Tips for Refrigerator Cleaning

Don’t fear the fridge.

The seasons bring with them specific cleaning challenges for our refrigerators. Spring’s fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries or chard and other greens, are particularly perishable. If that asparagus in the crisper no longer looks like produce, it stands to reason the whole refrigerator might need some elbow grease.

At summer’s end, all the kid-friendly foods available to the hand of an eight-year-old, such as opened juice boxes or out-of-the-box pizza slices, have gummied up the whole fridge. A good clean launches the school year with a healthy foundation.

Here’s the truth: contamination can spread in the refrigerator and ruin other foods. However, not all grime is the same. Some is more stubborn than others. Some messes smell worse than those just hard to remove.

But they all have the same clean-cut enemy: baking soda.

That’s right, the very thing you leave in the refrigerator to help overcome odors is the perfect product to clean it. Harsh chemical cleaners are the last things we want next to our food. Non-toxic substances around the house are better and safer cleaners and are less expensive.

Cleaning the fridge is a two-step process and neither one is particularly fun, which is why cleaning up as you go is a good alternative to the big, messy occasional scrub.

First, pull up a lined kitchen garbage can, disposable box, or whatever works, and start pitching in foods that are obviously old and/or those past their expiration dates. Put aside all foods to be returned to the refrigerator once it is cleaned.

Pour a quart of warm water into a bucket along with a quarter of a cup of baking soda. Put drawers and racks into the bathtub and use the solution to clean them. Rinsing is optional unless there is a residue. Use the rest of the solution to wipe down the inside of the refrigerator. Now, you’ve not only cleaned your refrigerator, you’ve actually freshened it.

To keep it that way, the common baking ingredient is still the best for absorbing odors between cleaning. Keep one in the back of the fridge, one in the freezer and sprinkle some in the bottom of the crisper and other drawers and lay paper towels on top. Change all every three months.

The optimum fridge temperature is between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Any higher and foods can spoil. Any lower, they can freeze. So, keep an eye on the temperature dial. It has a tendency to get knocked off its setting as things and hands come in and out.

Soon, fall will give us Thanksgiving, after which no one wants to do a deep cleaning. The alternative is trying to keep supplies for a big Christmas dinner amongst a month-old tray of turkey tetrazzeni.

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