It’s In Your Fridge
The Synapse Weekly – combating smelly mold.
Welcome back, students! Sure, you may not be so happy about the onslaught of papers, exams and reading assignments that are sure to come over the next few weeks – but it’s good to be back in the Hub. Walking into your dorm room is familiar and almost pleasant until … Oh god, not the dreaded post-spring vacation microfridge.
The mini refrigerator is your friend during the semester. The college student is indebted to its existence: the fridge helps keep take out leftovers from spoiling and keeps your drinks cool. After finishing your midterms, you pack the essentials, unplug electronics and bolt. As you spend time with family and friends, the abandoned fridge sits and rebels, allowing a variety of mold spores to grow in its moist, warm interior.
Of course this is all dramatic drivel: your fridge does not plot to make your life miserable while you are on vacation. However, the mold is no joke: some mold spores are known to trigger allergic reactions, and others are able to produce deadly toxins.4, 5
While this may sound ominous, not all molds are deadly, and many molds are beneficial to the environment. These microscopic fungi works to break down nutrients from dead organic material, “recycling” nutrients to foster growth.2 However, this is a double-edged sword. Because mold breaks down organic materials, mold growth can cause significant damage.
All mold needs to thrive are comfortable temperatures, a nutrient source, moisture and spores.3 Mold has the ability to thrive in near-freezing to tropical environments, and may feed off of any organic, or carbon-containing, food source.3 Moisture, in the form of liquid or vapor, must be present for mold spores to grow. Controlling moisture levels is the easiest way to control mold growth.3
Spores allow mold to spread to new environments, and are typically located at the tip of the mold stalk for easy release into the environment.5 The stalks emerge from near-invisible filamentous structures known as “roots”, which grow through the mold’s nutrient source.5 The part of mold that people see is the spore-laden stalk.5 Stalks and spores have a variety of forms, each designed to spread the growth of that particular mold. Consequently, mold spores are present in nearly all environments.3, 4
But never fear! It is easy to clean out your fridge and maintain a mold-free environment. To clean your microfridge, use a 50/50 mixture of warm water and white vinegar.1 The vinegar works to kill the fungus and neutralize any dank odors.1 After the mold is removed, make sure the fridge is free of moisture. Controlling moisture is the easiest way to prevent a mold infestation because mold spores cannot grow without water.3 The more moisture in one’s home environment, the more likely mold infestations will occur.3 Keep moisture levels down, and that horrifying house guest will stay away.
1 eHow Home. (2011). How to Clean Mold in a Fridge. Retrieved from
2 New York Department of Health. (2011). Information about Mold. Retrieved from http://www.health.ny.gov/publications/7287/
3 Fairey, Philip; Subrato Chandra and Neil Moyer, Florida Solar Energy Center. (2007). Mold Growth. Retrieved from http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/consumer/buildings/basics/moldgrowth.htm
4 Environmental Protection Agency. (2007). A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldbasics.html
5 Food Safety and Inspection Service. (2010). Molds on food: are they dangerous? Retrieved from http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/molds_on_food/#1