Thursday, August 25, 2011


Ask a Clean Person: Radiators, Freezers, and Fridges

I rent an old townhouse in a city, and I do a pretty good job keeping it dust-/dirt-free and comfortably clean. The only things in the house that I don't really know what to do with are the radiators, which are old-fashioned hot water radiators. They are extremely dusty/grimy between the coils, and my vacuum cleaner attachment doesn't reach in there to suck out all the grossness. Is there a way to get these really clean? I'm not sure how to really get in between those coils and clean them out.

If you guys promise not to tell, I’ll confess to you that my radiator was a source of great shame for me. It was disgusting and I knew I needed to clean it before I could paint it and oh God why are things so hard and so gross?? But then this nice lady came along and gave me a good reason to get on with doing something about that filthy thing! And our beloved Handy Femme took the time to explain what to do about sprucing up an ugly radiator.

With ample motivation to clean the hulking dust beast sitting in the corner of my bedroom, I began. What will follow is what’s known as TAKING ONE FOR THE HAIRPIN TEAM. Because this task? UTTER MISERY. Never let it be said I don’t suffer for my art.

What you’ll need:

- Rubber gloves
- Small bucket or bowl for cleaning solution
- Cleaning solution of choice (I used ammonia solution, but soapy water would work just as well, as would any sort of all-purpose cleaner mixed with water)
- A pile of thin rags (t-shirts, sheets or dishcloths work well for this; bath towels much less so)
- A hairdryer
- Music

OK, ready? Ready!

First move everything away from your work area. Things are going to get seriously messy, so make sure all furniture, drapery, books, dumbcats, window mushrooms, hairpins, ghosts, etc. are moved to another place. If the area around your radiator is carpeted, put down a tarp or garbage bags to keep dirt and water off the fibers.

Now put on some music. Something upbeat to keep you from killing yourself isn’t a bad choice. Not that this task will make you want to kill yourself! (This task will make you want to kill yourself.)

Next make yourself comfortable: If you’ve got hardwood floors, consider sitting on a folded up towel to give your tush/knees some relief; if you’ve got a bad back, take a couple of Advil (or whatever you take) prior to starting to stave off aches and pains that will come with the weird stretching and bending this task calls for; if you’ve got allergies, make sure you’ve taken your antihistamine of choice, because there’s going to be a ton of dust flying and you’ll be a sniffling, watery mess if you don’t. And for God’s sake wear appropriate clothing. This is basically yoga with grime, so dress accordingly.

OK now hunker down in front of the radiator. Starting at the top and working down, you'll want to wipe down the exterior of the unit with your cleaning solution, being careful to wring out your rags before doing so. You don’t want to soak the radiator because it's metal and you'll wind up with rust problems.

Once you’ve gone over the exterior a few times, you'll want to get in between the coils. Basically you're going to floss the radiator.  So sort of roll your rag up and then stick it through the opening of the coils, then move it up and down, pulling it tight to get maximum friction. This will take some time and definitely more than one going-over for each coil. The majority of the built-up dirt is going to be at the bottom of the coils, since that’s where dust settles, so pay particular attention to those areas.

I also found that dipping my be-gloved hands right in the cleaning solution and using my fingers to pull dirt and grime off was effective on spots that the “floss” didn’t reach.

The back portion of the coils is tricky. Depending on how the unit is configured in relation to the room, the flossing method may not be possible (it wasn’t for me). Start off by turning a hairdryer — set on cold air — on the unit; the blowing air will help to dislodge some of the dirt fur coating. It won't get things off completely, but it will make it easier. Now reach around the back end of the unit and get your fingers in there. Sort of grab at the barnacle-like dust bunnies that are clinging to the coils and then dip your digits in the cleaning solution and try to rub off as much grime as you can by wiggling your fingers.

When you’re done with that perhaps offer the radiator a cigarette and cuddle with it a bit. You know, treat it like a lady.

Right, so, this is an awful, frustrating, miserable job. It’s also intensely, deeply satisfying.

