How to Clean the Inside of a Fridge

Evelyn Long

Aug 8, 2022


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Your refrigerator stores your food — you should keep it clean and germ-free. However, tackling the mess can seem like an impossible task amid the hubbub of daily life. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much time or effort to get this appliance sparkling. Here’s your five-step guide to how to clean the inside of a fridge. 

1. Gather Your Supplies 

Your first step in any task is to gather your supplies. When it comes to cleaning the inside of a fridge, you’ll need the following items to do a thorough job: 

  • An all-purpose cleaner: Remember, you’re working around food, so safety reigns supreme. You can find commercial specialty cleaners or DIY with a bit of peroxide, baking soda, castile soap and vinegar. If you normally add a few drops of essential oil to your homemade cleansers, omit them for this use. 
  • Several soft rags: They’ll be used to wipe out the inside and outside of your fridge. 
  • A scrub brush: Use this to tackle caked-on gunk. 
  • A chair or kneeling pad: Save your back and knees some agony by kneeling on a soft cushion or dragging a chair over to give you comfort while you work. 

If you have a stainless steel refrigerator, use a cleanser that makes the outside sparkle like the inside. Here again, you can opt for a commercial product or use a vinegar solution. 

2. Take Everything Out 

You’ll want to pick a cool day to tackle this task or start in the morning. It’s a smart idea to round up a couple of coolers to keep your frozen and chilled food fresh while you scrub. That way, you won’t feel rushed. 

Taking everything out means everything — including removing your refrigerator’s drawers and shelves. You’ll also want to locate the drain trap near the bottom of your refrigerator, typically behind your crisper drawers. This outlet can become infested with mold, but a vinegar solution will kill it while keeping your food safe for human consumption. 

3. Wipe Everything Down 

Once you remove everything from your refrigerator, it’s time to wipe down every surface. Spray a small amount of detergent on stubborn, caked-on messes and let them lift before attacking them with a scrub brush. 

Then, go over every surface with your cleanser of choice. Use one designed to kill germs, even though the temperature in your fridge should deter most bacterial growth. Vinegar and peroxide both work well and are nontoxic to you and your family. 

4. Defrost Your Freezer 

Although this information covers how to clean the inside of your fridge, why not tackle your freezer, too? It doesn’t take much to defrost it. Store any food in large coolers with ice to keep it safe until it comes time to restock. 

You can let time do the work or accelerate the process by using bowls of hot water every five minutes or so to loosen the ice. Another method is to take a hairdryer and direct it at the frost. 

Then, pull out the chunks of ice and wipe up any water. Finish by wiping your freezer down with your cleaning solution. 

4. Check the Expiration Date

Now it’s time to sort through your food to see what you can keep and what you should pitch. While you do so, set your refrigerator and freezer to the desired temperatures to prepare them for restocking. 

Check the dates on your food. Understand the difference between the best-by, sell-by and use-by dates. Surprisingly, none of them have to do with safety — rather, freshness. 

  • Best-by: This date has to do with freshness, not food safety. It indicates the peak flavor experience. 
  • Sell-by: This date indicates when manufacturers must pull their products from store shelves. You still have several days to even weeks of freshness. 
  • Use-by: Pay attention to this date, even though it doesn’t serve as a reliable safety indicator. It represents the last possible day food will taste its best. 

You can’t always tell how fresh food is by smell or even taste. When in doubt as to whether something is still good, toss it. You can also use the USDA’s free FoodKeeper app to help you determine if you should keep that tuna salad. 

5. Organize Your Neat New Fridge

Your last task is to put everything you intend to keep neatly back in your fridge. The right storage solutions make your overall aesthetic even tidier while keeping food fresher. 

Look for produce drawer liners that absorb excess moisture to keep your radishes and broccoli crisper until use. Stackable containers make tossing all those chopped veggies into the wok on weekday nights a piece of cake. 

Your Guide for Cleaning the Inside of a Fridge 

You want the place you keep your family’s meals to stay hygienic. Follow this step-by-step guide for cleaning the inside of a fridge so you can rest — and eat — easy.

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