Failed Refrigerator and Freezer Cleanup Service
Have you ever forgotten about a bag of produce, or perhaps a package of chicken drumsticks, in the lower drawers of your refrigerator? Most of us have experienced that overwhelming odor of rotten meat and vegetable matter, and the extremely unpleasant task of cleaning up spoiled food.
Now imagine cleaning decomposing biological material from a commercial refrigeration unit, a walk-in freezer, or even your household refrigerator after a malfunction or long-term power outage. Cleaning up gross food filth escalates the task from a disgusting chore to a potentially hazardous undertaking, with the very real risk of exposure to harmful pathogens and the destruction of property outside and around the failed food storage unit.
Your broken fridge or freezer, and all its rotten contents might be so severe that you’d compare your situation to a crime scene. As it happens, crime scene cleanup companies such as Bio Recovery are exactly the solution, and in fact, we regularly assist customers with the removal of broken refrigerators and freezers, the disposal of spoiled and rotten food, and the necessary air scrubbing to remove odors.
Following are some case studies in which our customers required our refrigerator and freezer cleanup services. Because we respect our customer’s privacy, we’ve of course changed their names.
“Baited Breath” Gets a Whole New Meaning
In many parts of North America, families own or lease fishing and hunting camps. One family, the Ochoas, had a family cabin on a major sportfishing and recreation lake that had been passed down for three generations. For six years, Joseph and Anabel had been stationed on military bases around the world, so they rented the cabin to vacationers. They stored all their personal belongings in an outbuilding, and hired a property management company to monitor, clean, and repair the cabin, as well as handle rental bookings. But nobody had any reason to go into the detached garage.
Until the Ochoas finally got a chance to spend the summer at their favorite family refuge.
“We’d completely forgotten to empty and turn off the chest freezer,” said Anabel. “It broke down at some point, and all our frozen bait—shad, liver, and sardines, mostly—as well as pike, perch, and trout filets, and some frozen berries and vegetables, had liquefied in the bottom. And that’s not all,” she said. “We’d stored some deer hides in there, thinking we’d eventually get around to having them tanned.”
The local garbage transfer station didn’t allow for the disposal of freezers, let alone freezers full of putrified biological matter, and the Ochoas had no way of removing it themselves. “As soon as we opened the lid, we were overwhelmed with the smell,” said Joseph. “We had to air out the garage, but even then, the odors stuck to everything…life jackets, tents, the boat cover, everything.”
The Ochoas called us at Bio Recovery, knowing they were in over their heads with their nearly 28 cubic-foot chest freezer, which they estimated had been nearly 1/3 full of rotten fish and putrid flesh. Since they lived in bear country, we had to take steps to keep odors controlled as we took steps to dispose of the freezer’s contents and removed the appliance. And, since the outbuilding had wooden interior features and personal belongings of varying materials, we used specialized cleaners appropriate for every surface.
Finally, we used special air-scrubbing techniques to eliminate all traces of odors.
The best part? We completed the job in less than a day, allowing the Ochoas to enjoy their well-deserved vacation.
But sometimes, “getaways” aren’t for the purpose of R&R.
Long-Term Power Outages and Food Storage Appliances
Hurricane Sandy left millions in the Northeast without power, many for weeks, in late 2012. People who evacuated weren’t concerned about anything but their most precious belongings, and the safety of their loved ones. Offices, retailers, restaurants and grocery wholesalers prepared to write off their inventories and shuttered their businesses to allow their employees to tend to their families.
“Our walk-ins were a disaster,” said Anne B. “We couldn’t get in for more than a week, and even then we had no power for another two weeks.” Her insurance covered the loss of her produce and meat, which had putrefied. “But we had to deal with the mess, and the stink.”
Anne called us, knowing that eliminating all traces of decomposing food and the resulting odors was imperative to prevent secondary issues, like insect and rodent infestations. “I couldn’t make my staff deal with that, and anyway, I was worried for their safety. There was goo everywhere, including on the floors, and the liquids had gotten into all the cracks.”
We cleaned up every surface, including those not directly affected by the spoiled food in the walk-ins and other refrigeration units. We decontaminated the walls, ceilings, worktops, and ventilation systems to eliminate odor sources and dangerous pathogens.
