situations.

put a LED nightlight on the same receptacle as the freezer. if it is not on then your freezer isn’t too.

put a remote outdoor thermometer in the freezer, the remote will need disposable lithium batteries to run a long time. put the indoor unit where you can see it. if you get a multichannel unit then you can put other remotes in other locations (like outside). if you get a unit where you set maximum and minimum temperature ranges (for each remote) then you can get a buzzing alarm when the freezer gets too warm.

Your trash is someone else’s treasure! List it in CraigsList.:smiley:

Sixteen posts and no one has yet linked to the definitive thread on this subject??

There is evil in my backyard. Its in a cooler.

Maybe try coffee grounds and newspaper? I don’t know if it’ll help a freezer, but they’re supposed to be pretty odor absorbing for musty cellars or nasty shoes. It’s worth a shot, after the bleach and enzymes.

Charcoal is a good suggestion. NOTE: you’re not looking for the ones with lighter fluid already in them, otherwise you’ll just be trading one stink for another.

If it’s in the insulation/interior bits, you’re hosed, unless you want to disassemble the thing.

Otherwise, I’d go in this order:

Charcoal overnight: just put about a half-dozen briquettes in a plastic storage thingie open in the compartment, and leave it CLOSED for about 12 hours.

White vinegar and rubbing alcohol: 50/50 mix, spray it liberally inside the compartment, and leave it OPEN to air-dry. Repeat at least twice.

Bleach is always recommended for sterilization purposes, but if the above two methods don’t work, I don’t know that bleach is going to help with the smell removal.

Ultimately, if the charcoal and the vinegar/alcohol don’t work, what that means is that you have bits of the nasty still in there somewhere, and you aren’t going to get the smell gone until you get all the nasty gone.