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How To Clean
a Refrigerator

March 27, 2019

Your refrigerator works hard to keep your family fed, but many of us don’t give our fridges the cleaning love they deserve. Its handles are pulled with sticky, germ-filled fingers. Its exterior is covered with reminder notes, photos, and precious scraps of artwork. And, your fridge gets opened dozens of times of day and rummaged through for everything from quick snacks to dinner essentials. So why do our trusty refrigerators never seem to make it onto our kitchen cleaning checklists?

That cleaning neglect could result from simply not noticing just how dirty our fridges can get as we see and use them multiple times a day. Or maybe we really don’t have a proven plan for refrigerator cleaning. Where do we put all the food? What cleaners are safe to use? How long will it take?

We’ll answer these questions and more so that you can learn how to clean a fridge the right way and give your favorite appliance the fresh cleaning makeover it deserves. Follow this field-tested guide to learn how to clean a refrigerator like a pro.

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Refrigerator Cleaning 101

The best way to clean a refrigerator is also the easiest when you use field-tested methods and cleaning products. Soapy water, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, distilled white vinegar, and elbow grease will help you get the job done.

How to Clean the Inside of a Refrigerator

Start by checking the seals of your refrigerator doors because a clean, undamaged seal is critical for food safety. For grime and caked-on food in the seal crevices, use a toothbrush dipped in hot water to scrub them nice and clean. Your seal is in working order if a dollar bill can be held in place by the seal when the door is closed. Now on to the rest of the fridge:

  • Remove the shelving and drawers.
  • Clean each piece with hot soapy water, rinse, and dry them with a towel.
  • Wipe down the inside of your fridge with hot soapy water working from the top down.
  • Make sure you clean the roof of the fridge as well as drawers and shelf guides.
  • Use a paste made with baking powder and water to get rid of stains.
  • Wipe down everything inside your refrigerator with a clean, damp cloth.

Hydrogen peroxide is a safe and natural alternative to using bleach for disinfecting, and it’s an effective antibacterial and mold killer. Pour a bottle of hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle and spray down the inside. Let the peroxide do its job for about 10 minutes, then wipe it off with a damp cloth. Dry everything down and move on to exterior refrigerator cleaning.

How to Clean the Outside of a Refrigerator

Cleaning the outside of a fridge is more than just about looks. There are things you can clean on the outside that affect your health — and your refrigerator’s ability to keep food cold. From the germy buildup on a fridge’s handles to the bottom kick plate, here’s how to clean the outside of your fridge:

  • Clean the top of the refrigerator to get rid of the greasy dust that has accumulated.
  • Remove the water dispenser tray and wash it with hot, soapy water and vinegar to clean it and disinfect it. (Speaking of water dispensers, when was the last time you changed your filter?)
  • Clean the front and sides of your fridge with soapy water and use glass cleaner to remove smudges and fingerprints on stainless steel.
  • Remove the bottom kick plate and wash it with hot, soapy water in the sink and dry it.

Your fridge should look pretty good by now, but there’s one more cleaning step to help your fridge work less and last longer. Tackle the dust by giving the coils a gentle cleaning twice a year. Condenser coils are usually on the back of the fridge or behind the bottom front grill. Unplug the fridge and vacuum the coils with a brush attachment and use a long-handled brush made for this purpose.

How to Keep Your Fridge Clean and Healthy Between Deep Cleanings

  • Throw out food that’s gone bad weekly. Quickly go through the contents of your fridge and throw out produce that’s gone bad before adding your new groceries. Jarred items and condiments can last a long time, but if they have been in your refrigerator for years, they probably need to go. Always follow the rule, “When in doubt, throw it out.” 
  • If it’s drippy, sticky, or gooey, wipe it down before putting it back. Condiment bottles like ketchup, hot sauce, and mustard are notoriously messy. Give them a quick wipe with a warm washcloth before putting them back. The same goes for beverage containers like milk jugs. Wipe up any drips before they settle on your shelves.  
  • Line your shelves and crisper drawers. The easiest messes to clean are the ones that never happen! Use press and seal wrap or plastic mats to line shelves and paper towels or newspapers to line crisper drawers. As a bonus, lining crisper drawers helps absorb extra moisture from produce allowing your fruits and veggies to stay fresher, longer. 
  • Make a couple of fridge rules. To keep your fridge clutter free, make rules that eliminate those objects that cause clutter — plates, cups, and identical bottles of mustard and salad dressings. Open containers are just a bad idea because they can easily spill, and nearly all condiments can sit in the cupboard before they are opened instead of immediately adding to your fridge clutter.  
  • Designate at least one night a week for leftover night. It is estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted each year. Pull out your leftovers, including any salad mixes, deli meats and cheeses, and let your family pick their dinner. Not only will you have to throw less spoiled food away, but you’ll save money and time as dinner just needs a quick re-heat! Just remember to label your leftovers so that you know they are safe to eat.  
  • Store food correctly. Your refrigerator has several areas that were designed for particular foods. The door is a warmer spot and should be used for condiments and jarred items. Eggs should go on a middle or top shelf (with the milk), so their temperature doesn’t fluctuate. Store raw meat together (and bagged to prevent juices from spilling) near the bottom. Make sure your produce drawers are set to the correct humidity. Vegetables like humidity, fruit doesn’t! 
  • Find an organization system that works for you. Some organizers swear by using plastic tubs and bins to keep similar food items together. Recycling items for storage, like empty six-pack holders and egg cartons, are also handy. Others love to label drawers and shelves, so family members know where things go. If one of these storage solutions makes your fridge life easier, go for it. 

Now that you know how to clean a refrigerator inside and out, let us help keep the rest of your kitchen (and any other rooms in your home) clean as a whistle. The Maids pays extra special attention to the kitchen, like cleaning the sink, inside the microwave, outside your appliances, wiping down cabinet doors, counters, cleaning the floor, and loading the dishwasher. Contact us today for a free estimate. 


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