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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I have a two-compartment wine refrigerator. Due to a malfunction, I had some water standing in the bottom which caused mold to form on the wooden shelves. The two bottom shelves are totally damaged for the mold. The others (total of 14) were somewhat damaged. I tried cleaning them using bleach but it seems that the mold is even under the lacquer. Replacing the shelves will cost almost as much as a new refrigerator. Can they be fixed?
I tell folks not to worry too much about a little mold, unless you plan to resell the wines, in which case less-than-pristine labels can affect the resale value.
Usually you can brush mold off with a soft cloth, but this sounds more serious, like you’re moving into mildew territory. I’d avoid future use of bleach or chlorine around anything wine-related. Try a diluted detergent solution, or diluted solutions of rubbing alcohol, vinegar or borax—separately, not together! Warm water is best, or even a steam cleaner, because the heat will help kill the mildew.
After cleaning the shelves, the most important thing you can do next is let the wood dry completely. Put a fan on it, put it in some sunlight if possible—anything you can do to make sure it is clean, mold- and mildew-free before returning it to the wine fridge. Good luck!
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