Try this at home: Happily bid an old refrigerator good-bye

#632 in a series of true experiences in real estate
December 2011, Hills Newspapers

Washing the inside of a refrigerator is a tedious process. I hate doing it, it takes so long. First, all the food has to come out. Jars of pickles and mustard, packages of tortillas, milk and juice cartons and plastic wrapped left-overs.

The refrigerator contains a ton of stuff, all of which must be placed somewhere before I can clean the box where it has been stored. Egg cartons sit on the kitchen table with sour cream and capers and a lone bottle of champagne. Decisions are necessary. The green onions look too far gone, probably aren’t revivable. Toss them. A bowl of rice and mushrooms won’t be eaten by anyone. Let that go, too.

I remember how snazzy, how sparkling white the plastic insides and clear glass shelves looked when the refrigerator was new. I have cleaned it a number of times since then, the last time taking everything apart, washing each shelf on both sides, took out the drawers, too.

The refrigerator looked so good when I was done that I showed it off to friends when they came to visit. “Hey, look,” I said, opening the door wide to show off my accomplishment. “My refrigerator is super clean!”

I wonder what the refrigerator designer people were thinking when they molded into the interior all those grooves. Milk drips into them and dries like glue. Even an old toothbrush and hot, soapy water barely urges the brown goo away. The ripply bottoms of the produce drawers are also a problem. Fossilized lettuce leaves stick fast and must be slowly dissolved before they loosen.

It takes a couple of hours to clean the refrigerated section. Cleaning out the freezer too takes longer and involves removing the contents and turning the temperature up. If I don’t wait until the inside is warmer, my wet sponge freezes as I wipe the surfaces.

There are people who never clean their refrigerators. Just as I never clean my oven (I really think that I never have), some refrigerators are allowed to collect crumbs and spills for years and years. No one tries to wipe or wash them away. Then, one day, either the refrigerator dies and is replaced and the cycle begins again, or the owner moves leaving the refrigerator behind.

When I went into real estate, it did not occur to me that refrigerators would be a part of it, but they are. It seems like we’re always having to deal with someone’s left-behind refrigerator, and it always needs cleaning. Nice new white refrigerators and old dented brown ones – all must be cleaned. I figure it costs around $100 to get a refrigerator looking as good as it can. This seems like a lot of money.

People do depend on having refrigeration, of course, and buying a new refrigerator is more expensive than cleaning an old one. Many buyers hope appliances will be provided. And so, I frequently wonder, at what point does it make sense to not clean a refrigerator, but instead to get rid of it?

Especially the old ones that noisily run and guzzle energy, I say that if we can, let’s throw them out, and do it while they’re still dirty. Especially the olive green ones and the dark brown ones, big and bulky and sticking out too far in the room, if circumstances allow, let’s let them go.

There is good news. Now, today, as a wonderful bonus, and a sign of the energy-conscious times we live in, refrigerators can be carted away for free. They do not have to be cleaned first. Not only that, the refrigerator owner will be paid for giving it up – thirty-five dollars! Yes, customers who buy electricity from P.G.&E. can avail themselves of the Refrigerator/Freezer Recycling Program. Call 800-299-7573 and arrange for a pick-up.

The appliance can’t be dead; it must run and it must have a capacity of at least 10 cu.ft. The procedure is quick and painless. We were there not long ago when two regular-size men arrived carrying long woven straps. They zipped them around the refrigerator and walked it right out the front door.

There’s money to be made here. How many old, dirty refrigerators have you got?

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