How To Clean & Maintain Your Refrigerator & Freezer

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Keeping your freezer and refrigerator clean is essential to healthy food storage and preparation. Rather than saving this chore for one giant annual task, use this list of cleaning tips to keep your refrigerator and freezer clean and fresh all year long.

What To Do Each Day

  • As you place new items into the refrigerator or freezer, first check them for leaks. If you see a container or food item is dripping or leaking, wipe it down and place it in a bag or storage bin.
  • Wipe food and liquid residue off containers before placing them in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • As you remove items during the day, check the drawer or shelf where they were sitting for stains and spills. Wiping them up as you find them will reduce the amount of cleaning required later.
  • If you happen to drop or spill something, be sure to clean it up as soon as possible. Leaving food and liquid spilled inside your refrigerator will create a mess that is much harder to clean up over time.
  • Check items as you use them to verify they are not past their expiration date.
  • Do not place food in the refrigerator uncovered. All plates, bowls containers and glasses should be covered with plastic wrap or a designated lid. This will help prevent spills and odors.
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What To Do Every 2 To 4 Weeks

  • Using a damp cloth, wipe down exposed surface areas around the inside of your refrigerator and freezer.
  • Wipe the outside of your refrigerator and freezer with a sanitizing cloth or solution. Germs can easily collect around handles and anywhere touched while preparing food.
  • Check drawers and shelves for spills you may have missed during daily checks.
  • Review the items in your refrigerator and freezer to verify nothing has expired. Leaving foods that have gone bad can easily cause a foul odor, leave stains and contaminate other foods.
  • Wipe down the top of the refrigerator/freezer to remove dirt and dust that has settled throughout the month.
  • Wipe down the seal of the freezer and refrigerator to remove stains and food particles, allowing the doors to seal as efficiently as possible.
  • Place an open box of baking soda in the back of your refrigerator to absorb odors. Other odor eliminating options include vanilla extract on a cloth or cotton ball or a small cloth bag filled with coffee grinds.

What To Do Every 6 To 12 Months

  • Before beginning any major cleaning of your refrigerator and/or freezer, it’s best to turn it off. This will save you energy and money, as the doors will need to remain open for an extended period of time.
  • While cleaning, place food in a cooler or second refrigerator and freezer if you have one.
  • Remove all the drawers and shelves from your refrigerator and freezer. They and the interior will be easier to thoroughly clean once removed.
  • Using a cleaner safe for use around food, or a mixture of water and white vinegar or water and baking soda, wipe down the interior of the refrigerator and freezer with a damp cloth.
  • Remove all food stains and spills, scrubbing carefully to break apart dried food without damaging the interior. For stubborn stains, allow the cleaner to sit for five to 10 minutes, with the doors open.
  • If your sink is large enough, place the drawers and shelves in it with a mixture of warm water and white vinegar or baking soda. Allow them to soak long enough to remove stains, spills and odors. Use a soft sponge or cloth to wipe away anything that does not come off in the water on its own.
  • Once the interior is clean, dry it with a clean, dry cloth.
  • Rinse the drawers and shelves, then dry with a clean, dry cloth and place them back into the refrigerator and freezer.
  • If you do not want to unplug your refrigerator during extended deep cleanings, remember to loosen the small light bulb located inside to prevent it from burning out while the door remains open for long periods of time.
  • Check your door seals to ensure they are properly working. If the refrigerator and freezer aren’t being sealed well, cold air is escaping. This means the appliance must work harder to keep cool, or may not be staying as cold as necessary at all, causing food to go bad quicker.
Last Updated: November 16, 2011
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About Alexandra Kerr Through Ideal Home Garden, Alexandra covers topics ranging from interior design to home improvement, gardening and cuisine. Having a passion for cooking and entertaining in her own life, she hopes to communicate her love of home design and decorating with her readers. 

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