Can This Smelly Freezer Be Saved

Dear Home-Ec 101,
Help!
Due to a series of unfortunate events, my small chest freezer (that sits under the house) was left unplugged for 3 WEEKS! Of course the entire inventory was a total loss, but the real problem is the SMELL. It really smelled like something died down there, and it permeated the house for a couple of days.

I have cleaned, bleached, Lysol-ed and baking soda-ed, all to no avail. It sat open and unplugged for a couple of weeks to air out It’s not as bad as it once was, but now that I have plugged the freezer in and closed the lid, the once (finally) faint smell seems stronger. I’m afraid the odor will attach itself to any new food I put in. I am almost ready to throw in the sponge and just get a new freezer, but my inner tightwad is having a hard time with that!
Heather, can this freezer be saved?

Kind regards,
Fetid Freezer

Heather says:

I have good news, there is a very good chance your freezer can be saved. There is a product called activated charcoal, which is charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to make it very porous. This means that it has a ridiculous amount of smell grabbing surface area.

There is a term called adsorb, don’t mix it up with absorb. To absorb means to take in and adsorbing means clinging by chemical attraction. See? SCIENCE! (Do you have any idea how hard it is not to do a Jesse Pinkman reference right now?)
Oh what the heck, I can’t resist, but I’ll stick to the clean version.

 

jesse-science

Those funky odors are the result of organic chemical compounds, which thankfully activated charcoal is super good at attracting and trapping. It’s thankfully much better at grabbing bad odors than the plastic in your freezer.

You can find activated charcoal in the aquarium supply sections of some large box stores and it is also on Amazon under the name activated carbon. Some people complain about the cost of activated charcoal, but compared to the cost of a new freezer, it’s pretty reasonable. It’s really going to come down to how much time and disposable income do you have to invest. If you’ve got enough money to replace the freezer and your time is at a premium, that may the route to take as I also suggest completely dismantling the freezer to clean it.

Think of the freezer as a plastic box wrapped in a Styrofoam or other insulating material and wrapped in another box with a motor and freezer coils attached.

You’ll want to dismantle your chest freezer as much as possible, without disturbing the coils or messing with the motor. You’ll want to be really sure none of the liquid from the thawing meat filtered is still inside the freezer insulating materials of the unit. Look for screws, unscrew them, and gently pull the plastic liner out. In most cases, the insulating material is nonporous.

Once the freezer has been disassembled and any missed leakage cleaned up -use an enzymatic cleaner or dilute vinegar OR dilute bleach.  Let the material dry fully, reassemble, and plug it back in. Now place the activated charcoal in the interior of the freezer and turn it on to its lowest setting. You’re not going to want it to run a lot, but you do want the fan circulating the air.

Close the door, cross your fingers, and give it 24 – 48 hours and I bet you’ll be surprised by the difference.

I have heard some people have had success with regular charcoal  briquettes, but please just NOT the kind with lighter fluid as those have their own smell and you’ll just be trading one funky odor for another. You could also crush the briquettes to increase the adsorbing surface area, too.

For those of you out there who have noticed their ice cubes taste like onions or other strong cooking odors, you may find that keeping a mesh bag of activated charcoal in the freezer really improves the taste and smell of your ice.

Best of luck, what an aggravating experience that had to be.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Where Do You Find that Cleaning Motivation

Dear Home-Ec 101,

How do I motivate myself to clean? What do you do?

Signed,
Do I Have To

PS I’m also ADD

Heather says

Living in a mess is like being in a bad relationship. It starts off comfortable enough, let’s just stay in tonight. You don’t need to put that away.

But sooner or later it starts to whisper things that aren’t very nice:

If you weren’t messy, maybe you’d be more successful.

If you could just keep a clean home, you would have more friends.

If you weren’t so messy someone would love you.

Over time those whispers aren’t whispers anymore. You don’t want to go home from work, you are ashamed to have people over, the amount of energy it takes to fix things seems overwhelming.

One day though, you snap, and kick the jerk to the curb. You throw out all the reminders and let the sun back in. Friends come over, I’ve missed you they say.

