Freezer cleaning after evacuation

koppertop

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Jul 11, 2016
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50
Howdy everyone, my family and I have been evacuated for the Caldor Fire. We received notice two days ago that the power to our home was shut off when the fire was nearing. The good news is that it looks like the fire fighters pulled off a miracle and saved all the homes in our neighborhood. While we aren't entirely out of the woods yet because of wind and embers, things are looking up compared to two nights ago.

Who here has tips for cleaning out a chest freezer that has been without power? We have no idea when we will be allowed back home but I'm suspecting the freezer will have been without power for at least a week and will be a warm, soupy, mess. My first thought is to freeze it solid and remove stuff in frozen chunks. Any tips for the lingering odor that I suspect will be left even after stuff is removed and scrubbed down? Any cleaning products recommended beyond bleach solutions and soapy water? Fortunately we have used up much of the wild game meat from last season but there will be some lost in addition to other food normally kept in a chest freezer.

I feel guilty even asking this question knowing that others have lost everything they own. It's been a MF'r of a fire season here, we desperately need calmer winds and rain in addition to better future fuels management. If you or anyone you know is a fire fighter, give them a big high five and hug from me and my family, they are truly heroes and pulled off some amazing magic tricks in my neighborhood. (Hopefully the lines continue to hold and they finally get some favorable conditions).

Stay safe everyone!
Cheers!
Taylor
 

Drenalin

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Nov 15, 2018
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Had a freezer do down for different reasons a couple of years ago with two deer in it. Restored power, refroze, and pulled everything out, including scraping up as much frozen blood as I could. I cleaned mine with some kind of Method kitchen cleaner we had (I think Lowe's sells it). But I don't know why bleach or vinegar wouldn't do just as well.
 

Moserkr

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Feb 26, 2020
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@koppertop I feel for you buddy. We live in pp and have been evac’d for 15 days. Fortunately our power has been on as far as I know, and like you we ate most of the wild game in the freezer already. Hopefully we get to go home soon. My buddy is a firefighter from sierra springs and was in tahoe last night as it ripped through. Luckily it wasnt a direct hit but fire was on all 4 sides of him as it went over xmas valley. The LEO and firefighters have done an amazing job considering what they had to work with and what they are up against. Hats off to all of them.

As far as your freezer goes, you could clean it out immediately, but refreezing it sounds better. Id look inside first just to check the temp and smell. If its funky close it and wait. Vinegar water would be my first choice to clean it, and bleach second if you leave it open for a week to air out. Then a baking soda bath to remove smell. Hope it all works out well for you.
 

JakeSCH

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Jun 14, 2020
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San Diego, CA
Had a freezer do down for different reasons a couple of years ago with two deer in it. Restored power, refroze, and pulled everything out, including scraping up as much frozen blood as I could. I cleaned mine with some kind of Method kitchen cleaner we had (I think Lowe's sells it). But I don't know why bleach or vinegar wouldn't do just as well.

+1, refreeze and get rid of as much as you can while frozen. It will be all frozen together and you may need an ice pick. Lol.

I am literally getting tesla powerwalls installed on my house to back up my freezers for the power outages.
 

sram9102

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Oct 31, 2018
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IN
If it gets thawed out for long enough for all the meat to go bad I would toss it. My in laws had this happen after hurricane Irma and the freezer was basically usless for anything you would want to eat. It got used as a bait cooler for a few years before it went bad. Never lost the rotten fish smell. Fish might be different than venison but it smelled awful for 2 years.
 

AntlerFever

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Aug 26, 2021
Messages
88
If you can afford to freeze then toss then freeze and toss

if you are set on keeping…freeze, whittle frozen nastiness away and discard. Would wipe out as much as you can of what’s left once you thaw. Then would use relatively concentrated bleach to clean, likely letting some sit in, so it will drain down in the seams where all the blood is still sitting and unable to be cleaned and rotting. Then clean with water. Then re bleach. Then clean with water. Then I would probably use some vinegar or something after I know the bleach is gone.

then… cat litter. Seriously. Lots and lots of cat litter for a while. Then when you feel as much of the smell as can be gone is gone, then lots of baking soda boxes and keep rotating those through every few months
 
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koppertop

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Jul 11, 2016
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@koppertop I feel for you buddy. We live in pp and have been evac’d for 15 days. Fortunately our power has been on as far as I know, and like you we ate most of the wild game in the freezer already. Hopefully we get to go home soon. My buddy is a firefighter from sierra springs and was in tahoe last night as it ripped through. Luckily it wasnt a direct hit but fire was on all 4 sides of him as it went over xmas valley. The LEO and firefighters have done an amazing job considering what they had to work with and what they are up against. Hats off to all of them.

As far as your freezer goes, you could clean it out immediately, but refreezing it sounds better. Id look inside first just to check the temp and smell. If its funky close it and wait. Vinegar water would be my first choice to clean it, and bleach second if you leave it open for a week to air out. Then a baking soda bath to remove smell. Hope it all works out well for you.
Our house is in xmas valley. I watched a live news broadcast the night the fire took off and dropped down off echo summit into our neighborhood, our odds were looking slim. Somehow your buddy and his friends got the fire to hop, skip, and jump over our homes. Tell him we say Thank You!

