Thread Number: 44406  /  Tag: Major Appliances
Vintage Refrigerators - Combating Styrene Odor
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Post# 462155   4/9/2023 at 15:10 (433 days old) by huskyvacs (Gnaw Bone, Indiana)        

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I have a vintage late 1960's Admiral fridge in my basement and it has recently in the last several years developed an extreme polystyrene or noxious chemical odor and it is putting that smell into all the food. The food is fine, and if I leave it sit in the upstairs fridge, the odor gets cancelled out and removed.

I know it's the foam insulation rotting away, and I am sure I am not the only person with a vintage fridge that's ever had this issue.

Other than about 6 truckloads of Arm and Hammer odor boxes, is there anything I can do?

Post# 462320 , Reply# 1   4/14/2023 at 18:10 (427 days old) by kirbyklekter (Concord,Ca.)        
"what's that smell"

I went looking last night for answers and ended up with people who completely refurbish vintage refrigerators and freezers.Lots of people doing it or want to do it.

One place stock piles a plethora of oldies where you can buy them un-restored or you can have them do the job on site. They were talking about how before planned obsolescence was introduced into the build,the compressors were good for 300 years!

Just like with vacuum cleaners a big chunk of the people buying and restoring these are looking for models they grew up with. A "she shack" is the female version of a man cave, so I learned that last night!

There are sites that talk about fridge odors.I'll keep looking for your specific type of situation.Do you think it's deteriorating insulation or just the plastic inside the box? Is there a drain in the bottom like under the vegetable drawers. Those can get pretty nasty with time. Any cracks in lining? Also have you checked where the freezer fan(s) is located. They gets iced up over time and food particles find their way in that area.

Post# 462323 , Reply# 2   4/14/2023 at 22:08 (427 days old) by huskyvacs (Gnaw Bone, Indiana)        

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Thanks for researching Bill. I'm sure its a foam odor, it's a sickly type of chemical smell, it goes beyond freezer burn smell. It smells a lot like when you get some new plastic thing from china, and it has that strong noxious odor.

It's not freon leaking because obviously the refrigerator still works. I cannot find it now but I remember reading about 10 years ago that the foam can off-gas and be circulated around when the freezer runs. But I never found any certain conclusions or anyone that found a way to stop it.

I had an idea about just shooting spray adhesive down the ductwork and letting it float around and stick to the side walls but not sure if that would do more damage than helping.

My dad decades ago had holes drilled into the side wall for a bar tap, and then sealed them up with duct tape. But I don't think what would be so serious. I've been meaning to sprayfoam that hole up and seal it better than duct tape but haven't gotten to it.

And yes those old lead lined fridges sell really fast and are really reliable. Every time I see one for sale in the re-use-it store for building materials and donations, they are gone nearly instantly after they are brought out. Most commonly they need a freon recharge or have a bad coil that needs patching. Can still buy old cans of refrigerant on eBay, people pay so much for them to get their stuff fixed whether it is a car or an appliance or their air conditioner.

Post# 465142 , Reply# 3   8/6/2023 at 17:48 (313 days old) by anthony (leeds uk)        
many years ago[70s]

anthony's profile picture
When working for frigidaire in the UK it was common practice for us to replace the freezer compartments on household refrigerators [after they had been stabbed with a sharp instrument these days we just buy a new fridge] .It was a long job digging out the old foam fitting the new unit connecting up and regassing .back then foam came to us in two bottled about the size of a milk carton .With the fridge laid on its front a small amount of each was mixed together and poured into the opening then a bit pf plywood placed over the opening and a weight placed on top while it expanded .Ok so now we get to the story that has nothing to do with refrigerators .One day while driving my work van i had an accident .as a result the two GLASS bottles were broken .The contents of the two bottles met each other and within seconds began to react .All i could do was quickly get out of the van and watch as the foam slowly oozed out of the windows [and anywhere else it could escape] My boss was furious and it was the talk of the workshop and for years had to endure the nick name foaming Tony

Post# 465279 , Reply# 4   8/14/2023 at 00:49 (306 days old) by kirbyklekter (Concord,Ca.)        
Good story Anthony

If he wanted to invest the time and effort and a little $$ he could dig out the old insulation and there are surely some ready mixed foam insulation types he could shoot in there I imagine. Up in snow country or say Canada they have foams made for freezing winters for attics,garages and everything else. I just don't know if they are considered "food friendly"

It looks like replacement is the only way to effectively get rid of the odors that Huskyvacs has been dealing with.

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