A neat and clean fridge means easy access to all your food, no two ways about it. It’s probably the most hardworking appliance in your kitchen, but you also probably aren’t cleaning it as often as other appliances. (Like how often you clean your microwave… or your stovetop… or your dishwasher. You are cleaning these, right?)
It’s very straightforward to clean the fridge — and freezer, too! — it just takes time. The first step is to take everything (yes, everything) out of the fridge and sort through it. Then you’ll need to clean and disinfect the interior. After that, you’ll also need to clean the exterior. Once that’s all done, you’ll have a clean and organised fridge to store all your food.
(Until you fill it up with containers of leftovers again, that is.)
Why Clean A Fridge
It’s incredibly important to keep your fridge clean. Food stains and debris build up on shelves and other surfaces; meanwhile, you’ve definitely forgotten those leftovers from two nights ago. And you haven’t finished that bottle of sauce you used for dinner… last month.
Leftover food and forgotten perishables can cause odours to build up, and can even attract mould. Expired or spoiled food also poses a health risk. Moreover, they clutter your fridge, and make it difficult to access the items you actually need. And an overstuffed fridge won’t function correctly; it strains the cooling and condenser units.
And really — a clean, organised fridge just looks nicer. Makes it easier to hide your secret chocolate stash, too!
Deep Cleaning A Fridge
A fridge should be deep cleaned once every few months (or once a month, if you’re able). Clear an afternoon and set up a playlist, or put a movie on for company. Grab an esky and the following:
- Bicarb soda or vinegar (your choice)
- Warm water
- Clean cloths
- Dish soap
- Old toothbrush (optional)
(Of course, you can always skip the effort and get professional home cleaners to deep clean your fridge for you!)
1. Remove all the food
Step one to cleaning the fridge is to remove all the contents — all of them. While you’re doing this, use this chance to organise the different items and make it easier for you to replace them!
- Meat, dairy, and other similar products should go in an esky to keep cool while you work, especially if you’re gonna take more than an hour or two.
- Take an inventory while you’re taking things out, and toss anything that’s old or expired.
- Sort all the different jars, bottles, and other containers into different groups, according to which shelf you’ll be placing them on. This will make it more efficient to replace everything later.
- We’re not gonna tell if you sneak a snack or two.
You can switch off the fridge when this is done.
2. Remove the shelves and drawers
Anything that’s removable gets taken out. The drawers and shelves, you can just wash in hot soapy water — and scrub thoroughly. Just make sure to let them warm up to room temperature first, or they might crack!
3. Clean the inside of the fridge
There are two ways to clean the inside of your fridge — with white vinegar or with bicarb soda. Whichever you choose, the process of cleaning is similarly straightforward. Just air your fridge out or place a bowl of bicarb soda (see below) in your fridge if you’re going to use vinegar. No one wants vinegar-scented cake for dessert!
Cleaning with vinegar
Mix one part vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle. Spray the inside of your fridge thoroughly, working from top to bottom. Concentrate on areas that are particularly dirty.
Let the mixture soak in while you wash those shelves and drawers!
Wipe the inside of the fridge with a clean, damp cloth. Rinse and wring out regularly!
Make sure the fridge is completely dry before you start replacing anything.
Cleaning with bicarb soda
Make a mixture of one part bicarb soda to seven parts water. You can either place this in a spray bottle, or leave it in a bowl for you to dip your cleaning cloth in.
Spray your fridge interior thoroughly, again working from top to bottom. Otherwise, dip your cleaning cloth in the bicarb soda mix and wipe down all surfaces.
You can use an old toothbrush to get into any nooks and crannies you can’t get to with a cloth, like runners.
Wipe everything dry with a clean cloth.
NOTE: Bicarb soda is also great for removing odours in your fridge! Just leave an open container of bicarb soda on one of the shelves and it’ll absorb all the odours for you. Alternatively, you can place used lemon halves on a small plate and leave them in for a pleasant, citrusy scent.
4. Clean the fridge gasket
The gasket should be cleaned regularly to maintain a tight seal and prevent mildew from building up. Dish soap and warm water is enough for normal dirt build-up, but a vinegar-and-water mix is better if you start finding dark spots.
NOTE: You can coat the seal with a thin layer of Vaseline so it doesn’t dry out!
5. Clean the exterior
Light stains and grime can be cleaned off with just dish soap and hot water. The hot soapy water will scrub most things clean and leave behind a sparkly surface. Otherwise, use an all-purpose cleaner to spray it down.
Pay extra attention to the handle — that’s where dirt and grime builds up most. And don’t forget to wipe the top of the fridge, too!
If your fridge is stainless steel, the cleaning method is different. Wipe with a damp cloth, then follow with a dry one to remove smudges. You can use rubbing alcohol for any stubborn marks.
How To Clean A Freezer
So your fridge is clean and neat — great! Yes, you still have to clean the freezer, too. No, the cold conditions do not mean it doesn’t get dirty. Yes, the leftovers from that one party last month are still stuck at the back. (That’s why you should clean.)
Freezers are for typically long-term storage and meats, so unless it’s something we’re planning to eat tomorrow for lunch, we forget a lot of what we put in. Because we open it less frequently, we’re also less likely to clean up any leaks or food debris. But it’s important to include it in your fridge cleaning routine. It keeps things fresh, and helps keep the unit functional.
Light freezer cleaning
You can wipe down the shelves and drawers once a week with hot water and dish soap. Try and remove any unidentifiable leftovers or unwanted food, or place others in freezer-friendly containers and bins.
Deep freezer cleaning
Once every few months, deep clean your freezer. It shouldn’t take as long as cleaning the fridge, but that’s no excuse not to do it!
Turn off the freezer and empty the contents. Place them in an esky or two to keep them cool while you clean.
Remove all detachable drawers and shelves, and wash them like you would the ones in your fridge. All it takes is warm soapy water!
Mix one part vinegar with one part warm water in a spray bottle. Spray the inside of your freezer and wipe down with a sponge. If some food bits or stains are stubborn, let the vinegar solution soak in for a few minutes.
Wipe the inside with a clean cloth and make sure it’s dry.
Return your food, turn the unit back on, and rest assured of a spotless freezer — just clean it again in another few months!
Tips For A Clean Fridge
While you should deep clean your fridge every month (or every few months), here are some tips for maintaining tidy food storage in between!
Make it a point to sort through your shelves a few times a week. Check for expiring food products, especially items you don’t use as frequently. Don’t let the food containers pile up, either — if it’s a few days old, it should go in the bin.
Wipe any containers before putting them in the fridge to prevent the spills and leaks from transferring to the interior surfaces. If your containers have cracks, it may be time to replace or recycle them!
Freshen up frequently
Do a brief inventory rundown the day before you do the groceries to clear things out and make room for new items. Use this time to quickly wipe any visible stains or dirt, too. This step can also help you determine what you need to buy at the shops — or spend less by realising you might not need so much! And of course, it’ll help keep your fridge a safe place for all your food (including that cupcake you’re saving for later).