Cleaning abandoned wine fridge

I was recently gifted a small 24 bottle Avanti wine fridge which had been sitting abandoned in a garage for 3 years, unplugged with the door closed.

Yesterday I cleaned the exterior and interior with some multipurpose cleaning spray, as it was in pretty bad shape. It’s now spotless, but I have 2 major concerns.

  1. After cleaning the fridge, I began reading up on chemicals and the effects that they could potentially have on TCA. To combat/fix this my thought is to wipe all the surfaces down with water to wash away any residual chemicals that may be on the surfaces, and then re-disinfect it with hydrogen peroxide which I read was safe, and does not cause/promote TCA.

  2. When I initially received the fridge and opened the door, it smelled like death, it hit me in the face the moment I opened up the door. After the deep cleaning I gave it, I’d say it’s about 80% better, but it’s still there. Since the deep clean, I’ve left the door open, and it’s been open now for about 24 hours with the unit turned off.

My questions are:

  1. Have a “ruined” the fridge by using chemicals on it? Or can it be salvaged by wiping down with water followed by peroxide, or any other methods that you suggest?

  2. How do I safely deodorize it? I don’t want to camouflage the odor, I want to completely eradicate it, and I want to be sure it’s done safely in a way that won’t potentially damage any of the wines. Similarly, I want to be sure that whatever stench that currently resides in the fridge won’t damage any wines.

Note the cleaner which was used has the following indgredients: Water, lauramine oxide, lauryl alcohol ethoxylate, sodium gluconate, potassium carbonate, caprylyl/capryl glucoside, caprylyl/myristyl glucoside,* citric acid,* tetra sodium glutamate diacetate,* benzisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone.*
Packaging states that it’s formulated without: parabens, phthalates, phosphates, formaldehyde, synthetic dyes, ammonia, chlorine bleach, and synthetic fragrance

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much in advance.

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  1. No

  2. Putting it outdoors in the sun would be an easy way to do it, but obviously you don’t want it to be rained on. You could also just leave it open in a garage for awhile which would do the same thing more slowly.

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Light, no/low moisture and airflow would most like get you back in business.


After a period of time airing out with the door open, I’d use a couple of boxes of banking soda and/or activated charcoal to absorb remaining odors.

I would make a mixture of baking soda and peroxide and wash down all the interior surfaces again.
Then do what Robert said. Pour a box of baking soda into a wider pan and leave that in there with the door open for a week or so. Better yet if you can get it some direct sunshine and airflow as Michael suggested even if only over a weekend or 2. At 24 bottles, should be small enough to put it in and out if weather permits

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I received a “college dorm” fridge in much the same condition and had to clean it in the same manner. Airing it out for several days removed all aroma. I’ve since been using it for food for the last five years and have not detected any TCA. Kidding aside, TCA mostly comes from cork and some wineries apparently can have outbreaks. But I’ve never heard of cleaning solution causing TCA.

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TCA in corks (and things like shipping palate) is a byproduct of chlorine bleach used for sterilization and mold. So I supposed it’s possible that the chlorine in some cleaning agents might react with something.

I did see that, but the chlorine is interacting with cork or wood. But with plastic? That seems less likely. I’m also not a chemist.

I wouldn’t worry about storing wine in the fridge. The only issue is if the odors bother you wherever you keep it. The real issue is if you’ve been able to clean it sufficiently that mold doesn’t come back once it starts running, and moisture builds up inside from the cooler temp (if you happen to live in a more humid environment.

I’d do a little more cleaning, then just leave it open for a while and see how it seems. If it is aromatically acceptable, I wouldn’t think twice about storing wine in it.

Thank you all for your help and input on this. I ended up leaving the door open with the unit turned off for about 48 hours, cleaning with generous amounts of peroxide, and the smell is gone. Fridge is up and running, and good as new. I have a Govee WiFi thermometer which I purchased from Amazon monitoring the temperature before I add any wine, and it appears to be going a great job of keeping temperatures stable (1 degree fluctuation). The only issue I’m having so far is it runs a little too cold (bounces between 49 and 50), but I’m sure I just need to get dialed in to the right sweet spot using the temperature control knob. It’s an old unit, so there’s no digital thermostat.

Thanks again!

Given that it is only 24 bottles, are you really intending to use it for long term storage? While the temperature might be a bit low, all it will do is slow the rate of development. But again, ageing two cases? I hope they are the crown jewels of your collection. For me, I’d more likely use it for handy storage of current drinkers.

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