Refrigerators are a truly modern luxury that most of us cannot live without. But the fridge has also become such a household mainstay that many of us also forget that it needs a good deep-clean every once in a while. (In fact, a dirty fridge can cause foodborne illnesses like E. coli that often require medical attention.) Here’s how to clean your refrigerator and keep both your family and your food safe and healthy.
What you will need:
- A cooler to temporarily keep food cold
- A large towel in case of spills
- Paper towels or rags for cleaning and drying
- All-purpose cleaner
- A butter knife or kitchen scraper for stubborn, stuck-on gunk
- Trash bags
- A vacuum cleaner with an extendable hose
- Fill the kitchen sink or a bucket with warm, soapy water for soaking drawers and shelves, if necessary.
- Either unplug the refrigerator and/or turn off the breaker. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when using water around electric appliances.
- Empty out food items, checking expiration dates and throwing away expired items. The best rule of thumb is, “when in doubt, throw it out.” Consolidate by throwing away duplicate items.
1. Remove shelves and drawers.
Spread out a large towel and give each shelf and drawer a good spray with an all-purpose cleaner before wiping thoroughly. For extra-stubborn stains, a butter knife or scraper will help to nudge them loose. Place shelves and drawers in the sink or bucket if they need an extra soak or a larger area for washing and rinsing.
2. Scrub the inside.
Once all of the food and shelving has been removed, it’s easy to give the inside of your fridge a good scrubbing. Start from the top and work your way down to ensure that loose dirt and crumbs will make its way to the bottom to be easily swept out. Make sure to pay special attention to built-in fixtures and nooks and crannies that may have collected food or sticky liquids. After you’ve scrubbed all of the interior surfaces, dry with a cloth to avoid condensation forming when the fridge gets cold again.
3. Clean door seals and gaskets.
Door seals have folds and creases, which collect crumbs and debris. Be sure to clean the grooves very thoroughly, and then wipe them dry to prevent growth of mold and bacteria. You can also use a vacuum hose extension for this job.
4. Vacuum the grate/kick plate and coils.
Carefully pull your refrigerator away from the wall and vacuum the coils, which can become very dusty over time. Also remove the grate or kick plate from the bottom of the fridge and vacuum that area. Many fridges also have a drip pan underneath to collect moisture, which should be removed, washed clean, and dried like the interior shelves.
Put the shelves in drawers back in place, and evaluate how you can arrange your food items for a more efficient use of space. Think about creating easily accessible spaces in drawers or on the refrigerator door shelves for the products you use most.
6. Put the food back.
Wipe any condensation or debris off of jars and containers, and make sure that lids and caps are securely closed. Putting seafood and meats toward the bottom of the fridge reduces the risk that any spills will contaminate other foods. Place frequently used items in easy-to-reach places.
7. What to do going forward.
Now that your fridge is squeaky clean, make an effort in the future to clean up spills as soon as they happen and occasionally wipe down shelves — both of which will make future deep-cleans much easier. Whenever you place new groceries in the fridge, check for old or expired items and throw them out. You can also place an opened box of baking soda in the back to absorb any odor.