How to Deep-Clean Your Refrigerator

Evelyn Long

Apr 7, 2021

how to clean a refrigerator

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Does the inside of your refrigerator resemble a science experiment? If you can’t detect the source of that icky odor, you need to learn how to clean your fridge, stat.

This project isn’t for the faint of heart, but nor do you need any special skills or Herculean muscles. All you need is a few hours on your weekend. Here’s how to clean a refrigerator of the funk and make it as fresh as new.

1. Empty and Defrost

You’ll never finish your chore of cleaning your fridge if you spend the entire time moving various containers around like so many chess pieces. To thoroughly disinfect and organize your refrigerator, you need to take everything out to reach all the surfaces.

When you get to your freezer, wrap everything in cool bags to keep it from defrosting while you tackle that chore on your appliance. Choosing a chilly day will help your items stay cold longer.

Chip away at large ice pieces with a plastic tool like a spatula — don’t use metal, as it could scratch. You can speed this process by placing bowls of hot water to let the steam work its magic.

When you finish, wipe all surfaces with baking soda. Finish your freezer with a coating of glycerine to prevent future ice buildup.

2. Banish Nasty Germs

Subzero freezer temperatures do a better job of eliminating germs. While bacterial growth slows in cooler climates, it can still flourish within your refrigerator. When completing your refrigerator deep-clean, adjust the thermostat — you should keep it between 32 and 40 degrees to promote food safety.

After you remove all items, wipe down every refrigerator surface with an EPA-approved cleaner known to kill nasties like the novel coronavirus. A bleach solution works well and costs little, but some people find the smell offensive.

If you are in the market for a new appliance, some models use UV light to eliminate bacteria and make your fruits and vegetables last longer. While these devices won’t eliminate the need for deep-cleaning your refrigerator, they do eradicate some germs.

3. Eliminate Odors

Does the inside of your refrigerator still smell like last week’s salmon? Odors can linger in this enclosed space, stealing your appetite every time you open the door.

The first step in odor elimination is eradicating the bacteria that causes it, so your fridge deep-clean does half the battle. To keep these pesky odors from returning, you can place a container of baking soda inside to absorb food odors from leftovers.

What if you don’t find it effective enough? If you have deeper pockets, you can also use activated charcoal, which does a superior job of absorption — at a higher price point.

4. Mind Your Expiration Dates

In general, you want to stay away from packaged foods in favor of those close to their natural forms. You’ll enjoy superior nutrition and reduce your consumption of sugar, salt, and other additives. However, one advantage of convenience is a handy label that lets you know when to toss that container of mayonnaise or pre-packaged egg salad.

If someone in your household has a visual impairment, you can rewrite the dates in large block letters with a Sharpie as part of your refrigerator-cleaning process.

Meal prepping and cooking means you need to know when to toss those leftovers. According to the FDA, you should discard any open perishable foods within seven days. However, some items go bad much more quickly. Label each item with the last edible date to avoid any unnecessary confusion for your family.

5. Invest in the Best Storage Solutions

Once you have deep-cleaned your refrigerator, it’s time to put everything back — and you want to make it look organized. The right container can significantly extend the life of your perishable foods.

If you want to make your fresh fruits and vegetables last longer, seek out produce-saver containers that feature trays that wick moisture away, delaying bacterial growth. You can also find drawer liners that absorb excess dampness from your crisper drawer. A few paper towels will do in a pinch, but you should frequently replace them.

When choosing plastic containers, look for those labeled BPA-free. This substance can bind to hormonal receptors and adversely impact bodily functions, including your reproductive health. When in doubt, stick with natural glass.

Learn How to Clean a Refrigerator With This Guide

If opening your fridge makes you wince at the mess, tackle that chore now. Learn how to clean a refrigerator with this handy guide. The result? You can deep clean your appliances on a regular basis to keep the task from getting scary over the long-term.

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