I started drinking halfway through.

My freezer is small, but it's pretty frost-lined. Also something spilled it in recently, and froze immediately, so there's that too. What's the best way to defrost and clean a freezer? What do I do with everything inside it during the process? And how do I maintain a tidy, frost-free freezer?

To defrost: Take everything out of the freezer and the refrigerator and place frozen and perishable items in a cooler. You can get an inexpensive cooler at any major chain drugstore; depending on how much stuff  you have you might need two, but this is also a good opportunity to throw away old or expired foods. Now unplug the unit. Line the bottom of the refrigerator with old towels or t-shirts or rags to absorb the water as the freezer defrosts and things head south. (Depending on the configuration of the unit you may need to put a towel down in the freezer as well.) It’s also not a bad idea to have a garbage bag lining the floor in front of the fridge to catch any water and also to use to gather up the wet towels once you’re done so you’re not dripping water everywhere during clean-up time. Now we wait.

To clean: Once the defrosting process is done, the first thing you’ll need to do is get those wet towels out of the refrigerator, and then go over the interior of both spaces with a dry towel. Then spray the interior of the freezer with a cleaning solution. I know the white vinegar obsession has turned into a running joke around here, but really this is a place where it shines: It’s anti-bacterial, it helps with odor reduction, and it’s entirely non-toxic, so you’re not spraying down the space where you keep your foodstuffs with dangerous chemicals. Of course, if you’re a person who likes dangerous chemicals, please do feel free to do you! Wipe everything down with paper towels or rags or sponges or whatever doesn’t make you upset.

To keep a freezer frost-free: When you notice things getting a little icy in there it’s time to do some spot-defrosting. This will help the freezer from achieving a Titanic-level iceberg state. In the biggest pot you have, boil water. While that’s coming up, take everything out of the freezer and toss it in your cooler. Pour some of the boiling water into a bowl that will fit inside your freezer, put it in and close the door. Switch the water out for fresh boiling water a few times — it will take some time, but it will defrost eventually. Another option is to turn your hairdryer up to the highest setting it can go and point it at the icicles. I’ve tried this and found it to be too frustratingly slow for big jobs, but it works nicely on smaller floes.

And, at the risk of insulting everyone’s intelligence, it also bears suggesting that you may want to turn up the freezer temperature so things don’t ice over as much.

What do you recommend using to clean out a refrigerator? Also can you help with my fridge & freezer organization issues? I need a plan that I can stick to.

In the same way that white vinegar is tops for freezers, it’s the best thing for the fridge, too. In addition to having paper towels/sponges/rags on you, when it comes to the fridge you might also want to pick up a Dobie Pad. Refrigerators often house more sticky spills and splatters and God only knows what else than freezers do, and the Dobie Pad will help you sgrunge things off the walls without scratching up the plastic.

With our tools in hand it’s time to take everything out!

Have a trash bag or garbage pail near by and throw away anything suspect before you even start cleaning. Set items you’re keeping on the countertops and/or in a cooler. If you have foodstuffs covered in plastic wrap or tin foil use it to protect your hand while you scoop old food into the trashcan. (That’s a nifty little trick from me to those of you with tactile squick issues.) Alternatively: Wear rubber gloves.

Once everything is out, the next step is to remove the shelves and drawers and wash them with hot soapy water in the sink or tub. Probably the tub is better because it gives you more room for what are fairly awkwardly shaped items. Also it frees up the sink so that you can fill it up with hot soapy water and put any storage containers, pots, pans, jars, other things I probably don’t want to know about, pitchers, etc. right in to soak.

Now you’ll turn your attention to the interior of the fridge. Spray with white vinegar solution, wipe down with your Dobie Pad, get after any stains with a Magic Eraser if necessary, and that’s sort of it. Depending on how gross things are this might take some elbow grease, so don’t be surprised if my easy-sounding instructions end up being more work than you anticipated.

