Sometimes you might need a little push to get tasks done around the house, especially around the holidays. Why not celebrate National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day, which occurs each year on November 15, and prepare your refrigerator for the upcoming increase in food, beverages, and leftovers. Follow these simple steps and learn the best way to deep clean your refrigerator.
Before You Start
Once you open the refrigerator, you might feel overwhelmed as to where to begin. You might find forgotten food shoved in the back, outdated condiments, and produce well past its best-buy date. In order to prepare for the purge, gather a few items to help you streamline the entire clean-out process:
- Rubber gloves
- Trash bags
- Dishwashing liquid or commercial wipes
- Commercial stainless steel spray (optional)
- Baking soda
- Microfiber cloths or sponges
Empty the Contents
You might be tempted to leave some food items in the refrigerator just to save time, but resist that urge. Removing everything at once will actually save time because you won’t have to clean around items. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to take stock of everything you have. You might be surprised at how many jams or sticks of butter are hiding in the very back of a shelf.
Put all highly perishable items, such as raw meat and all dairy products, into a cooler during the deep-cleaning process. The Center for Disease Control recommends that you store foods that cannot be left out for more than two hours. That way they stay cold while you’re busy scrubbing away. Set aside produce, bottles, and jars so you can determine which items can stay or go. Check expiration dates, and throw out anything that is past its use-by date.
One of the more unpleasant tasks you need to do is to investigate the leftovers. Don the gloves, and scoop out anything moldy, soggy, or that you just don’t want to eat anymore. You might need to hold your breath while you throw the food into the garbage bag.
Once you’ve removed all the food, don’t forget to take out all removable shelving, door inserts, and drawers. This allows you to clean all the spills and stains that accumulated since the last cleaning.
What Products Should You Use?
When cleaning the refrigerator, you want to avoid using some of the typical kitchen cleaners you might use on other appliances. Several types of kitchen cleaners have many chemicals that kill germs found in the kitchen. However, you want to avoid using these types of cleaners with food as some food absorbs whatever is in the air.
While you can rinse the products off the refrigerator’s interior, it’s not worth the risk of having residue that contaminates the food. Never use disinfectants, such as bleach, to clean the refrigerator. Instead, just use dishwashing liquid and warm water to wipe down the inside.
Best Cleaning Methods
Now it’s time to tackle the refrigerator. Use commercial wipes or dishwashing liquid with a microfiber cloth or sponge to wipe down all the interior surface areas. The cloths work well because they don’t fall apart or leave particles behind, as paper towels do.
Be sure to thoroughly wash all areas inside the refrigerator. This includes the bottom, corners, and any other spot that might hide crumbs and other food particles. One of the dirtiest parts of the refrigerator is the door seals, so don’t forget to give this area special attention. The little folds can attract crumbs and debris as well as create a space for mold and mildew to form. Use the same soapy water technique you used on the inside, but make sure you dry the folds thoroughly. That way you can keep the area dry and prevent mildew from forming.
If you encounter difficult stains, mix together baking soda and water to create a paste. Apply the paste to the stain and let it stand for an hour. Use a damp sponge or microfiber cloth to wipe away the paste. Make sure the inside is completely dry before replacing any shelves and bins.
Wash the Drawers
After you remove everything, fill the sink or large basin with warm water and dishwashing soap. Place all small removable parts, such as door inserts, into the water and let them soak. Clean and rinse them. Clean the larger parts, such as shelves and drawers, and rinse. Avoid running cold glass drawers under hot water as the glass might crack. It’s best to wait until the shelves reach room temperature before getting them wet.
Clean the Outdoor Surface
Now that the inside of the refrigerator is clean, don’t forget about the outside. Germs build up over time on the handle since it comes in frequent contact with hands. If you have a stainless steel refrigerator, use a commercial stainless steel spray. Wipe in the direction of the grain so you don’t cause streaks to appear.
Pull the refrigerator away from the wall and vacuum the coils so you can remove any dust that has accumulated. Remove the grate or kickplate from the bottom of the refrigerator, and vacuum thoroughly. For side-by-side refrigerators or those that have a freezer on the bottom, check to see if you have a drip tray or pan. If so, remove this piece and clean it as you did for the shelves. Return it after it dries.
Allow it to Cool
Place the shelves and drawers back into the refrigerator after they’re dry. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that the temperature inside your refrigerator be no warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so wait until it falls to that number before replacing the food. If your refrigerator has a fast-cool function, use this feature to speed up the process.
When #CleanOutYourRefrigeratorDay hits, celebrate by giving your refrigerator a thoroughly deep cleaning. This process can help you take stock of exactly what lurks behind those doors. Getting rid of expired, moldy, and unwanted food can turn your refrigerator into a clean haven for food and not a breeding ground for mold. And now you’ll be ready to house plenty of delicious holiday treats and leftovers.