'Round The Campfire

How to Prevent and Remove RV Refrigerator Mold

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter March Outdoor Living Newsletter
New empty and clean RV refrigerator
It's easy to keep your fridge clean and prevent mold by following some simple tips.

Having an RV is a great way for families to spend time with each other while enjoying the great outdoors. While it is possible to live in an RV, most people use these vehicles only occasionally for camping or vacationing. While a lot of work goes into making the RV travel ready, one thing that most people often forget is to clean out the fridge. If an RV is not being used constantly, the moisture left inside the appliance can cause mold and mildew to grow inside it. This is not only a huge inconvenience for those who are already packed and ready to hit the road, but it also poses a huge safety risk as well. To help we have some tips on how to prevent mold from developing in your RV fridge and if it does some tips on how to remove it from your RV fridge.

How to Prevent Mold From Developing In An RV Fridge

The easiest way to treat mold is to prevent it from growing in the first place. To do this will require a little work at the end of each RV trip, but by doing so, hours of cleaning will be spared later on. There are several methods used to prevent the mold from growing, but the following tips have been found most effective.

  1. Always empty the fridge at the end of each trip
    This may seem like a no brainer, but after a long trip on the road, everyone is likely to be eager to get home. It's easy to forget little things like leaving last night's dinner in the fridge. While mold can grow even if food isn't left behind, it'll grow faster, be harder to remove, and smell much worse if items are left to fester inside the appliance. To prevent this, you should make it a habit to check the fridge after each trip. If you're unable to remember on your own, place a note on the door of the RV, or in other noticeable locations, such as the bathroom mirror.
  2. Wipe down the fridge with some disinfectant wipes
    It may look like the fridge is clean after emptying it, but leftover bacteria is still lurking in every corner. This bacteria then grows into mold when exposed to moisture. The easiest way to remove the bacteria is by wiping down the fridge with disinfectant wipes. The more bacteria that is removed, the less chance mold will grow later on.
  3. Keep the fridge open whenever possible
    Bacteria isn't the only thing left inside a fridge when you return home. Moisture, often due to melted ice, also remains in the fridge. When bacteria is left with moisture, both with no way to escape, mold begins to grow. Fortunately, by leaving the fridge door open, the moisture is able to escape into the air before the mold can take over the fridge.
    Most RV fridges have tabs that prop the door open. Even if the fridge doesn't have this, the door can still be kept slightly ajar with the use of an old towel, rag, book, or any other small object on hand.
    Note: If the fridge has a light that turns on when opened, you will need to turn it off manually. This can usually be done by looking for a switch at the back of the fridge. If this step isn't taken, the light can drain the battery of the RV.
  4. If the fridge door can't be kept open, place something inside it to absorb the moisture
    If for whatever reason it's impossible to leave their fridge door open, some form of moisture absorber should be kept in the appliance until the next trip. Kitty litter or crumbled up newspaper are best at keeping mold at bay, but charcoal can also be used in a pinch. If you happen to have any of those "do not eat" gel packets that are found in medicine bottles, shoes, or beef jerky bags, those can also be placed in the fridge as a moisture absorber.
    Note: If gel packets are used, travelers will need to remove them at the start of the next trip so they don't accidentally get eaten.
  5. Check to see if the fridge has a drip pan. If it does, empty it and wipe it down
    Many RV fridges have a drip pan that is stored in the back of the fridge or behind the appliance itself. The drip pan is used to collect water and condensation, much like the pans seen with portable air conditioners. Not all RVs will have this pan in their fridge, but those that do will need to be emptied. In addition to that, the pans should also be wiped down with a towel to ensure that all moisture has been removed. If not, mold can form on the pan itself. This is often harder to notice since it is located in the back or bottom of the fridge.

How To Remove Mold That Has Already Grown In An RV Fridge

If you didn't use the above tips and are now dealing with a moldy fridge, there's still hope. It's very important that the entire fridge be cleaned out before any food is placed inside it. If not cleaned properly, the mold will regrow at an alarming rate. If not caught soon enough, it can spread to the food which can make you sick and ruin your trip. There are several methods on how to best clean mold, but the following tips are the most useful.

Note: A mask and gloves should always be worn at all times when cleaning mold. Black mold, which is most common in refrigerators, can cause breathing problems and other health issues if a mask isn't worn.

  1. Clean the fridge with White Vinegar
    Cleaning mold out of a fridge can require a lot of scrubbing, but by using white vinegar, the job is made much easier. Vinegar may not seem like a strong cleaning product, but it's been being used to disinfect and kill mold for years and is both safe and environmentally friendly. One part hot water to one part white vinegar should be mixed in a spray bottle. The mixture should then be sprayed generously throughout the fridge. The vinegar will start working immediately to weaken any remaining mold left in the fridge. It will also help to lessen the unpleasant scent that the mold is giving off.
    Note: While vinegar is most effective, other organic clean supplies may also be used. You can even use soapy water, however that requires much more scrubbing!
  2. Remove the shelves and drawers of the fridge and allow them to dry outside the appliance.
    Any removable parts of the fridge should be placed outside the appliance to dry while the rest of the fridge is cleaned. If there's any mold still left on the removable parts, a toothbrush or abrasive sponge may be used to scrub it away. It's important that these parts be cleaned by hand, not with the use of a dishwasher. While using a dishwasher may be easier, it can also spread the mold so removal is even harder.
  3. Spray the fridge with vinegar.
    Vinegar may not seem like a strong cleaning product, but it's been being used to disinfect and kill mold for years. To use, one part hot water to one part white vinegar should be mixed in a spray bottle. The mixture should then be sprayed generously throughout the fridge. The vinegar will start working immediately to weaken any remaining mold left in the fridge. It will also help to lessen the unpleasant scent that the mold is giving off.
  4. Make sure everything is completely dry
    Once the inside of the fridge is cleaned, it needs to be dried to prevent the mold from growing back. Since bleach can stain clothing, it's recommended that an old towel be used to wipe down the inside of the appliance. If the shelves and drawers haven't finished drying outside the fridge, they can also be wiped down and placed back inside.
  5. Remove the smell of mold with baking soda
    There should be a drastic improvement in the smell once the fridge is cleaned, especially if vinegar was used. Despite this, the scent may still linger in severe cases even after the fridge has been completely cleaned. If this happens, baking soda can be sprinkled inside the doors, drawers, and drain tray, then allowed to sit for an hour. For those who are eager to get on the road, an open box of baking soda can be placed in the back of the fridge. This will also absorb the smell, just not as quickly as if it were sprinkled everywhere.
    Baking soda can also be kept inside the fridge once travelers return home. While it doesn't work as well as kitty litter or newspaper, it will help to absorb any moisture and smells left in the fridge.
    Note:Once the fridge has been properly cleaned, it should be allowed to cool for at least three hours. It takes this long for the fridge to reach a safe temperature for food to be stored at.

Brian Hawkins works as part of the internet development team at Dave Arbogast RV Depot in Troy, Ohio, where he writes about the RV maintenance and industry daily. When he's not covering the RV lifestyle he enjoys camping with his wife and children.

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