If you aren’t careful though, the phone calls start, I’ll get to it tomorrow. The temptation to just let the mess stay one night, you’ll kick it out in the morning. . . and you’re right back in it all over again.

Yeah, I’ve drug the metaphor out far enough. You get it though, right? It sucks. Eventually though it clicks that it’s just not healthy to ignore the mess because it moves in and makes itself comfortable every. single. time.

My motivation to clean isn’t that I’m a particularly neat person, it’s that I’ve learned that letting the mess in takes too big a toll on my energy -physical and emotional. Sure, none of that stuff it says is true, but I sure as hell don’t have to listen to it.

It takes less energy to unload the dishwasher or fold and put away the clothes than it does to hear that garbage.

The secret to keeping a clean home is simply putting your stuff away. You might have to start off by creating a place for your things, but getting into the habit of putting things away takes tiny spurts of energy, not the herculean amount needed to tackle a huge mess.

Use a chore chart to keep yourself on track and prevent the bigger tasks,

I listen to podcasts while I clean, staying on top of tech news. And when I’ve let a room get out of control, I don’t let myself leave the area, because I will get distracted. I use timers when I need to.

And, just to be honest today, my house is not company ready. Someone was ridiculously kind and gave me a couple of chairs, which started the whole If You Give a Mouse a Cookie phenomenon of furniture rearranging. You’ve been there, right?

Most of us don’t like to clean, some of us have figured out it’s easier to do it before it gets out of hand. You’ll be okay.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Zucchini Parmesan Crisps, Regular and Gluten-Free

Heather says

Did you think oven fried goodness was out of reach just because you have to go gluten-free?

Here’s a simple, magic substitution for you… swap crushed Rice Chex for Panko crumbs and you’re set. No other changes, no mixing a bazillion different flours or buying special bread to make your own crumbs. Take out your aggression on a handful of cereal and call it a day.

Tested. Tasted. Proven.

I really like oven-fried zucchini chips, but find them a bit too fiddly for most occasions. If you have older kids, make them bread the zucchini, it’s a great exercise in patience with a decent pay off. I see these often suggested for parties, but unless you want to keep the oven on until serving time, save them for a rainy afternoon with a craving for some savory, crispy deliciousness.

zucchini crisps

 

: Zucchini Parmesan Crisps (Gluten-Free)

: Crisp, cheesy, oven-fried zucchini chips

  • 2 medium – large zucchini sliced thinly (use the slicer on a grater)
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of milk or water
  • 1 cup grated parmesan -yes, the cheap stuff
  • 1 cup Rice Chex, crushed  -if you don’t have a wheat allergy / you can use Panko crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Instructions:

  • Spread the sliced zucchini on paper towels and lightly sprinkle with salt
  • Turn the oven on to 450°F
  • Beat the eggs with either a splash of milk or water in a shallow bowl to create an egg wash.
  • In a second shallow bowl or dish, combine the crushed cereal, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, a pinch of salt if desired, and a few turns of fresh ground pepper. (If you want to kick up the heat a little, cayenne pepper is a nice addition)
  • Grease a baking sheet.
  • Roll or blot the zucchini in the paper towel to absorb the moisture it sweated due to the sprinkle of salt.
  • Dip the zucchini slices in the egg wash and then the breading.
  • Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  • Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes and flip the zucchini slices with a fork or tongs. Bake for another 8 – 10 minutes depending on how done / crispy you like your cheese. Watch them carefully toward the end.
  • Serve immediately.

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Soap Scum and Acrylic Bathtubs

Dear Home-Ec 101,

How do I remove built up soap scum from my acrylic tub?

Signed,
Scummed in Scuddy

Heather says:

Soap scum is a generic term for that funky film that is created by soap and hard water creating a loving bond with your tub or shower.

It’s ugly and a pain in the rear to remove without scratching the surface you’re trying to clean. Once you scratch your tub or its surround, you create all kinds of new nicks and crevices for the next layer of soap scum to adhere to, which lets soap scum build up even faster.