Now the fun part: putting everything back in! First you’ll want to survey your foodstuffs and group things together. Wipe sticky bottles, tighten lids, snap Tupperware tops back in place, tell your Tabasco sauce how nice its new haircut looks. Tend to your things. Then put everything back in a way that makes sense to you. Some ideas! Try to keep labels facing out so you can easily distinguish similar-looking items from one another. Put things you don’t use often toward the back of the unit.  Put taller items behind shorter ones. Make a note of things you have duplicates of and, um, stop buying those things. Put raw meat and eggs on the bottom shelf so if there’s a leak it doesn’t contaminate your other food. (At the risk of being hollered at for the wasteful use of plastic, I usually grab a produce bag and put meat in it while doing my grocery shopping. Then it goes in the fridge all wrapped up.) Try not to put temperature-sensitive items like milk in the door if you can help it; the regular opening of the door will mess with its happiness level.

OK now look at where your things are. From now on that’s where those things go. When you come home from the market the milk should go in the same place it was before. Doing so will create a habit that helps to keep things organized. In terms of keeping things clean, every time you take out your trash, open your refrigerator and throw away any old food. This should be part of your taking out the trash routine. Remember your routine? Raise your hand if you’re still following  your routine!! Hurrah! Gold stars all around!

Previously: The Move-in, Move-out Clean.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Are you looking for a green alternative to the suggestions found here? Because we’ve got some! More importantly: Is anything you own dirty?

Photo by Sarina, via Shutterstock

105 Comments / Post A Comment

raised amongst catalogs

YEAH, meat in a produce bag! I rationalize this by remembering that I don't use produce bags for my produce, and therefore am allowed one or two to use for meat-wrapping purposes.

Jolie Kerr

Hey gang! Good Housekeeping (hush) just tweeted this article about freezer organization (BACK IT UP GOOD HOUSEKEEPING. Bleach solution at dawn.) that you might find helpful.



I love that you use the term "holler."


Ok, compulsive cleaning confession coming up here. It's long, but I don't know where else to share it but with my fellow Hairpinners.

I cleaned out my dude friend's fridge last week. I really don't even want to reflect on the experience, but it was one of those 'you see it and now you can't unsee it and can never eat food from there again' moments. There was this gigantic sticky brown spill all in the bottom under the produce crisper drawers (not to mention a tonne of grossness and out of date stuff I'd clearly never paid attention to). I ask him how long the spill had been there, he told me AT LEAST TWO YEARS. I actually couldn't compute not wiping it up immediately, let alone that time frame. Upon further questioning he told me he expected to get a new fridge before dealing with it. I can't even come to grips with this sort of fucked up dude-living-on-his-own logic. I got a trash bag, emptied the entire thing apart from about three non-expired items he thought he might actually use and scrubbed that bitch out. I actually had to get steel wool and heavy duty cleaner to get the spill off and couldn't identify it (it had little seeds/particles in goo?), but now it's sparkling and I don't want to dry retch when I enter the kitchen! I also basically emptied a bottle of mould remover into the shower and told him to scrub it in a few hours time. Pretty sure he left it a day and just rinsed it off, but there his laziness killed some extra mould, so who knows.

Theresa Borkowski@facebook

@Sundae I just had an equally frightening fridge cleaning experience! I just moved into my apartment, and my roommate had NEVER cleaned her fridge. in 2 years. there were products that expired a full year before she moved in, a gigantic brown sludgy spill I needed a knife and ice pick to remove, and an ancient box of baking soda that had actually solidified onto the shelf with the help of some red goo. And kraut juice, which I spilled ALL OVER ME in the midst of my 1.5 hour cleaning extravaganza. but now it sparkles, and my roommates are so afraid of messing it up, they double wrap everything!


@Theresa Borkowski@facebook Oh my god, you're a braver lady than I. Seriously, how does this happen? How do they not see it's disgusting and that's where they put their food? Also, with expired things, I have no sympathy unless maybe it's a chutney/sauce/something unusual that you might not pick up often. I clean out my fridge every bin night or if I ever see anything a bit old in there when cooking etc. it goes straight out. Leaving it any longer and it gets so nasty.


