Converting a Fridge to a Cave
Those of us whom do not have a cellar (much less a cave) in which to age cheese, have two choices: (1) use a kitchen fridge and age at much-lower-than-optimum temperature, or (2) convert an old fridge (or wine cooler) to maintain target temperature and humidity conditions. Assuming you have space for a second fridge-turned-cave, this option will give the best results by far.
If this is the route you choose it's wise to invest a little time and money to assure the best outcome.
If you have the luxury of choosing, pick the "newest and cleanest". Cheese has a tendency to pick up off-odors easily so cleaner is better. In any case, if you're converting an old fridge, we highly recommend taking the time to completely clean and sanitize the interior per the instructions below, and if needed, removing the freezer panels to clean out any mold that may have accumulated over the years.
Cleaning and sanitizing steps
1. Isolate energy
Before doing anything, turn cold control OFF and unplug fridge. Allow the coils time to come to room temperature so that any accumulated ice will melt. Sanitization will be more effective once the interior of the fridge comes to room temp and condensed moisture has dried.
2. Remove all freezer shelves, trays and grills
This gives you good access to the sidewalls to clean and sanitize, and it's easier to sanitize he removable components separately
Note: Steps 3 through 5 below deal with cleaning accessible freezer air channels. If the fridge is relatively new and "clean" this may not be necessary. However, if it is an older fridge or one that has that "refrigerator smell" like my fridge did (see "My Cave Story" in the sidebar), then these steps are necessary.
3. Remove front freezer frameTypical refrigerators have the cooling coils and fan in the upper freezer compartment. To get to the "air channels" you need to remove the inside plastic frame. In this fridge, there was a plastic frame around the inside that I removed by prying it open with a screwdriver. You can see the air intake louvers on the bottom frame piece in picture at right.
4. Remove bottom freezer panel
5. Remove rear freezer panel
There should be four or more phillips head screws holding secure the back panel. Once all screws are removed, the back panel should come loose.
With the freezer panels removed you can access the coils and air plenum. Remove any food particles or visible mold and wipe all flat surfaces with cleaner and bleach solution described in step 7.
6. Clean and sanitize fridge compartment and components
7. Clean and sanitize interior surfaces
I first sprayed all the interior surfaces with a bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach in a sprayer bottle of water with a few drops of detergent). Followed up with a good sponge wipe-down using a pine oil cleaner. Once all interior surfaces have been cleaned and sanitized, you can reinstall the freezer panels and frame, and refridgerator shelves and drawers.