How To: Clean and Maintain Your Refrigerator

Posted by on May 12, 2010 at 11:16 am

by Wallula Junction, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic LicenseWallula Junction

Now is a great time to invest in some spring cleaning. Your refrigerator, with its expired condiments, corner grime and dusty condenser coils, should be one of your first candidates for cleaning. Here are some step-by-step instructions on making your fridge look and perform like new, and tips on how to keep it that way year round.

Preparation

You’ll need to block out anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half of your day in order to really clean out your appliance. Scrubbing down your fridge right before you go to the grocery store is the perfect time, as it will have the least amount of contents in it. Because your refrigerator will be open while you are cleaning, you’ll want to power it down and conserve energy. Loosen the bulb in your fridge until it goes out. Then, set the temperature dial to “off” and unplug it.

Take all of the food off the shelves, drawers and from the door and put it in a cooler. Check for any expired or unnecessary items that you can dispose of. If you can’t remember the last time you used an item or can’t read the date on it, throw it out!

Cleaning

Next, fill your sink with warm, soapy water and remove all of the shelves, drawers, and racks from your fridge. If you have any glass or ceramic, make sure it cools down to room temperature before you place it in the water or you will risk cracking it. Once you wash and rinse the shelves, set them aside and let them dry while you clean out the inside of the fridge.

Mix a half quart of hot water with 2 tablespoons of baking soda and wipe down the inside of your fridge with a wet rag or sponge. For tight corners or grime that just won’t come up, try scrubbing with a toothbrush. Don’t forget any of the compartments or the inside of the door! The baking soda mixture will neutralize any odors in the fridge, but if there isn’t any available then soap and water will do. Never use harsh or abrasive cleaners as they can damage the finish and compromise the lining, making it cost more to keep the fridge cool.

After you’ve wiped down the entire inside of your fridge, rinse it with a clean rag or sponge and dry. Place the shelves and drawers back if they are dry and wipe down the rubber molding with warm soapy water. This is a good time to inspect your molding and consider replacing it if necessary, as this will also keep the fridge cooling efficiently. Rubber molding in poor condition will result in temperature fluctuations and will increase energy costs.

Wash the outside of your refrigerator with antibacterial cleaner and remove the drip pan underneath if you have one. Wipe it with the same antibacterial cleaner, rinse and let it dry before placing it back.

You will also find a metal plate near the floor of your fridge, either in the front or the back. Remove it, wash it down, and vacuum the entire area. Use the vacuum hose to remove the dust from the condenser coil as well to optimize efficiency. Once the metal plate is dry, place it back.

That’s it on scrubbing and vacuuming! You can now plug the fridge back in, tighten the light bulb and set the temperature. Let your refrigerator become cool again before placing your food back. Check all of your items for any dirt on the bottom and wipe down any sticky jars or canisters; you wouldn’t want to undo all of the cleaning you just did! You may also want to consider placing an open box of baking soda in your fridge to keep it always smelling fresh.

Future Maintenance and Tips

In the future, check all of your groceries for any unclean items and wipe them down to minimize the frequency you’ll need to clean your entire fridge. Clean any messes that occur immediately to avoid bacteria, mold, mildew, odor, and even food-borne illnesses. On that same note, always store leftovers, open meats, cheeses, perishable items, and strong foods in separate airtight containers. Otherwise, they can absorb odors from and contaminate other foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

Try to clean off the condenser coil regularly to optimize the performance of your refrigerator. Whenever you clean it, try to also clean off at least one of your shelves or drawers inside so you don’t have to wash the whole thing down as frequently.

Do you have any other good tips for cleaning your fridge? Let us know in the comments.

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