@Sundae OR like the time the fella went out of town and forgot to pay electric (?) and came home (with me! AWESOME!) to an entire fridge&freezer. Full. Of. Maggots.

I stayed outside and cried.

Mrs. Brown's Lovely Daughter

@Hambulance Oh my god. I don't have words for how disgusted I am.


@Hambulance Oh, god. now we can't un-know this.


@Sundae My best friend lived in a basement apartment that came with a freezer almost completely filled with a giant block of solid ice that had a pair of bird feet and the head of a pheasant (I think) sticking out of it. Someone had shoved an entire unplucked bird into the freezer and left it there. It was still there when my friend moved out, three years later.


@Hambulance Oh my god there is truly nothing more stomach churning than maggots. I have a terrible story about maggots as fishing bait, a poorly sealed container and moving pieces of grated cheese, but I suspect you've seen enough.


@Hambulance AHHH but how?!? does this mean all my food is just secretly full of unborn maggots that could spring forth any time I leave my food out too long?! AND THAT I AM CONSTANTLY EATING MAGGOTS?!?!

i have to go cry now. and throw away everything edible in my house.


@Sundae @MissMiah I couldn't even eat rice for like a year (am I alone in seeing the horrible resemblance?!). Those guys were EVERYWHERE. Up in the rubbery seal part, where some had started to die and turn into little crusty creepies.

I'm sorry @Ophelia. But at least I didn't tell you about the time someone jumped into the rotten corpse of a Manatee.

Which reminds me that ALL OF THIS HAPPENED IN FLORIDA. Take your imagined gross factor and triple it.


@Hambulance Hahaha you poor thing! And the seal OH THE SEAL how do they even get in there? How are there so many of them?! We actually replaced the seal because it was so nasty and was in need of replacing anyway...but damn. Annnnd no, the rice thing is totally reasonable. Maggots are unreasonably gross.


@Sundae Ooh! Are we sharing nasty maggot stories? Well, gather round, my children.

So, many moons ago, I swapped apartments, and towards the end of my moving-out process, I was just throwing things in boxes, one of which ended up in the back of my new closet for about a year or so. One fine afternoon, when my roommates weren't home, I remembered a velcro-towel-to-wrap-around-myself-after-showering that lived in that very same box. (This story is so much better when you don't know what's coming, but...) I reach back, grab the corner of the towel, and flick it out of the closet, then saunter off the the shower. As I'm leaving the shower, I pick it up off the counter, and notice a grain of rice... that's moving? I ran, completely naked, across the apartment screaming, noticing the awful trail of maggots I'd left like some filthy Hansel/Gretel. It turns out I'd chucked a bag of rice in the same box, and never remembered it. I ended up wearing giant galoshes for the rest of the afternoon.


This is why I would be a terrible Ask A Clean Person, because my solution to all of these problems - as they are every week - is set it on fire, set it on fire, Set It On Firrrre for ever and ever. Watch it burn. Fire is clean, fire is good. Burn.


@melis I'm with you. Anything infested with anything = burn. If I ever get bedbugs, I'm going to have to torch the place.


@Ophelia @melis He SHOULD have burned it. Instead, he hosed it out (outside), moved out shortly after and a girlfriend of mine moved in.

It was a beautiful apartment and I neglected to tell her about the fridge. Ignorance is bliss, amirite?

Ew, I'm the devil.

Theresa Borkowski@facebook

@Sundae agh, I have no idea. the rest of the place was terrible too. at least my month of unemployment went to good use?


@Hambulance But how did the maggots get into the fridge?


I just cleaned out my fridge for the first time in 8 months probably? And by cleaned I mean I just threw out everything that was bad.


Yay, white vinegar!!! I am using a LOT of that magic fluid for cleaning these days, thanks to your tutelage!!!
I did find it is only NOT magic for water spots/soap scum (ugh, how can soap be scummy?) on my glass shower enclosure. For those, I take into the shower with me a sandpaper pad, 600-grit, and LIGHTLY wet sand away, muttering "wax on, wax off".