“I knew I had to hire a biohazard cleanup service in order to pass health inspections,” Anne said. “And there was no way we’d have gotten the smell out without Bio Recovery.”
“What does a fully-stocked produce counter smell like after two weeks? You’d be surprised that it’s on par with a meat department that’s gone absolutely rancid,” said James T., the manager of a regional grocery chain. “I don’t know how to dispose of a freezer full of rotten meat… especially when public services are down, and our whole city is in chaos.”
Bio Recovery managed to clean up the store’s perishables, seal and contain them according to OSHA standards, and dispose of them at the appropriate waste receiving facilities long before the power was restored to James’ region. Cleaning up the store was an enormous undertaking, but we brought in our team of highly-trained technicians and organized the job using the careful execution of our detailed checklist for assessing and addressing every aspect of food biohazard remediation.
Cadaver & Laboratory Material Storage
Fuel shortages compounded the lack of grid-supplied power, and backup generators couldn’t keep up with the demand for the refrigeration of human bodies. Closed roads, isolated islands, and empty gas tanks made transportation a nightmare.
In the face of disaster, the highly-competitive funeral industry rallied together to divert decedents to facilities that suffered less damage or those that still had power. Burials and cremations were delayed as funeral technicians scrambled to keep up with their embalming and preparatory backlog. Due to the flooding of many popular cemeteries and the challenges funeral directors faced in keeping up with their obligations, funerals and interments were delayed.
In some areas, bodies remained undiscovered—or couldn’t be collected—for days, simply due to logistics and the overwhelming burden on public services.
Without refrigeration, human bodies begin to decompose immediately after death. Body fluids, tissues, and odors require licensed biohazard cleanup services, and this is Bio Recovery’s primary focus. We stepped in to sanitize cadaver refrigeration units and personal property in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s tremendous death toll.
The power outage also impacted refrigeration units designed to store the bodies of pets, requiring biohazard remediation specialists. We were called upon to clean up medical and academic laboratories that rely on refrigeration to store cadavers and biological specimens such as blood and tissue.
“Reefer” Trucks and Food Delivery Vans
Food distributors and retailers use refrigeration units in their cargo vehicles, but as with all heated and cooled spaces, outdoor temperatures can wreak havoc on thermostat settings. On many occasions, we’ve had to clean up refrigerated trucks after only a few hours of inadequate or failed cooling systems.
Enclosed spaces, especially in under-insulated cargo vehicles, quickly absorb heat from sunlight, speeding up the spoiling process of meat and produce. We’ve also remediated a large refrigerated tractor-trailer after an accident in which the vehicle was left on the side of the road for twelve hours on a hot August day; the vehicle was carrying products from a meat processing facility to a grocery distribution center.
On a smaller scale, we’ve often recovered spoiled food left in car trunks, preserving the vehicle’s value and preventing it from becoming a “biohazard car”.
Why You Should Treat Spoiled Meat as a Biohazard
You don’t have to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane or the surprise discovery after six years of a chest freezer full of decayed meat to hire professional biohazard cleaners. We perform most of our broken and failed unit cleaning services for private customers and small businesses whose appliances simply stopped working long enough for the contents to become a health and environmental hazard.
Here are some quick facts about proper cleanup and disposal of broken refrigerators and freezers:
- Salmonella and e. coli are usually present in decomposing meat and vegetables.
- Liquefied rotten meat and vegetables seep into cracks and seams, making odor prevention and bacteria removal nearly impossible in potentially salvageable units.
- Many pathogens have become resistant to household cleaners and bleach.
- The area around your failed refrigerator or freezer must be properly sanitized, due to contamination from splashing, misting, or contact with cleaning tools and supplies.
- Proper eyewear, gloves, and respirators are necessary to prevent infection; all of these must be donned and removed carefully.
- Permanently damaged food storage units must be properly transported and disposed of and may be refused by waste management facilities. The FDA may require a permit for disposing and transporting spoiled food.
- Left-behind biological matter will continue to emit odors and host bacteria long after improper cleaning.
Bio Recovery is equipped with the correct cleaning supplies, techniques, and attention to detail to tackle refrigerator and freezer cleanup. We handle the disinfection of contaminated areas and remove the offending appliance. When your fridge or freezer goes out, excessive odors take over…unless you call an expert. Bio Recovery is here for you, whether you need residential cleanup or commercial-scale remediation.