The fridge is one of the hardest working appliances in the home, and as a result, it can take quite a beating. Given that it works so hard for you, shouldn’t you do your best to ensure that it gets treated like royalty? A clean refrigerator keeps your food fresher and tastier, and if you don’t know how, this guide should hopefully fill you in on how to clean your fridge quickly and properly.
Why do you need to clean your fridge?
There are a number of reasons why you should clean your fridge at least semi-regularly. The biggest reason is that a lot of food items in your fridge can expire or just get left behind in the back, resulting in crucial fridge space being taken up by foods you really shouldn’t eat. Having these expired foods in your fridge can cause unwanted bacteria to grow, particularly if it starts to leak all over the place. So checking all the foods in your fridge, particularly near the back and in the freezer compartment for their used by dates can save you both space and the possibility of getting sick from digesting rancid food.
Emptying your fridge can also maximise its performance. This is because overfilling all the different compartments can compromise the fridge’s air circulation, which in turn harms its ability to maintain a stable temperature. This also means higher electricity bills!
A less crucial reason to empty your fridge you’re a good personal cleanse. Emptying the fridge can be a good chance to throw away the foods you don’t need anymore. This is especially useful if you’re on a diet, as going to the fridge for snacks can be an almost impossible temptation to resist.
And finally, cleaning out your fridge gives you an opportunity to reorganise it into the correct way of storing things. A lot of people don’t seem to realise that you can maximise your fridge’s efficiency and maintain the quality of your food for longer by storing them in certain compartments or next to other certain foods.
How long should you spend cleaning your fridge?
This question really depends on how much stuff you have in there, the cleaning equipment you have available, and how much you want it cleaned. For the inexperienced or those who have really packed fridges, the process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. However, it can definitely be done in a shorter span of time than that.
How do you clean a fridge?
You can quickly give your fridge the full treatment by following these nine simple steps:
Unplug the fridge
For more serious jobs like a full clean, you need to unplug the fridge before you start cleaning. This is so you don’t waste energy while cleaning, since there’s going to be nothing in there. This step isn’t crucial however, and for smaller jobs like cleaning up spills or removing spoiled food it probably isn’t necessary.
Empty the fridge
Take literally everything out of the fridge and store it on your countertop. For most foods you won’t need to place them anywhere cold, although placing them in a second fridge if you have one van be handy. For frozen things like ice-cream however, you should place them in another freezer if you have one. You should group the items together in the food groups they belong as well as where they belong in your fridge. Take this opportunity to throw away any expired or unwanted food too, as putting them back in is just a waste of time and energy.
Remove all shelves and drawers
The next step is to remove all the removable shelves and draws of your fridge and prepare them for cleaning. You probably won’t have the room in your sink to clean them, so a bathtub or laundry will likely be more suitable. Alternatively, you can clean them outside.
Wash the shelves and drawers
Wash these removable parts in warm soapy water, using a soft cloth or sponge to do so. Leave them in the sun so they dry quickly.
Wipe down the inside of the fridge
This is a very important step. You need to spray every part of the fridge’s interior with a multipurpose cleaner, wiping the walls, shelves and seams after doing so. An old toothbrush is a good tool to have for reaching difficult spots. It is crucial that you DO NOT use disinfectants like bleach inside your fridge, as contact with food can cause people to have strong chemical reactions. Stick to natural cleaners and specially formulated products.
Wipe down the exterior of the fridge
You can either perform this step now or at the end, but it may be easier to do while it’s already unplugged. Wipe the exterior down with a damp cloth that’s been soaked in water, or use a stainless steel cleaner if that’s the material your fridge is made out of. Ensure that you rub in the direction of the grain to avoid scratching or streaking the materials. If you can be bothered, you should also clean all the dust away from behind and underneath the fridge. Not only does it look much nicer, but the buildup of dust on the coils can cause it to run inefficiently.
Move the drawers back in
Once the drawers have dried, put them back in carefully. Not a whole lot else to this step.
Put all the food back in
Now you need to put it all back in. Before doing so, it is a good idea for you to wipe down all the jars and containers the food is in, and replace them if necessary. Even if the food is still good, the containers can become damaged over time, so check for the signs that you need new ones. If you’re satisfied that all the food is in order, then put it back in logically.
Plug it back in
Obviously, you absolutely need to plug it back in, otherwise all that work will have been for nothing!
How often should you clean your fridge?
It’s generally recommended you go through your fridge at least once a week to throw away expired food and clean up any spills or stains. You should avoid using solvent or abrasive cleaning products inside your fridge as this can damage it and create an unpleasant taste in your food. Instead, if you don’t have a cleaning product specifically designed for fridges, use a mixture of water and vinegar for best effects.
You should also give your fridge a proper ‘deep’ clean at least a couple times a year. Wipe the exterior surfaces with a mixture of water and dishwashing liquid, and then clean the interior with a mixture of a tablespoon of baking powder and half a litre of warm water. This will avoid leaving unpleasant odors and tastes behind while making sure your fridge is nice and clean.
Tips for maintaining and cleaning your fridge
In addition to the nine steps required to clean your fridge, there are a bunch of handy tips you can use to clean it more effectively and even make sure that you don’t need to clean it as often! We’ve compiled a few of the best ones and listed them here:
Put dates on stuff
A lot of food doesn’t come with a used-by-date. Even when it does, it can often be hard to see, and you won’t be able to see the dates on the products up the back. Since expired foods are the biggest cause of fridge issues – think bad smells and spills – putting dates on some of the more long-lasting food so you’ll know it needs to be tossed when the time comes. You will then have no excuse for eating that slice of pizza that’s been in there for months.
Use and baking soda and coffee
Baking soda is incredibly useful for getting rid of stubborn stains. Combining a small amount of baking soda with water produces a thick paste, which you can apply to stains. If you leave it for an hour, the baking soda should loosen the stain and make it much easier to wipe away. Additionally, a neat hack involving baking soda is to leave a small box of it at the bottom of your fridge. Doing this will absorb some of the gross odors that come with off food. Although this does mean it could be less noticeable. You can amplify this by adding coffee grounds to the mix.
Line the shelves with plastic wrap
Let’s be honest, even though it sounds like it can only take 20 or 30 minutes, repeating those nine steps all the time sounds like a pain. If you’re feeling lazy, then you can take laziness to the next level by lining your shelves and compartments with plastic or cling wrap. If things start to go bad, you can save yourself two of the steps by not having to clean these parts. All you need to do is just replace the wrapping!
Clean the coils every six months
We already mentioned before that cleaning the dust off the coils can maintain your fridge’s performance over time, but a lot of fridge experts out there recommend doing it seasonally, or every 6 months at least. You can vacuum it to speed up the process, and in doing so, you could be making sure that you don’t need to clean the interior as often.
Make a schedule!
This is less of a life hack and more just common sense. Regular cleaning activities are an important part of maintaining a well-running refrigerator, so make a note of when you last cleaned it so you can get a rough idea of when you’ll need to do it again.