Oh. My. God. I am never moving somewhere where radiators are standard. NEVER.


@sam.i.am I am experiencing them for the first time in my current apartment, and had been seriously considering just spray-painting over the grimyness. From the looks of them, I wouldn't be the first one to try this.

kid madrigal

@sam.i.am Yeah, I just moved and have two that are, well.. multicolored by dirt-stuff. I've been fantasizing about pressure washing them (obv can't), because the horrid task is looming.

fondue with cheddar

@sam.i.am My apartment was converted to central heating/AC years ago, but my landlord left the radiator in the foyer because she "like[s] the way it looks."


@sam.i.am, Ophelia, et al My (landlord's) solution is to just have a radiator cover. It's pretty, creates a shelf, and hides the mess! Probably not great for my allergies to just leave the grossness hidden...but neither would cleaning it out?

fondue with cheddar

@lolita But if it's hidden it won't collect as much dust in the first place. It's not like an air vent that sucks air in or blows it out. It just sits there...radiating.


@jen325 Good call. Maybe Ask A Handy Femme can teach us to build one?

Jolie Kerr

@Ophelia She's going to! For my apartment! And then write a column about it!


@jen325 This is true. However, I don't think they were cleaned at any point between the construction of the building and the construction of the covers...

I had to take them off recently to do some painting and, hoo, boy!


@Jolie Kerr I can't wait for this! I've been fantasizing about radiator covers for years. I've looked for them readymade, but they are expensive!

fondue with cheddar

@lolita EWEWEW. I'm so sorry you had to deal with that.


@Jolie Kerr Fabulous!


@Jolie Kerr Oh my how exciting! My radiators are the size of end tables and I use them as such, but it'd be so much nicer if they looked like tables, too!


oh hi! yes, we need to plan this! I have a saw and everything!


Ugh, I lived in an apt in London once, where the tenant moving out had cleaned...but NOT the little mini-fridge...which had been turned off with the power when he left. Cleaning that out was the grossest thing I have ever done, and I will never again be able to stand the smell of whatever cleaner I was using. It took me at least an hour, and I still shudder to think of it.


Oh that is the worst. During my most recent apartment search, I opened a fridge that had been sitting unplugged. It was covered in mold/mildew and absolutely reeked. That alone was reason enough not to rent the place (never mind the roach problem and crappy neighborhood).


@Dancersize Yeah, if I hadn't been 3,500 miles from home with no return ticket, I would've turned around and left.


If your radiators are anything like mine (ancient and covered in dust-harboring tiny wrinkles from decades of being painted over incorrectly), it may be helpful to take an old toothbrush to the crannies before using the cleaning solution. My fingers couldn't reach the little pads of baked on dust on the back of the bottom of the coils (tmi?).

fondue with cheddar

I keep the things in my fridge in specific places, especially ones involved in my morning routine because it makes me more efficient. When my last boyfriend moved in with me, it drove me crazy because I ended up wasting my precious morning-time digging around looking for things that were normally right out front where I could grab them.

You know what? Having an organized fridge probably helps your electric bill, too, because you don't have to look around as much. Open door, grab thing, close door! It also helps to not have a lot of food because you're poor. ;)


@jen325 Yes! It also makes it easier when you're having one of those "oh my god I want a snack but WHAT?" moments when you stare at the contents of the fridge for a while, because you can actually see where everything is, facilitating your decision. (Or making you decide that there is NOTHING ELSE TO EAT so you have to eat Newman-Os.)

fondue with cheddar

@SarahP Totally. Plus you're less likely to have scary things lurking in the back.


My solution for vacuuming hard to reach places: Flatten one end of a paper towel tube and attach the other end to the vacuum tube. If you want to get extra fancy, you can cut the flattened part at an angle, or even cut some fringe into it to help scrape off the dust.
(I figured this out while attacking my own grimy radiator.)

