An Enzyme Odyssey

“A journey, I reflected, is of no merit unless it has tested you.”
― Tahir Shah, In Search of King Solomon’s Mines

I drove The Beast back to Long Beach from Campingworld in Kingston.  For no discernible reason, the fridge and freezer had been turned off, and left to sit in the sun for ten days. Then, someone turned it back on, and set it to the highest cold setting. The inside my motor home smelled like Long Island after Sandy, like New Orleans after Katrina.  I imagine it’s how an abattoir would smell, on a really bad day. It felt like a home invasion.

When I arrived at Tom and Alice’s, I got some thick contractor bags and borrowed Tom’s re-breather with the canisters, (a gas mask). I emptied out the contents, which had been purchased, portioned-out, frozen, to launch me on my year-long journey. I was going to miss the Park Slope Food Coop, but I thought was set, and wouldn’t need to food shop for a few weeks.

Using a spatula, I shoveled the freezer out. I cleaned it out as much as I could using Simple Green, paper towels, and lots of water. Then, I dumped in two boxes of baking soda, waited a few hours, and that seriously didn't help at all.  The smell was massive and acrid—biting at the back of my throat.  I gave myself a terrible headache, trying to deal with it in the 90 degree heat.

 A couple of people suggested lemon juice. I ran out and bought a dozen fresh lemons.  I juiced them into shallow bowls, and left them in the fridge and freezer overnight.  In the morning, it smelled like something died in the lemonade stand—last week.

I washed it all out again, got rid of the lemons and juice. In the fridge, I spread out six boxes of baking soda in shallow trays and bowls.  I dumped a whole box of baking soda directly on the floor of the freezer where the inch-deep meat, fish, chicken, and fruit juice slurry had marinated for the week while the rig was empty. I left that all day to do its work, and again I don't think the baking soda did much to alleviate the stench.

Alice is a firm believer in white vinegar as a cleaning and disinfecting agent. I am sure that the sludge had time to find its way into every rivet opening, every crack and seam inside this plastic box. I poured about a quart of vinegar in, and then washed all the other surfaces down with it. Left it for about 12 hours. When I returned, it smelled like something died in a pickle factory—last week. 

I talked it over with Tom at dinner-time, and he suggested that I try Knock-Out, the enzyme cleaner we used to dissuade cats and puppies from marking their territory in inappropriate places. He said that different cleaning agents take care of the smells from different enzymes, so I had high hopes for the Knock Out. It is the enzymatic cleaner. Smart boy, that son of mine! I even had a quart of the product in the rig. I had planned to use it in my outside storage compartments, which smelled musty. So, I sprayed all of the surfaces, and then dumped the half bottle that was left-over into the floor of the freezer box. I left it overnight and in the morning, it smelled like the litter box at the abattoir, where something died—last week. Apparently, the enzymes break down but leave behind an ammonia smell.

Someone on RVillage wrote to tell me about a time when they left a fish in the freezer for a week, in the hot summer sun. He did all of the things I've tried so far,and was about to order a new fridge when a friend told him to stuff the box with newspaper and leave it for a few days. He said it did take the fish smell away. So this morning I washed the knockout out, rinsed with fresh water dried the box, and stuffed it with newspaper. Since I had chicken, fish, beef, and frozen fruit up there, I guess I'm on an enzyme Odyssey at this point. If I can take care of one smell a day, maybe in a month I'll be able to use my fridge and freezer again?