The Right Way to Clean Your Refrigerator

Brianna Koehler

BitsofBri lays out the basics of how (and when) to clean your fridge inside and out.

Your refrigerator is the unsung hero of your kitchen. It’s where you safely store most of the nourishment in your home, and you access it repeatedly throughout the day, every day. Even so, you probably aren’t cleaning it as often or as thoroughly as other household appliances, like the microwave or coffee maker—and that is a mistake.

While refrigerators are durable, they are still susceptible to wear and tear over time. Perhaps even more importantly, a clean refrigerator keeps food fresher, and helps set the overall tone for your kitchen, which you want to be bright and welcoming.

Without regular upkeep, food residue and sloppy stains can build up on the inner shelves and drawers (leaky takeout containers, I’m looking at you!) and even on the outside doors. Meanwhile, forgotten food that gets wedged in the back out of sight can give off unpleasant smells every time you open the door, which I can assure you is fun for no one who is close by in the kitchen or the dining room, and can be downright embarrassing if you have company. And by keeping your refrigerator organized, you can use its space much more efficiently.

To keep your refrigerator sparkling clean and highly functional, you will want to deep clean once a month, with quicker weekly tidies every time you come home after grocery shopping. These weekly touch-ups, which can involve simply wiping down visible surfaces and condiments with a damp cloth and tossing any spoiled food to make room for the new food you just bought, are important because they will make the deeper monthly cleaning so much easier, I promise—and with all of us having such busy lives these days, who doesn’t like the sound of that?

There are a few ways to actually make deep cleaning your refrigerator fun, and we’ll get to those. First, let’s go through my step-by-step guide on how to keep your fridge clean inside and out. Before you begin, make sure you have a cooler handy, as well as common cleaning items.

Step-by-step guide to cleaning the refrigerator

How to deep clean your hardest-working appliance.

1. Remove the food

The first step of doing a deep clean is removing everything from your refrigerator—that’s right, it all goes. The best time to do this? When you notice that you need to go grocery shopping because you’re running low on food. Less food in the fridge means that it will be easier for you to remove items in preparation of your cleaning session. Place the food in a cooler to keep it safe and edible until you are ready to return it post-cleaning. Any food that is past its expiration date or is looking questionable should be thrown away.

2. Do a wash

Slide out the bins and drawers, and then wash them one-by-one using a fresh sponge and Dawn Dishwashing Liquid. This will get rid of bacteria, crumbs, odors, and other unpleasantness that you don’t want near the food you eat. Then, set the clean items upside down on cloth to dry as you get started wiping down the rest of the fridge.

3. Wipe the interior

With the bins and drawers drying, it’s time to tackle the rest of the interior. Using Mr. Clean Clean Freak Mist and a sponge or absorbent paper towels, start at the top of the refrigerator and wipe down the walls and the shelves, taking your time to get in all of the plastic seams as you work your way down to the bottom of the unit. Depending on how dirty your refrigerator has gotten, you may need to take a quick break to rinse your sponge and apply more cleaner, or reach for more paper towels. As you move your way toward the bottom, consider using a footstool to sit down so that you are not hunched over uncomfortably. Trust me, if you’re comfortable, you’ll be more thorough—and maybe even sleep better that evening without having put yourself through any strain. After cleaning, wipe the shelves down with a wet paper towel, then dry.

4. Dry off

Moisture helps bacteria grow, so you want to make sure the inside of your refrigerator is completely dry before you finish. Use a paper towel or dry cloth to wipe up any wetness, paying attention again to those seams. Now, turn back to the bins and drawers and make sure those are fully dry as well before sliding them back into their proper places.

5. Get organized

It’s time to take the food that’s been in the cooler and put it back into your refrigerator. As you do this, give some thought to how you are organizing the food and condiments. Do you often find yourself going for the milk only to find that it’s slightly out of reach? Are you mixing fruits and vegetables with meats in the drawers, when they should really be stored separately? Be thoughtful and logical as you put things back—after all, you’ve gone through the trouble of cleaning your refrigerator and it should be super functional.

6. Clean the exterior

The outside of your fridge should match the inside, and help set that bright and welcoming tone for your kitchen that we were talking about earlier. Using Mr. Clean Clean Freak Mist with a sponge or paper towel, wipe the doors, giving the areas around the handles extra love. Nothing ruins a spotless surface more than fingerprint smudges!

Refrigerator organization tips

Now, there are one or two things you can do to give your fridge a little oomph. You may have seen some decorators recommend arranging books by color on living room shelves as a way to make a space more visually appealing. I say, why not apply that same principle to your refrigerator and put food back in rainbow order? It’s a fun and easy way to brighten up your refrigerator, and even your day—we all certainly look at the inside of our fridges often enough! My other tip is to organize products by similarly sized bottles or heights to help your fridge look tidier. Never forget that it’s the little things like this that make every day just a touch happier.

Article by Brianna Koehler

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