I have a strong aversion to wet dust, so I try to get as much of that shit up as I can before going in with the wet rags.

Also, wet rag draped over the end of a wooden spoon can help with the "flossing".

fondue with cheddar

@punkahontas I'm SO with you on the wet dust. It's vile stuff. It actually grosses me out more than cat pee.

Hot mayonnaise

@jen325: But when it's wet, it's not friable (i.e., it can't be inhaled).

fondue with cheddar

@Hot mayonnaise Good point. Unfortunately, it soon dries and then gets all cakey and harder to clean. DUST IS EVIL.


@jen325 YES! That's the thing. I feel like once you get it wet, it's so much harder to get rid of! (Like the Mogwai/Gremlin thing.)

fondue with cheddar

@punkahontas At least it doesn't multiply. And just to be on the safe side, it might be a good idea to NEVER, EVER FEED YOUR DUST AFTER MIDNIGHT.

Hot mayonnaise

Except for the little dorm fridges*, I've never had to defrost anything. What is this 1964?

*End of spring semester: throw out contents and set outside the day before you leave.


@Hot mayonnaise Weirdly, I read this as "the little doom fridges" and was particularly curious as to what would be inside.


@Ophelia Harrison Ford?


@melis Indiana Jones and the Mini-Fridge of DOOM.


@melis (or were you thinking Star Wars? I see a combo-parody waiting to happen...)


@Ophelia No, I was thinking of the only movie where Harrison Ford is inside of a fridge.


@melis Oddly, I watched that on TV a few weeks ago. I was just the right amount of cheese for a Saturday night.


@Ophelia The typo makes that sentence perfect and I pray you do not edit it.


@melis Oops. Luckily, I can't get my browser to ever let me edit, so the comment stands. That said, I am always exactly the right amount of cheese for any occasion.


@melis I wish I could give multiple thumbs-ups to that.


I am going to clean the fridge this weekend while Boyfriend is out of town, and he will be so proud of me when he gets home. (He is the Clean One, I am... not.) Thanks Jolie!

Also so excited because white vinegar can be used to scrub off the mysterious sticky bits that are ON jars and bottles, which seem like horrible things to use chemical cleaners on.


This reminds me that I need to clean out the fridge this weekend. Maybe I'll borrow a cooler, buy some white vinegar, and make a day of it.

Side question: Jolie, how often should we clean out the fridge/freezer?




Good thing my roommate just bought a box of matches!


@Dancersize I clean out my fridge every time it gets kind of empty, something spills, or if I'm having a party. If you do it somewhat frequently, it never gets really bad and it only takes a few minutes.

(I only do a really BIG cleaning if like, My Mother is coming.)


Oh man, I love cleaning out my fridge. It feels so amazing when you're finished and everything is not-spoiled and in its proper place.

Katie Hansen@twitter

I LIVE for a clean fridge. A few years ago, in some type of horrific grad school ice breaker, we had to describe our "moment of peace" (barf) from the summer. Everyone was like "floating in the Caribbean/ top of mountain/ blah nature blah" and I said "I like nature too but when I got that fridge sparkling? WIN." Clean fridge > nature hike.


Hey, if the hurricane knocks out our power this weekend, it'll be an excellent time to clean out the fridge, since I'll have to put everything in a cooler anyway.


Is it bad if I had to google image search "radiator"? I had a pretty good idea of what it looked like, but I was just double checking. Sorry, I grew up in a house built in 1987, IT'S NOT MY FAULT.

Mrs. Brown's Lovely Daughter

@backwardscarrot This just made me feel old. Old-feeling like the "you must be born before today's date in 1990 to buy alcohol" sign. I'm not even 30 yet!!


Should I be cleaning behind/under my refrigerator? This seems like a particularly daunting task, but perhaps a worthwhile one. I bet its pretty dusty back there. Is my refrigerator fan thing circulating that dust around into my apartment?


@YourFriendLiz It might not be circulating dust, but dust back there is making your fridge work more inefficiently, and driving up your electric bill.


