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How to Spring Clean Your Fridge in 9 Easy Steps

Don't neglect your fridge when it comes to spring cleaning! A clean fridge will help prevent foodborne illness and keep your fridge humming for years to come. Here's how to get it clean and tips for keeping it that way.


Start on the outside

When you spring clean your kitchen, don’t neglect the outside of the fridge. According to GE Appliances, dirt, dust, and animal fur on condenser coils can significantly impact cooling efficiency. Before you clean the coils, shut off the power supply to avoid getting shocked. The coils will be either under the fridge behind the base grille (you may have to remove grille first), on the back of the fridge, or on the top of the fridge. Use a refrigerator coil brush to thoroughly remove all the dust and debris. Sweep or vacuum up any leftover debris on the floor. If you have a fridge with a condenser on the top, take special care to avoid the sharp edges. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and gloves to protect your skin. On a spring cleaning roll? Check out these tips for cleaning all the appliances in your home.


Prep for the inside

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), foods that need to be refrigerated should never sit out at room temperature for longer than two hours. If your fridge needs a spring cleaning that will take more than two hours, use a cooler to store the food you plan to keep. You may also want to unplug the fridge to save energy and avoid running up your energy bill. Fill your sink with hot, soapy water to thoroughly wash the shelves or pull-out compartments. Set out dish towels on the counter tops where they can dry. Make sure to never put these foods in the fridge because you’ll spoil them right away.



To get started, empty out the entire refrigerator. Remove the contents from the shelves, drawers and doors and organize them on your kitchen counter or island. Take the time to sort through the items and throw out expired or unwanted food, drinks and condiments. Mold and foul odors are obvious indicators food is past its prime, and you’ll also want to toss that jar of marmalade that has been sitting there untouched since your mom’s last visit. Not sure when you opened that jar of salsa? A good rule of thumb concerning all food safety is when in doubt, throw it out. You won’t need to purge as often if you follow these tips to avoid food waste.


Clean it up

If you’re a little pressed for time and can’t wash the shelves or drawers in the sink, Mary Gagliardi, a cleaning and laundry expert for the Clorox Company, recommends removing the shelves and drawers and spraying a multipurpose cleaner like Clorox Clean-Up with Bleach on each shelf and inside each drawer. Scrub the drips and gooey stuff and wipe down with a wet paper towel. “Bleach will both clean and sanitize these surfaces, two important steps when dealing with food storage,” says Gagliardi. Continue with the outside of your fridge next. “Wipe down the outside of your fridge including the handles. Clorox Disinfecting Wipes kill 99.9 percent of germs and are safe to use on stainless steel or chrome appliances.” Don’t forget the top of the fridge. Dust and greasy grime collects on the surface. Remove any items that are being stored and wipe it down. If bleach isn’t your thing, try these recipes for homemade cleaners.


Storage ideas

Once your fridge is spring fresh, keep things clean and tidy by restocking group items together. “Use a lazy Susan or baskets so that items aren’t pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about,” says Gagliardi. What about the mystery meat leftover from dinner? “Store leftovers in transparent containers and label them with the dates so you know when to toss them if you never get around to eating them.” If you don’t have a designated meat drawer, consider purchasing a clear plastic bin to keep raw meat and seafood in. This will help prevent juices from the meat packages to drip on other foods. Plastic containers aren’t the best options for all foods though. Perforated bags, wax paper, and aluminum foil are the best ways to store these foods.


Create zones

“Dedicate areas of your fridge for certain types of food so that you know where to find what you’re looking for, when you’re looking for it,” says Rachel Rosenthal, founder and professional organizer, Rachel and Company. Create spots for things that you will be accessing a lot, like produce, leftovers, dairy, meat, and grab-and-go snacks. Rosenthal says this will serve two purposes: It makes locating the food easier and also helps you see what needs to be replaced on our next grocery trip. If you have kids, keep the kid-friendly food at or below eye-level. “Keep a running grocery list on the outside of the fridge and make a rule that if someone grabs the last of something then they write it on the list so that it can be replaced,” says Rosenthal. Read more about the best ways to organize your fridge.


Make adjustments

Don’t forget you can easily make adjustments to suit your food storage needs. “Similar to other areas of your home, the vertical space in your fridge often gets wasted but it’s full of valuable real estate,” says Rosenthal. “As needed, adjust the height to allow for drinks to stand upright or to stack clear containers of food or categories in order to maximize your space,” says Rosenthal. Remember, dairy products need to be on the top shelf instead of the side door because it is colder. Use the side door for condiments and other least perishable items. Produce drawers are specifically designed to keep fruits and veggies best, but you should never store these foods together.


Out of sight, out of mind

Ever open the fridge door and get a whiff of something nasty? Chances are, it’s coming from the back of the fridge or in the bottom drawer. “The bottoms of fridge drawers and back shelves can become scary pits for expired foods if they aren’t kept up on a regular basis,” says Rosenthal. “Before you stop by the grocery store, make it a priority to pull out items in these areas to keep expiration dates in check and also refresh your mind with what you have already available in your fridge.” Once the nasty offenders are gone, try these simple deodorizer ideas to freshen your fridge.


Keep tabs on the temp

Now that your fridge is clean and fresh, help keep it that way by discouraging bacteria growth. According to the FDA, the refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40 degrees to ensure food safety. Bacterial microorganisms like Salmonella, E.coli and C. botulinum can cause foodborne illnesses, but a fridge at 40 degrees can prevent or slow their growth. You can’t always be sure of your true fridge temp, especially with older models so check temperatures periodically. Appliance thermometers are cheap and easy way to keep tabs on the temp. Not all foods like it cold. Check out this list for foods to store in and out of the fridge.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.

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