Bar Keepers FriendSince I started writing Home-Ec 101 back in 2007, I have often recommended Barkeeper’s Friend and once again it is my go-to recommendation.

Why? It’s cheap and effective. Barkeeper’s friend relies on oxalyic acid to clean. This is a mild acid that you can find in foods like spinach and tea.

We’ve covered Bar Keepers Friend and acrylic in the past, if you want to read. The quick and dirty version is, follow the directions* and don’t forget to rinse to prevent chemical etching.

*Do not apply with steel wool or a honey badger, even if he don’t care.

As a consumer you may find the liquid version of Bar Keepers Friend easier to apply to vertical surfaces like the side of your acrylic tub or the shower doors. But if you only have the can lying around, just make a paste and gently apply.

Do not use Bar Keepers Friend or any acidic cleanser on natural stone, it’s a bad idea. Try not to get acidic cleansers on your grout or it will need to be resealed more often -use the water bead test to check.

Yes, you still need to use common sense when you use Bar Keepers Friend and not rub it in your eyes -ever squirt a lemon in your eye? It’s not pleasant, is it? And you probably should wear gloves if you’re going to be in contact with Bar Keepers Friend more than incidentally. Why? Acids aren’t great for your skin. You’ll get raw hands if you spend a lot of time, cutting up fruit, too.

And finally, don’t let your kids or pets eat your cleaning products.

Got it? Good.

If you want to prevent soap scum, use a squeegee on your tub after use.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

PS Thank you all for sending in these great questions. You’re helping me get back into the habit of writing consistently and often which is good for both Home Ec 101 and me. It is deeply appreciated. <3

Acrylic Flooring Part Deux, Why Do We Do This Again?

Dear Home Ec 101,

I like your suggestion of using an acrylic polish, but the PLEDGE web site I saw said:
“Pledge® FloorCare Multi Surface Finish should be removed from your floor every 6 to 8 applications, or annually, with a solution of 1 cup ammonia and 1/4 cup Pledge® FloorCare Multi Surface Concentrated Cleaner in 1/2 gallon cool water. Then rinse floor with clean water.”

I do not look forward to washing a whole floor with ammonia.

Any suggestions?
Don’t Wanna in Wando

PS All together, I love your site. It’s like talking with my sister and mother around the kitchen table.
Heather says:

Your mom and sister sound like my kind of people, provided they like to play Cards Against Humanity around that table.

No one looks forward to cleaning an entire floor with ammonia. If they do, they should probably get their head examined because you’re right, ammonia isn’t pleasant.

Heck, I don’t know anyone that looks forward to cleaning any floor at any time, much less the giant task of stripping and reapplying acrylic polish. That’s why you only use the acrylic polish when you can no longer bear the look of the floor any longer, thus increasing the length of time between applications.

Sweep or vacuum often, use door mats and kitchen mats, and spot mop most of the time and you can probably stretch out the time between the applications of acrylic polish and only strip the floor when you have to -after that 8th application has started to dull.

That is, unless you have a large dog. Why? Claws are the bane of your floor. Those claws will leave little nicks and dings that will wear off that polish faster than anything other than not sweeping regularly.

Remember the acrylic polish protects the flooring itself from damage, so pay attention to the high traffic areas to make sure you aren’t pushing too long between applications.

Remember regular cleaning and maintenance speaks to the investment and value of an item. Flooring is a giant pain in the butt to purchase and install, so it makes sense to take good care of it. If your flooring is actual linoleum and not just vinyl, it has an expected lifespan of 20 – 40 years -this is also why it is significantly more expensive than vinyl flooring. If the flooring is vinyl, it’s only expected to last half as long as linoleum AND the design is only on the surface. The design may wear off long before the flooring needs to be replaced.

So I agree, playing with ammonia isn’t fun, but you don’t really need to do it more than once a year, maybe even less often than that. And if you truly loathe the idea of it, consider hiring a maid type service for that one job. Get a referral. If I had to guess, it’d probably be about the same as a nice dinner out -this will of course depend on where you live and is under the assumption that Taco Bell is not considered a nice dinner out.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.