@Ophelia Yes, that makes perfect sense. I care very much about the efficiency of my appliances too, so this particular cleaning mission might have to go down after all. Once someone insinuated that a drainage problem I'd been having with my dishwasher might have been caused by food bits clogging my drain trap and my head damn near exploded. I do not play around with my rinse process! If there is a custom designed hell that awaits each of us, mine will be having to sit idly while someone loads a dishwasher with sauce smeared plates.


@YourFriendLiz That devil probably wont be segregating forks and spoons into their own designated compartments in the utensil basket either.


@YourFriendLiz. Home Depot has handy under-refrigerator brushes. They are long and thin and just the thing for getting the gobs of dust/pet hair off the coils neath the fridge.


Of course, the radiator part can also be read as an extended metaphor for a really, really thorough and uncompromising approach to getting friendly.


@atipofthehat It'll be more action than I've seen in years.


I've defrosted a freezer before by taking a metal spatula, or a knife, or an ice pick, or some other dangerous-looking kitchen tool, and just hacking away at the built-up ice until it breaks. Is that.... normal??

kid madrigal

@gigglefest I think that the ice you can see is only part of it.. something about the wall in the back (where the vents are) getting also filled with ice and blocking air flow, which can keep the freezer from working properly. I only know this because I too have removed visible ice in efforts to avoid full-on defrosting to get the freezer working again. It was gross (food-smelling ice!) and it all came back anyway. :/
(Also, I was subletting - my pride demands that I clarify that this wasn't actually my gross freezer.)


So wait, what about if a freezer is like suuuuuper icy in there? My boyfriend's freezer has been getting smaller and smaller (due to its icy walls closing in), right now it's big enough for like a carton of ice cream and a bottle of limoncello and that's about it. I've never had the kind of freezer that requires defrosting so don't judge me for letting it get so bad! I would need hundreds of towels to sop up the water that this ice would become if I just let it melt. So what should I do? Hack away at it with something pokey like someone else suggested? Put a bucket inside the freezer (would that even work?)? Make him buy a new fridge? Break up?


@schadenfraulein Use this if you can find one: http://www.etsy.com/listing/66364999/vintage-time-saver-electric-freezer
It's an electric heater thing that you plug in near the fridge, place in the freezer, and let it melt the ice. I had one of these that I used to defrost my OLD freezer, the kind that doesn't auto defrost like all new fridges so ice forms on the inside and outside of the metal box that is the freezer. There should be a plastic pull out drawer right under the freezer to catch the melting ice. You have to empty that throughout the process. Once things start to melt, you can try to carve out hunks of ice. Or get your landlord to buy you a new fridge, which is what I did.


@Rosebudddd I'll have to check if his freezer has the drawer built in, I've never noticed it before. Either way, I'm now motivated to take care of it this weekend, before the freezer shrinks even more and we're forced to choose between ice cream and booze (the Sophiest of Choices). The new fridge thing is probably the best idea but I doubt his borderline-slumlord building manager would go for that. We'll see. Thanks for the advice!

Jolie Kerr

@schadenfraulein The iceberg will melt away from the walls to a point where you can just pull it out and dump it in the sink to thaw. Not all of that ice/water will melt into the unit.

Unaccompanied Lady

@Rosebudddd Here's the thing that happened to a friend, so don't do use a knife to remove ice, no matter how much you want to: my friend accidentally pierced the protective plastic, allowing all the magic that makes things cold in your freezer to go free. Repairing that hole was super expensive, possibly more so than buying a new fridge.

My friend doesn't want this to happen to you. Use spoons or spatulas. No knives.

the angry little raincloud

Yay! One Clean Person thing I had actually successfully already accomplished-- refrigerator cleaning. There was vinegar and baking soda and it was wonderful. I did it while roommate was out of town, and was so happy with the sparkling clean. Then Roommate + Almost-Live-In-Girlfriend came back, and within three days, there was some sticky brown mess congealing in the door and rotting fruit. Am I pathetic that the return of the gross made me sad?

