How to Clean a Refrigerator
Knowing how to clean a refrigerator is an essential part of home maintenance. Most people open their fridge multiple times a day, but you’d be surprised by how infrequently fridges actually get cleaned. Some experts recommend cleaning your fridge once a month.
“There’s a misconception that bacteria don’t multiply, or they die, at refrigeration temperatures. That’s not true,” says Katie Heil, a Certified Professional in Food Safety through the National Environmental Health Association.
We’ll admit refrigerators are a pain to defunk. But deal with it: There’s a potential for contamination of your food at stake, so cleanliness is essential. Here are the steps you should take to properly clean your fridge.
How to clean a refrigerator
Turn off the appliance; you don’t want it running when you’re washing it out. Chris Blanchette, owner of Mr. Appliance, in Plymouth and eastern Massachusetts, advises waiting 10 minutes before you remove any glass shelves so they don’t potentially crack or break. Wear rubber gloves when cleaning to protect your hands.
Remove all the food. (Duh!) Have a cooler nearby to hold any items that might need to stay cold.
Remove the glass and plastic shelves. Soak them in a sink filled with dish soap and water.
Remove the crisper drawers, and wash them in hot, soapy water. Wipe down the drawers and shelves that can’t be removed from the fridge.
If you believe your fridge needs to be sanitized, the Centers for Disease Control recommends using a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon water. Wipe the interior surfaces dry, and let the fridge air out.
Cleaning the gasket
The gasket is located on the perimeter of the interior door and acts as a seal so the cold air doesn’t escape. Many times, a gasket will become damaged if something sticky is left on it and not cleaned. Also, over time, the gasket can rip.
Clean the gasket with soap and water, and once it’s dry, apply paraffin wax. Paraffin wax acts as a dry lubricant that helps the doors seal better. You can find it at your grocery store.
“If properly cleaned and lubricated, the gasket should last the life of the refrigerator,” says Blanchette.
Cleaning the exterior
Don’t forget to wipe down the exterior of your fridge. You’ll want to use a cleaning solution that won’t damage the exterior of your fridge. Check the product’s label to ensure it’s safe to use. Avoid abrasive cleaners like a cleaner that has a gritty, scrub quality or anything with acid.
Dealing with odors
If you have lingering odors coming from your refrigerator, Blanchette advises placing a bowl of dry coffee grounds, orange extract diluted in water, or activated charcoal inside. In about a week, the odor should disappear.
Obviously, if something leaks in your fridge, the sooner you clean it up, the better. But if you find stains that won’t come up with soap and water, Blanchette advises making a paste out of baking soda and water. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe off.
Heil suggests putting leak-prone foods like meat on the bottom shelves so they don’t spill throughout the entire fridge.
Cleaning the coils
For a deeper clean, you should clean the refrigerator coils once a year.
It’s the “most overlooked routine maintenance that customers need to do,” Blanchette says.
Refer to your owner’s manual or go online to determine where the coils are located on your refrigerator and how you should clean them. Most experts recommend you use a special brush or a vacuum.