Thanks for the tips everyone! I'll definitely check temp before I start chucking stuff. Given how long it is taking for other areas to re-populate from this fire I'm not setting my hopes too high. I'm sure power lines will take time to replace in our neighborhood. Sounds like if it's too bad a new freezer may be needed, ugh.

Happy that I need to worry about a yucky chest freezer in an unburnt home. Hope they can somehow get the fire under control, its still running towards Nevada.
-T
 

Desk Jockey

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Apr 5, 2015
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article form local new orleans paper on the topic below.

pro tip: if you ever have to evacuate with a potential loss of power and you have time, put all the contents of your fridge and freezer in double contractor bags and put them back in the fridge/freezer and put a glass of frozen water in the freezer with a coin on top. If the coin is in the bottom of the glass when you get back your freezer was out long enough for everything to thaw and the food is probably bad. Toss the food bags and all. Edit: if you are talking about your game meat and feel like it might be salvageable then, check the contents of the bags if you want, but do it outside.

 
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koppertop

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Jul 11, 2016
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article form local new orleans paper on the topic below.

pro tip: if you ever have to evacuate with a potential loss of power and you have time, put all the contents of your fridge and freezer in double contractor bags and put a glass of frozen water in the freezer with a coin on top. If the coin is in the bottom of the glass when you get back your freezer was out long enough for everything to thaw and the food is probably bad.

That pro tip is worth its weight in gold. Obviously won't help me this time but will if this ever happens again. Coin on a frozen glass of water.....simple brilliant "thaw detector". Learn something new every day!
 

oakdeiros80

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Jan 1, 2016
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Southern Oregon
Had mine go out during the fire last year in Ashland Oregon. I think it was out for about 6-7 days and I happen to arrive back home within 2-3 hours of the power coming back on. Everything in my kitchen freezer was fine (thawed a bit, but was still plenty cold) and the garage freezer, which was packed pretty full, was in even better shape. If yours ends up being out for a week and the freezer is pretty full, you might be just fine. Double check before throwing out all your hard-earned game meat.

I think the key is having a full freezer and not opening it unnecessarily before the power comes back on.
 

Desk Jockey

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Had mine go out during the fire last year in Ashland Oregon. I think it was out for about 6-7 days and I happen to arrive back home within 2-3 hours of the power coming back on. Everything in my kitchen freezer was fine (thawed a bit, but was still plenty cold) and the garage freezer, which was packed pretty full, was in even better shape. If yours ends up being out for a week and the freezer is pretty full, you might be just fine. Double check before throwing out all your hard-earned game meat.

I think the key is having a full freezer and not opening it unnecessarily before the power comes back on.
Fair point. Edited my response above. Definitely check you meat before you toss it but be careful.
 

Hunt_Jefferson

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Oct 6, 2020
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El Dorado County, CA
@koppertop I feel for you buddy. We live in pp and have been evac’d for 15 days. Fortunately our power has been on as far as I know, and like you we ate most of the wild game in the freezer already. Hopefully we get to go home soon. My buddy is a firefighter from sierra springs and was in tahoe last night as it ripped through. Luckily it wasnt a direct hit but fire was on all 4 sides of him as it went over xmas valley. The LEO and firefighters have done an amazing job considering what they had to work with and what they are up against. Hats off to all of them.

As far as your freezer goes, you could clean it out immediately, but refreezing it sounds better. Id look inside first just to check the temp and smell. If its funky close it and wait. Vinegar water would be my first choice to clean it, and bleach second if you leave it open for a week to air out. Then a baking soda bath to remove smell. Hope it all works out well for you.
Hang in there, I just saw they are starting to lift some of the evac orders near PP. Hopefully you can get back in soon.
 

AZ8

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Dec 9, 2018
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226
Location
N. Arizona
happened to us on vacation. you'll never get that decomposed meat smell out of the freezer. get a new one.
 

Sccritterkiller

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Apr 8, 2019
Messages
835
article form local new orleans paper on the topic below.

pro tip: if you ever have to evacuate with a potential loss of power and you have time, put all the contents of your fridge and freezer in double contractor bags and put them back in the fridge/freezer and put a glass of frozen water in the freezer with a coin on top. If the coin is in the bottom of the glass when you get back your freezer was out long enough for everything to thaw and the food is probably bad. Toss the food bags and all. Edit: if you are talking about your game meat and feel like it might be salvageable then, check the contents of the bags if you want, but do it outside.
We do this with the freezer at our hunt club on the coast always...shot glass with frozen water with a nickel on top. Being in a hurricane zone I agree with above...duck tape shut and put on the street...freeze and dump works too if st pick up inst an option. It's sucks but your probably dealing with a bunch of other stuff too.
 
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