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Insidious

08/26/2012

I went by a friend’s new house today and checked out the move. I say “checked out” because I didn’t help one bit on schlepping things into the place. We came late and brought beer, a different kind of “help.”

The house has a rental unit upstairs, so we were looking at the apartment, and I couldn’t help but shift into property-manager mode, assessing all of the features (washer/dryer!, gas stove!, gated parking!).

Call me nosy, but I always open cabinets and poke around to see what’s under the hood, so to speak. When I got to the fridge, I noticed that it was turned off. This is something that both tenants and property owners do to, in theory, save power and money.

DON’T DO IT. There is no amount of electrical savings that will make up for the problems you face leaving a fridge to warm up.

Think about it. You’ve got a sealed, dark, and slightly damp compartment getting warmer and warmer over time, the perfect home for a glorious crop of tenacious, squatting mold. At best, you’ll turn the fridge back on before this gets out of control and it might just smell a little. At worst, if it really sits for a week or so, the mold will invade all of the hidden areas like metasticizing cancer such that even a thorough surface cleaning can’t get rid of the infection. The mold grows back inside the guts of the fridge, where you will never, ever be able to kill it.

This happened to us once when we moved into an apartment. The previous tenants had cleaned and unplugged the fridge, and the landlords hadn’t noticed (or cared) that the appliance was getting stagnant. By the time we moved in a week later, the interior was covered in layer of greenish-gray powder and stank like a swampy basement. We cleaned it repeatedly—which is also hard to do since you’re really only supposed to use mild soap and water on a fridge and not the kinds of cleaners that one would otherwise use to kill mold—but the smell wouldn’t go away. Worse, the food took on this same awful smell.

But the truly bad part was that our food got moldy. We’d been left a giant incubator instead of a fridge, and nothing susceptible would last. Now, I am not a scientist, so I can’t verify what I am about to say. Just call it speculation, but I am pretty confident that this kind of mold is not good for you. It’s not delicious blue cheese mold, for example. Whether or not it’s as toxic as the “black mold” that follows water damage, I don’t know, but I am willing to bet that it’s not much better. It’s particularly bad to breathe mystery mold. So you don’t want that fridge fan circulating it around.

Our landlords finally just bought a new fridge, but even cheap rental ones cost about $400.

The bottom line is just keep your refrigerator on. A little money spent on PG&E is far better than the cost of a new appliance.

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From → Ponderings

2 Comments
  1. And definitely do not under any circumstance unplug a full outdoor freezer in July to plug in a digital alarm clock without letting the home owners know.

  2. mkc permalink

    Ouch.

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