Anyway, I move in five days.


What is/are dumbcats?


@GEEKitty aka buttcats (at least, that's what we call them in my house). So dumb, but so cute they make up for it, but they have a talent for getting in the way.


i used to work as a cashier in a grocery store: EVERYONE IS PERMITTED A PRODUCE BAG FOR MEAT. our meat-packers (teehee) were awful, i got blood all over my hands regularly by customers who just threw the package in their carts sans extra baggie. once i had to check out a particularly leaky package of brains that went all over the conveyor belt and my hands and everything- had to go to the break room and scald my skin off after that one. oh and hey- bags for your produce too. never let your raw food touch those filthy, filthy conveyor belts without washing it afterwards. THEY'RE ALL COVERED IN RAW BRAIN JUICE.


@cc ......... Grocery stores sell brains? *shudder* I'm glad I'm on my college's meal plan, because otherwise the next time I went to Publix, I wouldn't be able to resist going over to look and then being horrified with myself when I found them.



@posturegirl the more, ah, urban ones do. right next to the tripe (stomach lining!), hearts, pigs feet, 12 packs of chicken feet, and turkey necks. my current grocery store requires a steel stomach and blinders to get to the ground turkey section.


tip: when i've been staying at someone's house for more than a few days, i offer to clean the fridge as a thank-you. probably a lot of people would find this weird, but my friends have always been overwhelmingly grateful. (the fridge is where a lot of otherwise together people are secret slobs, in holden caulfield's words.)


Jesus, I am still trying to pencil in a weekend for sheet bluing, and now all I can think about is how good my fridge will smell with a little fresh vinegar cleaning.

There is very little that soothes me more than smelling my clean as fuck house on Sunday evenings. I just need to get caught up on all the Ask a Clean Persons.

Kirsten Hey@facebook

Here is the best household tip you will *ever* receive.

Once you have defrosted your freezer or ice compartment, get a clean cloth and a bottle of glycerine. Soak the cloth in the glycerine and then wipe the cloth over every surface of the freezer on which ice develops. Wipe it on so it's a good thick coating - you really don't want to skimp with this. Then switch the freezer back on and put your food back in it.

Next time you have to defrost and clean the freezer you will find that all the ice just falls off in big chunks rather than clinging to the freezer and having to be hacked off with the breadknife. You'll save hours.


@Kirsten Hey@facebook Does it have to be pure glycerin or could you theoretically use glycerin based lube?

Kirsten Hey@facebook

That is a very good question and I do not know the answer. Try the lube, let me know how it worked.


I need to clean my refrigerator quite badly. It's not... the situation in there is not good. Now I know how. It was stressing me out trying to make sense of the task on my own. I know what I'm doing Saturday night. The glamour around here is nonstop.

Jolie Kerr

@FoxyRoxy At least you're not spending your weekend fingerbanging a radiator.

Theresa Borkowski@facebook

afdgad< my cat's eloquent response to this post.

Greta Oto

@Jolie Kerr All this time I thought your avatar was of a face. A really scary, cranky face. And I'd see it and think "Oh look it's that scary cranky-faced clean lady again." But it's actually a really pleasant photo and I feel like I have to stop reading your posts in the demonic voice I'd given you. Now I'll use something like...Betty White.


Aw, dammit. The radiators in my new apartment have been taunting me since I moved in....sigh. Time to get out the trusty toothbrush again.
I'm still traumatized from cleaning under the stove which had CLEARLY never been moved since installation in approx. 1985. Aside from the years of burnt-on grease and general disgusting-ness, I also found a Christmas bow, cheese and jerky wrappers, and a double-A battery. Took about 3 hours and 2 Zeppelin albums to make that goddamn linoleum sparkle.
Of course, no one will ever see it, but by god, I KNOW IT'S CLEAN.

Jame Berrin

Cleaning of a refrigerator is not as much difficult as several people think. Few years ago i bought a small fridge from target offer. It got stinky due to mishandinling. it was my first experience to clean a fridge.


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