As one of the most commonly used appliances in your home, the fridge takes a beating. Food gets spilled, leftovers get forgotten to become science experiments, and half bottles of condiments start to take over every shelf.
But do you remember the last time you cleaned it? It should be cleaned thoroughly, and perhaps more often than you think. There’s also one very compelling scientific reason that your fridge deserves more than a little TLC: Listeria monocytogenes, the most common foodborne pathogen of Listeria. Unlike most bacteria, it can grow in cold temperatures and lead to foodborne illness. Maintaining a clean refrigerator can help improve the safety and quality of your foods.
Daily + Weekly Cleaning
You don't need to wait until the thought of cleaning out the refrigerator gives you anxiety. To avoid grimy surfaces and bad smells, wipe down the trays and drawers of the fridge at least weekly. For a quick and easy clean up, use plant-based disinfecting wipes for a safe and spotless safe haven for your food.
Try to clean up spills daily. Any splashes or drips should be wiped with a damp cloth or sponge as soon as they happen. Trust us when we say it's better to wipe it away immediately! Otherwise you’re left with sticky residue that’s just going to get harder to remove the longer it sits, creating a more strenuous cleaning job later down the road.
In addition to cleaning up any spills as they happen to prevent the spread of bacteria, you should also give your fridge a deep clean about four times a year—it's a good chore to do when the seasons change, perfect for your Spring cleaning routine. A spotless fridge makes your whole kitchen feel fresher, which ultimately will make your entire home feel cleaner.
What's in the refrigerator? It’s a good idea to get in the habit of sorting through foods and wiping down the interior of your fridge before grocery shopping each week. Throw out foods that have been "hibernating" in the fridge. Check expiration dates to help determine when to dispose of foods. But when in doubt, throw it out.
What's the difference between "use by" and "expiration?" "Use by" or "best if used by" date is not a safety-related date. It's the last date recommended for use of the product at optimal quality. "Expiration" date means don't consume the product after this date.
Eliminate odors between cleanings by placing an opened box of baking soda in the back of the refrigerator. Change the box every three months.
Frequently clean the refrigerator handle. That is the part of the fridge that gets touched countless times a day.
Clean the exterior of your fridge every couple of days to remove finger smudges and other spots. Use a soft cloth and dish soap, followed by a polish if you have a stainless-steel appliance.
If your refrigerator is stuffed to the gills, and the thought of emptying out every last jar and container is daunting, then it's time to add a deep-clean to your to-do list.
Treat your fridge as you would a messy closet—which means the first step is emptying it entirely to fully assess what can stay and what must go. Make sure you're going to have enough time to clean out your refrigerator without interruptions. You don't want to have your perishable food sitting out on your counters for over two hours. If you’re worried about spoiling, you can throw the most perishable items in an ice cooler or even in the freezer while you work through the remaining sections of the fridge.
Wipe down the trays and drawers with all purpose cleaner and a microfiber rag. Any parts that are removable can be scrubbed in the sink with dish soap. If you have tempered glass shelves, make sure they warm to room temperature before running them under hot water in order to prevent cracking. For particularly sticky messes, try using any bristle-based dish brush. When everything is clean, do a final wipe down with a spray bottle full of diluted vinegar. It will disinfect without adding any harmful chemicals to your food storage area.
Evaluate the goods. Next, you’re going to want to look at everything you pulled out of the fridge and ask yourself, "Have I used this? Is it still good? Am I going to use this?" If the answer is "no" to any or all of the above, get rid of the item. You really have to stay on top of what’s happening in the fridge. We recommend taking inventory before heading to the grocery store—every time. Before you fill your fridge up with fresh food, go through and pull out anything that is toward or at the end of its useful life.
Put the food back in the fridge. Before putting your condiments, etc. back into the fridge, you're going to want to add a little dish soap to a damp cloth and use it to wipe everything down first. Use this time to reorganize the fridge contents, prioritizing items with quickly-approaching expiration dates toward the front of the space.
Water and ice dispensers can get mineral buildup from your home’s water. So wipe the dispenser using a sponge and a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. If the buildup on the dispenser tray is too thick to remove with the sponge, remove it and soak it in the mixture. You may also want to change your fridge’s water filter if you haven’t done so in the past six months. And don’t forget to clean the ice bin. Remove and empty it, and wipe it down with a wet cloth. If it needs a more thorough cleaning, wash it with soap and warm water.
Clean door gaskets. It’s easy to overlook the dirt and grime that inevitably collects in the creases of the rubber that lines the refrigerator doors to seal them so that cold air doesn’t escape. But leaving them can cause air leaks which makes your fridge have to work harder to keep food cold. Clean the gaskets by pressing a damp sponge or cloth down into the folds and wiping them. Next, run a dry cloth through the creases to remove any residual moisture. If you leave water in the gasket creases and close the fridge doors, the water won’t be able to evaporate and mold could form as a result. If there’s mold in the gasket creases, clean them using a disinfectant.
Clean the dust coils. Over time, the condenser coils on your fridge can collect dust and debris and will keep your fridge from running efficiently. The coils are commonly located under the refrigerator behind the base grille, on the back of the refrigerator or on the top of the refrigerator. Unplug the unit, and use a coil brush or a vacuum attachment to wipe away dust, dirt and pet hair. A coil brush is a long, flexible bristled brush that can fit into small hard-to-reach crevices, and can be purchased at any hardware store.
Collect the dust-bunnies. The front edge of the refrigerator, where the appliance meets the floor, tends to collect dirt, crumbs, hair, and fur as debris gets pushed into this crevice. Start by vacuuming along this edge using the nozzle attachment of your vacuum. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe along this area. If you or your kids have spilled anything next to the fridge that wasn't cleaned up in the moment, those stains will get wiped away now.
Make it shine and wipe down the outside! Once everything is back in your sparkling fridge, use a clean microfiber cloth and Granite + Stainless Steel Cleaner spray to wipe down the outside of the doors, including the edges and seals, and definitely don’t skip the handles!
And with that, your refrigerator should now be spotless. Just put a reminder on your calendar to do this all again in three to four months.
National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day
November 15 is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day! While this date may not inspire the same whimsy as National Donut Day, it’s worth marking on your calendar. The holiday is rumored to have been created by Whirlpool about 20 years ago as a way to celebrate the most important appliance in your home. This special occasion is just in time for the holidays. As those containers of leftover turkey and stuffing, cookies and pies, and potatoes with gravy start piling up, you’ll need all the fridge space you can get!
Pro Tips for a continually spotless refrigerator
Wipe up spills and stains as soon as they happen since, the longer they sit, the harder they’ll be to remove.
Make sure containers are clean going into the fridge. A jam jar or ketchup bottle with residue on the outside will make your fridge sticky.
When thawing items such as frozen meat, place them on a rimmed plate or baking sheet to control spills or leakage.
Place a crumpled piece of brown paper in the fruit and vegetable drawer to absorb odors over time.
Don't overfill your refrigerator. Fridges cool more efficiently if air has room to circulate, and it'll be harder to see or clean up stains if it's overcrowded.